New year resolutions already looking like they’re going to be hard to keep?
What did you vow to do in 2013? Do more cooking yourself? Eat healthier? Get the kids involved with making dinner and helping out? Spend more quality time with the family?
If that is the case then heading out to feast at a restaurant probably doesn’t sound like a good idea ... but hold on a minute. My family has found the solution in a most unexpected place.
After just one day back at the grindstone we decided we needed a treat so went out for dinner. OK, it was January 2 and yes, restaurant staff also deserve a break, but the first four restaurants we tried were locked up, lights off and definitely closed.
So we headed to London Road and I racked my brain for somewhere the kids might find a bit fun. And there it was ... Noodle Inn Hot Pot.
It is only small and there was just one table free when the five of us arrived at 6pm. That’s a good sign we thought as we turned to the menu.
Now none of us speak many languages other than Sheffieldish so after spotting that the top version wasn’t even in English we were very grateful to find we our waitress Penny was as helpful as is possible.
We confessed we hadn’t eaten there before - or even tried any other hot pot restaurant - and she was quick to ease our fears.
Here is how it works. In the middle of each table is an electric hob. You choose a soup base and then cook your own raw ingredients in it. Simple.
The kids were ecstatically happy at the idea of being in full control of this, after their initial looks of complete confusion. It was obvious that the simplest way forward was to opt for the all-you-can-eat hot pot buffet.
It costs £14.90 per person and I was just as pleased as the young ones when the waitress revealed under nines eat for free. So we all started picking ingredients from the menu to pop into the pot.
This is ideal for everyone in the family. The children can have whatever they fancy, they can try things they normally wouldn’t and nothing is too expensive to sample.
We asked the waitress how many ingredients people normally chose and she said not to worry about that, just pick whatever you felt like eating. So we did.
It doesn’t take a genius to guess who opted for what.
The kids: chicken, beef, spare ribs and noodles.
The adults: sirloin steak, scallops, mussels, prawns, pak choi, mixed mushrooms and sweet potato slices.
Between us we did also try out a few more unusual ingredients: handmade pork dumplings, stuffed aubergine with king prawn paste and stuffed tofu with king prawn paste.
There was also lots we weren’t brave enough for: drough stick, lotus slices, fish head, pig skin, chicken gizzard and pork fat ends to name a few.
We picked two soup bases, hot and spicy (which did come with a heat warning from the waitress which only made the kids more determined to brave the chillies) and chinese herbs.
They arrived very quickly in a huge silver pan and started coming to the boil under the watchful eyes of a very impressed six-year-old.
The raw ingredients soon followed and there was masses of it. One thing that has to be said about cooking your own dinner is it is very clear how fresh everything is and every single ingredient looked great.
Our ever-patient waitress brought over a selection of dips including a crispy yet peanuty one she’d mixed up herself which tasted delicious.
Other diners clearly had a better idea of what they were doing and helped themselves but we really appreciated the guidance.
The waitress did the first round of putting the meats into the pot and then it was over to us. Nothing takes more than a couple of minutes to cook and the seasonings in the soup base make it all taste really good.
A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders by simply being able to give the children complete freedom in what they wanted to try or not try, like or not like. Bliss.
The whole event - because for us it was more an event than just a boring dinner - was a humongous success.
The hot pot, not to be confused with Noodle Inn which is two doors further down but owned by the same people, only opened in October.
It has been given a huge facelift and is an enormous improvement on the hot pot restaurant which was there before. My kids won’t forget the whole experience in a hurry - in fact I’ve no doubt they’ll be asking to go again, soon.
I’m afraid we did leave a bit of a mess but I guess that goes hand in hand with kids cooking and serving themselves.
Noodle Inn Hot Pot
* 162 London Road, Sheffield, S2 4LT
* Tel: 0114 2583200
* Open: Seven days, 4pm-11pm
* Parking: Meters on London Road - watchout for permit-only areas
* Cash only
* Star ratings (out of five):