Sunday, 25 November 2012

Black Lion, Firbeck

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love to see chefs tweeting. I love to see their pictures of their work and what they've just put on the specials board. Their passion for food comes through loud and clear as does their pride for their work and although PR agencies and the like can be pretty savvy when it comes to marketing their clients, for me, personally, I like to see a tweeting chef. See a chef who tweets the odd  picture of a dish on the pass, who is keen to engage with others in the food industry and their customers will encourage me to want to try his/her food.

And it's not just me who responds well to tweeting chefs. I know a few others in my little group of followers who also go all weak at the knees when they see a juicy duck breast or a pretty scallop dish in their timeline. And once you get a few people from Twitter through the doors, they too may take a few pictures and tweet a few nice words, or even get a blog review out there.

Of course, tweeting chefs are not the be all and end all and I do not intend on casting any doubt on the benefit of employing a PR company, but the importance of getting chefs interested in social media cannot be ignored. Aside from promoting their restaurant/pub etc, each will be promoting themselves and their own skill set. It must surely also help instil some pride in each chef; you ain't gonna tweet a picture of your dish and put your name to it if it looks shit, are you?

Anyhoo, there are some chefs and restaurants in Sheffield that do this really well and I've either been to, or plan to go to, each and every one of them. Some examples that spring to mind include The Wig & Pen, The Milestone, Thyme Cafe and Devonshire Arms.

One chef that recently popped up in my timeline is Karim Maoui (or @KMaoui). Based in Firbeck, the Black Lion is somewhere so far off my radar that there was no way I would have known about it but for Karim and his tweets. The pub doesn't have a website, so I was totally in Karim's hands in terms of what to expect. Kindly, he sent me a copy of the menu, which sealed the deal and we booked ourselves in.

Although I knew what to expect food wise, I had no idea what the venue was going to be like. I had visions of a replica of the Devonshire Arms in Middle Handley, another country pub set in the 'middle of nowhere', but instead we were welcomed by a more traditional pub, or a 'proper pub' if you like. You know the type, beer mats on tables, patterned thick pile carpets, tankards for decoration and original beams. It kind of reminded me of the Samuel Fox in Bradwell, except it was busier. Locals were at the bar supping, out of towners were seated down for dinner.

We made our presence known at the bar and were shown to a table by the window; it was a great spot, perfect for surveying the whole pub. Gav was driving so he ordered a pint of something from Rotherham (yes this place was that far off my radar) and I had a large glass of shiraz for a very reasonable price of £4.10. To start we decided to share the sharing platter. Expecting it to be a selection of the starters on the menu, we were surprised to be served a large selection of some really interesting food including prosciutto  chorizo, field mushroom with blue cheese, smoked salmon, a crayfish and cucumber cannelini, chicken liver parfait, a sweet onion jelly (I think), a walnut chutney, a tomato pesto, some olives, fish crackling and bread with oil. It was all pretty amazing to be honest; I love this kind of food and there was more than enough for us to share!

Highlights were the fish crackling (honestly, this was amazing) and the crayfish canneloni which was beautifully fresh with juicy pieces of crayfish packed into a cucumber roll. The three varieties of breads, including two focaccias were pretty impressive too. It was the kind of platter that you could pick at whilst working your way through a bottle of wine with friends and this is how the menu suggests it should be served. But at just over a tenner a pop, I just didn't think it would be that big!

On to mains and I went with the venison. Perfectly pink meat was served on a bed of spinach cooked with pancetta and a fondant potato the dish was a good size... but we were in a pub... in Firbeck... and that meant that we had a side order of veg. Hardly the end of the world especially as it was well cooked, just a sign of where we were and an opportunity to help me towards those 5 a day. The dish also came with a glass of port jus and I was really pleased to be able to decide how much sauce I wanted on the plate, especially as too much sauce is one of my bugbears.

Gav fancied something lighter and went for the snapper with chorizo mash. It also came with a selection of seafood; mussels and crayfish. Again, it was another nice sized dish and Gav enjoyed it.

Time for desserts. We were feeling pretty stuffed by this point so we decided to share one between us. Lemon drizzle cake is a real favourite of mine, and probably the one cake I bake the most at home, so we gave Karim's a try. It came served with a lemon thyme syrup and an incredibly zesty lemon rind sorbet. The cake itself was perfectly formed. Light as anything, it packed a lemony punch and although we were both quite full, we cleared the plate pretty quickly.

If I remember correctly, the bill came to less than £60. Considering this included a pint and a couple of large glasses of wine, I thought this was perfectly reasonable. Service throughout had been friendly and chatty and the food had been spot on. Sadly, for me, the location is not the best and given the true pub atmosphere it's not somewhere I would travel for a romantic meal for two, but if I was out that way then I would certainly return.

You'll find the Black Lion at 9 New Road, FirbeckRotherham S81 8JY.

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