Casinos are a bit odd aren’t they? I’d never stepped foot in one until about two years ago. I really wanted it to be all James Bond glamour and thrills, full of mysterious men in black tie and women with glossy locks in floor-length frocks. In reality, it was full of people who look kind of like me- but some with much better luck at the roulette table!
I recently got to re-try my luck as a guest of Napoleons Casino & Restaurant at Owlerton Stadium for the night, to try out their new winter menu and check out their impressive new £2m extension and refurb.
I’d been to Naps (as it’s affectionately known) a few times before- once at Owlerton and once at Eccy Road- and always found the food to be really good and better than I expected for a casino, so I was excited to go along to see what’s new. As well as at Owlerton and Ecclesall Road, Napoleons also have casinos with restaurants in Bradford, Hull, Leeds and that there London; I hadn’t known there were any outside of Sheffield.
It’s a small family-owned and operated chain. And the team at Owlerton certainly felt like a family. Both Lee Swords, their head chef, and Lisa Coy, their restaurant manager, have worked there for 18 years. I sat next to Lisa during dinner and she was so warm and friendly, and really knowledgeable on the place. If there’s one think I hate, it’s poor service from disinterested staff- I can’t imagine that ever being the case here. Lisa and her team were all lovely and chatty.
The new dining area, which overlooks the gaming floor, feels dark and romantic. The lights are dim and the dark woods and reds add warmth to the space. It seats 60, but I think you could easily take a date there and it feel intimate. There’s a new, well-stocked bar just next to the restaurant, which stocks a range of ales and beers, including Brooklyn lager (something which several of my friends seem to really like; I’m generally more of a gin or wine girl). And there’s a fine selection of tunes playing- the night of our visit, it was an eclectic mix which included Adele, la Isla Bonita and a surprising reminder of my nights out as a fresher with some Daniel Bedingfield .
To the other end of the bar is a new extension, hosting the first outdoor gaming terrace that’s not in London. Essentially, this is a room which means smokers can carry on gaming while they enjoy a cigarette. However, it’s well-ventilated, so it didn’t feel unpleasant to be in; it wasn’t too busy in the outdoor gaming terrace on the night we were there, but there were a few smokers in there and it wasn’t like walking into a cloud of smoke, nor did we leave the terrace with our clothes smelling like cigarettes.
Once seated, we placed our orders for our mains, and were told that the kitchen were happy if anyone wanted to tweak anything on the menu. I got the impression this was more than just for the sake of us bloggers and that the kitchen genuinely are very accommodating of their guests’ requirements. All the same, I was perfectly happy with what was on offer so didn’t change a thing.
The bread basket came round and I selected a nice little warm roll to whet my appetite. The bread was the only element of the meal that wasn’t made by Lee and his team; however, as everything that followed was so good, I’ll overlook it.
We kicked off with an assiette of starters. This comprised a curried parsnip cappuccino, black pudding wonton, prawn cocktail and a goat’s cheese and fig bruschetta.
My hatred of parsnips is well-documented in our household. I begrudgingly roast some parsnips at Christmas time for the family, and that’s where my relationship with parsnips usually begins and ends. I was in two minds about tasting Naps’ cappuccino (just soup in a tiny cup, with a frothy top). Politeness reigned, and I’m glad it did. This soup was phenomenal. I can’t believe Napoleons have produced parsnip in a form that I would willingly consume. The soup wasn’t overwhelmingly curry-flavoured, but it was rich, smooth and well-seasoned. The onion bhaji it came with was crisp and perfectly spiced.
The black pudding wonton, which was served atop a delicious sweet chutney, was a bit challenging to eat. The crispy bit of pastry at the top of the wonton was messy, whether picked up by hand or approached using cutlery. The mortification of scattering pastry everywhere in front of strangers aside, the actual inside of the wonton was sensational. The black pudding, sourced locally from Dronfield, was tasty and rich.
That goat’s cheese and fig bruschetta was a hit. Again, fig is something I’ve not previously been a huge fan of (despite it looking so pretty), but I tried this and surprised myself again by enjoying it. It was nice to have fig on a savoury dish and this is something I would order again now.
The best bit of the prawn cocktail for me was the cute little jar it came in. The Marie Rose sauce was very tasty, but the prawns were nothing special. The jar saved it from being forgettable. To be fair, though, one of the four on the assiette had to be my least favourite and the soup and wonton in particular were tough acts to follow.
It was time for the main, and I had ordered the chargrilled sirloin steak, which was served with beef dripping potato wedges, Yorkshire pudding and a horseradish jus:
I’d ordered my steak medium, and that is what I got.
The horseradish jus, while not tasting too much like horseradish, was bloomin’ lovely. A rich little sauce that went perfectly with my steak, my mouth is watering slightly just recalling it. Another win was that I was offered a choice of mustards when I asked for some; I love a bit of Dijon with a steak. My Yorkshire pud was on the darker side of done, but I like them crispy. I can’t fully explain to you how sad I felt spearing my final mouthful onto my fork; I’d definitely recommend Napoleons for a decent steak.
The Other Half’s pork loin cutlet with creamy leek mash and sage was massive:
That mash with leeks was particularly tasty, and the strip of fat had been given due attention. We had some dauphinoise potatoes for the table which I had a spoonful of and they were great.
By the time the trio of desserts came out, I was starting to fill up. Nonetheless, I did the honourable thing: grabbed a spoon and got stuck in.
Desserts were a chocolate brownie, warm ginger pudding and a spiced apple & plum crumble. The ginger pudding was the star of the show for me. The gorgeous glossy sauce with it, plus the proper hit of ginger, made for a deliciously comforting pud. The crumble was also good and always great to have at this time of year. The chocolate brownie was, surprisingly (as a chocolate lover), my least favourite of the three and I left a bit of it on the plate. I know I’d had a lot to eat by that point, but I shocked myself by prioritising ginger over chocolate.
After that, dinner was done and it was onto the gaming floor to have a nose around and make use of the £5 gaming chips Napoleons had kindly given us. We hit the roulette table where I had no more success than on previous casino outings, but lots of fun all the same. The croupiers were good fun, chatty and patient in their explanations of the games, without being patronising. Props to fellow blogger Mixtape Couture for leaving with a sweet £55 in her stylish pocket.
All in all, it was a great night and a reminder that Napoleons is worth considering for a good night out. Whether you’re into the casino part or not, the food alone should warrant a trip. And it’s useful to note that they serve a late night menu until 3am in the week (or 4am on weekends);for a post-pub trip, their prices compete with kebab shops and the food is so much nicer. Though the chaps on the door may not let you in if you’ve had one too many.
The menu at Napoleons changes every month, so I look forward to tasting what’s on offer next time. I’m hoping for the parsnip soup to be back at some point, having just been on their October menu.
Thanks again to Napoleons for having us as their guests. We’ll be heading back to Naps again soon, as their “Dine in Style” package sounds too good to resist. Costing just £22 on Sunday-Thursday, or £25 at the weekend, the package includes a drink on arrival, a three-course meal from this month’s menu and a £5 gaming chip to try our luck again on the casino floor; I quite fancy roulette again! I think it would be a good place to take Dad-in-law to next time he’s up in Sheffield, as well as for a night out with friends.
Oh, and for any of you who may be moving house soon, here’s a free packing tip: why not pack your laptop and its power cable in the same box? That way, blog posts and other life stuff can get sorted as soon as you want.