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!

the-botanist-sheffield

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).

the-botanist-curried-mussels

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.

baked-camembert

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).

malaysian-curry-botanist

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!

hanging-kebab

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.

botanist-rocky-road-kebab

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).

fudge-cake

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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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.

napoleons goats cheese.png

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.

napoleons-roasted-pigeon

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).

napoleons-cocktail

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.

napoleons-roasted-salmon

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.

napoleons-roasted-lamp-rump

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.

napoleons-salted-caramel

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.

napoleons-cheese-board

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:

four-stars

Sakushi lunch

September 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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I feel like maybe I should just go ahead and create a dedicated ‘Sushi’ section on this blog, considering how often I post about sushi in general, and Sakushi in particular.

Just in case it isn’t already blatantly obvious, Sakushi is one of my favourite places to eat in the whole of Sheffield. This Campo Lane restaurant serves fantastic sushi, sashimi and other Japanese treats, is conveniently located in the city center, and has a conveyer belt of sushi. All of these things make it the perfect place to grab a speedy lunch during the working week.

But when I visited Sakushi last week it wasn’t to grab a quick bite during my lunch break, it was for a long and lazy lunch with friends (i.e the good kind of lunch). We ended up ordering a mixture of different sushi, sashimi and cooked food and then just shared everything, so I got to try a few things I’d never ordered from Sakushi before.

I even tried a new drink!

jasmine tea

Sakushi’s jasmine tea is very light and refreshing, and is served in a very traditional-looking teapot with matching tea bowls. Sipping fragrant herbal tea out of a Japanese tea bowl just felt more fun and authentic, as opposed to the glass of vino or pint of cola I usually wash my sushi down with. I’ll definitely be taking my Sakushi sushi with a bowl of jasmine tea from now on!

Sakushi’s menu features the disclaimer that your food will come out as and when it’s ready, rather than as the defined starters, mains and sides you’d normally expect in a restaurant. Due to this policy, our dining experience was a bit random so I’m just going to run through the food as it came out of the kitchen. 

First up was the miso soup.

miso soup

Sakushi’s miso soup (£2.50) has a strong, salty, almost stock-like flavour and contains a decent amount of seaweed and spring onions, as well as a few teeny weeny cubes of tofu.

Although the bowl was a bit on the small side, Sakushi do offer unlimited refills so if you’re left craving more miso, all you need to do is ask for a refill. Considering this soup only costs £2.50, this is good value for money.

Although I did get to try lots of new things from Sakushi’s menu, a few old favourites did make an appearance, because I don’t think I can physically set foot in Sakushi anymore without ordering a Chirashi-Don (£13.45).

chirashi don

Sakushi’s chirashi-don is a big bowl of sushi rice topped with slices of sashimi and colourful fish roe. It’s my favourite thing to order from Sakushi, as I love sashimi but feel like slices of raw fish just isn’t a filling meal. I love how the chirashi-don combines sashimi with a massive portion of sticky, filling sushi rice.

I’ve eaten more chirashi-dons than I care to count and have never been disappointed, and this chirashi-don was no different. I particularly loved the raw salmon, which had a really buttery, melt-in-the-mouth consistency I hadn’t encountered with raw salmon before.

Another dish I’ve enjoyed many times before, is the Sakura Sashimi platter (£16.95 for 16 pieces). This is a platter of tuna, salmon, seabass, ika/squid, tako/octopus and hokkigai/surf clam sashimi.

sashimi platter

Since we were going all out, we ordered two sashimi platters to share. Both platters looked incredible.

sashimi platter 2

I love the thick wedges of salmon and tuna that come with this platter, although I’m not a massive fan of the tako, as I always find boiled octopus chewy and bland. But even with the boiled octopus, this makes a great sharing platter for a group of people, or a seriously indulgent meal for one.

Of course, no trip to Sakushi would be complete without sushi – lots and lots of sushi!

Sakushi serve their sushi as small plates containing two pieces of your chosen sushi, which range in price from £2.00 to £4.00. You can either order sushi from the menu, or if you like the look of something on the conveyor belt, you can just grab it as it sails past your table.

The first sushi plate of the afternoon was some Spicy Tuna Gunkan (£4.00).

spicy tuna gunkan

This gunkan consists of diced sashimi generously flavoured with shichimi. According to Google shichimi is a traditional Japanese spice mix made from 7 ingredients, which explains why the tuna gunkan has such a complex heat.

Shichimi is a hot spice, but it isn’t just hot for the sake of inflicting pain, it also adds a unique flavour and depth to the tuna gunkan (while also inflicting a little pain). The earthiness of the tuna and the deep, dark and satisfying heat of the shichimi is a winning combination.

Shichimi also makes an appearance in the Spicy Sake Gunkan (£3.00).

spicy salmon gunkan

This gunkan is made from raw salmon rather than tuna, and the lighter, brighter flavour of the raw salmon works with the shichimi spices in a completely different, but still very tasty way.

The third and final gunkan of the afternoon was Fresh Crab Gunkan (£3.00).

fresh crab gunkan

This gunkan is completely different to the shichimi-spiked salmon and tuna, as it’s made from light, fresh shredded crab meat and cooling mayo. While mayo may not be the most traditional sushi ingredient, it does add a creaminess that works really well with the fresh crab.

Also winging its way to our table was some Unagi Nigiri (£4.00).

unagi nigiri

This grilled eel sushi has a very distinctive flavour that you’ll either love or hate. Personally, I’m not a fan of this one!

Another plate, another kind of sushi. This time it was Sakushi’s own maki roll.

sakushi roll

This Sakushi Roll (£4.00) is less opinion-dividing than the eel sushi and much nicer to look at. Each roll is made from a combination of crunchy tempura prawn and melt-in-the-mouth avocado, wrapped in the obligatory rice and seaweed, and topped with a generous piece of raw salmon.

I love all the different flavours and textures that are going on in these rolls, and the sashimi topping gives the Sakushi Roll a burst of that intensely fishy flavour you can only get from sashimi. Plus, these rolls look fantastic.

Not quite so easy-on-the-eyes was the Ebi Tempura Inari (£4.00).

ebi tempura inari

Personally I find this one of the stranger types of sushi on Sakushi’s menu. When you order the Ebi Tempura Inari, you get two parcels of sweet, marinated tofu filled with rice and tempura prawns.

I’ve tried Sakushi’s Ebi Tempura Inari before and I’m simply not a fan (in my mind, tofu is savoury and the concept of sweet tofu is just plain wrong) so I knew to give this one a wide berth. However, a few people at the table did try some of the sweet tofu, and one of them enjoyed it so much they said they’d order it again.

Now, the main misconception surrounding Japanese restaurants like Sakushi, is that it’s all raw fish and seafood. True, Sakushi do serve fantastic sashimi, but they also offer a selection of cooked mains and meat dishes too. A few people at the table weren’t massive sushi fans, so they decided to order a couple of Sakushi’s cooked mains.

First up was the Peppered Ika (£5.25).

peppered ika

This peppered squid was perfectly cooked, and covered in a light and crumbly, almost tempura-like batter that was seasoned with lots and lots of black pepper. Even though I love my sushi and sashimi, the peppered ika was so good that I might end up ordering it for myself at some point.

Next up, was Tori-karage (£5.25). Despite the exotic-sounding name, this is actually Sakushi’s take on breaded chicken.

Tori-karage

The chicken was very tender and expertly cooked, and came with a lemon wedge and accompanying mayo dip, both of which worked really well with the Tori-karage.

While I wouldn’t order this for myself, the chicken did get a big thumb’s up from my non-seafood-loving friend, so it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re eating out with someone who isn’t wild about fish and seafood.

Thus concluded our Sakushi sharing experience. I love Sakushi and have eaten there many times before, but recently I’ve fallen into the bad habit of ordering the same thing everytime, so it was nice to try lots of different things, including one or two dishes I wouldn’t normally order.

From the slices of fresh sashimi to the breaded chicken with mayo, everything was nicely cooked, fresh and tasty. Even if I wasn’t keen on a few things (like the sweet tofu parcels) other people at the table enjoyed them.

Sakushi is still one of my favourite places to eat in the whole of Sheffield, and based on my latest trip I can’t see this changing anytime soon!

four-stars

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

Sakushi Takeaway

March 17, 2015 at 5:22 pm | Posted in Takeaway | 1 Comment
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It’s safe to say I’m obsessed with sushi, to the point where I’m convinced I could eat it everyday and never get tired of it – although I’d probably go bankrupt in the process.

Sheffield has a couple of Japanese restaurants, but Sakushi is the one I eat at the most. I’ve already written about the dining-in experience at Sakushi’s Campo Lane restaurant, and I reviewed a truly epic Sakushi takeaway I had last year, courtesy of hungryhouse. But, whenever I order anything from Sakushi, it’s always so good that it seems a shame not to write about it. And, since my latest takeaway featured a few items I haven’t tried before, I thought a second review of Sakushi’s takeaway was in order.

I’ve ordered more Sakushi takeaways than I care to count, and the quality has always been every bit as good as the food they serve in their restaurant. Sakushi also put lots of added extras into their takeaway bags, including tonnes of pickled ginger, packets of soy sauce and chopsticks, which is a nice touch. The delivery is always prompt, even when I’ve ordered at peak times like Friday and Saturday nights.

My only complaint about Sakushi’s takeaway, is that occasionally they’ve got an item in my order wrong. This has happened on a couple of occasions (including this order – but more on that later!) and the strange thing is that I always place my takeaway orders online, so it’s not even like they could have misheard me down the phone!

On this particular night, me and a sushi-loving friend decided to order a few things to share. Sakushi’s delivery, as always, was speedy and the takeaway came with lots of added extras, including chopsticks that I can’t use – but it’s the thought that counts, right?

We kicked off our Japanese feast with a few different kinds of sushi that you can order separately from Sakushi’s menu. Our sushi ‘starter’ consisted of spicy tuna gunkan (2 pieces for £3.50) mixed nigiri (3 pieces, £4.00) and steak nigiri (2 pieces for £3.50), plus some surprise shitaki nigiri that neither of us had ordered (normally £2.50 for 2 pieces, according to the menu).

spicy tuna gunkan, steak nigiri, mixed nigir

After checking my email confirmation, it became clear that Sakushi had sent us this mushroom nigiri instead of the squid nigiri we’d ordered. This was annoying, as I’m not a big fan of vegetable-based sushi. To me, the best thing about sushi is the fish and the seafood, so although I do like mushrooms, this shitaki nigiri was never going to go down well.

The shitaki nigiri had a really strong, earthy flavour that I did enjoy, and the mushroom itself didn’t have that wet, slippery texture that cooked mushrooms sometimes have – but I’m still not sold on vegetable sushi. This just isn’t something I’d ever choose to order.

The steak nigiri got a big thumbs up from my friend. The pieces of steak were generous, tender and juicy – basically everything you want from a steak! The meat had also been seasoned well, and sprinkled with fresh spring onions that worked really well with the richness of the steak.

The mixed nigiri gives you the chance to taste three different kinds of nigiri: salmon, prawn and tuna. It’s perfect if you’re feeling indecisive, or if you enjoy trying a few different things.

Of the three, the tuna and salmon were my favourites. Not only were the pieces of fish far bigger and thicker than the prawn nigiri, but they’re also raw, so they have that really strong, distinctive sashimi taste that I love. Next to the raw salmon and tuna, the cooked prawn nigiri just seemed a bit bland and boring.

Still, I love the tuna and salmon nigiri, and I’m a big fan of getting to try a few different things – so for £4.00 I’d definitely order this again.

But, by far the best thing about our sushi ‘starter,’ was the spicy tuna gunkan. This gunkan is a seaweed roll packed with lots of diced raw tuna, and covered in a delicious and unique combination of spices. This is the kind of spice that catches in the back of your throat and makes you cough, but if you can take the heat then it makes for some seriously tasty sushi, and the spices work perfectly with the earthiness of the raw tuna.

I’ve had Sakushi’s spicy tuna gunkan a few times before and have always enjoyed it, so I’d decided to finally branch out and try the other kind of spicy gunkan on Sakushi’s menu – salmon gunkan.

Our second plate of sharing sushi was made up of the spicy sake gunkan (2 pieces, £3.50) that I couldn’t wait to try, plus another helping of spicy tuna gunkan (yep, I’m obsessed with this stuff) and crab gunkan with mayo (2 pieces, £3.50).

spicy tuna gunkan, spicy salmon gunkan, crab meat

The spicy salmon gunkan seemed to have exactly the same mixture of spices as the tuna gunkan. Whatever combination of spices Sakushi use, it’s really hot but also full of flavour. I’m hooked – I just want more of this stuff.

The diced salmon had a much lighter taste than the tuna gunkan. I can’t make up my mind which I prefer. Looks like I’ll just have to order both from now on!

The third and final gunkan was completely different. Sakushi’s crab gunkan has a nice amount of fresh crab meat, but it also has way too much mayo, to the point where it completely overwhelmed the crab. Sorry Sakushi, but this is one gunkan I won’t be ordering again!

Sushi dispatched, it was time for our mains. Since me and my friend are both obsessed with sashimi, we’d ordered two sashimi-based main courses to share.

First up, was a thing of beauty: a Fuji Sashimi platter.

Fuji sashimi platter

This is a whopping 21-piece platter of tuna, salmon, sea bass, ika (squid), tako (boiled octopus), hokkigai (surf clam) and fish roe (£23.85).

Everything on this platter is pretty special, but my personal favourites were the tuna and salmon. This isn’t just because I’m obsessed with the taste of raw salmon and tuna, but also because Sakushi are seriously generous when it comes to how much salmon and tuna they give you. Just look at those wedges!

Fuji sashimi platter 2

These are some seriously thick, juicy cuts of sashimi. I could have eaten 21 pieces of nothing but salmon and tuna sashimi and been perfectly happy.

The cuts of squid, surf clam and sea bass are on the thinner side, but they’re also really light and refreshing, which is a nice contrast to the stronger tastes of the tuna and salmon. My only gripe with this platter is that, next to so much delicious sashimi, the boiled octopus was a bit bland and boring – not unlike the cooked prawn in my mixed nigiri.

If you love sashimi, then Sakushi’s Fuji platter is food heaven. It’s big enough to share, or it makes a truly indulgent treat for one. If 21 pieces of sashimi sounds a bit insane, then it’s worth noting that Sakushi do offer a smaller version of this platter, which includes all the same fish and seafood, but in smaller quantities and without any fish roe (£16.95 for 15 pieces).

For our second main course, I’d ordered one of my all time favourite things from Sakushi: a Chirashi-Don (£13.45).

Chirashi-Don

Sakushi’s Chirashi-Don is a super-sized portion of sticky sushi rice topped with salmon, tuna and squid sashimi, plus lots of colourful fish roe.

The roe gives the Chirashi-Don a really intense, salty flavour and is particularly good mixed into the rice. You also get a good variety of sashimi, although the cuts are a bit on the thin side.

Sashimi on its own is delicious, but it’s not always particularly filling. This is why I love Sakushi’s Chirashi-Don so much – you get to sample some seriously tasty cuts of sashimi, but you also get to stuff your face with a super-sized portion of rice that’s guaranteed to fill you up. I also have a major soft spot for Sakushi’s rice, as it’s always lovely and sticky without being soggy, and it has a subtly vinegary flavour that I’m addicted to. Basically, Sakushi’s Chirashi-Don is pretty much my perfect meal.

While Sakushi’s Campo Lane restaurant is really nice and modern, and has a really fun conveyor belt of sushi, sometimes there’s nothing better than delicious food delivered direct to your door. I’ve always found Sakushi’s takeaway to be every bit as good as the food they serve in their restaurant, and this takeaway was no exception.

Apart from the crab gunkan and mushroom nigiri, everything was delicious and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again. If you like sashimi, then you need to try the Fuji platter and Chirashi-Don. And, if you have a soft spot for spicy foods, then both the spicy salmon and spicy tuna gunkan should be right up your street.

In fact, the only truly disappointing thing was that Sakushi got one item of my order wrong. If I hadn’t ended up with that mushroom nigiri, this would have been the perfect takeaway.

3 and a half

Ginseng

March 10, 2015 at 7:34 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Sometimes, you just want something a bit different from your usual, sit-down-and-order meal out. I’m a big fan of Chinese hot pot restaurants, where you order a pot of stock and then cook your own seafood, meat and veggies by dipping them in the stock – so I can’t believe it took me so long to try Ginseng!

Located in West One Plaza, Ginseng is a Korean BBQ restaurant where you grill your own food. It sounded like a fun night out, so I was excited about my upcoming trip to Ginseng. In fact, I was looking forward to it so much that I downloaded the menu well in advance – and I’m so glad I did!

Ginseng’s menu is a whopping 32 pages long (although that does include lots of photographs) With so much choice, it’s definitely worth taking the time to read the entire menu in advance. The other thing worth knowing about Ginseng, is that it isn’t open all day during the week. From Monday through Thursday, it opens for lunch (12-3pm) and then it’s closed until 5pm.

Inside, Ginseng is bright and modern, and much larger than you’d expect from the outside. Our waitress showed us to an empty table next to one of the eye-catching, super-sized fish tanks that dominate the downstairs dining area, and handed us a copy of that whopping 32 page menu.

sheffield eats gingseng

Obviously, a large part of Ginseng’s menu is dedicated to BBQ food. You can order various platters of meat, seafood or vegetables to BBQ at your table, or you can opt for one of Ginseng’s set dinners, all of which include the option of a BBQ course.

If you’re not in the mood for BBQ, then Ginseng also offers noodle and teriyaki dishes, soups, casseroles, and a selection of “hot stone pots” which look really intriguing.

Basically, this is one of the most impressive menus I’ve ever seen! I can’t imagine anyone struggling to find something they fancy on this mammoth menu.

Since this was my first foray into Korean food, I decided to order one of the set dinners as they seemed to offer a good mix of different Korean delicacies.

I went with set dinner A, which consisted of roasted barley tea, one pickled side dish, soup of the day, boiled rice, a starter, and then either the main course of your choice or a BBQ platter (£14.95).

My friend also opted for a set dinner, but went with the slightly more expensive set dinner B (£19.95). Those few extra pounds bought him one additional pickled side dish, ice cream for dessert, and a wider selection of starters and mains to choose from.

First to arrive was our combined pickled side dishes, plus some dipping sauces.

sheffield eats pickle dishes

The pickles were quickly followed by a pot of roasted barley tea.

sheffield eats roasted barley tea

I’ve never tried roasted barley tea before, but after just a few sips I was hooked. Ginseng’s barley tea was really light and refreshing, with a unique taste. I’m not sure whether the barley tea was unlimited, but our waitress didn’t hesitate to bring us another pot as soon as we’d finished our first, which was an unexpected bonus.

Both our set dinners came with sticky rice, which was the perfect size for a side order.

The soup of the day was seaweed and tofu, which tasted exactly like miso soup. It was strong, salty and delicious. My only complaint is that the portion wasn’t big enough! It was so good, I wanted more.

Next up was our starters. For me, that meant a seafood pancake.

For a starter, this was massive! The pancake had just the right amount of crispiness without being burnt, and was really tasty – although I have to say I didn’t get much seafood in my seafood pancake!

My friend’s starter was something extra special: seasoned sea snails.

sheffield eats sea snails

As you can see, it looked amazing. Apparently, it tasted every bit as good as it looked. This is definitely something I want to try on my next visit.

Now what I’d really come to Ginseng for – the BBQ!

For our first Korean BBQ experience, me and my friend both opted for a platter of marinated squid.

sheffield eats squid

Just so we’re clear, that isn’t a snap of our combined squid – that’s how much we got each!

So, how does this BBQ thing work?

Each table is kitted out with a metal plate, and when it’s time to BBQ the staff remove the plate’s cover and turn the heat on. They then place a grill on top of the plate, brush it with oil, and that’s it – you’re ready to BBQ.

Eating each piece of squid straight off the grill meant it tasted extra fresh, but the best thing about our squid BBQ was the strong, tangy marinade. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was in the marinade – but whatever it was, it was delicious!

The squid was so good, we both polished off our super-sized platters in no time.

The BBQ process does get a bit messy (try as I might, I couldn’t stop bits of burnt squid from sticking to the grill) but Ginseng’s staff kept a close an eye on things. They were always on hand to spread more oil on the grill, and halfway through our BBQ they even swapped our messy grill for a fresh one – without us even having to ask!

My first ever Korean BBQ experience was over, but my friend had one course left to go. The waitress explained he could choose any two flavours of ice cream for pudding. He opted for two of the more unusual-sounding flavours: one scoop of lemongrass, and one scoop of lychee.

sheffield eats ice cream

Ginseng’s ice cream was more like a sorbet, but that made it the perfect, light and refreshing way to end to such a big meal.

So, that was was my first taste of Korean BBQ – and I loved every minute of it! Cooking our own food was lots of fun, and made the meal feel more like an experience, rather than just popping out for a bite to eat. All of the food was delicious, the menu is huge, and the set dinners offer amazing value for money.

I can’t wait to go back!

5-stars

Sakushi Takeaway

May 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Takeaway | 3 Comments
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Ok, confession time: I’m addicted to takeaway. Whether it’s a Friday night curry, or a cheeky lunchtime delivery when I’m feeling under the weather; whether it’s the celebratory takeaway, or the commiseratory takeaway, or even a social takeaway when I’m entertaining and don’t fancy cooking – any excuse to order in. So, I consider myself lucky that Sheffield is not only a fantastic place for dining out, but it’s also great for getting delicious food, delivered direct to your door.

Despite having a drawer full of takeaway menus in my kitchen, I can’t remember the last time I actually used them. Over the past couple of years, the way I indulge in my takeout habit has moved online. Gone are the days of running around the house, hunting for the right change to pay for my vindaloo. Now, I just boot up my laptop, hop online, order my takeway, and pay using my trusty credit card.

So, when hungryhouse got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in penning a few words about one of the many Sheffield takeaways that made it onto their ‘Top Takeaways’ list, I didn’t need to think twice. Stuff my face with yummy food, write some words of praise about a local restaurant, and I wouldn’t even have to leave my house? I was in, and I was in big.

hungryhouse base their top takeaways list on the number of people who ordered from each establishment, plus the average customer rating. A quick look at the list revealed what I already knew to be true: Sheffield is a great place to live if you love takeaway. Not only does Sheffield put in a good show when it comes to the sheer number of establishments who’ve made the cut, but also when it comes to the range of food on offer. All the takeout classics are present and accounted for (pizza, Chinese, burgers and Indian), but you’ll also find some more unusual takeout on this list, including one of my favourite Japanese restaurants, Sakushi.

If you’ve never visited Sakushi before, it’s a Campo Lane establishment with a revolving conveyor belt of sushi that makes it perfect for grabbing some quick, healthy food during the working week. I’ve eaten at Sakushi a couple of times before, and have even treated myself to the occasional sushi takeaway, so this review is definitely long overdue!

When you place an order through hungryhouse, you enter your postcode, and the website brings up a list of all the takeaways willing to deliver to your location (and usually a few places that are nearby, but are collection only). If you’ve got a particular craving, you can instantly narrow down these results, by selecting a type of cuisine from the side menu.

hungryhouse’s list of nearby takeaways also displays each establishment’s vital statistics, including the type of cuisine on offer, delivery charges, and the minimum you need to spend in order to qualify for delivery – ideal for quickly zeroing in on a restaurant. Once you find a place you like the look of, just click it to see their full menu. This is all good stuff, but I already had my heart set on Japanese food, so I cut to the chase and brought up Sakushi’s menu.

The great thing about Sakushi, is that their takeaway menu is exactly the same as their eat-in menu. This may not sound like a big deal, but Sakushi’s is a large, varied menu covering everything from sushi and sashimi, to curries, noodles, soups, and a wide range of hot and cold Japanese tapas. So, when you sit down to order a takeaway from Sakushi, you really are spoilt for choice. The size of their takeout menu also means that you shouldn’t discount Sakushi just because you’re squeamish about raw fish (or fish in general), as there’s a long list of other foodstuffs to choose from, including lots of cooked meat and vegetarian dishes.

Even though we were only ordering for two, Sakushi’s menu was far too tempting, and we ended up placing a super-sized order. A few minutes later, I received an email confirming an estimated delivery time. However, around 10 minutes after that, I received a follow-up email, informing us that our meal would be later than originally estimated. Presumably, 10 minutes was the time it took for the Sakushi staff to take a look at our massive order, and realise they’d never be able to prepare and ship so much food, in so little time.

This update was appreciated, as there’s nothing worse than sitting there twiddling your thumbs and jumping up everytime you hear a car approaching, until you eventually lose patience and call the restaurant, only to discover that, actually, your order is going to be a while yet. Email updates on your takeaway – it’s the future, people!

When our order did arrive, first impressions were good, as it came with lots of added extras, including packets of soya sauce, ginger, and wasabi, and lots of chopsticks. Clearly, Sakushi assumed we’d ordered enough food for a party, rather than dinner for two seriously hungry people. It’s okay, Sakushi, I don’t feel judged.

Sakushi Sheffield takeaway

We popped the cold food in the fridge, and kicked off our Japanese dining experience with the hot part of our order. First up was the Vegetable Tempura Udon (£9.95), which consisted of a big container of soup and noodles, and a box of tempura-coated veggies. While I suspect you’re supposed to add the fried veggies to the noodle soup, we both prefer our tempura on the side, so I was glad that Sakushi kept the two separate.

Despite being billed as a main meal for one, we cracked open the container of delicious-smelling soup, and divided it between two bowls.

Sakushi udon noodles

The plentiful udon noodles were perfectly cooked, and thick enough to make this a really filling soup, even when shared between two people. The broth reminded me of miso soup, as it was thin and dark, but had a really strong, salty flavour. Even better, when ordering the udon soup, you have the option to make your stock extra spicy. As a lover of hot foods, I’d leapt at the chance to crank up the heat, but when I saw all the chilli powder floating amongst the stock, I wondered whether I’d made a mistake. I love the taste of spicy food – what I don’t like is when restaurants dump a load of chilli powder into a dish, just because they can. One slurp of the soup, and I realised this wasn’t the case. Despite the lashings of chilli, the stock had the sort of heat that’s rich and tasty, rather than painful and tasteless.

The next time I’m suffering with a cold, I’m ordering a bucketload of this stuff! Sakushi’s udon is one of those meals that feels like it’s doing you good – kind of like chicken noodle soup with a Japanese twist.

As mentioned before, the soup came with a helping of vegetable tempura that I decided to eat on the side, rather than add to my soup.

Sakushi veg tempura

I usually find fried foods a bit bland and boring, but Sakushi’s generous wedges of courgette, pepper, red onion, and other assorted veggies, were lightly battered, so I could still taste the vegetables inside. I wish more restaurants took Sakushi’s light approach to batter!

We then moved onto the first of our warm Japanese tapas, and tucked into a portion of “Harumaki” spring rolls, which came with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. I’ve eaten Chinese spring rolls before, but this was the first time I’d sampled Harumaki, and it was not what I was expecting.

Sakushi spring rolls

Rather than a crunchy coating, our three Harumaki spring rolls (£3.45) had a doughy exterior, and a creamy, blended filling. After I’d wrapped my brain around the concept of a soft spring roll, I really enjoyed my Harumaki. It’s richer, heavier, and far tastier than the crunchy spring rolls I’ve had previously.

A side order of Harumaki may only consist of three spring rolls but be warned, their dense, chewy texture makes them extremely filling. Personally, I’d order this as a side dish to share.

Next up, was a portion of Takoyaki (£4.95) which is five octopus dough balls covered in lashings of thick takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise.

Sakushi Takoyaki

These dough balls have a similar consistency to the spring rolls, and contain a generous portion of octopus, to boot. The big pieces of octopus meant that the stodgy dough didn’t completely overwhelm the taste of octopus, which was what I’d been expecting.

The mayo and the takoyaki sauce were rich additions to an already belly-busting dish, so once again I was glad we’d ordered these tapas to share. I would avoid ordering the takoyaki for yourself, in addition to a main meal – unless you have a seriously raging hunger.

Hot side food dispatched, it was time to move onto the cold stuff, and really, no Japanese dining experience would be complete without sushi.

assorted sushi

Even if the thought of raw fish turns your stomach, that’s no reason to deprive yourself of the magic of sushi. What makes sushi, well, sushi, is the vinegared rice. You can top this rice with anything you want, from raw fish and seafood (known as sashimi), right through to cooked meats, tofu and veggies. Our portion of steak nigiri (£3.50) proves there doesn’t need to be anything fishy about sushi.

Steak Nigiri

The meat nigiri was my takeout buddy’s idea, and once they’d taken a bite, they were only too happy to scoff the lot. The steak was thinly-sliced and cooked a crowd-pleasing medium. Sakushi also put their own twist on steak, by adding sesame seeds and a sprinkling of green onion, both of which were very welcome additions. Our advice? Take this Japanese twist a step further and slap some wasabi on those juicy morsels of steak; you won’t regret it! This is sushi for people who think they don’t like sushi.

If you’re a fish fan, then prepare to be spoilt for choice. Sakushi offers a full range of fish and seafood (salmon, prawn, tuna, sea bass, eel, octopus, squid, surf clam, and crab) arranged on sushi rice, with lots of extras thrown into the mix, including tempura, seaweed, veggies, mayo, and even philadelphia cheese.

Our sushi feast continued with two Soft Shell Crab Uramaki Rolls, priced at £4.00 for the pair. This sushi consists of crab meat, cooked in light tempura batter, and bundled up in sushi rice. Sakushi spoil you by cramming lots of extras into each uramaki roll, including spring onion, avocado, cucumber, and flying fish roe.

Sakushi uranyaki roll

Fish roe tends to be unpleasantly salty on its own, but when used sparingly it can add a strong, salty edge to a dish, which was the case with our uramaki rolls.

Paying £4.00 for two pieces of sushi may sound excessive, but these are large rolls, jam-packed with quality ingredients. The presence of tempura batter also means that they’re more filling than your average sushi roll, so I didn’t feel short-changed.

Now, onto the raw stuff! We’d ordered four pieces of Tekka Maki (priced at £3.50), which is raw tuna, wrapped in sticky sushi rice.

Sakushi tekka maki

Maki is one of my favourite kinds of sushi, as it’s a perfect, bite-sized piece, and raw tuna is my favourite sashimi, because it has such a distinctive, earthy flavour, so I was really looking forward to this one. Sakushi didn’t disappoint, serving up big chunks of tasty tuna, bundled up in tangy sushi rice. A great dish for those who love strong flavours!

Since I’m such a fan of tuna sashimi, and love spicy food, I was excited to spot something called Spicy Tuna Gunkan on Sakushi’s menu. For £3.50, we got two portions of gunkan, which is diced raw tuna, heavily spiced, and wrapped in yummy nori seaweed.

Sakushi tuna gunkan

Sakushi sprinkled the gunkan with some refreshing spring onion, which nicely offset the earthy tuna and strong spices. It’s little touches like this, that makes Sakushi such a great place for foodies, regardless of whether you visit the restaurant, or order takeaway.

As someone who loves their spice, I can’t wait to order the spicy gunkan again. Highly recommended for hot food enthusiasts!

The final morsel of sushi, was Hokkigai Nigiri: two big pieces of colourful surf clam, served on blocks of sushi rice (£3.50).

hokkigai nigiri

After the strong flavours of the tuna gunkan and maki, the hokkigai nigiri tasted very light and refreshing. It may not have been the tastiest sushi, but it had that clean, simple flavour you crave midway through a heavy meal. The hokkigai nigiri definitely helped revive me for the final part of our epic Japanese feast; the Chirashi Don (£11.45).

Sakushi’s Chirashi Don is simple, but effective: a big bowl of sticky, vinegary sushi rice, topped with choice cuts of sashimi. Basically, if you love your starch and your carbs, love your fish, and are partial to strong flavours, then this is your dream meal. Sakushi’s Chirashi Don is pretty much responsible for getting me hooked on sashimi – it really is that good.

The thinly-sliced sashimi not only tastes fantastic, but it looks beautiful, too. In fact, it looks so good that it deserves its own close up.

Sakushi chirashi don

This particular Chirashi Don was layered with lots of tangy salmon sashimi, raw tuna, and sea bass sashimi. Sea bass isn’t something I’d normally order, but it has a fresh flavour that perfectly complements the stronger-tasting salmon and tuna.

The Chirashi Don was finished off with some flying fish roe. Personally, I’d avoid eating the roe with the slices of sashimi, as the combination of fish roe and raw fish is far too salty, but the roe does taste great mixed into the sushi rice.

All in all, the Chirashi Don is a dream combination of delicious sashimi, and filling rice. Cuts of sashimi are frequently served on their own, without any rice, which never really fills me up. Sashimi is usually the most expensive thing on a Japanese menu, so when you come away from the meal still hungry, you do tend to feel hard done by. Sakushi’s Chirashi Don strikes a happy medium between satisfying those hunger pangs, and treating you to the finest cuts of raw fish.

So, what’s my verdict on hungryhouse and Sakushi? Well, on the one hand I’m going to continue stuffing leaflets into my dedicated “takeaway menu drawer,” but on the other hand, I have absolutely no idea why. The sheer convenience of online ordering, means that my hoard of takeaway menus will continue to go unused.

As for sushi takeout, it may sound weird, but it works, and you don’t feel quite as guilty as you do after stuffing your face with Indian, Chinese, and most other forms of takeout. Sakushi’s takeaway food is also every bit as good as the stuff served in their restaurant, so you can expect first class nosh regardless of whether you’re eating in, or ordering online.

On a final note, it’s well worth checking out some of the other Sheffield takeaways that have made hungyhouse’s top takeaways list. Besides Sakushi, I can highly recommend Butlers Balti House for some of the best curries in the city, and Chan’s on Abbeydale Road for yummy Chinese grub.

5-stars

Cosmo

March 23, 2014 at 11:46 am | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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A few people had mentioned Cosmo to me since it opened in St. Paul’s Place a couple of weeks ago. If you’re not familiar with Cosmo, it’s a new “all you can eat” place where you get to cram your face with cuisine from around the world: Japan, China, India, Italy, Mexico, Korea, and more.

My experience of “all you can eat” buffets has previously been restricted to Chinese fodder, so I was intrigued by the variety that Cosmo offers. “All you can eat” may not be fine dining, but everyone enjoys being greedy once in a while, so I decided to give Cosmo’s “World Banquet Dining” a whirl.

How much you’ll pay for the pleasure of filling your face at Cosmo, depends on whether you visit on a weekend or a weekday, and whether you partake of their lunch, or their evening buffet. Lunchtimes and weekdays are cheaper, while evenings and weekends are more expensive. You can expect to pay anything from £7.99, to the top price of £14.99 (the Cosmo website has more information on pricing). I visited on a weekday evening, so paid £13.99.

The first thing you notice about Cosmo, is the sheer size of the place. Cosmo is easily one of the biggest restaurants I’ve ever visited. Somewhere that promotes itself as “World Banquet Dining” obviously needs a large buffet area, but Cosmo takes this a step further with separate buffet areas for each type of cuisine they serve – the buffet alone is the size of a regular restaurant! The dining area itself is equally super-sized, to the point where it’s more like a Meadowhall-style food court than a restaurant.

Before I could take a seat and commence feasting, our party was told that we needed to give a name to the front of house staff, and then wait to be shown to our table. Despite there being rows upon rows of empty tables just a few feet away, we had to wait almost 10 minutes before it was our turn to be shown to a table, and during that time more people kept arriving behind us. I can imagine Cosmo’s waiting area becoming unpleasantly crowded, and the wait become longer and longer during peak times. My advice? Get there as soon as the lunchtime or evening service starts.

Finally seated, it was time to set off on our culinary trip around the world. First stop; the Japanese and seafood section. I wasn’t expecting much from Cosmo’s fishy selection (good seafood tends to be pricey, after all), but I was pleasantly surprised. Cosmo had a decent selection of sushi, platters of mussels and king prawns on ice, a cucumber and smoked salmon salad that didn’t skimp on the salmon, and some other fishy bits and bobs.

Cosmo seafood

When you can eat as much as you want, there’s going to be compromises when it comes to the quality of the food. All you can eat sushi can’t compare to a sushi restaurant, where you may end up paying more for a single plate of sashimi, than you do for the entire Cosmo experience. Cosmo’s take on everyone’s favourite seafood-and-rice delicacy, involves going heavy on the rice, light on the fish and seafood, and opting for cheaper fillings such as cucumber sticks and processed meats.

The king prawns and mussels were plentiful, but on the chewy side, and the edamame beans weren’t seasoned, so they tasted like boring, boiled green beans. So far, Cosmo was exactly what I’d been expecting; decent enough grub to heap onto your plate, but nothing I’d be happy to be served in a restaurant.

Cosmo seafood

However, Cosmo does have a trick up its sleeve for seafood lovers, in the form of a live cooking station, where you can get delicious morsels of seafood cooked to order. If you’re willing to wait a few minutes, you can choose from squid, king prawns, scallops, or salmon, freshly sizzled on a “Teppanyaki” hotplate. You can only order two items at a time, and the portion sizes are small, but that doesn’t matter when you’re being served slivers of perfectly-cooked, perfectly-seasoned seafood. It’s touches like the Teppanyaki bar, that sets Cosmo apart from the “all you can eat” crowd.

Cosmo seafood

A mix of buffet seafood, with some freshly-cooked squid from the Teppanyaki bar.

Even if the idea of buffet sushi fills you with horror, one thing that’s worth grabbing from the Japanese section is the salad of shredded green beans in sesame oil. It’s a strong, slimy salad, but once you get over the initial strangeness, it’s deliciously different.

After the seafood, it was time to sample some Chinese and Indian grub. If you’ve ever been to a Chinese buffet before, you know the drill: fried rice, prawn toast, spring rolls, stir fried vegetables, noodles, and meat in sticky sauce. When it comes to Indian, Cosmo have a selection of curries, as well as everyone’s favourite Indian side dishes: poppadoms, dips, and bombay potatoes. It’s all standard buffet grub, although Cosmo go easy on the seasonings and spices for both cuisines, so if you regularly eat at Chinese and Indian restaurants, you’re going to find Cosmo’s offerings a bit on the bland side.

Cosmo chinese

Another plate, another country, and this time it was a trip to the Mexican taco stand. The taco shells were surprisingly crisp and crunchy, to say they’d been sat under a heat lamp, and there was a good variety of sauces and toppings on offer, so I piled my plate high with cheese, zingy salsa, and sharp, pickled jalapenos.

However, when it came to choosing a chilli filling for my taco, I hit a snag. The Mexican stand had a pair of bubbling pots of what I’d assumed to be meat and veggie chilli, but when I took a closer look, I couldn’t be sure. Both were a hearty-looking mix of beans and veggies in a fragrant tomato sauce, but it was difficult to tell what else they contained. In the end, I settled for an extra helping of salsa instead (and then nipped back to the Chinese section and grabbed some more stir fried veggies too, which is why my plate looks so random!)

Cosmo Mexican

The way Cosmo label their dishes, is my other major gripe. On the evening I visited, the Chinese meals were meticulously labelled, right down to the garlic and other herbs used in each dish, but elsewhere the labelling was hit-and-miss. If you have a long list of foods you don’t like, or any food allergies or intolerances, buffets are always going to be a minefield – but Cosmo should at least give you the gist of what each dish is!

When it comes to meat, if you’re a committed carnivore, then Cosmo will leave you spoilt for choice. The meat lovers in our group gave the quality of the meat a big thumbs up, piling their plates high with meaty pizzas, barbecue ribs, sausages, and Chinese-style beef.

Cosmo meat

I still had a list of foodstuffs I wanted to try, but I was starting to struggle, so it seemed time to wrap things up with a spot of dessert. With all the savoury fodder on offer, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Cosmo treated pudding as an after thought. They don’t.

The Cosmo buffet has an entire section dedicated to sweet treats, including hot desserts, cold desserts, cakes, bowls of sweets, and fruit – not to mention a chocolate fountain, with all sorts of goodies for dipping. It’s enough to give you one roller coaster of a sugar-rush!

Cosmo dessert

The best part of pudding, is the bite-sized cubes of cake. Whether it’s a mouthful of tiramisu, a square of double-chocolate brownie, cheesecake, carrot cake, or sponge, it’s the perfect portion of something sweet to finish off the meal. And the best bit is they’re so small, you can try a bit of everything!

My advice is to ignore the larger “pudding cup” style desserts, as they’re mostly cream, with just a tiny bit of cake buried in the bottom. And who wants to fill up on spoonfuls of cream when Cosmo has so much more on offer?

Cosmo dessert

It’s easy to pick fault with individual items on the Cosmo buffet, but you can’t really compare “all you can eat” grub to dishes that are cooked to order in a restaurant. I went to Cosmo expecting a simple case of quantity over quality – but this wasn’t completely the case. In terms of quality, Cosmo is a cut above what you’d expect from an “all you can eat” establishment, and the variety and quantity of food is second to none. I even discovered a few dishes that I’d have been happy to be served in a restaurant, which was unexpected!

Cosmo serves up massive amounts of grub, the occasional star dish, and generally delivers great value for money. Most of the time, eating out is about the quality of the ingredients, and how much care has been put into preparing your meal – but sometimes, you just want to stuff your face until you can’t move.

When you’re in the mood for the latter, Cosmo is perfect.

Three and a half stars

The Italian Kitchen

February 2, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 2 Comments
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I walk past the Italian Kitchen at least twice a day, on my way to and from work, and every time I ask myself “why haven’t I eaten there yet?” After a few months of making mental notes to pop into the Italian Kitchen, I finally ended up in the Ecclesall Road restaurant by accident, after spending longer than I’d intended in the Nursery Tavern (whoops), and getting a case of the beer munchies. Nipping across the road and filling up on yummy Italian food seemed like the perfect way to finish off the evening.

Despite it being a rainy, mid-week night, the Italian Kitchen was surprisingly busy. This eatery has a very cosy vibe, with a preference for low lighting and dark furnishings, which is very welcoming – especially on a rainy and windy January night! We scored a window seat, so we could watch the pedestrians getting blown around Ecclesall Road while we settled down with our wine, and perused the menu. The menu is typical for an Italian restaurant; that means pizza, pasta, risotto, and steak. There’s nothing really out of the ordinary here, and the prices are pretty average for this kind of food. So far, so good.

Still hung up on the previous week’s Loch Fyne treat, I couldn’t resist the lure of the fish dishes, and opted for the Linguini Marinara (9.95), which promised a trio of seafood: mussels, prawns, and squid. It pretty much goes without saying that the seafood couldn’t compete with Loch Fyne (which specialises in seafood and is more expensive, after all) but I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of seafood the Italian Kitchen piled onto my plate.

All too often a seafood-pasta dish turns out to be four mussels-in-their-shells, strategically positioned on top of a pile of pasta, with a handful of prawns and calamari rings thrown in (if you’re lucky!) Not so at the Italian Kitchen; every forkful of linguine brought with it a generous helping of seafood. Even when I reached the bottom of my pasta, there was a pile of stray seafood still sitting in the bottom of the bowl. I don’t think I’ve ever been treated to so much seafood in a pasta dish before. Other restaurants, take note!

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The seafood was nicely cooked and not in the least bit rubbery, and it had a hum of garlic going on, although I wouldn’t have minded a hotter kick (a bit of chilli in the tomato sauce would have sealed the deal for me). But overall, a tasty, generous dish that’s filling and good value for money.

Once again, it was all about the seafood, as my dinner date ordered a Marinara Pizza (9.95) of prawns, mussels, and squid, with some garlic to season. The Italian Kitchen didn’t disappoint, delivering a pizza piled high with seafood, which left us debating which was the better option for seafood lovers – pizza, or pasta? If you’re a fish fan, you can’t really go wrong. Pizza or pasta, the Italian Kitchen make sure you get your fill.

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With two seafood-packed meals for just under 20, we reluctantly left the warmth of the Italian Kitchen, for the cold and rain of Eccy Road, feeling like we’d enjoyed a great meal, at a great price. A generous portion of tasty Italian grub at reasonable prices in comfortable surroundings – what’s not to like?

Loch Fyne

February 2, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Posted in Restaurants | 1 Comment
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Seafood restaurant Loch Fyne has a special place in my heart – to me, it’ll always be the place where I celebrated getting my first job after university. Fast forward far-too-many-years, and a trip to Loch Fyne on Glossop Road still feels like a bit of a treat. Maybe because it’s slightly away from the other city center restaurants, so you never really pop in on a whim; maybe it’s the light, breezy decor and sense of space inside; or maybe it’s the massive, glinting crushed-ice-and-seafood display that dazzles you when you first walk into the place.

If you’re a seafood fanatic, then Loch Fyne’s menu is like a roll call of all your favourites: crab, prawns, lobster, oysters, and mussels, not to mention a wide selection of fish (tuna, cod, and bream, to name a few). There’s also a smattering of meat dishes, so anyone who winds up in Loch Fyne because they got their arm twisted by their seafood-loving friends is well catered for.

To kick off this fishy feast, I ordered a starter of crevettes, served on ice with an intriguing-sounding Bloody Mary sauce (£6.75). This turned out to be my dream starter; a big bowl of crushed ice and massive crevettes, not to mention the Bloody Mary sauce itself, which arrived ice-cold, served in a shot glass and garnished with a stick of celery.

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The starter tasted every bit as good as it looked. The crevettes had that seaside-fresh taste, but the sauce truly was the star of the show. The Bloody Mary sauce had all the creaminess of Marie Rose sauce, combined with a fierce chilli kick and a nice hint of vodka. After dispatching of the crevettes, I shamelessly used the celery to scoop out every last morsel of sauce. Loch Fyne, if you ever bottle that stuff, I’ll be the first in line!

At the other end of the table, it was all about the Smoked Salmon Ashet (£8.45), a very gourmet-sounding combination of smoked salmon, Gravadlax, and Kinglas fillet, served with creme fraiche and dill, which also got a big thumbs up.

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With the bar already set pretty high, I was glad that I’d ordered something equally special for my main meal: Lobster Spaghetti (£16.95); a belly-busting bowl of spaghetti in tomato sauce, with generous chunks of lobster.

The menu stated that the spaghetti came in a tomato herb, brandy and cream sauce, but all the other ingredients were completely overwhelmed by the taste of lobster. Personally, I love lobster, so this was no great hardship, but it would have been nice to get the occasional hint of the other ingredients. This definitely isn’t a dish for anyone who wants to dabble with lobster for the first time; it’s a very strong, very fishy dish – but personally, I loved every forkfull.

My dining companion opted for the Seafood Tagliatelle (£14.95), a bowl of scallops, clams, squid and samphire, pan-fried with garlic and shallots, in a white wine and cream sauce. Again, Loch Fyne weren’t stingy when it came to portion size, and the generous heap of tagliatelle was mixed up with plenty of nicely-cooked seafood. A bit more of a balanced dish than my lobster spaghetti; you could taste the sauce and the pasta, and not just the seafood.

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There was just enough time to squeeze in a round of Rhubarb and Custard Cheesecake (£5.25 each). This innocent-looking sliver of cheesecake was deceptively heavy, making for a very creamy and indulgent end to our meal.

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With a bottle of white wine thrown in (another £14.25), the bill came to just shy of £55 for two people. True, Loch Fyne is more expensive than your run-of-the-mill meal for two, but it’s not extortionately priced for a seafood restaurant.

Loch Fyne is a treat for seafood lovers; an upmarket feeling restaurant with a classy vibe that’s just enough off the beaten track to feel a bit special. Find an excuse to celebrate, and treat yourself to a Loch Fyne fish feast!

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