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Back Buzz - February 2, 2014

pumping heartGertie's Cafe, 282 South Road, Walkley, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Twelve years ago when we first moved to Sheffield we arrived with our first carload of belongings. Waking up in our new home we had yet to move our kitchen items or buy provisions, so we walked down the road in search of breakfast. Big I'd was a traditional Yorkshire cafe with a typical Yorkshire cafe menu. As I recall Andrew had a bacon sandwich, I had a fried egg sandwich, and we both had huge cups of weak instant coffee. We didn't expect anything more than this.

Years later the cafe is now Gertie's Cafe. When I spotted the coffee sign outside and the espresso machine inside I decided I needed to give it a try. The place was full when I stopped in on a Thursday midmorning, and it seemed very inviting with its graffiti-style paintings on the wall and its chequered tablecloths. Two mothers with children sat at one table covered with toys, two ancient Walkley men I see regularly on the bus, one with stumps growing out of his nostrils, sat in the centre having a fry-up, and a few of the more trendy Walkleyites filled the other tables.

The barista didn't know what a macchiato was, but he was happy to try out my description of a double macchiato. Served in a black and white striped cup with teaspoon (and made with extra foam, like I like it), the macchiato was surprisingly nice. The coffee came through with an announcement of proper espresso, something I wasn't expecting from a traditional urban village location. It could have been more robust and made a bit stronger, but I'm not complaining.

As a light sleet fell outside the stump-nostrilled ancient man shouted loudly, "OH!" as he waved at the window. "Snow," I believe he was saying. If any of the customers were nodding off they were certainly awake now.

The menu features full and half English and vegetarian breakfasts, French toast, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, a bacon and brie omelette, breakfast sandwiches including sausage and spicy apple chutney, sandwiches and paninis including chicken and cranberry and mozzarella, pesto, vine tomato, and olives, and, of course, cakes. The hot drinks menu features affogato, which is coffee served over ice cream. This is definitely not Big I's, and I'm tempted to try the place for breakfast some time. Their home cured bacon is from the Beeches butcher nearby, the sausages are from the decades-old respected Sheffield butcher Crawshaws, the free-range eggs are from a local farm, and the bread is from the Meadows Bakery. I love the mixture of photos on the menu.

Walkley has gone through a lot of changes in recent years, with the post office closing, the quaint fire surround shop closing, the guitar shop being replaced by a carpet dealer, and the library currently scheduled to close. In stark contrast, Gertie's happens to be just across the road from a new artisan bakery with an as-yet-unwrapped espresso machine, so it makes me wonder just what's happening to Walkley. Is it actually becoming trendy? Will a hip music club pop up next to Bargain Booze? Will we be required to wear trilbys if we want to walk down South Road? Or is it just that more traditional Yorkshire folk are demanding better coffee?

Speaking of trendy things reminds me of an e-mail exchange from last year with my Bay Area friend:

A friend sent me the folowing: "The European Union (EU) has granted a permit to an Austrian brewery to officially name their beer: Fucking Hell. It's a fully legitimate permit. "Hell" in German means "Light" and the beer is produced in the Austrian town of Fucking."

I thought that Googling this beer name would probably bring up a Snopes article debunking it, but I guess it's true. (Maybe you have already commented on it. The "Wong Fook Hing Bookstore" is more memorable.) American fans of this style always use the term helles, and this particular one doesn't get very high marks (1.5 consensus on RateBeer's 5-point scale). One reviewer commented "A linguistic joke of a beer that should protect the Austrian village of Fucking against drunk Australian and British lagerlouts stealing their village sign..."

I immediately looked up the village of Fucking on Google Maps. It's a tiny place! There appears to be a church and some sort of grouping of buildings, but unfortunately I couldn't examine them through Street View. The Wikipedia entry says the population is around 100 and the main industry seems to be tourists who come to have their pictures taken by the village signs. I wonder if Fucking is twinned with Twatt, Orkney?

The beer sounds pretty awful: the combination of "sweet and sticky" with "sulphurous" makes me want to instantly visit the Prague suburb of Pukin.

The Wikipedia entry goes on to mention that across the border in Germany are some innocent-appearing villages who's names translate rather unfortunately:

Affendorf (Monkey Village), Faulebutter (Putrid Butter), Fickmühlen (Fuck Mill), Katzenhirn (Cat Brain), Plöd (Stupid), Sklavenhaus (Slave House), and Warzen (Warts).