Allotment next door and great cooking keep gastropub top of the city’s menu
Value, it’s a tricky concept.
One man’s bargain is another woman’s indulgence. There’s no accounting for taste.
The value for money dilemma was brutally summed up for me years ago by a mate after a night in the pub.
As hungry, beery youths we would frequent the two chip shops in our locality. One we always went to if it was open, the other we only used when the first was closed.
The second was known less than affectionately as ‘Dirty Lil’s’ or ‘bag o’ fats’, which tells you a lot more than you really need to know.
One night walking reluctantly to Lil’s we were lamenting the unavailability of our favourite chips and the equation was summed up thus: “You know that Lil’s chips will be crap, but at least you get plenty.”
The ‘invisible hand’ of the free market at work right there on a tepid Tuesday between The Queen’s Head and Lil’s chippy.
Obviously a balance of quality and quantity is the ideal and value is in the eye of the beholder.
If it’s real quality you’re after, look to somewhere like The Milestone at Neepsend.
Proper food, brilliantly prepared and beautifully presented at a great price. Winner of the Eat Sheffield Best British restaurant earlier this month.
But our evening didn’t start well.
We arrived five minutes early to the old backstreet boozer reinvented as a gastropub five years ago and busy ever since.
No-one to greet us, so we wandered around, went to the bar, no-one there either.
Eventually we and two other couples were shepherded to tables and given menus.
It’s a good looking place with bare board floors and a pleasant jumble of wooden tables and chairs, attractive and nicely lit.
Five years ago the Milestone was named best British restaurant by Michelin-starred TV chef Gordon Ramsey. It still does 80 covers a night - 50 of them for the Early Bird menu - three courses for £16.50 or two for £14.
I started with a Ballotine of caramelised pig’s head, piccalilli and burnt apple caramel - purely for dramatic effect.
Equally evocative were the pan fried duck hearts, but my wife chose crispy fishcake, poached egg & creamed leeks.
The pig’s head meat was mostly cheek, slow cooked, pressed into a cylinder shape and served with home made piccalilli and pickled veg. The meat was hock-like in texture, tender and nicely seasoned and wonderful with the crisp, vinegary pickles, spiced piccalilli and caramel apples sauce.
“We grow veg for the pickles in the Furnace Hill allotment just round the corner – we’ve had it for two years,” said general manager John Church.
“The council weren’t using it so we use it for free and we grow 50 different vegetables and herbs. Chef Jamie Robinson uses stuff from it fresh every day.
“We are very fairly priced in all menus and we are able to do that because we use local suppliers and are able to get the best prices.”
The fishcake was crisp, coated with Panko breadcrumbs for extra crunch and had good flakes of fish inside. The creamed leeks were exactly that and the lightly poached egg on top offered more depth.
For main course I had the catch of the day – coley – with cockles, roasted salsify & spinach and with a spinach and broccoli puree. Coley has a reputation as a cod substitute but this fish was second to none.
Pan fried, skin-side down the thick, meaty cut was beautifully caramelised on top and cooked to flaky perfection.
The cockles added deep-sea depth of flavour, the salsify and spinach gave salty bitterness and the spinach and broccoli puree a freshness that lifted the whole plate.
It came with new potatoes, skin-on, perhaps boiled then stored in the oven to give the skins a hint of the roastie.
Karen had truffled nut roast, braised leeks, celeriac puree and confit shallot with truffle & sherry dressing.
The contrasting sweetness of the sherry with the earthy depth of truffle oil, texture of the nut loaf and creamy leeks came together beautifully.
For dessert I had sweet cream cheese, blackberries, blackberry sorbet, maple caramelised granola & apple marigold – sort of a deconstructed cheesecake.
Karen had a milk chocolate brownie, morello cherry puree, bitter chocolate & vanilla cream.
The soft, sweet cream cheeses contrasts the sharp blackberry sorbet and the little flakes of maple-flavoured granola give crunch and sweetness. The apple marigold - a herb I confess I had never heard of - gives a sharp and scented apple flavour, as you might expect.
The brownie is deep, dark and chocolatey and goes brilliantly with the cherry puree that gives a hint of Black Forest, and is perfectly complemented by the bitter chocolate – though the lavender cream did seem a bit unnecessary.
At £16.50 each for three courses, a diet coke and a great pint of Ro Sham Bo IPA from Otley in West Yorkshire, this is sensational value and by the end we were nicely full.
If quantity is more your thing you could always stop at Lil’s on the way home - if it still existed...
Star rating out of five:
The Milestone, 84 Green Lane at Ball Street, Kelham Island, Sheffield, S3 8SE, Tel: 0114 272 8327
Open: Monday - Saturday 11am - 11.30pm, Sunday - 11am - 10.30pm