Umami Pushers

Google Maps has taken me off kilter. I’m standing in the middle of an industrial estate which has several shades of the outer reaches of edgy Brooklyn about it.

 ’Cry Baby’ tattoo parlour is where the phone trail has led, a list of other occupied warehouse units up on the wall: Sleeps Brothers; Russell’s Bicycle Shed; The Depot Bakery; Sheffield Cheesemasters; Netheredge Pizza Company; Purdy’s Hair Salon (‘PETA approved Affinage cruelty free products’ and ‘non-chemical henna colouring’); Kelham Barbers (‘Beard trim, shape, finished with a straight edge razor & JS Sloane products). The H word shall not be used here, too often meted out with sledgehammer monotony, that hoariest of lazy clichés applied to anywhere well into the throes of gentrification, where offerings of AeroPress Ethiopian filter coffee are served alongside quinoa cakes by ornately tattooed twenty-somethings. But yeah, that’s the vibe where Google has unhelpfully thrown me.

Jöro Google Screwed

A quick call to Jöro and it’s clear that the map coordinates are screwed, and I’m off back down the road, walking past Drop Dead Clothing and a hulking abandoned red brick building that is just gagging to be populated and used for something exciting, something a la mode, a food led mecca; the successes of London’s Hawker House and Street Feastcome to mind.

Luke French, chef and co-owner with his fiancée Stacey Sherwood, alongside Matt and Nina Bigland, has opened his spot in the Krynkl development, a set-up of twenty-nine shipping containers designed for fledgling businesses of all sorts, stacked on top of each other: a five-year lease here is Luke’s opening gambit for running his own place, having spent time in the kitchens of The Fat Duck, Midsummer House, and Alimentum. It’s an unlikely setting, despite the ongoing love-in with shaking pans in metal boxes, particularly in London. This spot also has the moniker of Kelham Island. Exotic.

Jöro’s Swank Shipping Containers

Here we are, a clutch of shipping containers on the Shalesmoor road that loom abruptly into view. It’s about to rain. I’m in like a whippet at 5.52pm (would have been 5.30pm without Google’s scenic route), as this is a one night hit, no Premier Innslumber (‘everything’s premier but the price’, coos Lenny Henry in the ads), and a London train awaits at 9pm. Lenny is right, of course, but no time for overnight shenanigans this time. In we go….

Well, the poshest shipping container I ever did see. Sleek open kitchen, seductive restaurant lighting, proper tables. It feels Scandi, memories of Noma and friends flash across the synapses. Jöro have talked of the cooking here being led  by a ‘Nordic approach’, with a teeth grindingly affected credo blazened on the website of using ‘Hyper seasonal ingredients’. Jöro is a character in Norse mythology, mother of the thunder god Thor, son of Odin, and the common word for ‘earth’ in old Norse – you gotta love a high falutin’ restaurant name with a story.

A glass of the classy English sparkling Henners from Sussex is a smart start from a sharp little list. Bites start arriving unbidden, including a Wagyu short rib croquette with miso emulsion. Sounds wanky written, bolshy when eaten.

Mangalitsa black pudding cube next. Are we close to Mangalitsa ennui yet? Peak furry pig? Probably not, but the ticking off of this most modish of cheffy new restaurant tropes is beginning to feel more ‘easy thrill’ than ‘there because it earns its place on the menu’ – yes, it’s enjoyable, a dense pitch black nugget of blood cake, but ‘black pudding with yah boo sucks to you with nobs on is what comes to mind. Spoilt, me? Yeah, certainly.

Barbecue Moves at Jöro

Barbecued Lincolnshire sweetcorn delivers a haymaker of an umami punch, a shiitake XO emulsion in the mix, topped with a kimchi maize cracker: intense, a kick of chilli heat, smoky/sweet corn. £4.50 worth of impressive cheffy jiggery pokery. I’m strapped in now. These guys can bloody cook. Lenny, hold that room…just in case.

Wood fired baby onions are tricked out with crumbs of chicken skin, and a scatter of ‘Yorkshire blue cheese’…sweetness of caramelised onions, jostling against a double kapow of richly savoury skin and salty cheese. Devious combination. £5.

 Ribbons of celeriac are shimmied into tagliatelle-esque ribbons, dredged in oozy Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, dusted in a generous blanket of Italian autumn black truffle. £6.50.

 ‘Oxtail and koji stew’ arrives as a cute little puck of meat on top of a soft disc of maize, topped with finely diced spring onions…and some more of that truffle, probably a tad superfluous in this number. Again, deeply savoury, a paean to the Japanese use of the culture koji, ancient techniques to grow fungus on cooked grains or vegetables used to produce fermented products of all kinds including miso, soy sauces, fermented black soy beans and sake. Yes, I had to look all of that up. Veering into ‘too salty’ territory, which must be a danger given that what’s going on appears to the distillation of the essence of what umami essentially is. No matter. Enjoyed. £7.

At this point I’m annoyingly full, and decide to swerve the only dish that veers above £7, a plate of Derbyshire lamb, barbecued loin and shoulder with soy pickled onions, cabbage, aubergine (£24).

More Barbecue at Jöro

Hovering between asking for the bill and having a final glass of wine, I order the dish that had suffused the room with its scent immediately on walking in, ‘Barbecued Norwegian mackerel’….and am kinda knocked sideways, dazzled, and decide that Jöro isn’t just good, it’s a bit sodding brilliant.

Mackerel with a spooky resonance (look and flavour) of a slab of grilled unagi at a fancy Japanese joint, its skin charred and nubbled into infernally arresting texture, a tightrope balance between savoury and sweetness, with a flourish of onion and roasted yeast purée to chase around the plate….maybe it was slicked with some unagi sauce, maybe it wasn’t….either way, a triumphant and joyous dish. Dashi broth served on the side in a cute coarse ceramic vessel was perhaps an addition too far, but was necked and enjoyed and rounded off the final umami bomb of a plate. £6.

Jöro: Cosiest Place in Sheffield

This shipping container suddenly feels like the cosiest place in Sheffield at the end of the meal, a howling gale whistling around the gun-metal corners of the Krynkl. The Uber arrives in three minutes, and I luzz myself out of the entrance into a spitting horizontal drizzle, bundling into the back of the cab for Sheffield train station.

 Two dishes of the year (sweetcorn and mackerel), remarkable value for the thrills and twirls of the cooking going on, flashes of Japanese influences, and the finest looking shipping containers that ever did grace the earth.  

 Sharp, intelligent, playful – Jöro is shaking some delightful moves. £50.70 total bill, £29 of that on food. Premier cooking, without the price. Isn’t that right, Lenny?


294 Shalesmoor, Sheffield S3 8US