After more than 20 years in the city, the author of The Flower Fix knows a bunch of great places for eating and exploring
Marmadukes cafe has a sustainable and independent ethos, with farm-to-table food. Its Old Sorting Office venue is a converted Royal Mail depot, beautifully reimagined in a Scandi-inspired design. I usually walk there from my shop, along Sharrowvale Road and through Nether Edge. Its salads have been a long-lasting love of mine: my current favourite is the broccolini with lime and mint. It’s a perfect place to meet friends for lunch or soften the blow of the day’s administrative tasks with a coffee or three and sometimes even a massive slice of cheesecake.
I could not have wished for a more bountiful source of natural inspiration than Sheffield Botanical Gardens, south-west of the city centre. The gardens are home to magnificent Grade II-listed Paxton glass pavilions, some of the earliest curvilinear glazed structures ever built. An impressive 18,060 panels of glass shape this beautiful 90-metre-long glasshouse.
The gardens are surrounded by old stone walls that absorb the clattering sounds of the outside world. There’s a huge variety of plants and always something new to discover with every season. I first visited the gardens when I was studying fine art and remember discovering the magic of hellebores. They really stood out to me as they flower in winter.
Nether Edge is a spacious and leafy area with Victorian houses, indie shops and cafes. It’s the kind of place where you can get lost discovering vintage stores and eateries in the lime tree-lined streets. Whether it’s Italian coffee, organic produce, natural wines, a rare record you’ve been searching for, or a friendly place to get a key cut, you’ll probably find what you’re looking for here. Bench, a neighbourhood bistro and bar, serves up incredible locally sourced small-plate combinations and seasonal cocktails. Dropping down to Abbeydale Road you’ll find the eclectic mix of shops and warehouses that make up the Antiques Quarter. Thrift shops aplenty, a herbarium, the best bakery around (Forge Bakehouse) and – shameless plug alert – a decent flower shop too: Swallows and Damsons.
Sheffield is on the border of the Peak District and, with next to no effort, you can submerge yourself in its wilderness. Wyming Brook, on the western edge of Sheffield, has dramatic views of the Rivelin reservoirs and the city beyond. It is a deeply tranquil forest filled with moss-covered trees, small, trickling waterfalls and magical wooden bridges that crisscross the valley. There are ancient and enormous larch, pine and redwood trees – look out for crossbills, dippers and redstarts. There are many incredible walks and wild swims to be had here.
You might accidentally miss the entrance to the Picture House Social if you didn’t know it was there, but tucked away underneath a 1920s cinema is an underworld of fun. Walk through the rainbow mural doors and down the winding staircase and you’ll find a vibrant bar, set in dark wood, a spacious low-lit speakeasy.
As you explore its warren of interconnected spaces you’ll discover a more playful side. An Italian-inspired street food canteen, a games room filled with ping pong tables and 70s-style gigantic shuffleboards in the shuffle shack room – the game is said to be 15% skill and 85% strategy. There’s also a mini cinema.
Boutique hotel Brocco on the Park (doubles from £145 room-only) is on the edge of one of Sheffield’s most popular green spaces, Endcliffe Park. The eight-bedroom Edwardian villa has a wonderful kitchen serving up seasonal “smorgasbord small plates” all day long. It feels homely but also luxuriously designed.