As former head chef aboard the Orient Express Northern Belle, Alex Dobson knows all about the elegant things in life.
The luxury dining train tested not only his cooking skills but also his creative flair – Alex developed a complete portfolio of British seasonal menus tailored to regions along the route.
Now he is putting that creativity to use for the benefit of diners at Sheffield’s latest foodie destination.
Trippets Lounge Bar was relaunched in June by new owners Debbie and Carl Shaw on the site of the former Dada in Trippet Lane.
The new-look Trippets – strapline ‘Fizz, gin… and all that jazz’ – is a dramatic symphony of black and white relieved by fresh flowers, flickering candles and quirky touches: ornate mirrors, mismatched candelabra and hat pegs complete with toppers and bowlers.
It’s elegant and urbane, with a bar that specialises in more than 30 gins and a classy feel that would fit very nicely aboard the Orient Express.
Food, though, is a different matter: less formal and more in line with contemporary tastes than the Belle where, according to Alex, “every trip was like a wedding for 272 people.”
Quality ingredients are part of the Trippets ethos, but the menu showcases seasonal produce through a range of continental-style ‘tasting plates’ (from £4).
It suits Alex, who has had his fill of formal cooking over the years. He started out at Chewton Glen, later worked with Raymond Blanc’s head chef Clive Fretwell and went on to help open fish specialist Livebait in Manchester.
His claims to fame include cooking for Brooklyn Beckham’s fourth birthday – “They hired out the restaurant and ate plain, grilled dover sole and boiled veg” – though he admits he spent most of the time talking to Becks’ security guard.
Alex himself is a man of simple tastes. His favourite dish, he claims, is a cheeseboard: “With a very good glass of port.”
His chosen signature dish is roast butternut squash roulade with asparagus and goat’s cheese filling.
“Why do I like it? Because it’s a great garnish for a Barnsley chop,” he jokes. “But as a chef, having nothing against vegetarians, this dish does stick in my mind...
“While working on the Northern Belle we did seven-day tours, with the same passengers on board. One tour I had a group of vegetarians and during that week I had to devise 18 vegetarian courses!
“At the end, one of them asked for the recipes – but they were all off the top of my head.
“This was her favourite and luckily I remembered it.”