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.

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