When I order snails it is for twice the amount”, said head chef Mihai Neacsu, with a grin.
“Then there is one for the plate and one for me!”
The always divisive dish of escargot was served at the launch of The Millhouses new ‘gastronomique’ evening, which we were invited to as guests last Friday.
And the aim of the night, says Mihai, is to give people something new.
He added: “We plan to do a gastronomique every month and a half - we want to give people the chance to try something new, things you just don’t get every day.
“It’s eight courses for a very reasonable amount, where the experience should be amazing.
“We call our suppliers and try to get the really weird stuff.
“People have been really enthusiastic about it and they say they’ll have everything, but they don’t know about the snails. But I promise them it will be fine!
“When you try it you will find out.”
Mihai, who hails from Romania where he is well known as an acclaimed chef, has worked in Nottingham, York and Winchester, joining the Millhouses some two months ago.
It is the latest tilt towards building the venue’s reputation as a gastro pub after former landlady Kaye Pigott returned as leaseholder last year.
She brought in fresh food, sourced locally, which did the trick in bringing back residents, various well-known faces and positive reviews online.
Mihai is keen to carry on that work, but with his new menus.
Even the Australian dish for the bistro night came in via Sheffield butcher Pat O’Brien.
“Everything we do is fresh - even down to the barbecue sauce and the mayonnaise. It does take a lot of time”, he said.
“We want to do a real mixture of food, everything from Mediterannean to English cuisine.”
The place was packed when we arrived last Friday, the bar heaving with regulars and most of the restaurant reserved for the gastro night.
Carafes of wine are available and allowed us to start with a tart, fruity white before moving on to red easily.
The first dish looked stunning - a single fat pearl of a scallop was the surprise hidden inside a gigantic shell. The soft, juicy sweet flesh was accompanied by a lemon puree with an almost smoked butter taste lingering underneath, tiny curls of pickled ginger and sharp, tangy yellow beetroot. I’d have happily eaten two or three..
Fish was the focus of dish two as well, a lobster bisque with an incredible amount of flavour for a thin soup.
It was creamy, rich, salty, in all the right places, and spoonful by spoonful slid down, leaving a zing on the lips. In the middle of the dish was a rectangle of toasted bread - lovely - and rather unnecessary microherbs, which were a theme through the whole meal.
On to a hearty red wine, and with it game.
Potted venison was another dish with which extreme care had been taken with presentation - a single blackberry was the cherry on top, but there were swirls of sauce, beds of jus, you name it.
The texture of the meat was unusual, and we found it dissolved almost like a souffle. In our view it needed more of a contrasting crunch than could be offered with accompanying peas.
Some tasting menus can drag on and on, but swift service here had quelled our initial hunger, with a break before the lamb. And what a lamb it was.
The chop was charred to a sheen perfectly, with just enough fat to make it juicy and flavoursome. It was glazed with fragrant garam masala, which gave the pearly cous cous base a heady spice. Only bones were left behind.
Then it was time for the escargot. Digging them out of their shells did nothing to quell the other half’s fear of the unknown, and his expression had me shaking with laughter.
Flavour-wise, there was garlic = good, butter = good, meat = good. But there was nothing that could be done to hide the texture and shape from our tongues - they were unmistakably snails. As a talking - and giggling point though - they were worth it.
Kangaroo steak hopped up next, ruby red inside and dark on the outside, incredibly lean. It came on a pile of well buttered, and piping hot mash. Simple and satisfying.
The parfait was another work of art. A dome of glossy white chocolate atop a crunchy base, there was blueberry there too, and what tasted to me like a hint of mint.
Portion sizing was impeccable on each course, and so for once we could finish with cheeses from Porter Brook Deli on Sharrowvale Road - including a pungent truffle option - with stylish crackers chutneys and port - without being stuffed.
With Barnsley singer Laura Kelly adding live entertainment, the night was the complete package.
The next gastronomique evening at The Millhouses is planned for March 17.
The price is £35 per person, for eight courses.
The Millhouses, Abbeydale Road,
Tel: 0114 236596