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!

owlerton-dog-ears

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.

owlerton-potato-soup

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.

owlerton-yorkshire-pudding

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.

owlerton-veggie-shepherds-eye

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.

owlerton-veg-and-potato-side

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.

owlerton-belly-pork

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.

owlerton-sticky-toffee-pudding

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 Wick at Both Ends: Spring/Summer Menu Launch

March 29, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Posted in Pub Grub, Restaurants | 2 Comments
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When I’m umm-ing and arr-ing over a place to eat, the Wick at Both Ends on West Street always crops up sooner or later. It’s one of those places that always ticks all the right boxes: good atmosphere, lots of comfy booths, nice decor, a large cocktail menu, pleasant staff, and a food menu that has something for everyone. Basically, I love everything about the Wick; so when an invite to the launch of their new Spring/Summer menu arrived in my inbox, I was pretty excited.

Wick fans will be happy to hear that the always-awesome Wick burgers are still present and accounted for on the new menu, and the starters look as interesting as ever, with pork cheek faggots, vegan cheddar, and red pepper sabayon all making an appearance. Since summer is just around the corner (hopefully), salad and fish features more heavily than on previous menus, but the Wick hasn’t completely done away with the comfort food, so on chilly days you can still warm up with mash, roast lamb, gravy, and belly pork.

But, every good meal starts with a drink. We kicked things off with a refreshing Double Grape Martini (£5.75), a summery blend of white wine, vodka and vanilla. This is the ideal light drink to accompany a heavy meal, and it went down very easily. Also arriving at our table, was a Corpse Reviver #2 (£7.00). On the menu, this blend of Portabello Gin, Cointreau, Noilly Prat, and Absinthe is described as “guaranteed to bring you back to life.” The Wick aren’t kidding! This is a firecracker of a cocktail, in a deceptively dainty glass.

Wick at Both Ends cocktails

When you’ve visited a place multiple times, you can fall into the routine of ordering the same thing time and time again (for me, it’s the Wick’s delicious mushroom burger), so I resolved to break out of my rut, and opted for a salad of glazed beetroot with goat’s cheese and pine nuts, in a balsamic vinaigrette (£7.25). This is a “proper” salad, where dressed leaves make up the majority of the dish.

Wick at Both Ends salad

I love goat’s cheese, and the Wick’s is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. This goat’s cheese is like bombs of pure, melt-in-the-mouth indulgence, wrapped in a lightly-toasted exterior. Biting through the rubbery, toasted cheese, into its oozing center, is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Amazing.

The rest of this dish is a salad of mixed leaves, doused in a vinaigrette that gives the salad a tangy edge, and finished off with chunks of beetroot and a teeny sprinkle of toasted pine nuts. The whole thing sits on a bed of beetroot that’s so thinly-sliced, it has a semi-transparent pattern of alternating pink and white bands. The beetroot also has a woody taste and texture, which was unexpected. I love it when places take an everyday vegetable and make it taste like something new.

The goat’s cheese and beetroot salad is a very light dish, with some quirky touches, although I’d have preferred larger portions of the cheese and pine nuts, as these are the ingredients that stand the best chance of filling you up. Overall though, this is a great, summery salad – just don’t order it if you’re ravenous!

At the other end of the table, it was like winter all over again, with a plate full of roast belly pork and bubble and squeak, served with roasted apple, chutney and cider sauce (£8.50). The Wick clearly set out to wow with this dish. Mission accomplished – it looks fantastic!

Wick at Both Ends pork belly

The generous portion of meat was tender and juicy, and the cider sauce was a welcome change from the usual gravy or jus.

The promised bubble and squeak turned out to be a portion of mashed potatoes with some boiled cabbage mixed in, rather than the mash and fried veggies I’d always understood bubble and squeak to be. Despite this, the Wick’s take on bubble and squeak was still pure comfort food.

The real star of this dish, is the roasted apple. Whenever I’ve roasted apples, it’s always gone wrong, with hard, uncooked centers or mushy exteriors. Clearly, I need to take lessons from the Wick, because this apple was cooked to perfection and had a lovely flavour.

If you’re in the mood for classy comfort food, it doesn’t get any better than the Wick’s pork, cider sauce, mash and roasted apple. The words “best meal I’ve ever had” were even uttered!

Due to my light main course, I was still peckish, and so couldn’t resist checking out the dessert menu. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so when I spotted the cheese board, I knew this was the “pudding” for me. The Wick at Both Ends puts a nice spin on their cheese board, by letting you construct your own board from a selection of cheeses (a trio of cheeses will cost you £5.95). I opted for the Y-Fenni Mustard & Ale, Godminster Brie, and the How’s ‘yer Father Lancashire.

My cheese board was served with that funky, rustic flair that the Wick do so well, arriving on a heavy slate, alongside a bowl of chutney, celery sticks, and a hexagonal arrangement of oatmeal crackers.

Wick at Both Ends cheese board

The chutney was particularly good. It was homemade, and struck that perfect balance between fruity sweetness, and sour notes. Cheese, chutney, crackers and celery is always a winning combination, and it’s clear that the Wick use top quality ingredients.

We also ordered a sweet pudding, in the form of a caramel cheesecake, which came with homemade pear sorbet and caramel sauce (£4.75).

Wick at Both Ends cheesecake

The cheesecake was indulgent, and had the kind of creaminess that makes you savour every bite. This rich cheesecake was perfectly complemented by the fresh, icy sorbet.

It’s difficult to pick fault with the Wick at Both Ends. While the portion of cheese and pine nuts on my salad was on the small side, and I wouldn’t have said no to bigger wedges of cheese on my cheeseboard, the quality of the ingredients, and the obvious care that’s put into preparing each dish, means that the portions are reasonable for what you pay.

I’ve eaten at the Wick a couple of times, through multiple menu changes, and have tucked into everything from tapas, to Sunday roasts, pies, and burgers – and I’ve never once had a bad meal.

The Wick really do serve some of the best grub in Sheffield, and I can’t wait to return and sample more of their new menu.

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