PJ Taste Sheffield wedding catering sharing boards

My top five (ish) of 2013

Ok, so this is a Sheffield food blog. But some of my most memorable meals of 2013 took place outside this city- largely thanks to the fact that I got married in March and had some sublime meals on our honeymoon in Costa Rica and NYC. I also celebrated a milestone birthday and was whisked off to Amsterdam to mark the occasion. Meals in each of these places stand out in my mind not only because they were amazing, but also because it was a very special period in my life. That said, I’ve had some great times discovering new places to eat in Sheffield and revisiting old favourites over the past 12 months.

So, in the spirit of being open, I thought I’d do two top fives. My worldwide 2013 top five, and my Sheffield-only top five. I’ll start with the latter:

5. The Mediterranean, Sharrow Vale Road

An impromptu meal with friends at The Mediterranean one Monday evening back in May was a very pleasant surprise. I’d never been before, and haven’t been back since, but remembering how amazing this monkfish tail was (about £16 if I recall correctly) makes me determined to go again in 2014. Featuring monkfish, razor clams, mussels, prawn and clams in a deliciously-spiced sauce, this dish was beautiful. The Mediterranean have got fresh fish down to a tee.

Monkfish tail at The Mediterranean, Sharrow Vale
Monkfish tail at The Mediterranean, Sharrow Vale

4. Dim Sum, London Road

Despite not having a single photo to prove it, I’ve enjoyed many a good meal at Dim Sum this year. A colleague’s leaving lunch, a friend’s birthday do, a post-drinks feast with work pals are just some of the highlights. The restaurant looks fairly unassuming from the outside, but the food is consistently very, very good. The service can sometimes feel a bit perfunctory, but it only adds to the charm. My favourites are the wo tip (grilled pork and prawn dumpling), char siu bau, mooli cake and the steamed turbot with ginger & spring onion.

3. Tamper Sellers Wheel

You might already know from my first ever blog post how much I like Tamper Sellers Wheel. We’ve been back several times since, sometimes with weekend guests, sometimes just the two of us. Apart from our first visit, when I had a fab pie, I’ve had the Big Kiwi breakfast every time.

It’s just the perfect cooked brekkie to me and so much better than your standard fry up. It’s a lot less greasy, each element has been carefully considered and it is consistently delicious every time. I can’t decide which part of it I like the most, but the homemade hashbrown and the creamed wild mushrooms are the bits that I just can’t do justice at home. I’m looking forward to many more visits in 2014 and, who knows, I might even try out more of the menu!

The Big Kiwi breakfast at Tamper Sellers Wheel
The Big Kiwi at Tamper Sellers Wheel- breakfast of champions.

2. Rafters

My Christmas Eve visit to Rafters was brilliant. It was my first time there, and the month after a change in ownership. Everything about it was great and well-considered, from the food and service to the ambience and feel of the place. You can read all about my visit here.

Pesto bread Rafters restaurant Sheffield
Homemade pesto bread at Rafters- they bake fresh bread for every service.

1. Wedding breakfast, PJ Taste

I know this is a bit lovey-dovey, but the best meal I ate in Sheffield this year was my wedding breakfast, catered by the very amazing PJ Taste. We chose PJ Taste because we liked their ethos, focussing on seasonal and local food.

They listened to what we wanted and came up with an inventive, delicious menu and rolled with several changes… the final menu consisted of meze-type sharing boards of local goodies for starters, including marinated and grilled vegetables, olives, homemade breads, bresaola and other meats. We had a delicious tagine of Whirlow lamb for main, with a range of pretty garnishes and couscous. In the evening, the buffet featured the all-important Sheffield egg, as well as other tasty treats to fuel several hours on the dancefloor at Kelham Island Museum.

PJ Taste Sheffield wedding catering sharing boards
Our beautiful sharing boards starter, by PJ Taste (photo by S6 Photography)

If you’re having any event where you require catering, I’d recommend PJ Taste without hesitation. They are lovely people and their food is outstanding. This was my Sheffield meal of the year because of the amount of love that went into it, both from us and from PJ Taste.

Global top five:

5. Ceviche or tuna salad, Costa Rica

It’s a joint run for fifth place between this ceviche I ate at our hotel in Costa Rica, and a simple fresh tuna salad at a café down the road. All the food at Gaia Hotel was lovely, but I repeatedly enjoyed the ceviche during cocktail hour on a few evenings on honeymoon. Watching the sunset overlooking the Pacific ocean, sipping a cocktail and eating amazing tapas was the perfect combo. The fish in this ceviche was beautifully fresh, and the dish was flavourful, packed with lime juice, coriander and red onion. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Any recommendations of where I can get decent ceviche in Sheffield would be warmly received.

Ceviche in Costa Rica
Amazing ceviche at Gaia hotel, Costa Rica

My other top meal in Costa Rica was a really simple but perfectly-executed tuna salad at Emilio’s Café. It was just what I wanted- meaty tuna, super-fresh veg, cannellini beans and a zesty dressing:

Emilio's Cafe Costa Rica
Tuna salad at Emilio’s, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

4. Balthazar, New York City

Balthazar has long been on my wishlist of places to eat and I finally got to do that in April when we visited NYC at the end of our honeymoon. It was my first time in New York and it was so exciting to see so many places which felt familiar to me from TV shows and films. Balthazar is a French brasserie in SoHo and is one of those buzzy places to be seen. We went for Sunday brunch. I was glad to have pre-booked, as it was rammed and people coming to request tables on the day were being turned down.

Balthazar Restaurant, New York City
Balthazar, NYC

We shared the bread basket, which was a meal in itself (we left with a pretty full doggy bag). I had the corned beef hash and eggs. It was great. The atmosphere was perfect, bustling and exciting, which is just what we needed to start the day. We embarrassed ourselves slightly by trying to order a mimosa with our brunch, only to be told that they weren’t serving booze yet (ooops, uncouth Brits abroad). Tables were close enough together to eavesdrop on your neighbours but that just adds to the theatre of it all. Worth a visit if you’re heading to NYC; just be sure to reserve. There’s also a Balthazar in London now, just off Covent Garden, if you’re that way inclined.

Bread basket at Balthazar, New York City.
Le Panier at Balthazar- delicious homemade breads.

3. OXO Tower, London

My meal at the OXO Tower in August was special for so many reasons. It was my best friend’s hen do. It wasn’t the hen do we’d originally planned. We’d had to cancel her initial hen, owing to a surprise mofo of a tumour (gotta love those). After a long summer in and out of hospital and in a lot of pain, the super-amazing bride-to-be left hospital after op #3 with under three weeks to go until the big day. With the other bridesmaids, we pulled a bit of a do out of the bag, culminating in a boozy dinner at the OXO Tower Brasserie.

We had several cocktails and glasses of wine. We wore silly tiaras and laughed a lot. We took in the views:

OXO Tower London views of St Paul's
Views from the OXO Tower.

The food and service were both delightful. I had a harissa lamb rump with feta labneh (pictured bottom left of the pic below), which was wonderful. Presentation was lovely and the waiting staff were really friendly:

Oxo Tower London brasserie hen do dinner
Hen do dinner at the OXO Tower, London.

I was so grateful we were able to celebrate at all. The wedding two weeks later was very emotional- almost as emotional as our minicab journey from OXO back to West London, where our driver (AKA the most patient man in the world) was treated to four drunken ladies’ rendition of several power ballads, including Meatloaf’s I’d Do Anything For Love and a now-legendary take on Céline Dion’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now. I hope we tipped generously.

2. De Kas, Amsterdam

It turns out that I didn’t take any pictures of the food at De Kas. Maybe we were trying to be cool. Maybe I was distracted by the age I was celebrating reaching. In any case, if you go to Amsterdam, De Kas is worth seeking out. It’s a greenhouse-turned-restaurant which cooks food on the same day it’s harvested.

De Kas restaurant, Amsterdam.
De Kas restaurant, Amsterdam.

The space dates back to 1926; it used to function as a municipal greenhouse in which the city cultivated the flowers and plants for its public spaces, before becoming a restaurant in 2001. Much of the food comes from the on-site gardens, which include about 70 different herbs and vegetables. The menu changes weekly and you just have what’s on offer, there’s not a menu to choose from per se, though they can accommodate likes/dislikes within that (such as removing the fennel from my lamb dish). It’s a little way outside of the city centre on the tram, set in a park, and is well worth the short journey.

1. wd~50, New York City

On the last night of our honeymoon, we went for it. We’d started in NYC by eating hot dogs at a Knicks game, and we finished with thirteen courses of Michelin-starred molecular gastronomy at wd~50. Oh my word. It was beautiful. We’d spotted Wylie Dufresne, the chef/owner of wd~50, on Top Chef and Masterchef some time ago, and looked his restaurant up. Once we’d decided NYC was going to feature on our honeymoon, we knew we must go here. wd~50 is located on the Lower East Side and serves “new American” food. Our waiter was fabulous and attentive and the whole experience just felt very special.

wd~50 New York City
wd~50, as seen from the street.

At $155 per head (roughly £95) for the thirteen-course tasting menu, it was the most expensive meal we’d had in a while (well, apart from our wedding breakfast which was obviously a bit more expensive, as we were feeding 85 people). With cocktails, wine and service, we came in at just under $500 and we loved every single cent of it. Extravagant, a little, but it was our honeymoon. There’s also a seven-course menu of some of their favourite dishes from the vault, at $90 a head. Here’s the tasting menu we had, with wine pairings listed under each course:

wd~50 tasting menu New York City
wd~50 tasting menu.

We visited the night before the restaurant’s tenth birthday and the place ran like a well-oiled machine. Each course was exciting and intriguing to look at, as well as tasty and imaginative. One of my favourite courses was the s’mores- even the stick was edible:

S'mores at wd~50, New York City Wylie Dufresne
S’mores, bitter cocoa, meringue and blackcurrant- simply divine.

We’re back in NYC next summer with our Sheffield gang for a wedding. Fingers crossed they’ll be persuaded to come to wd~50, as we’d love to go again.

And so, that’s that. A year of eating fabulously summed up in one blog post. It’s been lovely to reminisce about these meals and remind myself that 2013 wasn’t all horribly stressful, as it seemed at times, that I’ve had some wonderful trips abroad and fantastic nights out in my favourite city of them all. To those I’ve shared these meals with, thank you for helping make some precious memories.

2 thoughts on “My top five (ish) of 2013

  1. Have you tried The Boisedale at Belgravia? I doubt there’s a finer steak to be had anywhere else in the world. Also Europe’s largest selection of whisky. With live jazz too, it makes for a grand evening out.

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