Friday, 24 June 2011

Wig & Pen - Tasting Menu

Normally I like to start a review with a bit of a blurb about the place.  You know, a bit of history and some anecdotes of my past experiences there. 

Well, not this time.   I’ve said all I need to say about the Wig and Pen here and I’m not going to repeat myself.  Essentially I love it.

Full stop. 

New paragraph.

W&P have recently pushed the boat out a little and they have now ventured into the wonderful world of taster menus. 

Too much for us Sheffielders?  Too expensive?  Too poncy?  I don’t think so. 

When wanting fine city centre dining in the past, Gav and I have trekked all the way to Leeds for a slap up lunch and I have been crying out for somewhere with that special something to open in Sheffield.

Now The W&P has come to my rescue.  Not only do they offer an inviting tasting menu, it is well priced at £35 or £42 for 6 courses depending on whether you’re eating mid-week or at the weekend.  And there’s no 40 minute train ride involved as it only takes me 10-15 minutes to stroll to this little beauty!

Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to give this menu a whirl.

It was a Monday evening.  I’d had a busy day doing a bit of bee-keeping with Sheffield Honey and I was pretty hungry come dinner time. 

The restaurant wasn’t overly busy, but busy enough for a Monday and there was a nice atmosphere to the place.  We were seated at the back; overlooking Paradise Square which is the heart of the legal quarter of town (hence the name Wig & Pen).

We briefly looked over the standard menu, but we knew what we were having.  Tonight was Taster night.

There is the option to have wine with the menu, but we decided to just go for a bottle of white as there were a few light dishes on the menu. 

Pea veloute, truffled pea tortellini, mint

First up was a tribute to the pea.  Bless, this rather insignificant vegetable (one often served up with chicken nuggets and chips to the under 5’s) was given a whole course to itself.  Given that us Yorkshire folk are known to love our mushy peas, it was a smart move.

On the arrival of the dish a strong smell of truffle engulfed the room. 

The veloute was a triumph, packed full of fresh pea flavour with truffle oil drizzled on top.  The tortellini was equally special which was expected given the presence of the truffle. 

However, what was not expected was the cooking of the pasta.  My God.  It was good!  Considering we’re talking  about fresh pasta, and we’re talking about British fresh pasta, it was refreshing to see that, although it wasn’t quite al dente, it did have some bite to it.  It was a good start which continued with the pork belly. 

Pork Belly
Langoustine, carrot, star anise

Served up in the style of a pork rib, the smell of star anise had me salivating with memories of Chinese pork ribs.  I dived in and was not disappointed.  There was just enough of the Chinese style sauce to evoke these memories, but not so much so as to overpower the dish.

Having had bad experiences of pureed food in the past, I was surprised to find that I much preferred the pureed carrot to the raw stuff which was diced.  In fact the puree was really tasty.  The langoustine?  Meh.  I wouldn’t have missed it if the chef had forgotten to pop in onto the plate. 

Overall, I enjoyed and could have eaten in 3 times over; that star anise flavour is damn moorish!

curry oil, chicken wing, raisin, shallot

Next came the halibut.  It was beautifully cooked, but unfortunately my palette didn’t pick any of the curry flavours up. 

The fish was certainly stained with something akin to curry spices, I just wished that I could have tasted them!  That aside, the chicken wing was intense with flavour and the skin was nicely crispy.  Shallot onion rings were perfectly formed and very cute.  Raisin sauce was a delight and immediately reminded me of the curry that my mum would cook when I was a kid.  You know, coronation chicken style.  

Again, another enjoyable dish, despite the niggle. 

Beef Rump
Jacket potato, cep, rib

Next up was the beef rump and we ordered a glass of the Dandelion vineyards shiraz, the recommended wine.  It complimented the dish well and was delicious in its own right.

Onto the dish.  Rump isn’t my favourite cut of beef and it isn’t one I would normally order, but hey!  It was still steak and it was nice and rare, which is a must for me. 

Jacket potato was mash.  Now when I make mash I bake the potato, scrape the inside out and then briefly mash with butter. And I think that’s how this mash had been prepared here.  It was truly tasty and it had that true potato taste that only comes in baking it first.

The rib meat was tender and delicious  It tasted as though it had been cooked slowly for hours and had a kind of homely stew or casserole taste to it.  Again memories from being cooked for as a kid came flooding back.

It was a good solid homely dish; one that I think most would like. 

Granite, balsamic jelly

This course was the star of the night.  It didn’t look up to much but oh my!  Who would have thought that a bit of torn up basil leaf, some flavoured ice and balsamic jelly could taste so good? 

It was the jelly that made the dish; it had all the flavour of balsamic vinegar without the tang and it melted in the mouth.  So refreshing and light; I wolfed it down.

Passion Fruit
Compressed watermelon, coriander

Dessert followed.  We all know that dessert isn’t my favourite course but this was fresh and fruity.  Passion fruit jelly was sweet, the crème fraiche was, er, fresh and the compressed watermelon was mouth-wateringly good.  The flavour of each little cube exploded into the mouth.  Serving coriander with it was unusual but one to be repeated by all!  Excellent.

Now at this point we were verging on fullness, but as we both have decent appetites (a requirement of a food blogger?), we rounded off with a cheese board to share.  

Cheese Course

There was a blue cheese, a lavender cheese, Yorkshire Tasty cheese and Ribblesdale goat’s cheese all served up with some homemade cheese crackers, bread, compote and lightly pickled onions.

The star cheese, for me, was the lavender cheese.  Now scrub out that image of your nan with the scented draw liners as this was only lightly fragranced with lavender.   However, my favourite part of the dish was the homemade cheese crackers.  They were packed with cheesy flavours; kind of like cheese straws but in biscuit form.

Now, we were fully satisfied and pretty stuffed! 

The food had been excellent.  The atmosphere was just right with audible, but not in your face music.  Service was professional but not in any way stuffy.  In fact the whole feel of the place was relaxed; friendly and welcoming. 

For instance the waitress would ask if we wanted her to pour us our wine, rather than just go ahead and do it and wine lists were left on tables, both of which pleased the alcoholic in me!

Once again, I was impressed and I can only hope to encourage you to try it one day too.


  1. We ate the exact same menu last weekend, and your review is spot on. I wasn't particularly impressed with the halibut, but the accompanying chicken and raisin more than made up for it. The beef rump also didn't strike me as anything special but, oh my, that rib! My wife *really* didn't care for the basil & balsamic jelly (in her words, "freezer scrapings"), but for me the jelly was the high point of the night (run a close second by the passion fruit jelly), and it was this taste which kept coming back to me in glorious memories for the next few days.

    Your opening musings on whether a tasting menu is "too much" for us Sheffielders did annoy me though. Of course, there will be plenty in the city for whom this kind of food is too "poncy", too expensive, the portions too small, but there are plenty of cheap and cheerful food outlets throughout the town to keep them happy. Since I moved to Sheffield 13 years ago, my biggest regret has been the paucity of high-end dining exeriences of a type which you can find in every other major city in the country. For goodness sake, if Sat Bains can set up on the edge of a Nottingham industrial estate, there should be no question about Sheffield supporting somewhere that can do the business. I'm greatly relieved that the Wig & Pen is finally filling that gap.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed the menu too.

    I note what you say re the food scene in Sheffield. Maybe I wasn't overly clear in the post, but I was pre-empting what others may think; it isn't something I agree with. As far as I'm concerned we have been desperate for a restaurant offering this kind of food for a while as I'm sick of travelling to Leeds every time I fancy something special.

    I just hope that W&P keep it up!