Saturday, 15 November 2014

Anchorage Bar and Kitchen, Sheffield

Located in the former Bar 23/Fitzwilliam and West unit in West One, Anchorage is the latest venture from the guys behind The Harley and The Wick at Both Ends. 

With a complete refurbishment of the venue, an exciting drinks menu (covering all the important angles including wine, cocktails and beer) and East Coast style food, Anchorage is one of the most interesting places to have opened up in town this year.

One lunchtime, Gav and I found ourselves at a loose end, so we decided to give Anchorage a go. Sadly, the upstairs restaurant, the area that I hadn't spent any time in since the refurb, is closed in the day, but we found the mezzanine area in the bar perfectly comfortable. 

The Express Menu had caught my eye a while back and I decided that I'd put it to the test on this visit. With two courses for £12, or three for £15, this menu, on the face of it, is incredible value. 

I started with squid. Coated in a light batter and deep-fried, the portion was larger than I expected given it was on the Express Menu. More importantly however was the fact that the rings were perfectly cooked. A chipotle mayonnaise was a good dip, although it could have had a little more heat for my liking. Overall I was impressed and would order the dish again.

Gav ate off the standard menu and chose the Chicago ribs (£5.50) which were fab. The meat fell off the bone and the bourbon BBQ sauce had a good kick to it.

In terms of mains, I couldn't pass on the flat iron steak and, once again, I was impressed. It was another decent portion, the meat was tasty, well seasoned and served rare - as requested. A side of coleslaw was good, but my fries were quite anaemic looking (although absolutely fine on tasting) and I think the plate would look better (and fuller) if things were served directly on it rather than in little tubs. Gav had the buttermilk chicken (£9) which came with fries, spicy coleslaw and devilled eggs which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Feeling a little greedy we'd also ordered extra sides of mac & cheese (£4) and Boston baked beans (£3) which were great - especially the mac & cheese which had a really good flavour - but totally unnecessary as we were beyond stuffed by the time we'd finished! In terms of drinks we had an Anchor Porter (on keg) each and I also had a glass of the rather delicious Australian Shiraz with my main.

I'm so pleased we both enjoyed our visit to Anchorage - I think it looks great and it was good to find that the place has both style and substance. I can't wait to try it on an evening - I need to explore that wine menu a little more and we've both got our sights on the Tomahawk steak...

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Filthy Gorgeous, Sheffield

The Abbeydale Road-based Filthy Gorgeous recently got in touch to see if I fancied trying one of their fruit and veg boxes. And as I had found myself in a bit of a Lidl formed rut, this offer couldn't have come at a better time.

Deliveries take place on a Tuesday and I was pretty excited to see what I'd received as I drove home from work that evening. Packages are exciting enough - food packages are REALLY exciting.

The large fruit and veg box had a good mix of day-to-day veg such as potatoes and carrots, along with a few more interesting items such as fresh shii-take mushrooms and a romanesco cauliflower.

Everything was really fresh and, although it's organic, it kept well too. Taste-wise we noticed a real difference - especially in the potatoes (of all things) and I found that I was cooking more veg based meals. This wasn't just to use the produce up, it was because I didn't want to end up serving the veg just as a side - I wanted to make the most of it all. Highlights included shii-take mushrooms cooked with fennel and greens and whole romanesco coated in a herb butter and baked in the oven. The fruit was good too - especially the grapefruit and the clementines which were juicy and sweet.

The large fruit and veg boxes retail at £19 a pop and you can choose to have them delivered as a one off or on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis - which is great for those who would like to dip in and out (like me). 

There's a variety of box types available including the mixed box, the salad box, the kitchen essentials box and the gourmet box. I'm currently thinking it could be interesting to get a box every 6-8 weeks or so, just to challenge myself to cook something new once in a while. And, with box contents being uploaded onto the Filthy Gorgeous website every Friday, I could just order a box whenever something unusual comes up. 

I'll keep you posted on how I get on!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Rafters, Sheffield

The best thing about working full time again? The food.

Pay days have become a time for celebration again and, in my book, a celebration calls for a slap-up meal.

Last month I HAD to return to a real favourite, Peppercorn (which was as good as ever), but this month it was time to try somewhere new. And, having never visited Rafters before I was rather eager to try it.

I had high hopes. A few of my foodie friends people have praised the chef, Tom Lawson, and, with Alistair Myers managing front of house, I reckoned we'd be in pretty safe hands.

Having worked together for a few years at Devonshire Arms in Middle Handley, Tom and Alistair made the brave decision to take on Rafters last November - just after the much loved Marcus Lane handed in his pinny. And by 'eck - I'm glad they did!


I didn't really know what to expect of the interior, but the pictures on their website gave me the impression that it was going to be very formal. However, I was pleased to find Rafters very inviting and comfortable. Yes, there's linen and smart glassware (this is fine dining), but there's also a few of the softer touches such as comfy chairs and floor to ceiling curtains.

The meal had been booked a few weeks in advance so we'd both studied the menu and pretty much knew what we were going to have. And, although there was the usual last minute shall we/shan't we with regards the tasting menu, we went for a la carte (£39 per person for three courses). 

There's a decent wine list and Alistair was more than happy to recommend something that would complement our chosen dishes (he also gave us a range of options in terms of pricing). Feeling the need to unwind after a week of work I managed to persuade Gav that we needed both a red and a white so, with Alistair's help, we chose the Basa by Telmo Rodrigues (the house wine at El Bulli, don't you know) and the Cuvee de Govenor (2007) - Domaine de la Citadelle. Now, I'm no wine critic - all I can say is that I know what I like and I really liked both of these. Which is pretty good going, I think.

Food wise, proceedings kicked off rather smartly with a couple of canapés. Alistair recommended we ate the crispy quails egg whole because of their runny yolks - and he was right to do so as they were perfectly cooked. A little dollop of truffle mayonnaise added a luxurious touch. Teeny tiny discs of ham hock terrine were also a delight and Sheffielders will like that Rafters source their pork from local pork producer, Moss Valley.

Breads followed and we were treated to a selection of white, granary and black pudding bread - they were good - but special mention must go to the butter which was stunning (and churned in-house).

For my starter I had king scallops, three in fact, served with fennel and apple. Fennel was a confit and a purée, which was lucky for me as I sometimes struggle with strong aniseed flavours. Here it offered a little extra to the melt in the mouth scallops and the purée was delicious! The apple had a little more bite and added texture to the plate as well as some freshness.

Onto mains and I went for the venison. Loin was pink and juicy, and, as someone who needs a red meat and red wine hit when eating out, this pleased me greatly. Having said that, it was served with a small suet pudding and this pleased me a little more. My God. Pastry is the best isn't it? Made with suet then stuffed with tasty morsels of meat, it is a thing of beauty. Red cabbage, celeriac purée and pommes Anna rounded the dish off nicely - perfect Autumn eating.

A pre-dessert of a lemon posset with, if I remember correctly, a crème fraîche sorbet was a delicious palate cleanser, although, to be fair, I think I'd have been happy enough with it as a full dessert. I just love lemon and I really enjoyed the contrasting textures of the icy sorbet and the soft and smooth posset - fantastic.

Having said that, layers of chocolate, was a super fine option. I am told that it was made up of layers of milk chocolate mousse, a dark chocolate and feuilletine crisp, ice white chocolate parfait and a milk chocolate disc. On serving, a hot Grand Marnier and chocolate sauce was poured on top and oh my - it was a real treat! The sauce melted the layers causing them to ooze out across the plate when I dived in with my spoon. Sounds amazing, yes? It was.

In fact, it all was. The food was top notch and the service was knowledgeable, helpful and friendly - we had one of the best meals we'd had in months and we thoroughly enjoyed every second.

*Apologies for the lack of photographs - it was way too dark in there and my camera wouldn't have done the food any justice. 

*Gav ate different dishes - and enjoyed - but I just wanted to concentrate on my meal in this post.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Picture House Social, Sheffield

Not satisfied with running one of the best party bars in the city, the guys behind The Great Gatsby have spread their wings and opened up a second venue in the suburbs of Sheffield. 

Located in the old Abbeydale Road cinema, the rather aptly named Picture House Social has got to be a welcome addition for anyone living in the S7 postcode. This little strip of Abbeydale Road already benefited from The Broadfield, Hop Hideout and Electric Candlelight, but Picture House Social, with its delicious cocktails, informal Italian snacks and ping-pong tables, adds some real excitement to the area.

I'd visited Picture House Social a couple of times already, but only for drinks. So, one Sunday, after a bit of a browse around the vintage (aka 'second hand') shops in the area, Gav and I decided to pop in for lunch.

With an Australian Riesling and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the wine list, I've always been sorted when it comes to choosing a drink here, but this time I decided to take the barman's advice. He recommended a Grecanico from Sicily - something I'd never heard of, never mind tried - and oh my Lord, I'm very pleased I did. It's a beautiful wine - one that will have me coming back for more...

Of course there is more to life than wine and there's a great range of beers (thanks to Hop Hideout who supply them with an interesting selection) along with a stunning cocktail list (as to be expected from any Gatsby venture).

Onto the food and service is very simple here - as in there isn't really any to speak of. You order your food at the kitchen, take your ticket and return to collect your chosen dishes in five or ten minutes or so. Given the pricing, I think this super casual approach is fair enough and it must work nicely for those playing ping-pong or milling around in the busy bar area (i.e. those who don't have a table).

There's nothing casual about the team's dedication to the quality of the food though - I hear that many of the ingredients are imported from Italy - to ensure the end dishes are as authentic as possible. 

We ordered some meat arancini (£3) to share along with a couple of pizzas; nduja (£5.50) for me and cavolo nero (£5) for him.  

Arancini are served in pots, making for the perfect snack to share with friends. Packed with cheese and ham, they were tasty and pretty moreish!

Pizzas, however, were beyond tasty. They were GOOD. The bases were super thin and the toppings were evenly spread and balanced - there was a good base to topping ratio.

Nduja was my favourite of the two - hot but not overpowering - but the cavolo nero didn't disappoint - think fiorentina and switch the spinach for black cabbage and you're just about there.

A bloody brilliant lunch -  and an absolute bargain at £13.50 (excluding drinks).

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Napoleons Casino and Restaurant at Owlerton Stadium, Sheffield

Since moving to Hillsborough I've been trying to suss out the local restaurants and cafes. Ok, there isn't a huge amount of choice here - certainly not as much as there is in town - but there are a few options... including Napoleons at Owlerton.

After eating at Eccy Road's Napoleons a couple of times, I was intrigued to try the Hillsborough venue. And, thanks to a £2 million refurbishment along with an invite to check out the new restaurant, it wasn't long before we were heading down to the bright lights of the casino.

Having not seen the restaurant prior to the refurbishment, I can't really comment on it. But, I can say that it's looking pretty smart  - it's located towards the back of the casino too - a little away from the gaming tables.

In terms of menu choice, it's a similar set up to Eccy Road - £17/£19 for two courses or £19/£21 for three, which is pretty good value.

I started with Moules mariniere and garlic ciabatta. In terms of the cooking, the mussels were spot on - flavours were good too.

Gav went for the curried parsnip soup with mini onion bhajis. This was warming and tasty and he loved the added bhajis which were a nice touch and added a bit of texture.

Come mains and it was a toss up between the pork loin cutlet and the sirloin steak for me. In the end I opted for the steak which was served exactly as I requested - rare. Tender and tasty, it was a good piece of meat. Sadly, the sides of wedges and Yorkshire pudding didn't work for me (it was all a bit brown). But that was my own fault! I could have enjoyed the traditional sides of tomato, mushrooms and onion rings had I ordered from the grill section of the menu. Lesson learnt!

Gav had the lamb shank which was beautifully 'fall off the bone' tender. A rich red wine sauce and garlic butter beans were good accompaniments and he was perfectly happy with his choice.

Stuffed, we couldn't manage a full dessert each and we decided to share the lemon and lime tartlet between us. Regular readers will know that this is one of my favourite desserts and that I like it good and zesty - this one was just right.

Although happy with the food, I must give special mention to the atmosphere. The casino was pretty quiet, but the bar and restaurant areas were nicely busy and, with good service thrown in, we were quite comfortable. I'm sure we'll be back for more...

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Packed Lunch

After a year of part time work I am finally back full time again. And this means that the packed lunch has become a really important issue again - especially as I'm now based in a business park in Wath Upon Dearne - popping out for a Street Food Chef really isn't on the cards any more. 

So, this month has been about getting my packed lunch on! I need things that can be knocked up quite quickly and don't require any warming up. And, although I do like the odd sandwich, I wouldn't want one every day! So I've been looking at salads, pastas and the like and here are a few of the things I've been lunching on this month.

Rice salad

I've been making variations of rice salads for a long time now, but I think I nailed the best combo this month. 

Cold rice was mixed with kidney beans, chickpeas, sweetcorn, spring onions, red pepper, black olives, sundried tomatoes, chargrilled aubergine and courgette slices (out of a jar), coriander, mint, parsley and chunks of cheese. Yes, there are a fair few ingredients, but it was very easy to put together, and it tasted great!

I also like cold rice served with kidney beans, chunks of cheese and a simple salsa of tomatoes, chilli, onion and coriander. Just make sure you stick plenty of chilli in there to ensure it gets your lips tingling!

Mackerel/tuna salad

Potatoes, green beans and smoked mackerel or tinned tuna is a great combination. And, with a few salad leaves, it's a healthy and filling lunch.

Although it works best with fresh vegetables, I have been known to use tinned potatoes and green beans. Ok, not my finest hour, but incredibly cheap!

Egg, avocado and potato salad
I know it's probably a bit seventies but I think there's something a little luxurious about adding an egg to a salad - it easily turns a bunch of green stuff into a meal. Go a couple of steps further and add half an avocado and some baby potatoes and you're dining like a king (ish).

When making this lunch, I tend to stick in whatever I have in the fridge - salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, spring onions, sweetcorn, green beans - they all work well.

Aubergine, Tomatoes and Chickpeas

This is a simple HFW recipe from Three Good Things. Basically, aubergine, tomatoes and chickpeas are thrown into the oven with cinnamon sticks and chilli flakes. This is lovely warm, but perfectly acceptable cool come lunch time. 

Roasted Veg Salad

This is a bit of a go to dish for me - for both lunches and teas. I just roast veg for about 40 minutes with garlic, chilli, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I usually use aubergines, peppers, courgettes and tomatoes, but I sometimes add mushrooms, potatoes and/or parsnips too - it really does just depend on what's in my fridge at the time.

I like to have this with a chunk of Stilton, some mozzarella or cottage cheese - lovely!

Pasta with Pesto
Easy peasy, especially as I cheat and use pesto from a jar. I like to add halved cherry tomatoes and sliced black olives too.

Smoked Mackerel and Watercress Sandwich
As I said, I couldn't eat sandwiches every day, but I do like a one once in a while.  And this is a really good combination - the peppery watercress works really well with the rich and oily mackerel. I like to use granary bread and lots of mayo for this one.

I don't think I've done too badly, do you? But there is always room for improvement and here are a few tips I received through Twitter...

Bento Box with both savoury and sweet sections - fruit, veggies, rice, potato salad, mini sandwiches, biscuits, iced gems and nibbles - @GillCodd

Tapas Box with bits of leftover cheese, meats and salad - @MashtunAndMeow

Smoked mackerel pate with oatcakes and a cherry tomato, avocado and coriander salad - @Penny2304 

A bulgar wheat salad - @NibblyPig

What about you? What are your favourite midweek lunches?