The Wick at Both Ends: Spring/Summer 2015

May 4, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Posted in Pub Grub, Restaurants | Leave a comment
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This review is long overdue, due to my phone going whappy and losing all my photos – including those I took at the Wick at Both Ends’ new menu launch.

Thankfully my phone is now back up and running, so I can (finally) share my thoughts on the Wick’s new spring/summer menu!

The new menu has the same rustic, gastro pub feel of previous Wick menus, although there does seem to be more meat and fish this time around. The Wick at Both Ends haven’t completely forgotten about vegetarians, though – there are a couple of veggie-friendly mains inbetween all the ox tail and kidney pies, sausage and mash, and butter roasted plaice. There’s also a selection of meat-free sandwiches, plus the Wick’s trusty flat field mushroom and goat’s cheese burger, which has been my favourite thing to order there for years. If the Wick ever get rid of their mushroom burger, I’ll be very sad.

One thing I’ve noticed about the Wick’s menus, is that the starters tend to be more adventurous than the mains. The spring/summer menu is no exception, featuring unusual starters such as pan fried calves liver, pickled mackerel, and pistachio and prune terrine.

One starter that really caught my eye was the warm potted crab (£5.50). I love potted shrimp but I’ve never tried potted crab before, so I knew I had to give this a go.

This is a big starter!

the wick at both ends potted crab

My ramekin was jam-packed with lots of fresh and tasty crab meat that had a lovely, velvety texture. If you’re not a fan of strong seafood then you should probably give this one a miss, as the crab is seriously strong.

My only issue with the potted crab is that it’s just so filling! After I’d used the accompanying slices of bread and butter to scrape up every last morsel of delicious crab, I was left wondering how I was going to find room for my main course.

This is such a generous portion that I think the potted crab would work really well as a stand alone snack – possibly after one too many Wick cocktails have given you a case of the beer munchies!

For a seafood fanatic like myself, this potted crab starter felt like the ultimate treat. In fact, I have a few seafood-loving friends who I’m going to drag to the Wick at the earliest opportunity, because I know they’ll love this starter every bit as much as I did.

For my main course, I continued the fish and seafood theme with some Smoked Haddock Kedgeree (£8.95).

This wasn’t just the first time I’d had kedgeree at the Wick, it was the first time I’d had kedgeree ever, so I was really looking forward to trying something completely new.

The Wick’s vibrant yellow kedgeree is certainly nice to look at.

wick at both ends kedgeree

I’d found the potted crab a bit heavy going, but this kedgeree was even richer. This is another massive portion, and the rice is really rich and creamy. Like the potted crab, this is food strictly for those who enjoy strong, fishy flavours.

Even though I was getting uncomfortably full, I just couldn’t stop eating this. The Wick’s kedgeree really is too good to waste.

Meanwhile, my friend had opted for the 8oz Onglet Steak (£11.50), which was another new addition to the Wick’s menu.

After some Googling it became clear that onglet steak is the same as hanger steak, which they’ve also just started serving at the Wick’s sister venue, Anchorage (if you’re interested, Anchorage’s hanger steak is amazing and you can read about it here).

The Wick’s onglet steak has a really intense, rich flavour. If you like your steak, then you need to try this onglet/hanger cut, as it’s stronger and tastier than your average steak.

wick at both ends onglet

The onglet steak came with a stack of chubby, perfectly-seasoned chips, a super-sized serving of parsley butter, and a token bit of greenery in the form of some grilled baby gem lettuce. These are all pretty standard sides when you order a steak, but then the Wick throw a curveball by adding a single battered oyster to the plate.

The oyster was nicely cooked and had a really intense flavour (this seems to be a theme with the Wick’s new menu!) but there’s no getting around the fact that this is more batter than oyster.

Now, I know that for £11.50 you can’t expect such a fantastic steak, fat chips and a pile of oysters, and yes oysters are always going to look smaller with the shell removed – but this single battered oyster did look a bit odd on its own.

wick at both ends battered oyster

Despite mixed feelings about the battered oyster, the onglet steak was well received, and for the price you do get a big plateful of grub and a superb cut of meat.

The Wick’s latest menu continues the tradition of big portions of quality food at reasonable prices, with a few quirky ingredients thrown into the mix. The starters are on the pricier side, but my potted crab starter was worth every penny.

The Wick is one of my favourite places to grab a bite to eat in the city centre, and judging by how much I loved their kedgeree and potted crab starter, this isn’t about to change anytime soon.

If you haven’t already, you can check out the Wick’s new menu online.

four stars

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Bloo 88

September 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Cocktail Bar, Restaurants | Leave a comment
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I was a regular fixture in Rise’s beer garden in my uni days, perfecting the art of making a glass of house white last all afternoon, so I was surprised to discover that Bloo 88 wasn’t next door to Rise as I’d previously assumed, but had actually replaced my old haunt on West Street. But is it a change for the better?

First impressions are that the place has undergone a major overhaul: the interior is now all exposed brickwork and rustic tables, but the old open pizza oven is still smoking away in the corner. On the Saturday afternoon we visited, the number of reserved tables caught us off guard. If you’re planning to pop in on a Friday or Saturday evening, you need to book in advance to guarantee a seat. We hadn’t booked, but luckily still managed to score a table, where we immediately launched into the cocktail menu in search of refreshment after the arduous trek here (and by arduous trek I mean the walk from The Wig and Pen around the corner…..)

Cocktail connoisseurs will find all the old favourites at Bloo 88: Mojitos, Cosmos, Mai Tais and Martinis, but there are a few unusual options too, including a Vanilla Laika (named after the first dog in space, apparently!) and a Brazil-inspired Passion Fruit Batida. The cocktails are fairly priced, with quite a few coming in at a reasonable £4.95, with the added promise of two cocktails for £7 if you visit during happy hour.

We settled on a Bramble (£4.95) and a Godfather Sour (£4.95.) Despite being cheaper than many other Sheffield cocktail bars, Bloo 88’s concoctions did not disappoint. My Bramble was sweet and fruity, without being in the least bit sickly, and packed a boozy punch. The garnishings put the city’s more expensive cocktail bars to shame, as mine arrived topped with a juicy blackberry and a fresh black cherry. This sealed the deal and had me running back to the bar for a second serving of Bramble goodness (got to get my five a day!)

Not to be outdone, the Godfather Sour was served in a funky little jar, topped with a whole raspberry and plenty of crushed ice. It tasted every bit as good as it looked.

Expectations high after our lavish, alcohol appetizers, we turned our attention to the food menu. Bloo 88’s speciality is pizza, which doesn’t sound particularly exciting at first, but rest assured even their ‘classic’ pizzas feature unusual toppings like baked egg and pine nuts. If you’re feeling adventurous, Bloo 88 have some speciality pizzas too, including the intriguing ‘Shanghai Surprise’ topped with shredded duck, spring onions and hoisin sauce, or you can throw caution to the wind and build your own pizza from an impressive list of ingredients.

Starved, greed got the better of us and we opted for two twelve inch pizzas – the Mediterranean (£8.95) and Brunch (£8.95.) Our food arrived quickly and, to our delight, we saw that Bloo 88’s presentation skills aren’t restricted to cocktails. Instead of arranging thinly-sliced toppings evenly across the base, Bloo 88 scatter thick, chunky toppings, and then seem to cook them wherever they fall. This gives the pizzas a very homemade, rustic appearance.

Biting into my first slice, I discovered a generous wedge of melt-in-the-mouth, warm goat’s cheese – a perfect pizza, from the very first bite.

As well as goat’s cheese, the Mediterranean toppings included cherry tomatoes which had that delicious, lightly-grilled tang, spinach, roasted garlic and slabs of portobello mushroom. I’d wolfed down half of this scrumptious pizza before it even occurred to me to try adding some sauces. It turned out Bloo 88 did have plenty of sauces to compliment their pizzas, but they were tucked away on a trolley in the corner, along with the cutlery and napkins. The staff hadn’t asked whether we wanted any sauces with our meals (or cutlery and napkins, either) and hadn’t even told us about the trolley. After the bar staff pointed me in the right direction, I returned to the table armed with sauces and cutlery, but this should have been pointed out to us earlier.

After experimenting with a few sauces, I can definitely recommend a few splashes of the Tabasco for hot-heads like myself. Bloo 88’s thin base and fiery Tabasco is a match made in heaven. The rest of the pizza disappeared in no time.

But it wasn’t all about the veggie pizza; the intriguing-sounding ‘Brunch’ pizza turned out to be a bumper meat-feast of parma ham and italian sausage, with the same perfectly-cooked cherry tomatoes and mushroom wedges, but with a baked egg in the centre giving this pizza a real ‘wow’ factor.

Although our reviewer initially complained about the lack of runny yolk, once they’d chowed down on a calorific forkful of baked egg, cheese and pizza base, they quickly changed their mind and started raving about the egg instead. The parma ham had the crispiness and crunch of bacon (and who doesn’t love that?) and the italian sausage delivered a hit of salty flavour. Another massive thumbs up for Bloo 88’s grub.

Stuffed from twelve inches of pizza goodness, we asked for the bill only to discover that classic pizzas are 2 for 1 all day, every day – what more could you want? It’s difficult to pick fault with Bloo 88 – the surroundings are welcoming and rustic, the cocktails are delicious and presented with flair, and the pizzas are cheap, delicious and guaranteed to leave you scanning the menu, plotting what you’ll order on your next visit (Florentina and New Yorker pizzas, in case you’re interested.) The staff could be a bit more attentive and check whether you’ll be needing anything else with your meal but really, fetching your own Tabasco is a small price to pay when the pizza is this good.

If you love pizza or cocktails, then Bloo 88 is your new favourite haunt. The loss of Rise wasn’t such a big deal after all.

Highly recommended.

Ego

July 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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Ego’s postman may deliver to ‘88 Surrey Street’ but to make this easy, Ego is essentially a restaurant built into the Winter Gardens. Ego has a unique location and it makes the most of it, with plenty of glass walls offering fantastic views of the tropical plants inside the Winter Gardens.

The interior continues the plant-life theme: the mirrors in the bar area are embossed with a stylised branch print and there’s a very artistic silver tree with copper leaves in the dining area. The restaurant is strictly open plan, with no cubbyholes for those after an intimate meal, but this is part of Ego’s charm, which is all about glass walls and open spaces, and giving everyone a chance to admire the fantastic view. With its exposed faux-rustic beams, artistic decor and shiny glass at every turn, Ego certainly creates an impact.

We were escorted to a table in the corner of the spacious dining room and were immediately brought a jug of ice water, complete with very swanky, blue-tinged water glasses. So far, so good. The menu may have a Mediterranean twist, but there’s dedicated Pizza and Pasta sections so even fussy eaters should find something to their liking. To kick off the evening, we ordered an appetizer of Hummus and Pitta Bread, which came in at a purse-friendly £2.95. When our budget appetizer arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find there was more than enough to go around. This generous pot of tasty hummus and pile of warm pitta bread is the perfect, value for money pre-dinner nibble. A nice change from the usual bread-and-olive-oil starter, and highly recommended for a party.

After gobbling up the hummus and bread, expectations were high. Could the mains live up to the starter? Our eyes lit up the second we spied the first main meal, a 14 inch Gamberetti pizza (£10.95) Not only was the pizza hanging off the plate (always a good sign!) but it was completely coated in king prawns, green chilies, prosciutto and vibrant rocket. Quite possibly the best-looking pizza we’ve ever clapped eyes on.

Restaurant pizzas can be on the salty side, and we did have our reservations about king prawns on a pizza, but Ego’s offering was the perfect balance of tongue-scalding chilies, salty prosciutto, meaty prawns and peppery rocket, mixed up with a rich tomato sauce and presented on a thin, crispy base. If you’re a pizza lover, then you owe it to yourself to try Ego’s Gamberetti – just do it on an empty stomach, because this is a real waistband-stretcher!

Always up for some seafood, I opted for the White Crab Risotto (£10.95), a brick of perfectly-cooked vialone rice, fiery red chillies, cooling chives and sharp lemon. It was an interesting mix of flavours that was overshadowed by the lashings of parmesan; not only were there flakes on top, but the cheese had melted down into the rice, taking the edge off the lemon, chilli and chives, and making this a seriously stodgy risotto. Very tasty and filling, and packed with big chunks of delicious crab, but a lighter touch with the cheese would have given the other flavours a chance to come through (not to mention left me room for dessert!)

Washed down with a crisp bottle of Marche Bianc (£14.95) and two diet cokes (£2.25 each) we were left completely stuffed, and won over by Ego’s classy ambiance and view.

However, as we finished up paying our bill something strange happened. Throughout the meal the staff had been shifting tables around ready for the arrival of a large party next to us. This party arrived and squeezed into their allotted seats, but then an extra few party-goers arrived and, much to our surprise, two of the late arrivals sat down on the edge of our table, without so much as an explanation or an apology. Cue an awkward few minutes while we waited for our change, before we made a speedy – and rather confused! – exit.

We were loitering outside Ego debating where to go for a nightcap when the manager rushed after us, apologising profusely and explaining that the extra people hadn’t made reservations, and they certainly hadn’t been told by the staff to sit at our table. We were really impressed that the manager had taken the time to apologise, especially since we were already off the premises and the awkward situation was in no way the staff’s fault. More restaurants should take a leaf out of Ego’s book and we’d like to thank the staff for being so conscientious!

All in all, Ego’s food is on par with the other fine city centre restaurants – expect cuisine in the style of the Leopold Square crew, but in a far more striking setting. This is a restaurant that’s out to impress with its decor and views, and can hold its own with the food, too. We left Ego absolutely stuffed and feeling that, for a bottle of wine, two meals and a starter in such a lavish, city centre setting, we’d got our money’s worth.

Sakushi

June 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Posted in Restaurants, Takeaway | 4 Comments
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There’s no denying it: sushi is THE lunchtime treat for when you’re having a tough day at the office. If you’re keeping an eye on the pennies, then the value-for-money Edo Sushi takeaway is the perfect place to grab a box of fishy goodness on the go. But, if you’re hankering after an hour away from the office, then Sakushi is worth a visit for those with a few notes in their back pocket.

Located conveniently on Campo Lane (slap bang across the road from The Wig and Pen, incidentally) Sakushi puts a trendy gloss on the traditional Japanese restaurant. The interior is all sleek, spotless monochrome, white leather booths and super-efficient staff. Sakushi even modernizes the old cliche of the sushi conveyor belt, with pods of sushi sweeping around a stylish steel ornament and past a reassuringly open kitchen. Even though you can grab your meal straight off a conveyor belt, there’s nothing tacky about Sakushi.

The menu is so exhaustive that newcomers to Japanese cuisine are advised to study it online in advance. Not only does Sakushi offer a wide choice of sushi and sashimi, but there’s an equally impressive range of cooked mains and Japanese tapas too. Our party decided to put every section of the menu to the test – sushi, tapas and cooked mains – to bring you the most comprehensive review possible. We’re selfless, like that.

We began our epic feast with sushi. At Sakushi, you have a choice: you can either reach across and yank whatever takes your fancy off the conveyor belt (the colour-coded plates are then stacked up on your table and the staff tot up the total at the end of the meal) or you can order plates of sushi from the menu. Since we’re an impatient lot, we got stuck in with the conveyor belt.

The sushi portion of our feast consisted of a couple of plates of the Mixed Nigiri (£3.80) which featured all our favourites: salmon, prawn and tuna sashimi. Also cherry-picked from the conveyor belt were Tuna Nigiri (£3.30) and Sake Nigiri (£2.30) both of which boasted a generous slab of raw fish, and the Hamachi Nigiri (£3.30.) Made with “yellow tail” the Hamachi Nigiri was a new one on us, but the tanginess of the pale fish won us over – a newfound favourite! The Tako Nigiri (£2.80) divided opinion; the chewy, raw octopus wasn’t to everyone’s palate – personally, I found the taste a little overpowering.

The big hits at our table were the Sakushi Roll (£3.80) which was laced with crunchy tempura batter, the creamy Salmon and Avocado Roll (£2.80), the Spicy Tuna Roll (£3.30) and the Fresh Crab Roll (£3.80) which was jam-packed with shredded crab.

Sushi fanatics, beware: it’s easy to lose track of what you’re spending, especially when you’re sat next to a revolving door of delicious-looking sushi. It’s a good idea to set a limit on how many plates you’re going to have in advance. Needless to say, we didn’t set a strict limit and got carried away…..

But, we’d solemnly sworn to sample the cooked mains and Japanese tapas as well as the sushi. So, loosening our belts we ordered a portion of the Shiitake No Kani (£4.95), shiitake mushrooms and crab in breadcrumbs served with a sprinkling of side salad.

Generously filled with shredded crab, these little balls of goodness had our reviewer raving. Who would have thought shiitake mushrooms and crab meat would be a match made in heaven? Rich and creamy, and highly recommended.

Also arriving at our groaning table, was a big plate of Seafood Yaki (£9.65.) This belly-buster can be ordered with a choice of sauces – traditional Yaki sauce or sweet Teriyaki sauce – and either soba or udon noodles. Our reviewer settled on traditional sauce and udon noodles. In addition to noodles and sauce, the dish contains tiger prawns, crab sticks, calamari, butter fish, mussels and seasonal greens.

The tangy sauce went down well, but we were disappointed by the amount of seafood and felt the £9.65 price tag was a little on the high side for what was essentially a posh stir fry.

Not content with the upteen plates of sushi and sashimi I’d already done away with, I ordered the Chirashi – Don (£11.14) from the main menu; slices of mixed sashimi on a large helping of sushi rice. When it arrived, my mouth dropped open – it looked absolutely amazing.

The sushi rice was sticky and morish, but the sashimi was the real star of the show. The bowl included generous chunks of my favourite sashimi, tuna and salmon, and new-favourite yellow fish, alongside love-it-or-hate-it slices of octopus, a curl of meaty eel and a prawn. All of the sashimi tasted just-pulled-out-of-the-sea fresh, and the dollop of fish roe gave the dish extra bite (although as a massive roe fan I’d have liked an extra few scoops!) The strips of fried tofu skin perfectly complimented the dish, delivering a welcome hit of sweetness whenever the saltiness of the sashimi became overpowering. For a side order, I plumped for a portion of edamame beans (£2.55), which were served lightly steamed and juicy.

The drinks menu was on the pricey side, so we ordered cokes that came in at £2 a pop. For a small glass bottle of the fizzy stuff (not even a full pint!) we still felt this was cheeky – although going out for sushi and sashimi is rarely a cheap experience!

If you’ve got the time to venture out of town, then Yama Sushi is a cheaper alternative and, if it’s just sushi you’re after, then Yama can’t be beaten for the freshness and sheer tastiness of their sushi. However, if it’s a quick, city centre lunchtime treat you’re after, then Sakushi is the place to go – just keep a mental running total of the bill, because Sakushi can quickly turn into a bank-busting lunchbreak.

The Harley

June 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Pub Grub | 1 Comment
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Sometimes, nothing quite hits the spot like a Beer and a Burger, but the aforementioned Beer and a Burger deals aren’t always such a bargain if you’re not a fan of, well, beer. This leads us neatly onto The Harley, which serves up ‘High Tea, Harley Style’ – a pocket-friendly deal of a burger and your choice of drink for £5.50. What makes this really special is that, in addition to the usual beer, house spirit and soft drink options, cider fans can opt for a pint of Gaymers. A pint of Gaymers is typically priced between £3 and £4, so at £5.50 for a beer plus bevvie, we weren’t going to miss this one, especially since I’m not much of a beer drinker (and Vodka-And-Diet-Coke and a Burger, doesn’t feel quite right….)

With burgers and bevvies on the brain, we headed to The Harley. Located on Glossop Road, this student-friendly place is well known as a music venue, but this weekday evening the stage was covered up and a handful of tables were dotted around the dancefloor. First impressions weren’t fantastic – there’s a grand total of three tables, plus a couple of sofas tucked away in the corners. The lack of seating won’t be a problem at the weekend or when a band is playing, but on this quiet weekday evening the place felt bare, and sat on an island of a table in the middle of the dancefloor was an odd experience. It’s a shame, as the place has funky decor that isn’t far removed from the cosy and welcoming The Wick at Both Ends. Unusual lighting, graffiti art on the walls and tablecloths printed with scenes from comic strips, all give the place a trendy vibe, but without crowds of people around the bar or the stage, it feels really empty.

The quirky menu also takes a leaf out of the Wick’s book – burger fans can order a ‘Moist Maker’ (“Sunday roast in a burger”) the ‘Ring Stinger’ (“the hottest burger in town”) or a deep fried burger (apparently, “you know you shouldn’t, but you just can’t help yourself.”) Even the menu layout is similar to the Wick’s.

As tempting as the burger menu was, we decided to plump for the budget option and ordered a no-frills beef burger with a pint of Becks (£5.50) and for me a bean burger with a pint of – what else? – Gaymers (also £5.50.) The burgers took longer than expected to arrive, but with our drinks already lined up we were only too happy to wait. When the waitress finally brought our burgers over, first impressions were good. Each burger came with a plastic tub full of french fries, which was an unexpected bonus, and were oozing with salsa and salad.

Too often, veggie alternatives feel like an afterthought, so I was delighted to see that my bean burger was almost twice the size of its meaty counterpart (ha!) As I tucked in, I quickly discovered this wasn’t just a bean burger – it was a seriously spicy bean burger. The delicious, kidney-bean packed burger already packed quite a punch, but the chef had also thrown lashings of fiery salsa into the mix, a double whammy that left my tongue flaming. Beware, this burger is not for the faint hearted, but I have a soft spot for spicy food and wolfed down every morsel. Highly recommended, for those who can take the heat!

The meat equivalent was equally filling, it came without salsa but still had a pleasantly peppery kick, although our reviewer found a few lettuce leaves in the bun that were turning brown at the edges – not very appealing!

The french fries, although a welcome surprise, were the standard fare you could defrost and cook for yourself at home. We also agreed they were too salty, and our cynical brains decided this was a ploy to get you heading back to the bar.

As a venue, saying The Harley is rough around the edges is a massive understatement. The toilets would give the Corporation’s a run for their money – good luck finding a stall with a working lock! Despite the quirky, Wick-style touches, there’s an emptiness to The Harley during the day that makes for a strange atmosphere. The Harley may be crying out for a spruce up but their beer and a burger deal puts the big chains like Wetherspoons to shame. After pursuing their mouth-watering, one-of-a-kind burger menu, we’ll definitely be popping in for more burgers soon (maybe the Moist Maker, next time?)

A budget venue – but, if you don’t mind the grotty toilets, then this is a real find for burger lovers.

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