Hope and Anchor

September 24, 2016 at 10:42 am | Posted in Cocktail Bar, Restaurants | 1 Comment
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Did you know that Anchorage in West One Plaza is being relaunched? We’re talking a new interior, new menu and even a new name.

This was news to me, as a few weeks ago I popped into Anchorage for Sunday lunch and everything seemed normal, but then I walked past a few days later and the whole place was shut up, with a new sign hanging above the door. Apparently Anchorage is no more – say hello to Hope and Anchor.

I have to say, the last few times I visited Anchorage I wasn’t completely wowed by the menu. I initially fell in love with Anchorage for their amazing tuna niçoise, and a friend of mine still raves about the hanger steak Anchorage used to serve when they first opened. Sadly, both of these meals vanished from the menu at some point, and Anchorage never replaced them with anything that quite lived up to those two great meals – so perhaps it was time time for a change!

This post is going to be a bit different from the usual, as I was invited to a preview of Hope and Anchor’s upcoming menu, which involved eating lots of scaled-down, canapé versions of their mains and light bites, rather than ordering off the regular menu.  

I didn’t even plan on blogging about this event, but after going through all my photos from the night I realised this was actually a pretty good introduction to Hope and Anchor, so I wanted to do more than just share a few snaps on Twitter. Hopefully, these little snippets will help you decide whether you want to try out Hope and Anchor’s menu for yourself.

When we visited, Hope and Anchor were still midway through revamping the interior, but it was already clear that the new, darker colour scheme makes the venue feel much cosier. It reminded me a lot of sister venue the Wick at Both Ends, which to me has always felt like the perfect autumn pub. I can picture myself enjoying some mulled wine or cider in Hope and Anchor once the cold weather starts to set in.

hope-and-anchor

Hope and Anchor’s menu seems to be about providing as much choice as possible, as you can order every main course as either a fully-fledged main or as a smaller “light bite” if you’re not that hungry. You can also order any of Hope and Anchor’s light bites individually as a snack or starter, or you can order several light bites and create your own tapas-style spread (3 for £10, or 5 for £15).

Over the course of a few hours, I got to sample canapé versions of several of Hope and Anchor’s light bites and mains. While this means I didn’t get to try anything off the menu as you’d typically experience it, it did give me a good overview of what Hope and Anchor’s menu is all about.

First up, was a sample of one of Hope and Anchor’s light bites: celeriac pakora, apple and mango chutney (£3.50).

celeriac-pakora-apple-and-mango-chutney

Just a few weeks ago I had the best celeriac mash at Napoleons, so I was excited to see another place embracing my new favourite vegetable. Hope and Anchor’s mini celeriac pakoras didn’t disappoint, as they were packed with flavour. I also loved the accompanying sweet, sticky mango chutney which complimented the nuttiness of the celeriac pakoras perfectly. I definitely want to try the full-sized version of this!

The second light bite was bresaola, fig chutney, and hazelnut dressing (£5).

bresaola

I’d never heard of bresaola before, but turns out it’s air-dried, salted beef. I don’t eat meat, but my dining companion said they enjoyed the bresaola, although they weren’t overly keen on the fig chutney, which was a bit too sweet for their liking.

Onto the mains, and I got to sample a mini portion of fish and chips (well, technically just the fish part of fish and chips) which was served with pea purée and tartar sauce (£10.95).

fish-chips-pea-puree-tartar-sauce

I’m not usually a massive fan of battered fish, so I wasn’t expecting to really enjoy this – turns out I loved it! The batter was light and grease-free, which is always a plus as there’s nothing worse than wet, slimy batter.

The piece of fish inside the batter was also pretty much spot on – tender, meaty and very tasty. This canapé was finished off with a dollop of pea purée, which had one of the most intense pea flavours I’ve ever experienced, and was all kinds of delicious.

When I’m handed a menu, fish and chips is typically the last thing I want to order, and even when I treat myself to chippy tea it’s all about the chips and curry sauce, hold the battered cod. However I enjoyed this taster of Hope and Anchor’s fish and chips so much, that I wouldn’t rule out ordering the full version of this at some point in the future.

The next main was one of Hope and Anchor’s veggie-friendly options: roast sweet potato, apple, brie stack, cauliflower and romesco sauce (£12).

roast-sweet-potato-apple-brie-stack

Unlike the fish and chips, this sounded like something I’d definitely order, but it actually turned out to be my least favourite out of everything I got to sample, as all I could taste was sweet potato. I struggled to find any hint of the brie, apple or romesco sauce, which was a shame because this combination of flavours sounds like perfection! It’s possible that this main just didn’t translate properly to miniature, and the ratio of ingredients was off, so I’d be willing to give this another go. 

Jumping from the veggie-friendly option to something that’s definitely not veggie-friendly: the rib eye steak and mushroom ketchup, which according to the menu is usually accompanied by chips, baby gem and roast tomato (£22).

rib-eye-steak-mushroom-ketchup

If you like your meat on the rarer side, then this steak was perfection – juicy, tender and very pink in the middle. The mushroom ketchup had a really earthy, concentrated mushroom flavour, which you’re either going to love or hate.

But I’ve saved the best until last: blackened cod with giant couscous and pak choi (£12.95).

blackened-cod

This was amazing! The blackened cod had a smoky, almost charcoal flavour that had me craving more from the very first bite, and was served on a bed of giant couscous.

I’m a massive fan of all things grain and grain-like: couscous, quinoa, rice, bulgur, orzo, I love it all, so I was always going to enjoy this. The person I was dining with is the exact opposite: they hate couscous, to the point where initially they didn’t even want to try the blackened cod. However, this taster completely changed their mind, to the point where they said this was something they’d choose to order!

You know a meal is good when it manages to win over someone who was expecting to hate it.

Looking beyond this selection of mains and light bites, Hope and Anchor’s menu includes quite a few other things that I can’t wait to try: goat’s cheese risotto; seafood linguine with market fish, shrimp and clams; rice pudding with stewed autumn fruits, and a baked blackberry cheesecake with poached apples. Don’t those two desserts just sound like the perfect winter warmers?

While it’s difficult to judge a restaurant based on what’s essentially canapés, I left Hope and Anchor convinced that I need to return and try the new menu properly. This menu seems like a huge improvement on Anchorage’s last few menus, although I am a bit sad that Anchorage’s Mac and Cheese burger hasn’t survived the transition to Hope and Anchor.

All in all, an exciting peek into a new(ish) restaurant, and I can’t wait to experience a few of my favourite canapés in their full-sized glory – starting of course with that blackened cod and giant couscous!

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Napoleons Ecclesall Road

September 22, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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One of the really fun things about running a food blog, is that it gives you that little extra push to try new places, rather than always falling back on “the usual.”

And that’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago, when the very nice people at Napoleons on Ecclesall Road got in touch and asked whether I’d like to attend a bloggers evening. Food, cocktails, and even a few (what turned out to be disastrous) spins on the roulette wheel. How could I say no to that?

I’ve eaten at a few different Napoleons restaurants now, and each time I always come away wondering “that was great, why don’t I eat here more often?”

Napoleons just isn’t somewhere I automatically think of when I’m in the mood to treat myself to some great food, and I know I’m not alone in this. Spoiler alert: the food was so good that I couldn’t resist showing the photos to a few friends, and they were all suddenly eager to pay Napoleons a visit, even though they’d never even considered eating at a casino before.  

Napoleons’ menus always feature lots of unusual, “gastro pub” style ingredients, plus plenty of fish and seafood, which pretty much makes it the perfect menu in my eyes! Right off the bat, I was seriously struggling to decide what to order for my first course. Should I go for the garlic-scented potato soup, the Tandoori-spiced salmon, or the goat’s cheese curd on toast? Everything just sounded so good!

Ultimately, my love for anything goats cheese-related won through, and I opted for the goat’s cheese curd on toast, which came with roasted pine nuts and blackberries.

napoleons goats cheese.png

Blackberries and goat’s cheese curd isn’t a combo I’ve encountered before, but it turned out to be a winner! I also loved the contrast between the light and fluffy, almost whipped, goat’s cheese curd and the crunchiness of the toasted pine nuts.

This starter is on the lighter side, but Napoleons still manage to pack in those different flavours and textures, making this the perfect way to start a 3 course meal.

My dining companion was feeling adventurous, so they ordered the roast pigeon. The pigeon came with cherry puree and mustard jus, plus a warning that the pigeon may contain shot! It’s not every day that your food comes with that kind of disclaimer.

napoleons-roasted-pigeon

This was my friend’s first time eating pigeon, and the first time I’d seen a pigeon that wasn’t covered in feathers and sat on my windowsill cooing at 5am. Turns out pigeon meat is a lot darker than either of us had been expecting! It also had an unusual texture that’s apparently not too dissimilar to liver, as well as a seriously strong, gamey flavour.  

The cherry jus (complete with bonus cherry) was every bit as sweet and sticky as it sounded, and complimented the rich gaminess of the pigeon perfectly.

And just in case you were wondering, nope, we didn’t find any shot in the pigeon.

As I tucked into my starter, I sipped my way through a few of Napoleons’ cocktails: a light, fruity and dangerously easy-drinking Cosmopolitan (£6.95) and a seriously strong Old Fashioned (£6.95).

napoleons-cocktail

Onto the mains, and once again I was completely spoilt for choice – why isn’t it socially acceptable to order multiple main courses? Right up until the very last minute I was flipping back and forth between ordering the salmon, or the Cauliflower Four Ways (who knew you could do so much with the humble cauliflower?)

In the end, I settled on the seared escalope of salmon, which was served with celeriac mash, tenderstem broccoli and mussel jus.

napoleons-roasted-salmon

I hadn’t expected the jus to contain any actual mussels, so I was happy to spot quite a few whole mussels on my plate – surprise seafood is always a good thing! Speaking of seafood, the portion of salmon was on the generous side, and was perfectly cooked so it flaked apart as soon as I cut into it.

But the best part of the meal was the celeriac mash. This delicious veggie mash delivered that warm, glowy feeling you only get from pure comfort food, but with a very distinctive and unique taste, which I loved. I’d even go as far as to say I enjoyed this more than traditional mash potato (and this is coming from someone who could happily polish off a mountain of mash potato!)

My friend had also opted for some good old fashioned comfort food, in the form of roast lamb, which came with grilled baby gem lettuce, peas, peppers and anchovy fritters.

napoleons-roasted-lamp-rump

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: the lamb looked incredible! Apparently, it tasted every bit as good as it looked.

If I was being super critical, I’d say that based on the menu I’d been expecting more than a single anchovy fritter (after all, the menu did promise fritters) but the single fritter was very tasty, especially the light, tempura-style batter.  

Since everything so far had been pretty much perfect, I decided to take a risk with my pudding, which is how I ended up with Napoleons’ salted caramel crème brûlée.

Salted caramel is up there with my favourite things ever, but crème brûlée? Not so much. I’ve tried crème brûlée a grand total of once, and I swear if I try hard enough I can still recall that horrible, gloopy texture and burnt caramel taste in excruciating detail.

But every dessert deserves a second chance, right? Especially when there’s salted caramel involved. So I decided to give this whole crème brûlée malarky another shot.

napoleons-salted-caramel

This turned out to be approximately one million times better than my first, disastrous foray into the world of crème brûlée, and Napoleons got that tricky balance of sweet and salty just right – although I’m still not completely convinced that crème brûlée is the dessert for me!

My friend went down the savoury route with their dessert.

napoleons-cheese-board

Napoleons’ cheeseboard is a selection of mature cheddar, stilton and brie, served with crackers, fruit chutney, celery, grapes and even a slice of fruitcake.

Too often cheeseboards are literally just that: a board with cheese on it. As much as I love cheese, the same flavour is always going to get boring after a while, so it was nice to have lots of different added extras to shake things up a bit. The slice of light, moist fruitcake went down particularly well!

And so concluded our Napoleons experience, and the only negative thing I have to say about the whole night is that I didn’t win big on the roulette wheel. My complimentary £5 chip seemed to mysteriously vanish into thin air, and I was back at the bar ordering another glass of wine in record time.

If you do decide to pay Napoleons a visit (and you should) then just be aware that the menu changes on a monthly basis, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Bad, because if you have a particularly good meal at Napoleons, then chances are the next time you visit it’ll be gone from the menu. Or, you can look on the bright side: there’s always something new to try!

After glancing through the menus for the next couple of months, I already have a list of things I can’t wait to order! Fragrant Thai scented mussels, caramel and honeycomb cheesecake, goat’s cheese spring rolls, and salted caramel popcorn pots! The latter makes my very, very happy. There’s even a main course that includes something called pepper paint. I have no idea what that is, but I know I want to experience it!

But by far the best thing about Napoleons’ menu are the prices. On Saturday you can enjoy two courses for £22, or three courses for £24. And if you dine on Sunday-Friday then those prices get knocked down a few pounds, to £19 for 2 courses or £21 for three courses.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a casino fan (and ditto, because my most exciting gambling-related experience is still that time I won a Minions cuddly tool on the “grabbers” along Scarborough sea front) then I’d still recommend taking a look at Napoleons’ menu. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

You should also check out some of the blogs and photos from the other lovely Sheffield bloggers who attended this event:

four-stars

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