Owlerton Stadium – Sheffield’s Top Night

October 4, 2016 at 9:11 am | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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A few weeks ago I reviewed the new menu at Napoleons casino on Ecclesall Road, and it seems like a theme is emerging as this week I got invited to Owlerton Stadium to try some food, bet on some greyhounds, and generally celebrate the venue’s rebrand as ‘Sheffield’s Top Night.’

The event started at 6pm, and we arrived at 5:50pm expecting to be the first people there, only to find a queue of eager ticket-holders already forming in the car park. Clearly Owlerton Stadium is popular Saturday night spot!

Once we’d finally worked our way to the front of the queue, we were shown to the venue’s Panorama Restaurant which offers fantastic views over the dog track.

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The whole restaurant is designed to pull you into the races happening below – as if the view over the track wasn’t enough, there’s also numerous television screens mounted around the room that cycle through a mixture of close ups, action replays and photo finishes of each race.

The Panorama Restaurant is enormous, but by the end of the night the place was absolutely packed with people having a great time. I was also surprised by just how diverse the diners were – everyone from families with children in tow, to senior parties, to younger people who were clearly on a Saturday night out, dressed up and ordering bottles of fizz. This great mix of people only added to the atmosphere.

The Panorama Restaurant itself has a fun, informal feel – this may have had something to do with the fact that many of the diners were wearing fuzzy dog ears, which the staff were handing out at the door. If there’s anything better than spending your Saturday night in a room full of people wearing furry dog ears, then I haven’t discovered it yet!

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As I’ve mentioned in pretty much every one of Napoleons’ reviews, gambling isn’t really my thing, but towards the end of the evening I did find myself getting caught up in the atmosphere and couldn’t resist having a flutter on a few dogs whose names made me chuckle (always the best approach if you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing). I can confirm that I’m about as successful at picking a winning greyhound as I am at roulette, so sadly I didn’t make my fortune on this particular evening.

You eat at the Panorama Restaurant as part of a very reasonable package deal, which includes 3 courses, a table overlooking the dog track, and even a tote runner who pops by your table before each race and offers to place your bets for you – because no-one wants to get up halfway through a 3 course meal in order to go stand in a queue!

When it comes to the food, the Panorama Restaurant specialises in unpretentious grub – it’s not fancy, but it’s enjoyable. Case in point, my starter of potato and leek soup with thyme and garlic croutons.

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This is a lovely winter warmer that manages to be rich and creamy without being too stodgy, and the croutons went heavy on the garlic, which I loved.

My dining companion opted for an equally no-nonsense starter, in the form of Yorkshire puddings covered in Henderson’s onion gravy.

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The Yorkshire puddings were nicely cooked, which was a relief because I’ve ordered several Sunday roasts recently and the Yorkshire puds have always been black around the edges – this certainly wasn’t the case with Owlerton’s Yorkshire puds!

But the Henderson’s gravy was what really made this starter special. This gravy had a really unique, tangy aftertaste that’s utterly addictive, to the point where I’ve made it my mission to replicate this Henderson’s gravy at home. Wish me luck!

Onto the mains and I had opted for the mushroom, pumpkin and chickpea cottage pie with cheddar mash.

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This cottage pie is pure comfort food, especially the mash which tasted strongly of cheddar. The filling was also really tasty, with a good amount of mushrooms and chickpeas, although I struggled to taste any pumpkin in my pie.  

All in all, this was a lovely veggie cottage pie, and it was nice to see a vegetarian option that’s something different from the usual nut roast, veg wellington or vegetarian tart.

Each main course is served with a selection of vegetables and potatoes. When I ordered my cottage pie, the waitress had asked whether I was a vegetarian, and then explained that the regular side of vegetables and potatoes isn’t actually vegetarian friendly, so they’d need to make me a separate portion. The fact that the veg isn’t vegetarian friendly isn’t mentioned anywhere the menu, which I feel is a bit of an oversight, as there’s all kinds of dietary requirements that may mean finding bacon mixed in with your veggies isn’t going to be a pleasant experience.

The side turned out to be cauliflower and broccoli covered in cheese, shredded cabbage, and a helping of roast potatoes.

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I’m pretty partial to cauliflower cheese, but this is the first time I’ve ever encountered broccoli cheese. Turns out it’s even tastier than cauliflower cheese, so this is something else I’m going to have a go at replicating at home (thanks for the inspiration, Owlerton Stadium!)

The roast potatoes were very nice too – strongly seasoned, crispy on the outside but light and fluffy on the inside, just like all good roasties should be.

And if you’re interested, the non-veggie version of this side is more of the same, but with bacon bits mixed into the vegetables.

Meanwhile, my friend had opted for the slow roasted belly pork, which was served with braised red cabbage, apples, and a port and rosemary sauce.

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The portion of roast pork was absolutely enormous, and had a strong rosemary flavour, while the red cabbage and apples complemented the pork perfectly. The only criticism is that my friend would have preferred their crackling to be a bit crunchier.

Onto dessert, and I couldn’t resist ordering the sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce, while my friend was tempted by the plum and almond tart, which came with clotted cream ice cream.

Strangely, both of us took a bite of our puddings and instantly had that horrible realisation that, even though there was technically nothing really wrong with either pudding, we’d ordered something that simply wasn’t to our taste. Whoops!  

Rather than wasting two puddings, we swapped plates and realised that, actually, we both preferred the other person’s pudding way more than our own. Disaster averted!  

The high point of my I-really-should-have-ordered-this-instead plum and almond tart, was easily the ice cream, as the clotted cream gave it an extra richness.

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Meanwhile, the sticky toffee pudding may not have been the greatest looking dessert in the world (and I did try my hardest to get a good shot of it) but my friend enjoyed the taste, which is all that matters.

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Since I’d visited Napoleons just a few weeks before, it’s difficult for me not to compare the two – and there’s one stark difference. Whereas Napoleons’ restaurant clearly sets out to stand on its own, at Owlerton Stadium it’s impossible to separate the food from the greyhound racing.

Everything from the restaurant’s layout, to the tote runners, to the fact that the lights are turned off at the start of each race, seems designed to pull you into the greyhound racing, to the point where there’s no way you’d visit Owlerton Stadium if you didn’t intend on placing at least a couple of bets throughout the night.

If you enjoy a few cheeky bets in general or greyhound racing in particular, then Owlerton is a really fun night out. The atmosphere is fantastic, and during this particular Saturday the whole venue was packed with people having a fantastic time. The food was also enjoyable, especially considering the price (3 courses for £15 is great value, even without the added entertainment) and I enjoyed everything except my original pudding.

If you’re planning a trip to Owlerton Stadium, then you should really look into booking yourself a table at the Panorama Restaurant.

Three and a half stars

 

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The Botanist

October 2, 2016 at 5:54 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Leopold Square has seen several restaurants come and go over the years, and now we have another newbie to add to the list: the Botanist, which has just opened in the unit formerly known as Popolo.  

The Botanist isn’t a name I’ve encountered before, but a quick look at their website reveals quite a few Botanists dotted around the UK, so they must be doing something right!

Before visiting the Botanist on opening night, I had a sneaky peek at a few photos on the venue’s Facebook page, so I already knew they’d gone for an extravagant, more-is-more theme. However, even looking through numerous photos didn’t prepare me for just how beautiful this restaurant truly is!

Our party was greeted at the entrance and taken up a flight of stairs that felt familiar from all my years spent sipping cocktails at Popolo’s, but then we were take up another flight of stairs, and another, and everything began to feel very different. For starters, this place is enormous!

Eventually we emerged into a corridor that was completely covered in branches, leaves, vines, flowers and other assorted foliage, and decorated with twinkling green and white lights. I didn’t think it was possible to be wowed by a corridor, but apparently I was wrong!

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But this was nothing compared to the main dining area.

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The Botanist is beautiful, with vines, leaves and flowers all curling and creeping artistically across every surface, and lots of intricate latticework. Fairy lights, street lamps, and decorative butterflies provide the finishing touches to this pretty, whimsical dining room. I felt like I’d stepped off the streets of Sheffield and into some kind of secret garden (as corny as that sounds, I challenge anyone to visit the Botanist and not get caught up in the magic!)

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I must have spent the first 5 minutes snapping photo after photo, without even thinking to look at the menu – and I was ravenous, so that’s testament to just how lovely this place is to look at!

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But you don’t visit a restaurant just to look at nice furnishings, so was the food any good?  

My first course was very good, as I tucked into a starter of curried mussels (£7.50).

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These mussels were tender and juicy, and were served in a deliciously light, fragrant broth that contained just enough chilli to provide a nice kick, without overwhelming the taste of the mussels. After I’d polished off the mussels, I spent ages scooping up every last drop of the broth, as it was just too good to waste!

If you love your seafood, then this is your dream starter.

My friend opted for a baked camembert, which was served with a smoked bacon and crispy onion crust (£6.95).

My friend is pregnant, so she asked whether the staff could make sure the camembert was cooked all the way through. Not only were the staff happy to oblige, but they made a point of popping back to the table to let us know that the starters would be a while longer because the chef was making sure the camembert was really, truly piping hot all the way through. Clearly, the staff took this request seriously, which was very much appreciated!

When it arrived the camembert looked delicious, and was baked all the way through as promised.

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Kicking off a meal with a full camembert may sound a bit daunting, but this particular camembert is the perfect starter size.  

I can see myself ordering this at some point, especially now the weather’s turning cooler – because if there’s anything better than baked camembert on a cold day, then I’ve yet to discover it!

Onto the mains, and the chilli broth from my starter had left me craving a spicy main, so I was excited to spot a Malaysian curry on the menu. You can order this as a chicken or a vegetarian curry; I went for the veggie version (£9.95).

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This was my first taste of Malaysian curry, and I found it to be a much lighter, fresher take on your typical curry. Instead of a rich tomato or creamy coconut sauce, this curry had a light broth that wasn’t too dissimilar to my starter.

The Botanist’s curry delivered a subtle heat that was warming and tasty, rather than being spicy just for the sake of it – an approach that I’m a big fan of, because what’s the point of having your tastebuds burnt off by a curry that doesn’t even taste good?!

My only niggle is that, for a main course, this portion is a bit on the small side, so if you fancy the Malaysian curry then you should probably make a point of ordering a starter or a dessert as well.

My friend ordered something truly exciting for their main meal: one of the Botanist’s famous Hanging Kebabs. The menu promised a hanging kebab of either chicken, lamb or beef (priced at £11.50, £12.50 or £13.95, respectively) “sopped” in sweet chilli sauce, garlic and ginger butter, and suspended over a bowl of chips.

I was curious to see what a hanging main course looks like, and the Botanist didn’t disappoint, as this definitely isn’t your typical main meal!

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The idea is that the sweet chilli, garlic butter and (there’s no nice way to say this) meat juices drip down onto the chips and seasons them. The Botanist’s hanging kebab is one of those culinary guilty pleasures, like chip shop curry sauce or super noodles covered in melted cheese. It isn’t elegant or sophisticated, but it is lots of fun and is absolutely packed with flavour. This got a big thumbs up from my friend!

We’d reached the final course, and I had serious doubts about whether I had room for pudding. Then I saw that the Botanist serve a Rocky Road hanging kebab (£5.50)  and I realised that yes, I did have enough room for dessert after all.

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The Rocky Road kebab is a mix of strawberries, hazelnut brownie chunks and yummy toasted marshmallows, all suspended over a bowl full of chocolate crumbs and served with a tub of biscuit sauce. The idea is that you pour the sauce over the kebab so that it drips over the fruit, brownies and marshmallows, and eventually melts into the bowl of biscuit crumb, where the two merge into the ultimate sweet, sticky sauce.

This isn’t just a novelty dessert, it’s really tasty too! I particularly enjoyed the chunks of hazelnut brownie, which were wonderfully rich, and the marshmallows which were perfectly toasted so they were warm and gooey on the inside.  

This dessert also isn’t too heavy, so it’s perfect if (like me) you’re struggling to find room, but still fancy something sweet to round off your meal. Plus, pouring the sauce over the kebab is just fun! This dessert is guaranteed to leave you with a big smile on your face.

My friend had opted for a regular, non-hanging dessert: warm chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream (£5.50).

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This is a dense, indulgent dessert served with lashings of thick chocolate sauce – basically, everything you could want from a slice of cake!

And thus concluded a fantastic evening at the Botanist.

I’m recommend paying a visit just to gawp at the gorgeous decor, but the Botanist isn’t a case of style over substance, as they also serve great food at reasonable prices. I’m now obsessed with the idea of hanging mains and desserts, as it just brings something new and fun to a regular meal out. The staff were also very friendly, attentive and only too happy to make adjustments to our meals, which was very much appreciated.

There’s no shortage of restaurants in Sheffield, but we certainly don’t have anything like the Botanist, which makes this a really exciting addition to the Sheffield food scene.

You know a place is good when you immediately want to share it with other people, and I can’t wait to introduce my friends and family to the Botanist, partly so I can see their reaction to the interior but also just because the Botanist serves some really fantastic food. 

5-stars

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