Ham, Egg and Elephant (?) at A Taste of The Kitchen
Voted as Best Value for Money by The Good Food Guide 2012, Kitchen is one restaurant that Sheffielders should be proud of.
Of course good value doesn't necessarily mean cheap and with a strong focus on local food Kitchen is about a fair price for quality food.
If I remember correctly, it all started about 4 years ago, when the Food and Fine Wine shop on Ecclesall Road extended into the building next door so that it could also open into a restaurant. Despite it being around for so long, I'd only eaten once before with the husband. It had been an enjoyable meal (bar breaded and deep fried sweetbreads which ended up looking and tasting like chicken nuggets), so when I received an invite to their Taste of the Kitchen event I happily accepted.
I arrived to a drinks reception which meant there was a chance to do a bit of networking. Amongst others that evening I met Daniel, owner of The Tiffin Company, Clare and Glenn of Our Favourite Places and Ralph Razor. We all happily quaffed our wine and nibbled on olives and bread but come dinner time, we hungrily descended onto the dining tables.
We didn't have long to wait before food started to arrive and first up was a cod and salmon fishcake. Served on a sheet of newspaper along with a good old dollop of mushy peas it was clear that Kitchen wasn't afraid of its Sheffield roots or making sure that the food kept its feet firmly on the ground. The fishcake itself was quite large and rather unappealing given its breaded outer layer, but that gave way to a soft and luxurious cake packed with pieces of cod and salmon. The tangy tartare sauce lifted the dish nicely and I enjoyed the simplicity of the combinations on the plate.
Next up was a dish of ham and eggs. I'd expected the ham to be formed into a burger topped with a soft poached egg, as seen in The Wick at Both Ends, but this was a different take on the ham and egg combo. Served in a little ramekin, thick chunks of ham along with wholegrain mustard had been baked with a full egg. The ingredients alone are a winning combination and the dish was tasty and rich. It would also be an easy dish to try and replicate at home; perfect for a starter as seen here, or a larger version (with bacon) would make for a hearty breakfast.
The next course saw us back to cod and here it was wrapped in black ham and roasted. The fish was perfectly cooked; soft and moist. Given the size of the plate, there was a good ham to cod ratio which ensured that the smoky flavour of the ham was enjoyed throughout. Sadly the same could not have been said for the full menu version the husband had tried on our last visit (too much cod, too little ham) but it fared far better in its taster menu serving. Pea puree added colour, but Parmesan mash, although perfectly smooth, could have done with a sprinkle or two more of the cheese.
I'd heard a fair bit about the next dish as Dixie's Three Little Pigs has followed the chef as he moved from one restaurant to the next. Named after his daughter, the chef considers it the perfect way to showcase Moss Valley Fine Meat pork. It's a collection of belly, fillet and pig's cheek, so yes, it is a bit of a showcase. Pork belly was tasty with a good layer of crackling, pork fillet was fine (not my favourite cut to be fair) and cheek was served as a schnitzel. I love pork cheeks; if well cooked, the meat is beautifully tender and flavoursome. Serving the meat as a schnitzel was a new one on me and, again, might be one that I try and replicate at home.
After four courses you would have thought that we would be getting full, but as the dishes had been relatively light with pork and cod being the main focus, desserts were welcomed. Paris Brest is a traditional French dessert of choux pastry filled with praline cream with hot chocolate sauce poured over. It's essentially a choux bun (or an elephant's foot depending on where you shop), but a damn sight more glamorous than those I used to buy from Rita's Pantry on North Church Street. It's all a bit heavy for me (remember I don't really 'do' desserts unless it's rich chocolate or zingy lemon), and the meringue of soft fruits, served at the same time, is my favourite. The meringue was sweet and perfectly sticky in the middle. There was more cream but the fruits helped lighten things and I just about managed to clear my plate!
The quality of the food had been pretty consistent throughout (although my neighbour's mash hadn't been as perfectly piped as mine on the cod dish!). Service was also good and given the size of the party, staff worked well in clearing plates and serving courses to ensure that each dish was fresh and hot on arrival.
It had been a good opportunity to taste some of Kitchen's staple dishes (I know that I'll be giving the fishcakes and the three little pigs dish another whirl at some point). By using Moss Valley Fine Meats pork and keeping flavours simple, each dish clearly demonstrated what Kitchen was about; sourcing locally and responsibly and letting the food and flavours do the talking. In fact with simple furniture and waiting staff dressed in matching green polo shirts, this place is certainly more kitchen than dining room and the focus is firmly placed on 'proper' food and solid cooking rather than the crockery and glassware.
I enjoyed it so much that I'm already planning my next visit as Kitchen is now serving up a five course tasting menu for £25 every Thursday and if it's anything like the menu I had that night, I'm sure that I'll be in for another treat.
Check the Kitchen website for more details of their events including Tuesday Supper Clubs and Sunday Brunch to Lunch.