Spam: don’t you just hate it? Both the tinned “meat” and the email kind. I get a lot of junk in my inbox, largely because I find it quicker to hit “delete” rather than open the email, scroll to the bottom, find and then click “unsubscribe” (where is the logic?). This means that mailing lists I have long since forgotten signing up for, supermarkets I no longer shop at, train companies I no longer use, voucher sites I no longer buy from… all regularly send emails which normally just end up in my trash bin.
However, mid-inbox purge one day, I snatched the mouse away from the delete button and opened up an email with a particularly attractive subject- a Living Social offer for a five-course tasting menu for two at The Milestone. Lauded as Sheffield’s original gastropub and champions of local produce, The Milestone was crowned “Britain’s Best Restaurant” in the 2010 series of Ramsay’s Best Restaurant. Add to that a handful of eat Sheffield awards and a great review in the Observer from King Jay Rayner and, well, why wait to go?
In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I’d been to The Milestone a few times before, at various times of day, paying full price. They do an amazing brunch. A great-value lunch. A mighty fine dinner. So, I had no hesitation in buying the Living Social offer, which was only £36 for a five-course tasting menu for both of us (valued at £76 full price). A few friends bought vouchers too, and we set a date. The offer was only valid on Tuesday nights, so on a pleasant evening just after school had started back, off we went to one of Kelham Island’s culinary gems.
Upon arrival at The Milestone, we were shown to our table upstairs. The Milestone’s decor is a study in pared-down simplicity. It manages to be simple but chic, unfussy but impressive. The big wooden tables add warmth to the space. We were positioned with a view of the pass and within earshot of the kitchen- which meant we were subjected to the frequent, loud calls for “service!” I didn’t mind too much, though; we talked plenty loud enough over it.
We all ordered our drinks- some beers, some G&Ts, a Kelham Island iced tea. Containing blueberry vodka, strawberry tequila, gin, rum, Cointreau and pomegranate juice, this is The Milestone’s homage to the Long Island classic. It was delicious! Sometimes Long Island iced tea can be overwhelmingly boozy-tasting, but this was just a well-rounded fruity treat, perfect after a long, hard Tuesday in the office. If the pineapple caipirinha I had at Graze Inn was one of my five-a-day, this must surely have been two:
We also opted to take the wine flight to accompany our meal; at £14.50pp for three wines and one prosecco, this was rather good value and a nice way to try out several new wines.
The first course of Tom Yum, with toasted sesame and pickled chilli, arrived promptly, in a short little tumbler. It was darker than other tom yum soups I’d had before, more of a soy-sauce colour than an orangey-red, but totally delicious. It was perfectly seasoned, not too salty, and had a warm, chilli kick.
The wine flight kicked off with a glass of rosé to accompany the next course, which was on the menu as Goats’ Cheese, salad of pickled beetroot, preserved walnuts and fennel dust.
I have to be honest, this was my least favourite of the five courses. On paper, I should have loved it- goats’ cheese and beetroot are two of my favourites. In reality, though, it wasn’t for me. The goats’ cheese came as a slab of sort-of pannacotta and wasn’t nearly bold enough in flavour. It was overpowered by some strongly pickled beetroot, which was the only thing I could taste in the dish. The fennel dust wasn’t discernible for me. The preserved walnuts provided some welcome extra crunch.
Things were looking up with the next course- Black Pudding, spiced terrine, apple caramel and piccalilli. I’d had The Milestone’s black pudding before and loved it- it’s earthy, properly spiced and rich. Served with this ham hock terrine, it had met its match. My only problem with this dish was the piccalilli wasn’t quite piccalilli-li enough, and I didn’t have any cauliflower in mine. Still, this was my favourite of the savoury courses and the white wine accompanying it- the Spanish Poppyfields Airen– was a good match.
Our fourth course, and the last of the savoury courses, was free-range chicken, with butternut squash, pearl barley, bean sprouts, garlic and chilli. This dish was a real mixture for me. Firstly, mine was the only plate on the table to arrive without any butternut squash pieces in the pearl barley. This irked me; inconsistency in plating is so much more noticeable when the whole table, let alone the whole restaurant, is having the same thing. The Other Half donated some butternut squash to my cause. We also had to prompt one of the waiting staff to come pour our accompanying wine, a cabernet sauvignon.
On the plus side, the chicken was nicely cooked, as was the pearl barley. We were reminded of how much we enjoy pearl barley and that it is viable as a side dish and not just a soup ingredient; it’s often overlooked in our house in favour of rice or quinoa as part of the main event. As a result of our night at The Milestone, it’s back on the menu round ours.
The final course was dessert. The Dessert. This was a chocolate delice, with salted caramel, Chantilly cream and a sesame praline. Regular readers may have realised I have a thing for food that’s served in cute little jars/miniature saucepans/kitsch tiny colanders… I think it’s a hangup from being raised in a big family where food was always shared and I would never have a dish all to myself. The Milestone’s delice came in a little jar, carefully layered up and with the sesame praline standing proudly on top.
This was a unanimous hit around the table. The chocolate delice was just the right side of rich, luxurious and smooth. The salted caramel delivered on its promises (it drives me crazy when “salted” caramel just tastes like standard, run-of-the-mill caramel). There was the perfect amount of Chantilly cream. And the sesame praline added some crunch to something which otherwise slipped down far too easily. If this had been a dessert at home, I would have been swiping my fingers into the empty jar to get every last bit. As it was, there was much clattering of spoons-on-jars at our table as we all worked hard to capture every morsel. My mouth is watering just writing about it.
Accompanied by a glass of prosecco, this made the perfect finish to our meal. We were well-fed, well-watered and well-chatted out. The three signs of a pretty perfect evening, by my reckoning.
On the whole, it was another great experience at The Milestone. Apart from some random music choices (Jamiroquai’s Deeper Underground followed by bass-laden TV drama instrumental pieces followed by Tin Tin Out) and the few issues mentioned above, there was lots that was good about this, not least that it was inventive, local food at a great price. The wine flight was also good value and the drinks menu manages to be innovative, such as that Kelham Island iced tea.
For me, The Milestone remains one of the best places for a meal out in Sheffield, whatever the time of day. I’ve yet to leave feeling disappointed. Don’t wait for an offer on a deals site, go check it out for yourself. I think we’ll be heading back soon for weekend brunch- at £14 for two, including coffees and prosecco, it’d be rude not to. And I need some more of that black pudding.