Posts Tagged ‘Sheffield’

A star in Sheffield – exquisite food at Rafters Restaurant

There has been something of a quiet restaurant revolution going in Sheffield over the last decade. Though you might nowadays have to tuck in using something other than Sheffield’s finest cutlery – it being produced in somewhat lower quantities than it was in the hey day of Sheffield steel – there is a positive bloom of talented chefs in the city, putting some of Sheffield’s restaurants firmly on the map.

A case in point is Rafters Restaurant in the city’s suburb of Nethergreen.  If you didn’t know it was there, you could quite easily miss it, located as it is up a narrow staircase on the first floor above a little parade of shops .  You know where to find it now though.

It’s an intimate, stylish restaurant set under a marvellous vaulted roof with exposed beams (hence the name apparently) so it feels very light and airy.  The restaurant staff, though utterly professional, are refreshingly down to earth and unpretentious – no-one looks down their nose if you ask for a jug of tap water here, though still and sparkling mineral water are of course available if you prefer it.

Chef Patron Marcus Lane has created quite a name for himself on the local restaurant scene and as we were to find out, quite rightly so.  The main a la carte menu has a set price of £36.95 per person for three courses, but between Monday to Thursday there is also a special menu with fewer choices on it, but which offers two courses and a complimentary glass of wine for £25 per person, making it pretty good value.  On Monday nights only, they also have a bring your own wine policy with a small corkage fee.

The whole experience oozed quality, from the little touches such as the delicious complimentary canapes of cod tempura and goat’s cheese tartlets, to the mouthwatering selection of fresh warm breads.  We opted for the two course menu and started things off with king prawns with a mango salsa and a terrine of organic chicken, ham and leeks.  Both were beautifully presented and tasted delicious.  A little water melon sorbet arrived as a palate cleanser, another lovely little touch that brought with it a taste of Mediterranean summer days.

For main courses, we’d selected a Parmesan crusted roast cod with aubergine and chickpeas and roast duck breast with baby vegetables.  The cod was a wonderful thick fillet, moist and flaking to the fork and perfectly seasoned to allow the delicate flavours to shine.  The duck breast, just slightly pink in the middle was meltingly tender.  Portions were generous and filling; if anything there was too much duck breast and we’d have happily forfeited half the meat for more vegetables, but if was truly the only niggle we could come up with on the night and that said, it was a very small niggle.

We finished off with rich dark coffee and petits fours and after adding a couple of additional glasses of wine, we’d had a thoroughly good meal in a restaurant with a very relaxed warm ambiance for a touch under £70.  It was worth it and that’s not something you can often say with complete honesty after a restaurant meal.

Benares’ Atul Kochhar wows Sheffield

Yesterday and today, the 14th annual Skills for Chefs conference is taking place at the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire.

The conference has become a leading annual event, bringing together award winning chefs, industry professionals and catering students.

Chefs take to the stage kitchen to produce mouth watering dishes, whilst passing on snippets of their wisdom to the audience through the following Q & A sessions.

The opening demonstration this year was Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar, chef patron of the acclaimed Indian restaurant Benares in London’s Mayfair.  In less than 40 minutes, he had put together a feast of three Indian dishes, including chicken livers with garlic and ginger, marinated spiced John Dory and chicken curry, explaining as he went about the nuances of Indian cookery and cuisine.  It was fascinating to watch a master chef at work and to listen to his hints and tips.

Atul was keen to share some of the hidden secrets of cooking great Indian food and was at pains to stress the importance of working in harmony with spices.

“Spices should be used in just the same way as one would season with salt and pepper,” he said “each one is just part of the seasoning balance.”

His top tips went on to include the following

  • ease up on the chilli – “you shouldn’t be trying to prove something by adding great quantities of chilli”
  • oil should be very hot before frying spices, so that their essential oils are released into the dish – do a pinch test to see if they sizzle before adding them
  • think about what you are cooking and use fresh, seasonal ingredients whenever possible

We were lucky enough to be in the front row to watch Atul do his stuff and must admit, it has made a trip to Benares very tempting indeed!