The Devonshire Cat

December 8, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Posted in Pub Grub, Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Back in the day, the Devonshire Cat used to be my go-to place for pre-Corporation drinks – because if you’re going to spend 30 minutes queued up in the cold, then you need something to keep you going!

Despite this, I’d never actually eaten at the Devonshire Cat before, so when I heard that they’d just finished refurbing the Wellington Street venue, I was excited to see how the new-look Devonshire Cat compared to my (slightly fuzzy) pre-Corp memories. Plus, they’d just launched a brand new menu, and I’m always up for checking out a new menu!

The newly-renovated Devonshire Cat feels much lighter and more open than before, which is a welcome change, because the Dev Cat was always nice, but it did used to feel a bit on the dark side.

devonshire-cat

Turns out, the Devonshire Cat’s new menu is perfect for this time of year, as it’s packed with comfort food and seasonal favourites. And since the Dev Cat is best known for its huge range of bottled beers and real ales, it’s great to see them continue this theme across their food, with a menu that features plenty of booze-infused treats including mussels in wheat beer broth, chicken thighs roasted in Heathen pale ale, and Absolution battered cod.

I kicked off my three course meal with something suitably wintry: a warm salad of red cabbage, beetroot, apple and goat’s cheese (£4.75).

dev-cat-red-warm-salad

For the price, this is a generous portion, and the goat’s cheese gives this salad an indulgent feel (if only this could be said of all salads!) The beetroot was fresh, rather than pickled, which means this salad has a really unique, woody flavour that contrasts nicely with the rich, creamy goat’s cheese. This is a great vegetarian starter!

Meanwhile, my friend had opted for the honey and ginger chicken wings, which were served with homemade ketchup (£5.50).

dev-cat-chicken-wings

The homemade ketchup was packed with flavour and had a nice kick to it. The chicken wings did have a hint of ginger and honey to them, but my friend did say they’d have preferred these wings to pack more of a punch when it came to the ginger and honey.

Onto the mains, and surely I can’t be the only one who’s fed up of seeing the same 2-3 vegetarian options on every pub menu? There’s only so many times you can order a veggie wellington, mac and cheese, veggie burger or vegetarian lasagna, before you start craving something a bit more exciting – or at least something different!

So I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Devonshire Cat have clearly put as much thought into their vegetarian meals, as they have the rest of their menu.

In the end, I wound up ordering the roast chestnuts and wild mushroom cottage pie, which came with braised red cabbage and green beans (£8.95). This might just be one of the tastiest-sounding vegetarian meals I’ve ever seen on a pub menu!

dev-cat-chestnut-and-mushroom-cottage-pie

Chestnuts are my all-time favourite Christmas treat anyway, to the point where I actually named my childhood hamster after them (RIP Chestnut). As it turns out, the only thing better than roast chestnuts, are chestnuts and wild mushrooms smothered in mashed potatoes. If you’re craving something to warm you up on a cold day, then this is it!

Despite almost being swayed by the Devonshire Cat’s Sunday roast, when it came to their main course my dining companion wound up ordering the Absolution-battered cod, double-cooked chips, mushy peas and homemade tartar sauce (£9.95).

This is an enormous plate of food!

dev-cat-fish-and-chips

The fish was perfectly cooked so it practically fell apart, and the homemade tartar sauce was every bit as good as the homemade ketchup – clearly the Devonshire Cat know to knock up a cracking sauce!

The only slight disappointment were the mushy peas, which had somehow managed to set – these were mushy peas that were seriously missing the “mushy!”

But, non-mushy peas aside, this is huge, tasty meal that’s guaranteed to please the fish and chips fan in your life.

Finally it was time to check out the dessert menu, and although I don’t have much of a sweet tooth one thing on the menu did catch my eye – the rice pudding!

This is a proper oldschool dessert that you don’t often see on menus, plus it was absolutely freezing outside, and what better way to warm up than stuffing yourself with some piping hot rice pudding? So even though I had serious doubts about whether I had any room for dessert, I ended up ordering what our waiter later confirmed was the biggest, stodgiest pudding on the menu. Whoops!

The Devonshire Cat’s rice pudding is served with homemade plum and honey jam, topped with honeycomb pieces (£4.50). According to the menu, all the honey is supplied by the Sheffield Honey Company – it’s always great to see pubs and restaurants sourcing ingredients locally!

Let’s just get one thing out of the way first – I love rice pudding, but there’s no denying that it looks like frogspawn, so even with the best will in the world, this is never going to be the most photogenic of puddings!

dev-cat-rice-pudding

But, photography woes aside, the Devonshire Cat’s rice pudding tastes fantastic. I particularly loved the plum and honey jam, which struck a perfect balance between sweet and tart. My only complaint is that there just wasn’t enough jam for such a huge portion of rice pudding – I wanted more!

When I’d first spotted rice pudding on the menu, I’d been particularly excited at the prospect of trying honeycomb – in my head I’d been picturing those big chunks of straight-from-the-beehive honeycomb that you sometimes see suspended in jars of posh honey. Turns out I was on completely the wrong track, as the honeycomb that arrived was more like honeycomb toffee. As someone who has more than their fair share of fillings, chewing my way through this incredibly tough, sticky honeycomb was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, but it was tasty enough to risk losing a filling or two!  

Rice pudding is pretty stodgy to begin with, and this is a massive portion, so just a friendly warning: only order this if you’re seriously hungry!

My friend had opted for something equally seasonal: pumpkin pie with pistachio brittle, homemade marshmallows, and Bradwells vanilla ice cream (£4.75).

Unlike my rice pudding, this dessert definitely had the ‘wow’ factor!

dev-cat-pumpkin-pie

Not only did this pie look great, but the pastry was light and crumbly, and the pumpkin filling had a lovely velvety texture, making this a winning dessert.

All in all, I love the Devonshire Cat’s new menu, particularly since they’re not content to serve the usual staples; even putting their own spin on all-time pub grub classics like fish and chips (which the Devonshire Cat serve in Absolution batter).  

This is also a very seasonal menu that’s perfect for the colder months, so if you do find yourself in the city center on a cold day (perhaps you’re doing some panic-stricken, last minute Christmas shopping?) then I’d definitely recommend making the whole experience less painful by treating yourself to some warming food at the Devonshire Cat.

four-stars

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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