Ambulo, from the Latin to wander, is the fruit of a collaboration between friends James O’Hara and Matt Helders, respectively local food and drink hero and the city’s most famous and socially-minded drummer. All-white walls, with accents of Californian aqua and florally far-out, the new cafe based downstairs in the Millennium Gallery feels like a one-off, but is actually the first of two all-day cafes a partnership with Museums Sheffield will see the collaborators open. Lucky us to get a double helping.
Never has a cafe been so vocally family-friendly. As a seasoned wrangler to two small eaters, this is welcome positioning. Ambulo have done their homework. They already run successful businesses (O'Hara owns The Great Gatsby, Picture House Social, and Public) and they know what works. The menu is a masterstroke in fresh food families want to eat, as well as carefully crafted, seasonal dishes that are inspired by travel and relaxed eating, that satisfy after-dark as well as in the day.
Ambulo have a knack for making heroes out of their signature dishes on social media. Having already spied their custard tart with rhubarb sorbet on Instagram made me feel like I could already taste it before I even got there. We visited Sunday lunchtime and went for sandwiches all round. My falafel with slaw and mint yoghurt in pillowy focaccia felt like a new twist on a vegetarian familiar and was very memorably done. Fresh fish finger sandwiches were the natural choice for the smaller members of our party, but soldiers with dippy eggs or spaghetti with tomato sauce would also be winners. We’re saving the giant crumpets with roast peaches or Korean fried chicken for our next visit: they surely fell from heaven, or at the very least, are a genius speciality in a city that’s built on the distinct.
Coffee is served exquisitely in aqua cups and saucers, and unusually, cocktails and wine come on tap, which feels like decadent convenience. Ambulo is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you’ve not visited yet, wander on down. With kids, or without kids, it’s standout.
- Words by
- Joanne Mateer