To celebrate Sheffield Food Festival this weekend, Napoleon’s Casinos and Owlerton greyhound stadium took a gamble on inviting food writers to try out their cooking.
A group of us visited both casinos and the greyhound track to sample what their chefs can offer.
This isn’t the usual sort of food review where we visit anonymously like other customers, but it may give a flavour of what the chefs can do.
We started the evening at the Owlerton casino, where general manager Paul said that lots of people come to visit the restaurant and bar, rather than gaming tables.
The kitchen offers food just about around the clock as gamblers get free buffets on poker or mah jong tournament nights. Sometimes breakfast is served.
The casino’s Asian customers particularly enjoy combining elements of a traditional English breakfast with a Chinese porridge-style rice dish called congee.
Head chef Lee Swords and his team change the menus monthly on their Dine in Style offer. Diners get a drink on arrival, a three-course meal and a £5 gaming chip for £22 Sunday to Thursday, or £25 on Saturdays and Sundays.
The current menu offers five starters, six mains or steak and fish grill options and seven desserts.
We were having starters from the September menu here, so I tried the excellent grilled black pudding served on a flat cap mushroom, topped with a creamy bearnaise sauce and caramelised onions. The flavours and textures married well and the black pudding, which Lee gets from Dronfield, is first class.
We got a roulette lesson from friendly croupier Trevor and then it was time to go to the greyhound stadium next door for our main course.
Racing is on five times a week and diners can choose from fast food, bar snacks, private boxes with buffets or the Panorama restaurant.
This offers a top view of the action, a chance to place bets from the table and three courses from £17 to £25 a head, depending on the evening, including admission, racecard and £6 in bets.
The atmosphere in the Panorama was lively on the night we visited and there were plenty of groups and families enjoying themselves.
Stadium managing director John Gilburn says he has done a lot of work to update and upgrade what’s on offer.
I tried a good piece of sirloin steak with a well-executed bourguignon garnish of baby mushrooms and onions in a ruby port and thyme jus.
We shared side dishes of cabbage and bacon, cauliflower cheese and roast potatoes.
The meal was impressive for mass-produced fare.
Last stop was Napoleon’s in Ecclesall Road, which has a very stylish look, for dessert and a cocktail lesson.
Their Dine in Style offer goes from £22 to £28, including a drink and £5 gaming chip. The menu is more upmarket, edgier and modern.
The pud was a dark chocolate and orange pot with a tuille biscuit and clotted cream. Fabulous.
My food winner? Ecclesall Road, by a nose.
Our winnings, around £120 using stakes provided by our hosts, went to Sheffield food banks.
Sheffield Food Festival runs from Friday to Sunday. Details: www.sheffieldfoodfestival.org/