The Old Vicarage – Sheffield

Back in the day, when business was good, this was a restaurant we would visit on the return leg from the Cheltenham Festival. Back then, the patron Chef Tessa Bramley was, already the holder of a Michelin Star. The Old Vicarage still holds that coveted honour, an honour which she has maintained every year since 1998!!

The wonderful wife, bagged a couple of Travelzoo vouchers earlier in the year for a 5 course tasting menu at this top end restaurant. With the clock ticking down on the ‘use by date’ and the school holidays upon us, she booked us in for Tuesday lunchtime. We arrived early, not far from Leeds it took less than an hour to reach, and had to ring the bell to get in. A nice young chap, explained that they weren’t yet open but led us anyway into the lounge where we were given menus and asked for aperitif orders

Being on a special fixed price menu (£85 for two – normally £150 but for 6 courses) we perused the wine menu, whilst enjoying our pre-dinner drinks, intending to push the boat out a little on the wine. As you would expect, of a restaurant of this quality, the list is extensive ranging from the £30ish a bottle to the ‘infinity and beyond’ a bottle. A little overwhelmed by the lengthy list, we asked Tessa if she could recommend something a little different to our ‘normal’ Spanish Tempranillo, whilst not launching a ship. We plumped for the Quoin Rock (Syrah) 2006 from South Africa at £47. It was an absolute delight and reminds me not to get too set in my drinking ways

The menu being a specific tasting one, was meant to be just that, however, due to my dietary avoidances (dairy, eggs, red meat) some tweaks and complete alternatives were happily accommodated. The opening course was Butternut Squash Veloute’ Smoked Salmon and Pine Nuts. The wonderful wife declared this a taste delight. I had a Smoked Salmon variant which I equally enjoyed

Next up for my dining  partner was Roast Fillets of Lemon Sole on Mash with Onion Puree, Sauteed Squid with Chilli, Lime & Ginger Cumin Spumanti. OMG…. was the overall response. Squid is not the typical ingredient my wife would ever select but the little sauteed ringlets on top were packed with flavour and simply delicious and gave an additional mark to the 10/10 score for the fish. My Baked Nectarines on a Herb Polenta Cake alternative, with Oven Dried Tomatoes & Gruyere Crisp just as special…OMG

Main course we were both able to experience. Sage Roast Wild Guinea Fowl with Pot-Roasted Thigh, Fondant Potato & Creamed Summer Cabbage & Sauteed Wild Mushrooms. The pot roasted thigh was particularly flavoursome with notes of fennel and black pepper. I don’t have enough superlatives in my repertoire to say anything more. When cooking is this good you just find yourself saying OMG, OMG….. 

As this was a tasting menu the portion sizes are not too large to be over-facing but not too small either to make you think you are being short changed. Normally, we rarely have space left for dessert but as the portions were just right…ask Goldilocks, 2 dessert courses were eagerly anticipated

First up was a Raspberry Creme Brulee with a Pistachio and Almond Biscotti. More of the same….was the resounding verdict. My Fresh Fruit Berries beautiful and I satisfied myself with the lack of wow on it being the healthy option and the fact its almost impossible to get dessert variety without eggs and cream….

Course 5 – Baked Chocolate Pudding with Chocolate Fudge Sauce & English Vanilla Custard was both visually stunning & equally mouth watering – I was told. My selection of Sorbets a treat for somebody mostly starved of anything other than fresh fruit

Throughout the afternoon we were the only diners in the restaurant, although we were informed that a party of 9 had failed to turn up. Strangely, it did not feel like there was a lack of atmosphere, but, that we had arranged a private dining facility. The young maitre d & waiter were both professional, friendly & efficient, whilst Tessa was seemingly always in the background, offering titbits of advice and knowledge to the young bucks

If you have never been, let me assure you, this is one dining experience you must experience. I did think that the food might have become a tad conservative since our last visit. It kind of fits the profile – out of town restaurant – country house…well vicarage – high prices but the food is creative, modern & bright – perfectly judged…..

The Milestone, Sheffield

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The Milestone is a very cool gastro pub tucked away in an old heavy industry district in Sheffield called Kelham Island. Home to a brewery and few cool old style boozers, this part of Sheffield is not quite city centre and it’s all the more pleasurable for it. Parking is easy and it’s just a stone’s throw from my sisters house, where we stayed last weekend.

After reading Jay Raynor’s very positive review of The Milestone in The Observer, we decided to give it a try for dinner last weekend. I’d describe the ambience as laid back, cool and industrial modern chic. Not dissimilar in many ways to eateries in our very own Holbeck.

As they don’t take bookings (odd,I know, considering you can book a meal online nowadays, as easily as you’d check your email or play party poker) we chanced our arm with a Sunday late afternoon and as it turned it out, it was perfect. The in between lunch and dinner service meant the place was only half full but as we were leaving it was rapidly filling up. It’s always nice to get into a restaurant in a lull, as the service are less taxed, though sometimes it also means they can be slightly lazier. Luckily for us, the service was great.

We kicked off with cocktails (like you do) and my Kelham Island Iced Tea was a blast of summer. I was the only one who fancied a starter and the cured breast of partridge with juniper was delicate and fabulously gamey. I couldn’t resist the rib eye for main, whilst J had the Croque Madame with G and G opting for the pea and broad bean risotto.

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Check out that bad boy!

My steak was historically good – on the bone and it was a real Fred Flintstone cut of meat. Perfectly cooked medium rare – as rib should be – it presented a challenge to eat I can tell you. J was slightly disappointed with the dryness of her Croque, but it was a very generous portion nonetheless. Risottos were declared spot on too.

Desserts looked interesting so G went for the chocolate brownie (very chocolatey), I had the rhubarb three ways (an homage to West Yorkshire) and J had a huge slice of textured cake which I can’t quite recall!

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This is probably the first time we’ve eaten out in Sheffield and I have to say that it was very enjoyable. I can highly recommend The Milestone – the food, service and prices were spot on. If you’re looking for casual dining with serious food, then look no further.