I’ve just about recovered from this incredible meal at Rafters Restaurant last week. It was my first dining-in experience since lockdown restrictions were eased and, wow, what a return to restaurant dining it was.
Owners Tom Lawson & Alistair Myers kindly invited me along to their soft re-launch and I was so excited! I’ve had many happy celebratory meals at Rafters with friends over the years, as well as enjoying some of their Rafters at Home offering during lockdown, so it was great to head back and see what’s new.
And, there’s a lot that’s new! For starters, the space has been completely overhauled and had a gorgeous makeover, plus a kitchen bench has been installed for that exclusive Chef’s table experience. The new tables by Sheffield-based Carrs Silver look incredible, as does the new bar and everything else.
So, the food. Well, this was absolutely amazing. I’ve never ever had a bad plate at Rafters, but I’d say they’re back and better than ever. It was a real privilege to eat plate after plate of beautiful food, prepared by a passionate young team finally back to full service after such a long hiatus.
Every single course was exquisite, with a lot of thought given to seasonality, local suppliers, presentation and flavour combinations. The team were clearly thrilled to be back and there was such a great vibe in that dining room.
Here’s what I had as part of the 7-course tasting menu (which is always many more dishes than just 7):
Baron Bigod cheese tart with smoked bacon, in brik pastry:
Crispy quail egg with truffle mayonnaise (a Rafters classic!):
Thornbridge stout bread & Henderson’s relish butter. This is another Rafters classic and, honestly, I would buy that butter by the tubful if I could:
Hand-dived scallop with jalapeño granita, green pepper & lime. There was a nice bit of theatre to this one, with the granita spooned straight on at the table. I really loved this dish, it evoked thoughts of summer and al fresco fun with loved ones:
Yorkshire asparagus with fresh ricotta (made using Our Cow Molly milk), lemon & chicken skin. This dish was almost too pretty to eat, but I managed it:
Salmon mi cuit with fermented lettuce, cucumber & dill:
Triple cooked Charlotte potato, wild garlic pesto & smoked cultured cream. This dish somehow elevated the humble potato to an absolute superstar, packed with flavour. We raved about this plate for ages on our table, long after we’d all finished:
BBQ Wortley Estate lamb, courgette, basil & Isle of Wight tomatoes. Between that potato dish and this lamb, I would say Rafters’ sauce game is 100% on point. Like, lick-the-plate-worthy levels of tastiness (I, of course, resisted):
“White”: a mysterious little dessert ft. gooseberry & white chocolate. This was nice and refreshing after the preceding few courses:
English strawberry, cardamom custard & Sheffield Honey tuiles. I’m not the world’s biggest cardamom fan, but really enjoyed this. The flavours were nicely balanced across the whole dish and I ate it all:
We finished with a sweet treat of a warm Bullion chocolate fondant topped with Maldon sea salt. This was amazing! I’m a big fan of Bullion (Sheffield’s own bean-to-bar chocolate producer); their chocolate has such a crisp flavour, if that makes sense, and this was a great ending to an incredible meal:
Everything was crazy delicious and, as you can see, totally gorgeous on the plate. This menu is incredible value at £90pp. There’s an optional cheese board you can add for £16pp.
Unlike on my other visits, I didn’t sample any of Rafters’ brilliant wine list, as I was driving – but it’s definitely worth talking to Al for some wine recommendations (he’s a certified Sommelier and the wine he chooses for the restaurant is always excellent). I enjoyed a very nice alcohol-free Not So Gin & Tonic, made with Seedlip Spice, which I loved.
If you fancy even more of a Rafters experience, you should check out their newly-opened hotel, Rafters at Riverside House, in Ashford-in-the-Water. It looks totally luxurious and the perfect base for a break in the Peaks, combining beautifully-furnished bedrooms and top class food.
Thanks again to Tom, Al and your incredible team for your generosity & hospitality. I don’t think it’ll be long before Rafters’ Michelin plate turns into a star…