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!

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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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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!

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

Wick at Both Ends

May 22, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Posted in Pub Grub, Restaurants | 1 Comment
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Big changes are afoot at the Wick at Both Ends. Although I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few Wick menu launches, this is probably the most dramatic menu change I’ve ever seen from the Wick at Both Ends.

Not only is their new menu completely different (more on that in a moment) but after chatting to some of the Wick’s staff it became clear that their opening hours and kitchen staff are different, too. The Wick no longer opens during the day Monday-Friday, and as someone who doesn’t work the traditional Monday-Friday, 9-5, that makes me pretty sad. Secondly, they have a completely new kitchen team, which may explain why the new menu is so, well, new.

I didn’t get the chance to look at the Wick’s latest menu in advance, so I was a bit surprised when I arrived and was handed a single-sheet menu divided into Snacks, Bar Bites, Small Plates and Sweets – not a main course in sight!

Since the Wick have done away with main courses completely, this also means that the day has finally come: they’ve taken their goat’s cheese and flat field mushroom burger off the menu, which was my favourite. This makes me sadder than it probably should.  

We decided to start by seeing what the Bar Bites were all about. I went for Spiced Hummus, Sumac and Flatbread (£3.50).

wick at both ends hummus

This is fantastic value for money – just look at all that hummus! If you’re feeling peckish after one too many Wick cocktails, then this would be perfect to order for yourself, or you could even share it with a friend as there’s more than enough hummus to go around.

Despite being described as “spiced hummus,” I didn’t find this particularly spicy, so I do wish the hummus packed more of a punch! Interestingly, the hummus seems to have been made with peanut butter, as it has that thick, smooth and distinctly peanut butter texture. This made it the perfect consistency for spreading on the accompanying slices of bread, which had been toasted to crunchy perfection.

This is a seriously filling, and very tasty snack, with more than enough hummus and bread to share, if you’re feeling generous.

My friend went for Bacon Jam, Apple and Sourdough (£5.00).

wick at both ends bacon jam

The bacon jam was seriously salty, but that worked well with the refreshing, crisp slivers of green apple. Once again, this is great value for money, and for a humble bar snack, it was really nicely presented.

We also wanted to see what the Small Plates were all about, so we ordered a round of these, as well. My friend picked the Blade of Beef, Enoki Mushroom, Onion and Dashi (£7.00), and once again the Wick deserve top marks for presentation!  

wick at both ends blade of beef

Randomly, the onions were the best thing on this plate, which may have something to do with the dashi. Dashi isn’t something I’m familiar with, but according to good old Google it’s a Japanese broth that forms the basis of miso soup (yum, yum) which might explain why these onions were so strong, and so delicious.

For the price, there was a good amount of beef on the plate, although my friend said the beef was a bit more well done than they’d have liked.

For my small plate, I’d gone for the Sea Trout, with Camomile Butter, Sorrel and Leeks (£7.00). Yet again, the Wick put that little extra bit of effort into their presentation.

wick at both ends sea trout

The trout was cooked to perfection; it was tender and juicy and fell apart the second I cut into it. The accompanying camomile butter had melted into an indulgent, flavour-packed sauce. Even better, the trout and leeks had been sat soaking in this sauce, so they’d absorbed all those delicious, buttery flavours. The leeks in particular were melt-in-the-mouth soft and oozing with yummy melted butter. Why can’t all veggies be served in lashings of camomile butter?

My only complaint is that there isn’t an option to have the trout and leeks as a main meal, because I’d devour a full-sized portion of this!

The latest menu from the Wick doesn’t feel so much like a new menu, as it does a new direction for the Wick at Both Ends. The Wick may have been serving tapas-style small plates for a while now, but it’s always been alongside more traditional main meals, and the focus on nibbles and bar snacks is completely new.

This menu seems to be designed to tempt you into ordering some snacks to go with your drinks, rather than getting you to book a table and head to the Wick for dinner. As someone who’s prone to the beer munchies, I can imagine nipping into the Wick for a few drinks and being tempted by a few things off the Snacks and Bar Bites section, particularly since it’s such good value for money.

It’s also nice to see a restaurant being more experimental with their nibbles, because there’s only so many times you can share a bowl of chips, onion rings, or nachos with toppings, before you start craving something a little bit different.

Not going to lie though, I wish they’d kept that burger!

rating-3-star

Rhubarb and Mustard

May 2, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Pub Grub, Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Walking down Ecclesall Road a few months back, I was surprised to see that Smith and Jones is no more, and in its place is a new restaurant: Rhubarb and Mustard.

Once I got home, I wasted no time looking up their website and found a sample menu packed full of unusual ‘gastro pub’ style ingredients such as nettle puree, blood orange gel, squid ink puree, and honeycomb and pistachio dukkah. Rhubarb and Mustard’s menu isn’t a million miles removed from the Wig and Pen, or the Milestone. I love both of these restaurants so I knew I had to give Rhubarb and Mustard a try.

It was a rainy weekday evening when I finally made it to Rhubarb and Mustard. Despite the fact that it was a school night and a miserable, drizzly evening to boot, there were quite a few people tucking into delicious-looking Rhubarb and Mustard grub, which is always a good sign.

Me and my friend fancied something to snack on before our main meals, so we decided to share a starter. The waiter took our order and then immediately returned with some complimentary homemade breads and dips, which were delicious and vanished in no time at all. A freebie is always appreciated, especially when it’s this tasty!

bread and dip

When our starter arrived, it became clear that Rhubarb and Mustard is the kind of restaurant that serves small, perfectly formed portions rather than food that’s going to leave you stuffed. The Salt and Pepper Squid (£7) was a lot smaller than I’d been expecting.

rhubarb and mustard squid starter

Despite feeling pretty conspicuous, sat there sharing such a small plate of food, the salt and pepper squid was fantastic. The squid was perfectly cooked, so it was really tender and juicy, and the batter was light, crumbly and had a delicious salt and pepper taste.

The squid was served with a Thai-inspired slaw that had a satisfying crunch, a light and zesty creme fraiche, and a handful of cashew nuts. The whole thing was finished off with a helping of homemade sweet chilli jam that had a serious kick, and worked really well with the cooling creme fraiche.

Sure, for £7 this isn’t a lot of food, but this is definitely a case of quality over quantity, so the salt and pepper squid feels like it’s well worth the £7. I would order this again – I just wouldn’t order it to share, as there’s not nearly enough salt and pepper squid to go around.

Onto the mains, and me and my friend committed the cardinal sin of food blogging and ordered the exact same thing. Not ideal when you’re checking out a restaurant for the first time, but neither of us could resist Rhubarb and Mustard’s incredible-sounding Scallop and Crab Burger (£17).

rhubarb and mustard scallop and crab

Straight away, I’ve got to say that £17 is a lot to pay for a burger, but one bite and I was in a seafood lover’s paradise! The burger patty tastes like pure scallop and crab meat, with no filler, and is possibly one of the strongest and most delicious seafood-based things I’ve ever tasted.

And the big flavours continued as the patty was topped with a salad that’s pretty much all coriander. There was also a sprinkling of coriander on top of the brioche bun, finely-sliced coriander on the chunky chips, and flakes of coriander scattered across the plate, just for good measure. Pretty much every mouthful had coriander lurking in there somewhere, so don’t order this if you’re not a coriander fan!

The crab and scallop patty is served in a tasty brioche bun and comes with two sauces: a vegetable relish that was a bit on the bland side, and a fiery sriracha chilli that I just couldn’t get enough of. This is the kind of chilli sauce that you suspect might be doing your tastebuds some permanent damage.

This scallop and crab burger is all about those big, bold flavours: from the searing chilli sauce, to the seafood burger patty, to the great big handfuls of coriander that seem to be lurking in every bite. This is the kind of burger you’ll either love or hate. I love strong flavours, so this was right up my street, although it wouldn’t hurt Rhubarb and Mustard to cut back on the coriander.

Would I pay another visit to Rhubarb and Mustard? Yes but only for a special treat, as the prices are on the steep side. Rhubarb and Mustard is one of the more expensive eateries on Ecclesall Road, but the higher prices make sense considering their gastro pub-style menu.

If you’re a fan of venues such as the Milestone and the Wig and Pen, then you’ll definitely want to check out Rhubarb and Mustard.

rating-3-star

Brocco on the Park

May 2, 2016 at 5:31 am | Posted in Cafe, Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Brocco On the Park is a boutique hotel situated on Brocco Bank, overlooking Endcliffe Park. After scrutinising the Brocco website, I’ve got to admit I’m a bit gutted that I live too close to Brocco to justify treating myself to an overnight stay there, as the rooms look pretty special!

However Brocco’s dining room is open to the public, so even if you live locally you can still get a taste of the Brocco experience – and that’s exactly what me and a friend did one unexpectedly snowy Saturday afternoon, as we decided to pop to Brocco for a spot of luncheon.

First impressions were a bit dicey, as I walked into Brocco’s reception and immediately found myself in a queue behind someone who was clearly making a complaint. Not what you want to hear when you set foot in a restaurant for the first time! To be honest, I was beginning to wonder whether we should sneak off for a pub lunch around the corner, but it quickly became way too awkward for that, as a member of staff spotted us waiting and escorted us to a table.

Brocco’s dining room lives up to the boutique image on its website, right down to the antique-looking lanterns on the tables and the quirky chandelier in a bird cage that was hanging from the wall near our table. This is definitely one of the more stylish places I’ve eaten in on Ecclesall Road!

Brocco’s menu is on the smaller side, particularly when it comes to main meals. At least half of the menu is taken up by ‘small plates,’ which sound suspiciously like tapas, plus ‘picnic platters’ to share. This means there’s really only 8 main meals to choose from, plus two pizzas. Since nothing on the limited main menu caught my eye, I took a look at Brocco’s Specials board and was glad to see there was some fish and seafood on there, so I ended up ordering the daily special.

The waitress took our order and brought us a bottle of very nice house white. Then, there was nothing left to do but wait for our food to arrive. So we waited. And waited – despite Brocco not being particularly busy. Just as me and friend were shooting each other should-we-ask-where-our-food-is looks, our food arrived.

I’d gone for the haddock and leek pie, with cheddar mash and greens.

brocco fish pie

This is a massive portion of pie – the photo doesn’t even do it justice! This was of those meals that you never really seem to make a dent in, and it felt like forever before I hit the bottom of the bowl.

The cheesy mash was fluffy and tasted really strongly of cheese – exactly what you want when the weather outside is so grim! The pie was packed with lots of strong and tasty haddock, meaning this was one seriously fishy fish pie. The leeks were very finely sliced, which was perfect as there’s nothing worse than biting into your pie and hitting a big bit of squeaky, undercooked leek!

This is a great fish pie, and I’m a bit gutted it’s just a special and not a part of Brocco’s regular menu.

My dining companion had stuck to Brocco’s regular menu, and ordered the 8oz Ribeye steak (£22), which they’d requested medium-rare.

brocco on the park steak

This steak was perfectly cooked, and came with mushroom purée, tempura onion rings, triple-cooked chips and horseradish and chive butter, all of which went perfectly with the juicy, medium-rare steak.

Even though a boutique hotel may not immediately spring to mind when you’re looking for somewhere to eat in the Eccy Road vicinity, Brocco feels like the ideal place to celebrate a special occasion. The food is a bit on the expensive side, and I feel like you’re paying as much for the surroundings as you are for the quality of the food – so bear this in mind if you’re just popping out for a bite to eat rather than treating yourself to a special meal!

I enjoyed my fish pie and I’m in love with the venue, so I’ll definitely be keeping Brocco in mind for special occasions. I’ll also be checking out their outdoor seating area during the warmer months, as it looks like the perfect place to drink some wine and share one of Brocco’s picnic platters – if it ever stops snowing!

rating-3-star

The Harley

April 23, 2016 at 8:54 am | Posted in Pub Grub, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Burgers are no longer just something you grab from a takeaway on your way home after a night out. Over the past few years, everyone’s favourite fast food has become a lot more exciting, to the point where there’s a few Sheffield venues that specialise in burgers, such as Bungalows and Bears, Urban ¼ and, of course, the Harley.

I love a good burger, so when the Harley asked if I wanted to come and try their new burger menu, I jumped at the chance.

The format of this particular menu tasting was a bit different, as the staff brought out wave after wave of side orders for everyone sampling the new menu to share, plus lots of burgers cut into handy, bite-sized quarters. So don’t judge me for all the burgers and sides I’m talking about in this review, because I only had a taste of each of them! 

The first order of business was to try the Harley’s new Twisted sauces. This is a trio of vegan sauces made in collaboration with Sheffield clothing label Drop Dead.

sauces

Out of the three sauces on offer, my hands-down favourite was the Techno sauce which is a tangy burger sauce made with Henderson’s Relish. This sauce has a complex and unique flavour that’s difficult to put your finger on, but is all kinds of delicious. I’ve been hooked on the Harley’s Techno sauce ever since I got my first taste of it on the breakfast McMuffin they used to serve at the weekends (something that sadly seems to have disappeared from the menu, boo!)

The second sauce was Jalapeno Salsa, which is perfect for spicing up your fries and burgers if you have a soft spot for hot food. The Twisted Jalapeno Sauce also has a tangy note that makes it a little bit different (and in my opinion, much tastier) than your typical straight-up spicy salsa.

The final sauce was the Twisted BBQ sauce which has an interesting list of ingredients – tequila, chocolate and Henderson’s Relish, anyone? This is a tasty twist on your bogstandard BBQ sauce.

And if there’s a Twisted sauce that you just can’t get enough of, you can purchase all three sauces from Drop Dead’s website. Needless to say, I foresee a bottle of Techno sauce landing on my doorstep in the very near future!

The Harley provided two sets of chips for the purpose of putting these sauces to the test: the standard Harley house fries (£1.25 for a single portion, £2.25 for a sharing portion) and sweet potato fries (an additional £2). I’ve always loved the Harley’s fries as they have a nice, spicy kick to them, but this is the first time I’ve tried their sweet potato fries. Turns out they’re even better, so I’ll be definitely upgrading to sweet potato fries from now on!

fries and sauces.jpeg

Sauces sampled, it was time to move onto the burgers and sides. First up, was Return of the Mac (£6.95).

return of the mac

The Return of the Mac is a double bacon patty burger with mac and cheese, plus a helping of homemade pesto. The bacon patty is a bit of a weird concept, but it’s a weirdness that works, and the mac and cheese doesn’t skimp on the cheese, making this a winning burger.

If you do order the Return of the Mac, then try it with a splash of the Twisted BBQ sauce as it goes really well with this particular burger.

Next up was a side order of Highway to Falafel (£3.50).

highway to falafel

Out of everything I tried from the Harley’s new menu (and I tried a lot) these falafel balls were the one thing I wouldn’t order again. They’re a lot tougher and crunchier than any falafel I’ve tried before, which I wasn’t keen on. And as someone who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, I also wasn’t wild about the accompanying coconut and coriander dip, which was seriously sweet. I did swap this pot for another helping of Techno sauce (yep, I’m addicted) and that made these falafel balls much more to my taste, but I’m still not convinced.

Things quickly got back on track as I spied something seriously exciting coming out of the kitchen: Jalapeno Business Fries (£4.75).

jalapeno business fries

The Harley’s Business Fries are a massive portion of chips, smothered in cheese, guacamole, sour cream, house relish, diced jalapenos and lots of cajun seasoning, garnished with a whole grilled chilli. The Jalapeno Business Fries are my favourite thing to order from the Harley, so I was glad to see they’d survived the menu change. If you’re a spice fan, then you need to try these fries!  

If you’re not a massive chilli head but you still fancy stuffing yourself with a humongous portion of Harley fries smothered in lots of sauce, then you may want to opt for the Big Pimpin’ Fries (£5.50) instead.

Big pimpin’ fries

These Big Pimpin’ Fries are another super-sized portion of Harley fries, but this time topped with lots of juicy pulled pork, manchego sauce, Twisted BBQ sauce and guacamole.

Back to burgers, and next up was the Bury Me in Smoked Sausage (£7.95).

bury me in smoked sausage.jpg

This burger teams a double chicken patty with smoked sausage, creole mayo, monterey jack and red onion gherkins. The sausage had a lovely smoky flavour and the gherkins added a nice contrast in terms of taste and texture.

Sticking with chicken, the next side was Hang up the Chicken Habit (£3.50) aka confit chicken wings served with a blue cheese dip.

confit chicken wings.jpeg

These wings were crispy and surprisingly grease-free, with a good amount of meat on each wing. They were strongly seasoned with lots of salt and pepper, plus a generous helping of jalapenos which gave these wings a nice kick. The accompanying blue cheese dip went perfectly with these salty, peppery, spicy wings, but it also doubles up as a great dip for your chips if you fancy a change from all those strong Twisted sauces.

Next up was a truly gut-busting burger: the triple-cheese Cheesy Rider (£6.95).

Cheesy Rider.jpeg

This veggie burger basically replaces the traditional meat patty with cheese, then adds more cheese on top, and finishes the whole thing off with an extra-large helping of cheese sauce. Specifically, you get a double halloumi patty, plus monterey jack, plus manchego cheese sauce – that’s a serious amount of cheese!

I love cheese, so I quickly devoured my quarter of the Cheesy Rider, but I’m not sure I could have managed the other three quarters. This is a seriously heavy burger!

As I’ve already mentioned, the Twisted sauces are all vegan friendly, so it’s no surprise that the Harley also have a vegan burger on their menu.

Drop Dead Twisted BBQ burger.jpg

The Twisted Barbecue Burger (£7.95) consists of a double “meat” patty, a vegan “cheese” slice, plus BBQ jackfruit and Twisted BBQ sauce.

I’m not a vegan and I haven’t really tried that many vegan alternatives, but I loved this burger! The “meat” patty had a really strong, savoury flavour, and not only was the vegan cheese a tasty substitute for the dairy equivalent, but it also had an authentic cheese texture. 

To put this vegan burger to the ultimate test, I convinced my meat-eating friend to take a bite, and they agreed that this is one of the best burgers on the Harley’s new menu. I’d actually have to take this one step further and say this is the best burger on the Harley’s new menu.

Regardless of whether you’re veggie, vegan or omnivore, the Twisted Barbecue Burger is definitely worth ordering.

Moving beyond the vegan burger, the Twisted sauces are all fantastic, the Jalapeno Business Fries are every bit as delicious as they’ve always been, and there’s a good selection of tasty meat-based burgers on the menu too – especially the Return of the Mac.

I’ll definitely be popping in for my fix of Twisted Barbecue Burger with Techno sauce, plus Jalapeno Business Fries for as long as they remain on the menu.

rating-3-star

Tapas Revolution

April 13, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Hands up if you remember the La Tasca that used to be in Meadowhall? I spent many a happy afternoon there back in the day, using their legendary ‘Tapas for a Tenner’ offer as an excuse to eat as much patatas bravas as I could get my hands on, washed down with a few cheeky glasses of sangria.

So when I got an invite to check out the new Tapas Revolution restaurant that’s just opened in Meadowhall’s food court, it made me feel pretty nostalgic and excited to relive my Meadowhall-and-tapas years.

Now I’m not much of a Meadowhall fan – I wouldn’t even hazard a guess when I last paid a visit to everyone’s favourite Sheffield shopping centre, but the food court isn’t how I remembered it at all. My memories of the Oasis are all plastic McDonald’s trays and jacket potatoes in squeaky styrofoam containers, so I was surprised to see so many new restaurants in the Oasis, including a few I’d have been tempted to pop into if we didn’t already have a table booked at Tapas Revolution.

After wandering around for a bit, we discovered Tapas Revolution on the second floor of the Oasis. It’s a nice, modern looking eatery with an enclosed seating area that makes it feel separate from the rest of the food court, so it has more of a ‘restaurant’ vibe.

Despite the fact that we were visiting Tapas Revolution during their opening week and at an odd time (2.30pm on a Monday afternoon, to be exact) there were quite a few people eating there, which is always a good sign.

Taking a look at the drinks menu, I saw that Tapas Revolution offer the usual vino, cider and sparkling wine – plus, what would any self-respecting tapas restaurant be without sangria? Tapas Revolution also serve a very tempting-sounding homemade saffron lemonade that you can order with your choice of gin or vodka, which sounds like the perfect thirst-quencher if you’ve had a particularly tough day of shopping.

In the end, we went with a bottle of house white wine at £15.95, which is pretty reasonable considering you’re always going to pay a premium for food and drink in Meadowhall.

But our Tapas Revolution trip wasn’t just an excuse to drink at lunchtime (although that was an added bonus) we were here to try some tapas as well! There’s really only one way to enjoy tapas: order a bunch of dishes and then share them between the table, so that’s exactly what we did.

I barely had the chance to tuck into my pre-tapas nibbles of bread and alioli dip (£1.95) before the tapas started to arrive. First up was something that no Spanish feast should be without: patatas bravas (£3.95).

patatas bravas

Patatas bravas is my favourite tapas so I was really looking forward to this one, and Tapas Revolution didn’t disappoint. The potatoes were on the al dente side, which gave them some nice added crispiness and bite, served in a rich and fiery tomato sauce topped with lashings of cooling aioli.

I feel like patatas bravas is the thing everyone orders when they go out for tapas, but sometimes patas bravas can be a bit boring, to the point where it’s really just potato wedges served in a terracotta dish. This definitely wasn’t the case here, as Tapas Revolution served up the best patatas bravas I’ve eaten in ages. I’ll definitely be ordering this again!

The second tapas to make its way to our table was gambas al ajillo (£6.50), aka juicy tiger prawns dressed in garlic and chilli oil.

gambas al ajillo

The oil was very light but packed with flavour. I was glad I hadn’t had the chance to finish off my pre-tapas bread, as it was just the thing for polishing off every last drop of this delicious chilli and garlic oil.

Continuing the seafood theme, next up was some very exotic-sounding Buñuelos de marisco (£4.75) also known as prawn, cod, mussel and potato fritters.

bunuelos de marisco

Tapas Revolution didn’t skimp on the seafood, which was a pleasant surprise considering things like potato are sometimes used as a cheaper, filler ingredient. Although I loved the strong seafood taste, I wasn’t overly keen on the texture so out of everything this is the one thing I probably wouldn’t order again.

Things quickly got back on track with another tapas from the ‘Seafood’ section of the menu, this time a portion of steamed octopus with potatoes and pimentón paprika (Pulpo a la Gallega, £6.95).

pulpo a la gallega

The potato and octopus were covered in that light, flavour-packed oil that Tapas Revolution do so well, but this time with the addition of lots of smoky paprika.

Like the patatas bravas, the potatoes were on the al dente side, but the best thing about this dish was the steamed octopus which was served complete with skin and suckers. While this might be a little unnerving for some, it did give the octopus a unique texture and consistency, not to mention a much stronger taste, which I loved. This is a must-try if you’re a seafood fan who isn’t squeamish about the thought of eating octopus that still looks like octopus.

We did order some meat inbetween all the seafood, in the form of Chorizo a la sidra (£5.50).

chorizo a la sidra

This is spicy sausage roasted in cider – doesn’t that just sound like the perfect winter warmer? I don’t eat meat, but my dining companion confirmed that both the chorizo and the cider sauce were seriously spicy, so this isn’t food for the faint-hearted.

We finished things off with some lightly-battered, peppery calamari (£5.50).

calamares fritos

For tapas, this is a large portion that’s perfect for sharing. The calamari came with a lemon wedge plus another helping of Tapas Revolution’s creamy aioli sauce. These were the perfect accompaniments, and there was more than enough calamari to put both the lemon and sauce to good use.

But the feast didn’t end just because we’d polished off the final helping of tapas. Throughout the meal, I’d been eyeing up the second part of the Tapas Revolution experience: a takeaway churro bar on the other side of the food court.

This is a genius idea, as not every Meadowhall shopper is going to be in the mood for a sit-down tapas feast, but surely a cone full of churros and chocolate dipping sauce is something everyone can enjoy?

So after we’d eaten all the tapas and drunk all the wine, we nipped across the walkway to grab a cheeky portion of churros and sauce. I’d completely demolished mine before I’d even made it out of the food court!

churro

These churros were grease-free and crunchy on the outside, but light and fluffy on the inside – just as all good churros should be! The accompanying chocolate sauce had a lovely, silky texture and actually tasted like freshly-melted milk chocolate, rather than heated up chocolate spread or sauce from a packet (yuck!)

If you’ve had a hard day of shopping and fancy a sweet treat, then definitely stop by Tapas Revolution’s churro bar. It’s quick, tasty and something a little bit different from the donuts and super-sized cookies every other vendor seems to be selling in Meadowhall.

And if you’re in the mood for something a bit more substantial, then Tapas Revolution serve up some pretty tasty tapas, including the best patatas bravas I’ve ever eaten and delicious (if a little frightening) steamed octopus.

The only downside for someone who isn’t really a big Meadowhall fan is that I wish Tapas Revolution were based in the city center, so I didn’t have to catch the train for my tapas/churro fix!

four-stars

Marco’s

March 3, 2016 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to get an invite to try the new menu at Marco Pierre White’s Sheffield restaurant.

Marco’s West Bar Green location looks pretty random on the map, but it makes perfect sense once you realise that it’s next door to Sheffield’s Hampton by Hilton hotel. Marco’s definitely feels like the kind of place where you’d treat yourself to a nice cocktail or an evening meal if you were visiting our city on an overnight trip, especially since Marco’s is pretty much built into the Hilton – it doesn’t get anymore convenient than that!

This was my first visit to any Marco’s restaurant and after browsing their website I’d been anticipating a ‘nice restaurant’ vibe. But Marco’s turned out to be even nicer than I was expecting, to the point where I was actually glad I’d booked in for lunch, because if I’d visited in the evening I’d have felt a bit underdressed.

The glossy interior, immaculately laid-out tables, smartly-dressed staff and light piano music tinkling away in the background all come together to create a very suave and sophisticated atmosphere, which would make this the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion. 
Marco's interior

Marco’s new menu is a pretty decent size, with the standard ‘Main courses’ section plus separate sections for steaks, pizzas, pasta and salads. The food is on the pricier side, but when you’re sat in such nice surroundings, spotting a £30 steak on the menu doesn’t come as a shock.

For my starter, I opted for the calamari with spring onions and chilli (£7.50).

marco's calamari

This starter is a nicely-sized portion of juicy squid in a lovely light batter. I particularly liked the sprinkling of spring onions and chilli, which gave this starter a burst of freshness and heat that made this much tastier than your typical calamari.

My dining companion went for the New York buffalo wings with blue cheese dip (£7.50).

marco's buffalo wings

The buffalo wings were tasty and not in the least bit greasy, but the best part of this starter was the accompanying blue cheese dip, which was insanely strong. If you love your blue cheese, then you need to try Marco’s blue cheese dip – you won’t be disappointed!

Onto the mains and I couldn’t resist the incredible-sounding yellow fin tuna steak alla Sicilian, which came with lemon, black olives, spinach, capers and fresh coriander (£18.25).

marco's tuna

Just looking at this photo is making me crave this tuna steak all over again – no mean feat, considering it’s currently 7.30am!

Marco’s tuna steak is pretty much happiness on a plate. It was lightly cooked so the insides were pink and juicy, and all-around melt-in-the-mouth perfection. This tuna is served with seriously sweet, juicy tomatoes and moreish creamed spinach (who knew spinach could ever be described as moreish?)

My only gripe is that the tuna also comes with capers, and although the capers do add an extra vinegary dimension to the dish, this just didn’t work for me as I hate capers.

But capers aside, this tuna steak is incredible and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who loves fish in general, or tuna in particular. My only problem is that after eating tuna this good, my home-cooked tuna steak (which I’d previously been pretty proud of) tastes like the most boring thing imaginable. So, cheers for ruining that for me, Marco’s!

My buddy went for the Hickory smoked baby back ribs, which come on a bed of fries with a crunchy, tangy Russian coleslaw (£17.25).

It looked downright terrifying.

marco's ribs

The plate itself was enormous – and the rack of ribs was still hanging off the sides! My friend said this was the only plate of food that had ever scared them, and it’s easy to see why.

Even after they’d gnawed their way through this super-sized portion of delicious smoky ribs, they still had to contend with an equally ridiculous amount of fries. Despite being described on the menu as a ‘bed’ of chips, this was more like a meal in itself.

Only order Marco’s ribs if you have a serious appetite, because this is a truly daunting amount of food.

So what do you do after tackling a mountain of ribs and chips? Order hot Italian donuts with chocolate sauce (£5.75), of course!

marco's donuts

These donuts were fresh and tasty, although a tad doughy in the middle. The accompanying chocolate dipping sauce was perfect though, rich, dark and silky – basically everything you could ever want from chocolate sauce.

After initially telling the waitress that I didn’t have any room for pudding, she somehow managed to twist my arm into ordering the Sicilian lemon sorbet with frozen limoncello (£5.95) by promising me a light and refreshing dessert.

And she was absolutely right, as the lemon sorbet delivered exactly the blend of icy, citrusy goodness I needed after so much rich and filling food.

marco's lemon sorbet

The sorbet itself was eye-wateringly sour (yum!) and soaked in lots and lots of limoncello, so this was basically a dessert and an after-dinner cocktail rolled into one. And really, who doesn’t want that?

The whole thing was topped off with a few curls of sweet-and-sour candied lemon that added a nice bit of crunch to this otherwise smooth dessert.

Despite being light and refreshing, this lemon sorbet was packed with flavour, and I’m so glad the waitress recommended it to me – especially since this isn’t something I’d normally order.

And so concluded our experience of Marco’s new menu.

Despite putting away a whopping 6 courses between us (!) we left Marco’s with very little to nit-pick about. The only thing I wouldn’t order again was the calamari, because although it was good it wasn’t quite as good as the tuna steak and sorbet. And “I liked the starter, but I liked the main and dessert so much more” isn’t much of a criticism!

True, Marco’s is a bit more expensive than your typical restaurant so it’s not the kind of place I’d eat at every week, but the quality of the food and general loveliness of the surroundings means that it feels well worth those extra few pounds.

If you have a special occasion coming up, or you just feel like you deserve a treat then I can highly recommend a trip to Marco’s Sheffield.
four stars

Bill’s brunch

August 16, 2015 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Restaurants | Leave a comment
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Who doesn’t love brunch? After a full working week where breakfast never gets more exciting than a bowl of cereal and a hastily-gulped cup of tea, it’s nice to finally dedicate some real time to the first meal of the day.

The only downside? You have to get up early(ish) on your day off, to make sure you don’t miss out on brunch completely. Last weekend, I made sure I was up and in town at a reasonable hour, just so I could sample the breakfast menu at the recently-opened Bill’s restaurant at St Paul’s Place.

When I first looked at their website, I’d been surprised by the sheer number of Bill’s restaurants there are in cities all over the country. Somehow, I’d managed to avoid Bill’s completely, to the point where the Sheffield restaurant was the first time I’d even heard of them, so I was interested to find out what makes Bill’s so popular!

Bill’s Sheffield restaurant is smart, shiny and clearly brand spanking new, with a few characterful flourishes in the form of exposed metal pipes and walls lined with assorted bottles and jars. This is a massive venue with a pristine finish, but these quirky touches prevent it from feeling sterile.

By the time I’d dragged myself out of bed and into town, Bill’s had already been open for a few hours. Despite this, it was still on the quiet side when we arrived. The fact that the staff outnumbered the customers (at least initially) had its benefits, and its downsides. While we did enjoy lightning-fast service, we also had at least three waitresses popping by our table to ask whether our food was okay, did we want to order anything else, how were we for drinks….and so on.

Although the staff were very polite and friendly, the service was on the verge of becoming overbearing. Thankfully, Bill’s did start to fill up shortly after we arrived, so the staff had more customers to keep them occupied and we could enjoy the last part of our brunch in peace.

Onto the food and drink, and breakfast just isn’t breakfast without caffeine, so we kicked things off with a round of tea and coffee.

I went for a pot of tea and was offered a choice of English Breakfast, Earl Grey or Rooibos (£2.10). My tea arrived very nicely presented in a quaint tin teapot that contained enough tea to refill my cup four times – bargain!

My brunch buddy opted for an Americano (£2.00) plus the mysterious-sounding Bill’s Green Smoothie (£3.35).

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Although green smoothies immediately make me think of health drinks made from things like raw kale and spinach, Bill’s green smoothie tastes fruitier than your typical health drink. Whatever’s in this stuff, it doesn’t taste as sugary as plain fruit juices such as orange or apple juice, but it still has a distinctly fruity tang. Bill’s green smoothie is the perfect light and refreshing fruit smoothie to have before breakfast.

Bill’s breakfast menu is pretty big and features the usual cooked breakfasts, things-on-toast, and healthier options like granola and porridge, or you can treat yourself to eggs Benedict, Royale or Florentine.

On this particular day there was only thing on my mind: Bill’s blueberry and buttermilk pancakes with banana, strawberries and maple syrup (£5.95).

These pancakes sound incredible on the menu, so I was expecting great things – but when they arrived they were even better than I’d been expecting. Just look at them!

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Bill’s pancakes are nice and thick, and the generous helping of strawberries, blueberries and sliced bananas add a burst of juicy freshness that prevents the pancakes from feeling stodgy and heavy going. The banana slices in particular were delicious, and had gained a sweet stickiness from the accompanying maple syrup.

My only complaint is that Bill’s were a bit tight with the maple syrup, and they didn’t provide a jug of additional syrup so I could rectify the situation. This was a shame as a few extra glugs of syrup and these pancakes would have been sweet, comfort food perfection. They were still good, but halfway through I did begin to really notice the dryness and doughiness of the pancakes – at this point I’d have normally added more syrup to break up the taste, and continued eating. Instead, the taste of plain pancakes got a bit too much and I decided to call it a day.

My brunch buddy had also been tempted by just how amazing Bill’s pancakes sound on the menu, but they’d chosen to add some bacon to their pancakes (an extra £1.50).

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They raved about how well the sweet pancakes and maple syrup went with the saltiness and smokiness of the bacon – although they agreed that Bill’s had been a bit mean with the maple syrup.

Impressively, they managed to polish off all their pancakes and bacon, whereas I was completely defeated by my third and final pancake. This is a lot of stodgy food, especially so early in the morning. In fact, by the time I’d walked home all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and take a nap (I resisted, but it wasn’t easy!)

I also ended up skipping lunch because I was still too full to contemplate eating anything. I usually live by three meals a day, so skipping a meal isn’t something I do lightly – but Bill’s breakfast pancakes kept me full until tea time.

If you want to give breakfast the time and attention it deserves, then Bill’s is a great place to do so. It’s a lovely venue with a varied breakfast menu, and if you love pancakes then you need to sample Bill’s take on this breakfast treat.

In short, Bill’s serve a breakfast that’s worth getting out of bed early for – even on your day off!

Three and a half stars

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