Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Chez Lahlou
10 Commonside, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK
0871 8115993
Review by Gillian F. Taylor

This is a French restraurant with a very warm Yorkshire welcome from the owners. Chez Lahlou was the venue for Ju's birthday meal, just three months before she and husband, Paul, are expecting their first baby. The restaurant is on Commonside, a little plateau on the way from the centre of Sheffield, to the hill that Walkley sits on. Happily, not only is it a good restaurant, it's only a few minutes walk from where I live, and all downhill on the way home.

The restaurant itself is quite small. There's a room at the front that 20 people can just squeeze into, at three tables, and room for another dozen or so in the slightly raised room at the back. Apart from the steps, there's a large opening in the wall between the two rooms, so neither feels too claustrophobic. The restaurant, being French / Yorkshire, has a frog theme, with a section of stained glass lily pond at the front, and a little pond with ornamental frogs set into the wall opening between rooms. There's even a cuddly frog toy for the youngest guests to play with.

Twenty people attended Ju's birthday dinner — 17 adults (two pregnant) and three children aged between 2 and 4. I was sat at the largest table, with Rich, Clare, Bez, Adam, Evie (aged almost 3), and Evie's parents: Ed and Krissy. Ed and Bez were among the very few reckless enough to order a starter. Reckless not because of anything wrong with the food, but because of the quantities served.

The rest at my table didn't bother ordering starters, as we knew what to expect and were pacing ourselves. The free appetizers provided were perfectly adequate to take the edge off our hunger. Our table of eight was given two plates each holding about a dozen delicious barbequed chicken wings. Then two plates of vegetable crudites with mayonnaise dip, and then two baskets of sliced French bread with little pots of butter. There was plenty for everyone to enjoy. Bez concentrated on his capacious tuna salad, while Ed enjoyed a treat of scallops in a cheesy sauce.

There's a variety of wines on offer, and some soft drinks and spirits, though only one beer. There may be some bottled water, but everyone at our table was content to share the communal jugs of tap water, which was refreshing, perfectly drinkable, readily refilled, and free. I heard no complaints about any of the wines that were ordered.

The main menu offered a good choice of different meats and fish. I'm not sure what, if any, vegetarian dishes they do, but the staff are very adaptable if you explain about dietary needs. There were a variety of steaks and sauces on offer — Clare had a thick steak with pepper sauce, that she enjoyed. Two at my table opted for the rack of lamb, which looked tasty, and I fancy trying the saddle of hare sometime. This time, I opted for duck a l'orange. My plate arrived with half a duck, liberally glazed in a delicious, sticky sauce. The veg are served comunally, so you can help yourselves to what you like, and take second helpings during the meal — very civilized. I added new potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and slices of fried potato to my plate and dug in. By the time we all, finally (*burp*) admitted defeat, everyone (all 20) said they were happy with what they'd been served.

I don't know for certain if Chez Lahlou does desserts; they're not on the menu. I've heard rumours that desserts are straightforward readymade frozen, or ice cream. In spite of my friends and I eating some 70 meals between us in the last two years, no one ever wanted dessert. Not even the blokes who normally boast of their large appetites. What is the norm at Chez Lahlou is for leftovers to be packed into takeway cartons and brought home. All I paid for was my roast duck, and I brought enough of that and the veg home to fry up together as another full meal. So for my 13, I had appetizers, water and two main courses. Pretty good value.

The biggest (and really only) fault of Chez Lahlou is that the service tends to be slow, at least when a large group are ordering their meals. If you ask for anything, from more water, to extra serviettes, the staff oblige happily. The food is excellent, and given the quantities, pretty good value. The place is genuinely child-friendly and the staff are very helpful about catering for groups. A friend booked out the whole restaurant last year and paid for meals for about 40 people who had helped her to rebuild a garden wall 6 years previously. It's hard to recommend Chez Lahlou enough. Definitely worth a visit if you're in Sheffield. Just let me know you're going and I'll come too.

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