Dinner in Sheffield? It’s gone to the dogs!
Or we did, anyway, looking for an alternative to the usual places we frequent and review, so you don’t have to (but hopefully do).
Owlerton Greyhound Stadium in, er, Owlerton in Hillsborough, invited us as guests. Their Panorama restaurant offers, according to its website, “a delightful and seasonal menu choice from our highly experienced chefs” and the chance to enjoy the “experience the atmosphere of the Greyhound racing from the best seats in the house” while you dine.
What’s not to love?
Very little, as it turns out.
There’s something of a best-of-both-worlds feel to life in the Panorama. Decor is pleasantly simple, preserving that working-class spirit of a night at the dogs in a three-course-meal atmosphere.
It’s done a little crudely in places – the 300-cover restaurant packs the punters in and makes use of almost every square inch it possesses – but it works in aiding the atmosphere and doesn’t feel as cramped as it first appears as you’re shown to your table, walking along the parallel ‘top table’ that gives the impression that you’re a guest at the wedding of a bunch of people you’ve never met.
A £1.6million extension and refurbishment in 2010 led to the Panorama restaurant doubling in size, and Kat Wolstenholme has risen from waiting staff to manager in 14 years.
“We used to sometimes struggle to get 150 in,” she says, “And thought we would struggle to do 300! But we did straightaway, and haven’t really looked back since.”
The Owlerton menu changes every two months – purely to keep it fresh and keep their many regulars happy, says Kat – and offers a super array of options at, it has to be said, very reasonable and simple prices; three courses for £15 on Tuesday, £20 on Friday and £25 on Saturday.
Usually, Telegraph reviewers work anonymously until the bill has been paid but, on this occasion, Owlerton knew we were attending. Service was welcoming and speedy, as it was on the tables surrounding us, with plenty of staff to service every need of food, drink and betting.
Natalie’s pulled ham hock and smoked cheddar bruschetta starter, with sticky onion relish and tomato chutney, went down well with the relish complementing the natural saltiness of the ham.
A true Yorkshireman at heart, I couldn’t look past the crisp Yorkshire puddings, with a Henderson’s onion gravy, and there was certainly no scrimping on the gravy as it absolutely smothered the batter with plenty left on the sides.
I’m always reluctant to criticise an abundance of gravy – too much is usually better than too little, after all – but towards the end, it diluted the taste of the starter somewhat.
With the overall-excellent starters dispatched and with a pile of losing bet slips mounting by the race, I leave Natalie to study the racecards and take in the surroundings.
The refurbishment has managed to preserve the atmosphere which hums along nicely throughout the night, as races are neatly interspersed with courses with nothing feeling rushed.
Tables are allocated to punters for the entire night and are available from an hour before the first race, with last orders for food taken at 9pm.
Tote runners work the tables to take bets and pay out for winners – apparently, I wouldn’t know – and John Gilburn, the stadium’s managing director, believes it’s a set-up that works well.
“My favourite thing here is that you can have someone who can only afford to come out once a month, and who’s bet £2 on a dog, sitting shoulder to shoulder with a chief executive, in an expensive suit, who’s put £100 on,” John tells us.
“But there they are, both holding their knives and forks up in excitement and shouting their dog on!”
There was little of that from our table as we delved into our mains; for the lady, chargrilled sirloin steak, tarragon scented garlic mushroom and a rustic tomato compote and for me, pork loin cutlet with honey-glazed parsnips, grain mustard and cider cream sauce.
Natalie’s steak was closer to medium when it came, rather than rare, but there was no prising it away from her after one bite.
She devoured the entire slab and didn’t even have room for the extra fries she ordered, as the done-to-perfection roast potatoes, chantenay carrots, peas and broccoli and cauliflower smothered in cheese sauce finished her off.
The pork, too, was superb; perfectly succulent with an excellent cider cream sauce that just, just, left room for dessert; chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, and lemon tart served with Chantilly cream and raspberry coulis.
The tart hit the spot nicely, a perfect balance of pastry and filling that avoided the classic trap of being too rich or sweet. The cream and coulis sweetened the dish off perfectly; as did the bill, which came in at a very reasonable £56.60 for two three-course meals, beer, wine and soft drink.
A real winner.