Bungalows and Bears

November 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Posted in Pub Grub, Restaurants | 2 Comments
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I’ve frequented Bungalows and Bears on Division Street for drinks a number of times, and have always enjoyed the atmosphere. It’s an aircraft-hanger of a venue, but some clear effort has been put into creating that cosy, intimate feel. The tables are arranged so there’s plenty of private little nooks if you’re looking for a quiet meal out, not to mention big, comfy three-seaters for when you really want to relax. This, combined with Bungalows and Bears’ penchant for keeping the house lights turned down, creates a far more relaxing, laidback atmosphere than you’d expect from such a large, city centre venue (although, it goes without saying that this doesn’t apply on Friday and Saturday nights!)

The atmosphere and decor have always been a big hit, but I’ve never actually eaten at Bungalows and Bears. So, when I spotted that they’d had launched a 2-for-1 deal on gourmet burgers every Tuesday evening, it was all the motivation I needed: it was straight from the office to 50 Division Street, with double-cooked chips and burgers in mind.

Bungalows and Bears’ burger menu puts other pedallers of gourmet burgers to shame. It’s split into three sections – beef, chicken and vegetarian. While the chicken section is restricted to just two burgers, beef-lovers can top their meat with everything from chorizo and grilled halloumi, to smoked bacon, goat’s cheese, and avocado. With three (!) equally impressive veggie options on offer, I had a tough call to make. After much soul searching, I decided to save the Shroomaloomi burger (flat mushrooms and grilled halloumi) for another day, and went all out on the Hippy Deluxe (£8.55) which came topped with field mushrooms and emmental. At the other end of the table, it was a similiar no-holds-barred burger-fest of beef topped with avocado, blue cheese and bacon.

At nearly £9 per burger, Bungalows and Bears isn’t cheap, especially if you like a tipple with your food. However, building on our 2-for-1 savviness, we ordered a bottle of reasonably-priced Chardonnay (£9.95) that lasted the entire meal. The wine arrived extravagantly presented, in an enormous bucket packed with ice, alongside our cutlery and a wire wrack containing an impressive array of sauces. I’m a bit of a chilli head, so I was excited to spy three hot sauces mixed in with the usual mayo, mustard and ketchup: standard Tobasco, a green jalapeno sauce and a chipotle version.

So far, so good, but when our just-shy-of-nine-quid burgers rolled up, my confidence was shaken. They were served in plastic baskets and, even at a glance, I could tell both burgers were super-greasy. Confidence was restored when I took my first bite – sure, the burger didn’t look as appetizing as I’d expected, and okay, it was one of the messiest, greasiest burgers I’ve eaten recently, but it tasted fantastic.

The patty itself was a satisfying mix of nicely-cooked lentils and tasty mushrooms, topped with tangy cheese. Experimenting with some of the hot sauces sealed the deal. If you order a veggie burger at Bungalows and Bears, be sure to slather it in Tabasco!

The burger came with a very generous portion of double-cooked chips, a few of which had scraps of crispy skin still on. Personally, I prefer my chips a bit chunkier, but they were delicious nonetheless.

At the other end of the table, the beef burger was similarly messy (this certainly isn’t first date food!) but again it delivered where it matters: the taste. Despite being a little dubious to begin with, it turns out that a thick wedge of melt-in-the-mouth avocado, salty bacon and super-strong cheese is a match made in heaven.

Again, the burger came with a mountain of double-cooked chips. Combined with the thick meat patty, filling avocado and lashings of blue cheese, this belly-buster was impossible to finish. Defeated and stuffed, we both left half of our chips.

Despite a few niggles, Bungalows and Bears’ burgers are delicious, and there’s enough variation to make return trips a necessity. However, considering the price of one burger (most clock in at around £8) I will definitely be returning – but only on 2-for-1 Tuesdays. This too-good-to-be-true offer turns a rather pricey burger into an absolute steal.

So, visit on a Tuesday, save a few quid on the burgers, splash out on a bottle of Bungalows and Bears’ wine instead, and make an evening of it – because this is the sort of venue where you’ll want to take your time.

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Come Dine @ Mine

November 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Posted in Features | Leave a comment
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A few weeks ago we heard that St Luke’s were launching a new food-based funding initiative, ‘Come Dine @ Mine’ that aims to raise money for this fantastic local charity by getting people cooking for one another.

We caught up with Fran Morley, Community Fundraising Manager at St Luke’s, to find out more about Come Dine @ Mine, and how people can get involved….

Can you tell us more about Come Dine @ Mine?

Fran: Come Dine @ Mine is our exciting new initiative to encourage people to cook up a storm in the kitchen, hold their own amazing dinner party and raise money for St Luke’s all at the same time! We take the heat off you – we provide everything you need to get started (except the food!) with our specially designed CD@M pack which includes:

  • Tasty recipes from Nick, St Luke’s Head Chef
  • Top tips to get your dinner party off the ground
  • Party invitations
  • Guest place cards
  • Donation envelopes
  • Score cards

It’s so easy… Your guests enjoy a delicious home cooked meal at your house and in return they are asked to give a donation to St Luke’s. The donation represents the price they would have paid for the meal in a restaurant.

What was the inspiration for Come Dine @ Mine?

Fran: At St Luke’s we treat every patient as an individual, caring for the whole person, not just attending to their symptoms. That’s why it’s so important that we serve high quality, fresh food, chosen and prepared to suit the patient’s individual needs, with dishes and flavours they can really enjoy. With this in mind, we decided to create a fundraiser that encourages others to share our passion for serving the very best culinary delights.

Can you tell us a little more about St Luke’s Hospice, and the crucial work that you do?

Fran: St Luke’s provides dedicated specialist care and support for Sheffield people with life limiting and incurable illnesses, their families and carers – more than 5,000 people in all every year. All our services are provided completely free of charge. And we don’t just look after people at the hospice – our team of community nurses visit people all over Sheffield to provide specialist palliative care. Our focus is on adding quality to life when every day matters more than ever. But as an independent charity this means we need to raise more than £4m every year, just to keep doing what we do.

How will you personally be taking part in Come Dine @ Mine?

Fran: I am planning a special Christmas Come Dine @ Mine – but first I will need to pester our Head Chef Nick for some festive recipe ideas! At the moment I am thinking about a fancy dress theme for all of the guests, with a special prize for the best dressed, hopefully this will distract from my awful cooking.

Is there anything else we need to know about Come Dine @ Mine?

Fran: We’re currently in the planning stages for some exciting launch events, involving local food suppliers and bloggers, so watch this space for more information. If you’re a Sheffield foodie who would like to get involved, please email info@hospicesheffield.co.uk with your details and we’ll fill you in on our ideas so far.

How can people get involved in Come Dine @ Mine?

Fran: If you would like more information or to register to receive a Come Dine @ Mine pack simply call us on 0114 235 9554 or email info@hospicesheffield.co.uk with “Come Dine @ Mine” as the subject line.

We also have more information on our website www.stlukeshospice.org.uk/support_us/CDAM

BB’s

November 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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As someone who enjoys both a tipple and a meal out, a restaurant with a BYOB policy is my idea of heaven. While these places may be far and few between, there are a couple in Sheffield, and even one that’s smack bang in the middle of the city centre.

Squeezed between The Old House and Fusion on Devonshire Street, BB’s may look pokey from the outside, but inside it’s a two-storey warren of tables that’s always absolutely buzzing with enthusiastic customers. And, depending on preference for atmosphere, herein lies a possible deal-breaker: BB’s is a noisy, boisterous, knocking-elbows-with-your-neighbour sort of place. If you aren’t seated next to the door, this cosy Italian can get incredibly stuffy, and if you’re seated near one of the many birthday or hen parties that pile into BB’s every Friday and Saturday night, then things can get rowdy.

This was definitely the case when we visited over the weekend. We were seated next to the door, and so got a good idea of the crowd BB’s attracts: basically an endless stream of people clutching wine bottles in one hand and gift-bags/hen party favours in the other. We were actually seated next to one of the hen parties, and halfway through our meal they cracked out the pink whistles and fluffy head boppers (not to mention an inflatable – but the less said about that the better!)

You’ll either see the noise, rowdiness, and flaming Sambuca shots that are dolled out to birthday girls and boys, as part of BB’s charm – or good reason to never, ever frequent the place. Personally, I love the atmosphere but just be aware that if you’re after a peaceful evening, then this place isn’t for you.

One of the great things about BB’s, is that it’s graced with some of the friendliest, most genuine waiters and waitresses you’re ever likely to encounter. Greeting regulars with hugs, and finding the time to get to know non-regulars like us, they’re also very eager to please. At the end of our meal, we inquired about BB’s selection of after-dinner liqueur coffees, only to be assured that they’d whip us up whatever we fancied. This is the sort of fantastic, second-to-none customer service that turns first-time diners into loyal regulars.

But, before the after-dinner drinks came the dinner itself. Seated next to the hen party and with the BYOB wine already flowing, it was time to size up the menu. BB’s menu is all about serving up traditional Italian dishes, but with plenty of variations on these old favourites. There’s a whopping nine variations on steak, six chicken dishes, and all the usual pasta dishes are present and accounted for: spaghetti, lasagna, tagliatelle, gnocchi and penne pasta.

BB’s also has a large selections of hot and cold starters, so we decided to kick off the dining experience with a portion of bruschetta (£6.20) When the starter arrived, I immediately regretted opting to share one plate. The bruschetta dish was two slabs of lightly-toasted bread piled high with heavily-seasoned, juicy beef tomato chunks and fat cubes of gooey cheese.

Maybe a little peppery for some people’s tastes, but as a lover of strong flavours, I found the heavy-handed seasoning absolutely delicious. The bread had absorbed just the right amount of fiery seasoning and tomato juice, turning it a little soft without being at all soggy. The staff offered us oil and balsamic vinegar, but the bruschetta was so good that no further seasoning was necessary. Highly recommended, just don’t make the same mistake I did – be sure to order a portion all to yourself!

Next, was a main meal of Pescatore pizza (£9.00) a mixed seafood pizza, featuring olives and love-them-or-hate-them anchovies. Although the pizza only had a couple of toppings per slice, the focus was on quality rather than quantity: full squid rings, and entire mussels and prawns. The anchovies had been shredded and carefully spread across the pizza, so the taste was never overpowering. In fact, the sharp, tangy anchovies perfectly complimented BB’s choice of cheese. The cooking process had also infused the surrounding pizza with some of the anchovy oil, which was somehow even more delicious than the anchovies themselves.

For myself, it was a Tagliatelle Al Salmone (£8.75) that, after too many dodgy homemade pasta bakes, reminded me just how amazing pasta can actually be.

The tagliatelle ribbons were perfectly cooked and tasted like fresh, homemade pasta. Doused in a surprisingly light cream-based sauce and heaped with fresh coriander, it hardly needed the smoked salmon. This was fortunate, because the salmon in my smoked salmon dish clearly wasn’t smoked, as was stated on the menu. What I ended up with was flakes of cooked salmon and, although tasty enough, it lacked the strength of flavour you get with smoked salmon.

Full marks for the delicious pasta and tasty sauce, but the dish was sorely missing a standout flavour to bring it all together.

Although we hadn’t planned on dessert, the waitress cheekily brought us the dessert menu anyway. On top of the usual pies, chocolate puds and ice creams, BB’s serve fruit sorbets in hollowed out coconut shells, oranges and lemons. Vowing to give these intriguing-sounding desserts a whirl next time, we opted for the aforementioned liqueur coffees.

With the whole bar to choose from, we ordered a Bailey’s coffee and a brandy coffee (£4.00 each) BB’s aren’t stingy with the measures, the brandy coffee in particular contained so much brandy that it completely changed the colour of the drink. My Bailey’s coffee was deceptively coffee-coloured, but still packed a stomach-warming punch. However, this hot brew was oddly finished off with a chilled layer of foamed milk, which made my first sip a bit of a nasty surprise. That minor niggle aside, the liqueur coffees were delicious, piping-hot boozy goodness and the perfect way to end the meal.

Without wine bumping up the bill, BB’s is value for money, and serves up homely Italian cuisine in authentic surroundings. The lively atmosphere (especially on Friday and Saturday nights) makes BB’s feel more like a night out than dinner. A fun, friendly, pocket-friendly evening complete with some very traditional Italian grub.

Same time again next week, BB’s?

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