Napoleons Foodie Preview

October 19, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 1 Comment
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Recently, I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to sample the new menu at the Owlerton branch of Napoleons casino and restaurant on Livesey Sreet. But, this wasn’t just the launch of a new menu; the venue has also just had a £2 million refurbishment and extension. The invite promised a brand new, 60 seater restaurant, a new bar and lounge area, an extended gaming floor, plus the first outdoor gaming terrace outside of London. Pretty exciting stuff!

When we arrived at Napoleons, we were greeted by Marketing Manager Rachel, who’d very kindly organised this ‘Foodie Preview’ evening for Sheffield-based bloggers and Tweet-ers. She fixed us up with some drinks, and then took us on a quick tour of the venue so we could see what’s new.

The new bar and lounge area is now larger and more open than before. Previously, this area did feel a bit small and tucked away in the corner of the building, so this is definitely a big improvement.

To be honest, the restaurant area looks pretty much the same as before, just with more seating. It still has the dramatic red and blank colour scheme, the same low lighting, and what looks like the exact same fixtures and furnishings. This isn’t a criticism, as I thought the restaurant area looked great before, so why fix something that isn’t broken? 

Napoleons Casino

The tour concluded with a look at the outdoor gaming terrace, and Napoleons have done a fantastic job with this area. It’s completely sheltered and has a good selection of seating and gaming machines, so it doesn’t feel like you’re outside at all.

I’m a non-smoker, but I do have friends who smoke, so I can appreciate the benefit of having a space where people can smoke outdoors without being exposed to the elements. Rachel also raised a good point that the outdoor gaming terrace means smokers can pick a machine and play on it all night if they wish, without having to risk losing their machine everytime they pop outside for a cigarette.

Tour complete, it was time to take our seats and find out what Napoleons had in store for us this evening. I was excited to learn that, although we’d be choosing our main meal, we’d also each receive platters of different starters and desserts, so we could sample as much of the new menu as possible. This is a great way to get a feel for a menu – and really, who wants one pudding, when you can have three?

First up, was a platter of mini starters.

Napoleons Casino

My favourite thing on this platter was definitely the parsnip cappuccino. This unique starter is served in a coffee mug, and even has a coffee-coloured, foamy top just like you’d find on a real cappuccino.

Napoleons Casino

The soup itself is creamy, satisfying, and slightly spicy – in other words, it’s the perfect soup for winter. The parsnip cappuccino was served with a crispy, miniature onion bhaji on the side, which was perfect for dunking into the soup.

Also on the platter was that old classic, the prawn cocktail. A prawn cocktail isn’t something I’d normally order from a menu, but this particular prawn cocktail was full of fresh and tasty prawns, and was very nicely presented. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it – and this is coming from someone who doesn’t really like prawn cocktails!

The mini goat’s cheese and roasted fig bruschetta was much more my style.

Napoleons casino tartlet

The tanginess of the goat’s cheese and the sweetness of the roasted fig was a winning combination. When I pay my next visit to Napoleons, I’m going to be torn between ordering this bruschetta, or ordering the parsnip cappuccino.

The final starter on my platter, was a black pudding wonton. Since I don’t eat meat, I did a quick food exchange with my dining companion, in return for their goat’s cheese bruschetta (score!) They confirmed the wonton was just as tasty as the other starters and, even though they’re not usually a massive fan of black pudding, they wolfed down both wontons.

Onto the mains, and this was the only course we got to pick ourselves. Well, I suppose a platter of main courses would have been a bit excessive!

All the main courses on Napoleons’ new menu sound delicious, but it’s a very meat heavy menu. If you fancy fish, there’s two fish-based dishes to choose from, plus there’s a vegetarian main course of cherry tomato, pimento and basil linguini.

In the end, I opted for the grilled swordfish steak, confit of tomatoes and Mediterranean vegetables with salsa verde. When my meal arrived, I knew I’d made the right choice, because look at the size of that swordfish steak!

Napoleons Casino swordfish

My super-sized swordfish was tender, juicy, and full of flavour. This is the nicest piece of fish I’ve had in quite a while.

Meanwhile, my dining companion had gone for the chargrilled sirloin steak, which came with beef dripping potato wedges, Yorkshire pudding and horseradish jus. 

Napoleons casino steak

The steak was cooked exactly as requested (medium rare) and the potato wedges tasted of real beef dripping.

At Napoleons, all main courses come with a selection of veggies, plus a side order of super-cheesy potatoes. If you book a table at Napoleons, there’s no way you’re going home hungry!

Napoleons Casino potatoes

I’d already eaten a whole swordfish steak, plus portions of parsnip soup, onion bhaji, prawn cocktail, and two pieces of goat’s cheese bruschetta, and there was still a whole platter left to go! I was on the verge of slipping into a food coma at the table, but there was no going back now – it was pudding time. 

Napoleons Casino pudding

First up was a small pot of gingered apple and plum crumble with vanilla custard. The crumble and custard were light, and the fruit filling was a nice mix of tart and sweet, although I couldn’t really taste the ginger. 

The second mini pudding was a portion of dense chocolate brownie. The brownie had a very rich, strong chocolate flavour without being overly sweet. My only grumble is that the brownie was a bit dry on its own; a drizzle of chocolate sauce would have been appreciated.

I’d saved the best until last, because the final pudding was a warm ginger cake, complete with a drizzle of sweet and spicy ginger sauce. The cake itself was lovely and moist, and tasted really strongly of ginger, which I love. This is a very satisfying pud that’s perfect for the colder months. I’m looking forward to paying a repeat visit to Napoleons just so I can order a full-sized piece of this cake!

Food dispatched, there was just enough time for a complimentary £5 spin on the roulette wheel (which I didn’t win) and then it was time to head home.

I was really impressed by Napoleons’ new menu. When you’re in the mood for a slap up meal, this casino may not be the first place that springs to mind, but they serve quality food with plenty of restaurant flourishes – case in point, that quirky parsnip cappuccino. You also can’t complain about the prices, as you can get a three course meal for either £19 or £21, depending on whether you dine on a weekday or a weekend. For the quality of food Napoleons serves, this is a bargain!

If you’re planning a visit to Napoleons Owlerton, I can highly recommend you eat there too. In fact, even if you’re not planning on visiting the casino, it’s worth taking a look at the menu anyway – you may just surprise yourself and pay Napoleons a visit for the food alone!

four-stars

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Anchorage Bar

October 11, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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When I heard that Anchorage, a new ‘East Coast’ restaurant, had opened in West One Plaza, I was looking forward to trying somewhere new – and that’s before I even realised this venue is part of the Harley and Wick at Both Ends family. The Harley and the Wick are two of my favourite places to eat in Sheffield, so when I realised Anchorage was related to these two, I couldn’t wait to give it a go!

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First impressions of Anchorage Bar were positive. It’s a bright and airy venue, with the same quirky touches and indie charm I love so much about the Wick at Both Ends.

If you’re a fan of the Wick, like I am, the cocktail menu will feel instantly familiar, as a couple of Wick cocktails have made the transition to Anchorage Bar. This doesn’t mean the drinks menu is a carbon copy, as Anchorage also offers a large and unique selection of imported beers, plus a very special prosecco sharer that’s actually served in a lobster cage!

This ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’ is described as “the ultimate sharer” and, since it apparently consists of a whole bottle of prosecco, 6 shots, plus the aforementioned lobster cage, it sounds like it lives up to that description! I was dying to see what this beast actually looks like but sadly, at £40 it’s not exactly the sort of thing you order on a whim!

Despite this being my very first visit to a brand-new venue, I have to admit I ended up ordering a cocktail I’ve already had many times at the Wick at Both Ends – a Corpse Reviver (£7).

This deceptively-dainty looking drink is a potent blend of Buffalo Trace, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and Absinthe. Sadly, my Corpse Reviver was nothing like the “guaranteed to raise the dead” cocktail I remembered from the Wick. It tasted overpoweringly of lemon, and didn’t pack half the punch I’d been expecting. I haven’t ordered a Corpse Reviver in a while, so it’s possible the Wick have changed their recipe, or maybe Anchorage’s barman was simply having a bad day. Either way, I switched to wine for the rest of the evening rather than risk ordering another cocktail.

Since this was my first visit to Anchorage, I took my time scrutinising the food menu. In addition to the usual Starters, Mains, and Desserts sections, the menu also includes an enormous deli section made up of 6 inch subs, deli sandwiches, and a “build your own” board of cheeses and meats. For me, the meat and cheese board is the most exciting thing on the deli menu, as it comes with pickles, focaccia and squid ink bread. When summer rolls around, I can’t think of anything better than sharing a board of cheese and squid ink bread, with a cheeky bottle of wine on the side.

Sadly, summer isn’t about to roll around anytime soon – in fact, by the time I’d read through the deli menu and polished off my sour Corpse Reviver, it had already grown dark outside.

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It was high time we got serious and actually ordered some food! I opted for some comfort food, in the form of a Mac and Cheese burger (£8).

Anchorage Bar mac and cheese burger

I’ll admit the first time I saw a Mac and Cheese burger on a menu, I thought it sounded hideous. But then curiosity got the better of me and I ordered my first ever mac and cheese burger. I loved it, and have been ordering them ever since.

Anchorage’s version of a mac and cheese burger is incredibly strong. Whatever cheese they use in these burgers, it’s strong and salty, and has a tanginess that reminded me of blue cheese. If you like your cheese mild, then you should avoid this burger! For me, when it comes to cheese it’s a case of the stronger the better, so I loved the taste of this burger. The patty had been cooked just right too, which was a relief – no one wants soggy pasta or overcooked, rubbery cheese in their burger.

Anchorage’s mac and cheese burger is a filling and stodgy carb-fest. Just a few bites in, I knew there was no way I’d be able to eat it all. This is comfort food at its best, but I’d only order this again if I was seriously hungry, because this is one heavy burger!

My dining companion had also ordered a burger, but instead of pasta and cheese, their burger patty was made from 35 day, dry-aged beef, topped with a wedge of melted cheese (£8.50). Clearly, the Anchorage chefs aren’t worried about your waistline!

Anchorage Bar beef burger

This burger got a big thumbs up for the generous helping of cheese, and the thickly-glazed brioche bun.

We left Anchorage absolutely stuffed and, apart from that dodgy Corpse Reviver, feeling like we’d got good value for money. I’m already planning a second visit so I can sample that delicious-sounding deli menu!

Suffice to say, Anchorage is already well on its way to joining the Wick and the Harley as one of my favourite places to dine and drink in Sheffield.

four-stars

Piccolino

October 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 1 Comment
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Don’t you just love those glorious few weeks of summer, when you can get reacquainted with your old friend the beer garden?

Previously, I thought the only thing better than a beer garden, was a beer garden with an overhead heater, but Piccolino in Millennium Square have proven me wrong with their heated outdoor terrace.

Despite visiting Piccolino at a random time (late one Wednesday afternoon) their outdoor dining area was so busy I didn’t think we’d be able to get a table. Thankfully, one of the waitresses managed to find us a spare table in the far corner. She explained the heaters in this area hadn’t been turned on yet, but if we got cold we just needed to let her know, and she’d switch them on for us. As it turned out, the terrace was sheltered enough that we could comfortably sit outside without the heaters.

Our waitress brought us a pitcher of water and glasses while we perused the menu. Despite our good intentions with the water, somehow two glasses of Chardonnay ended up on our table (£6.75 each). Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

When it comes to food, you have to give Piccolino credit for the sheer size of their menu. Craving carbs? You’re in luck, because the menu features no less than 20 pasta-based dishes. More of a seafood fan? Take your pick from lobster, crab, mussels, clams, scallops, and sea bass, not to mention a heavenly-sounding shellfish butter. There’s also a good selection of pizza and meat dishes, not to mention a whole section dedicated to beef. Rump, rib eye, sirloin, fillet – or if you fancy splashing out, how about a 35 day aged, bone-in prime rib?

I can’t imagine anyone struggling to find something tempting on this mammoth menu!

Despite all the choice, there was no question what I was going to order – I had to give that shellfish butter a go! This meant ordering the ‘ravioli al granchio’ (£13.50); crab ravioli topped with chilli and basil and, of course, that magical-sounding shellfish butter.

When I gave the waitress my order, she wasted no time informing me I’d only get around four pieces of ravioli, in a way that suggested they’d received some complaints about portion size. But it was too late – I had my heart set on shellfish butter. Anyway, I could always order dessert if I was still hungry, right?

The waitress took our orders, and promptly returned with a small basket of complimentary bread and some olive oil, so we had something to snack on while we waited for our mains. Don’t you just love a freebie?

After demolishing the bread and oil, it was time for our mains, and I have to say Piccolino’s ‘ravioli al granchio’ might just be the prettiest pasta dish I’ve ever laid eyes on!

Piccolino Ravioli al granchi

The crab ravioli tasted every bit as good as it looked, and the flakes of chilli gave it an unexpected prickly heat, which I loved. But my main motivation for ordering the ‘ravioli al granchio’ was that shellfish butter, and I wasn’t disappointed! It was absolutely delicious, and had a really complex flavour that was only intensified by the basil and flakes of chilli that’d been soaking in it. Despite being butter-based, it wasn’t in the least bit greasy and actually had a very light, silky texture which was a pleasant surprise.

I just wished I hadn’t been greedy and wolfed down all that free bread, because the only thing missing from my main was something to wipe up every last morsel of shellfish butter. It was a shame to leave any of it floating in the bottom of the bowl!

True, there was only a handful of ravioli, but they were big pieces generously stuffed with lots of crab meat, so I didn’t feel in the least bit short changed. This is the perfect portion size for lunch or even a light evening meal, and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again.

Also winging its way to our table was that Italian favourite, beef lasagna (£10.50).

Piccolino lasagna

Lasagna is one of those simple dishes that’s actually really easy to get wrong. Too much cheese, too much sauce, too much pasta, or even too much meat can completely ruin a good lasagna (and I’m speaking as someone who has ruined many a good lasagna!)

Piccolino’s lasagna gets this tricky balance of ingredients just right. The sauce also had a good flavour without being too strong or spicy, and the meat was tender, tasty, and grease-free. Another big thumbs up for the food!

Since we were enjoying the novelty of sitting outside without coats, we decided to make the experience last a little longer and ordered a round of coffees. I ordered a liqueur coffee (£6.25) with Bailey’s because, well, it’s kind of getting close to the Christmas season!

Piccolino liqueur coffee

Piccolino’s liqueur coffee didn’t exactly put me in the festive spirit. I couldn’t really taste any Bailey’s and even the coffee itself was on the weak side. This definitely wasn’t six quid’s worth of liqueur coffee!

At the other end of the table, it was a booze-free caffeine fix, with a more reasonably-priced £2.75 latte. This latte got a more positive response than my boozy alternative, so next time I’ll save my pennies and order my Piccolino coffee alcohol-free.

The liqueur coffee is my only major gripe with my Piccolino’s experience. I loved their heated terrace, and as the days get colder and darker, I can only imagine it becoming even more popular, as sitting outside without freezing becomes a novelty.

The food was delicious, and the menu is massive. The wine is a little on the pricy side, but this is pretty much to be expected when you’re eating out.

If you’re a fan of Italian (and really, who isn’t?) and don’t mind spending a few extra pounds than you would around the corner at, say, Strada or Zizzi’s, then Piccolino is definitely worth a visit – if only to experience their heated outdoor terrace!

three-and-a-half

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