Matt in the kitchen of The Bhaji Shop, photo by Humbledinger

Spice is right for new independent Sheffield eatery

A brother and sister team are bringing spicy tricks of the cooking trade learned across the city – and even ‘Down Under’ – to an up-and-coming area. Sheffield Unchained contributor Jill Theobald went to meet and eat with them.

From Kelham Island to New Zealand – chef Matt Holdsworth has worked in many a kitchen on the other side of the city … and the world.

He’s now co-owner with sister Melissa of The Bhaji Shop and Thali Café in Heeley after the duo took over the eatery – formerly known as The Bohemian café – on Chesterfield Road.

Matt and Melissa Holdsworth of The Bhaji Shop and Thali Cafe, photo by Humbledinger

Matt and Melissa Holdsworth of The Bhaji Shop and Thali Cafe, photo by Humbledinger

The relaxed feel remains. Melissa’s eye for clashing colourful prints and fabrics make for eye-catching reclaimed furniture while outside hung on the wall above the shop awning is a pretty pink bike, giving a new spin on the yellow cycles dotted around the city during the Tour de France.

Melissa is the creative one when it comes to the décor and feel of the place. I am creative in the kitchen.

The Bhaji Shop and Thali Cafe, photo by Humbledinger

The Bhaji Shop and Thali Cafe, photo by Humbledinger

A passion for cooking and cuisine runs in the family. Dad John used to run Masterchef catering in Attercliffe and Matt (36) has been involved in projects throughout Sheffield including a sandwich shop in Darnall, a steakhouse in Kelham Island and a café bistro in Totley – not to mention a stint Down Under.

I went travelling after finishing university and lived and worked in New Zealand for a while. I started doing breakfast shifts in a hotel between 5:30 and 6:30am, moving on to lunches and then fine dining evening meals.

I also started a restaurant business in Cornwall about eight years ago before moving back to Sheffield and I think that’s when I really got the bug for self-employment.

Melissa came up the concept of a Thali café for the current eatery enterprise and the pair’s vision for the Bhaji Shop is now a laid-back and relaxed venue which has good food at the right price – so it’s not heavy on the stomach or the wallet.

We don’t use ghee and opt for coconut oil whenever possible. We don’t want people to leave feeling they’ve had a heavy, stodgy meal the way curries can sometimes. We want the food to feel filling but light and that’s why our salads and homemade chutneys are popular.

Platter at The Bhaji Shop on Chesterfield Road, photo by Humbledinger

Platter at The Bhaji Shop on Chesterfield Road, photo by Humbledinger

The pair’s choice of Heeley as the location for their venture has also proved to be a hit.

I’d had my eye on this shop for quite a while. I know the Boho owners and my girlfriend and I recently moved near Meersbrook Park so I felt this would be a good choice – and we’ve been really, really well received.

People have been welcoming and there’s a definite strong feel of support. In a quick amount of time we feel we’ve fitted in.

The Bhaji Shop and Thali Cafe on Chesterfield Road, photo by Humbledinger

The Bhaji Shop and Thali Cafe on Chesterfield Road, photo by Humbledinger

People have come from further a field to try us too, which is great, but it’s always nice to be used by the locals and we’ve got a really good demographic of customers literally on our doorstep.

Abbeydale Road is nearby and that’s an area of the city that is also starting to flourish right now.

It’s the people that ‘make’ places like this.

Chicken and chutney at The Bhaji Shop, photo by Humbledinger

Chicken and chutney at The Bhaji Shop, photo by Humbledinger

Added Matt:

Ultimately, we are a Thali cafe with a Western twist.

It’s all about quality, fresh ingredients, an ever-changing menu and friendly staff – good food, good people and a good vibe.

Masala Chai at The Bhaji Shop, photo by Humbledinger

Masala Chai at The Bhaji Shop, photo by Humbledinger

Onion Bhaji at The Bhaji Shop on Chesterfield Road, photo by Humbledinger

Onion Bhaji at The Bhaji Shop on Chesterfield Road, photo by Humbledinger



There are 2 comments

Add yours
  1. Mark

    I visited this place only this week with my parents. The curry was fresh, and great, and I’m gutted to say I didn’t buy any onion bhajis. Next time though! Congratulations to Melissa and Matt.


Comments are closed.