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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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A Foodie Adventure

October 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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Recently, we were lucky enough to get an invite to a ‘Foodie Adventure,’ which promised a tantalising evening of eating, drinking and trying our luck at Sheffield’s casinos and dog track. The night would start at Napoleon’s Owlerton where we’d get a roulette lesson, not to mention our first course, before the fun moved next door to the Owlerton Stadium dog track, where it was all about the main meal and a flutter on the dogs, before wrapping things up with a pudding at Napoleon’s Ecclesall Road. Even better, all of the money raised during the evening would go to the Sheffield Food Bank – what’s not to like?

I have to admit that before my Foodie Adventure, my entire experience of casinos and dog racing came down to a single trip to Owlerton Stadium, where I placed a few 50p bets and went home with a whopping £1 profit. My experience of eating in these sort of venues was even more limited (read: completely non-existent) so, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I stepped off the tram and Google-Mapped my way to the first venue.

If you’ve never visited Napoleon’s Owlerton on Livesey Street before, the outside has a bit of hotel vibe, with lots of fountains, shiny stone surfaces and Chinese lanterns – but with a lot more neon lights than you’d expect from your average hotel!

First on the itinerary, was a quick drink in Napoleon’s bar. The bar area is compact but stylish, with super-shiny surfaces, lights and glittering booze bottles in every direction, not to mention a big sign proudly proclaiming that they serve booze until the eye-watering hour of 5am!

The cosy, glossy bar area really sets the tone for an evening at Napoleon’s, as when we made our way through to the restaurant area, we were met with yet more shiny wood and clever lighting, which creates the feeling of an intimate restaurant. Napoleon’s are clearly making the effort to create a dining experience that contradicts any preconceived notions about the kind of food a casino might serve. The menu too, works hard to impress and is bursting with lots of upmarket-sounding ingredients: mojito syrup, ruby port, and thyme jus, to name a few.

Not wanting to spoil my appetite so early in the evening, I played it conservative and ordered the mozzarella, tomato and rocket salad, which came with a flourish of basil, capers and balsamic vinegar.

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Napoleon’s tomato salad has nothing in common with the boring iceberg-lettuce-and-grated-carrot side salads you sometimes get when eating out, and it actually turned out to be my highlight of the entire night, food-wise! The tomato was fresh and full of flavour, while the cheese was surprisingly light. The amount of basil, oil and capers on the plate was carefully balanced to complement the tomato and mozzarella, rather than overpowering them. Who said salads had to be boring? If I ever find myself back at Napoleon’s, I’ll definitely order this again!

At the other end of the table, it was all about the Thai spiced fish goujons and sweet chilli dip.

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The batter was light and completely free of grease, just what you want to kick off a three course meal, and the chilli dip was a nicely tangy accompaniment!

After finishing our starters, there was just enough time for a quick roulette lesson, before heading next door to Owlerton Stadium, Penistone Road. I’ve visited the stadium before, but only made it as far as the bar and betting window, so it was interesting to see more of the stadium.

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After being teased with the fantastic views available to those in the Executive Boxes, it seemed inevitable that our table in the Panorama Restaurant would be a rude return to Earth. Surprisingly, it wasn’t – the restaurant was heaving and had the sort of atmosphere that hits you the second you walk in, and even though it wasn’t the top-dollar Executive Box, the Panorama Restaurant still had impressive views over the entire track.

The stadium runs a bargain £17 deal that includes admission fee, a table at the Panorama Restaurant, a three course meal, and your own tote runner who places all of your bets for you (and delivers your winnings, if you strike it lucky!) Although we only spent our main course at the dog track, it was clear that a full evening here would be a lot of fun.

But what about the food? I ordered a filling pancake cannelloni of roasted aubergine, courgette and asparagus, topped with a thick two cheese sauce. Beneath that cheesy exterior, were big chunks of veg and lots of pasta, not to mention lashings of that extra-cheesy sauce. A very stodgy and satisfying main, perfect for the winter months.

My dining companion’s meal of chargrilled sirloin steak with bourguignon garnish, ruby port and thyme jus was just as tasty.

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The generous lump of meat was served on a bed of chunky, buttery veggies and nicely-salted bacon bits. The meat was charred on the outside, but melt-in-the-mouth and perfectly cooked on the inside. In fact, the meat was so pink and juicy, it deserves its very own photo:

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The main meals were served with a platter of vegetables and side orders, which included crispy roast potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower smothered in cheese sauce, and cabbage cooked in lashings of butter and mixed up with more bacon bits – a tummy-warming, calorie-packed treat.

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But, our Foodie Adventure was drawing to a close, and the only thing left to do was pop over to Napoleon’s Ecclesall Road for pud. Although most of the puddings on offer are of the sweet variety, you can also get that old savoury favourite: the cheese board. The cheese board in question is made up of mature cheddar, stilton and brie served alongside crackers, chutney, celery and grapes.

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It’s a sensible size for one person to enjoy, or an after-dinner snack to share between two.

So, what did I learn from my first real foray into the world of betting and feasting at Sheffield’s casinos and dog track? Firstly, a meal and a tote runner at Owlerton is a fun, different night out, (even if you’re not particularly into betting, like me) and secondly, the food is completely different to how I’d imagined.

All three venues are working hard to counteract those pesky misconceptions about the kind of food you can get at casinos and the races – and it pays off. Far from being convenience food you grab and munch inbetween the fun, the food at all three venues is worth sitting down and taking your time over. If you’re planning a trip to either venue, why not make an evening of it and eat there, too? Just make sure you try the tomato and mozzarella salad while you’re there!

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