Food review: Culinary Sheffield secret is top of the class

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Classic soup, a fish course and delicate French dessert with petit fours for afters - these are fine dining dishes fit for one of Sheffield’s best restaurants....

But most people in Sheffield will never have heard of The Silver Plate, despite it being highly commended by the AA, and recognised as a centre of excellence.

That’s possibly because it is based at Sheffield College and run by catering and hospitality students under the watchful eye of expert tutors.

“People out there aren’t really aware of what we’ve got in the college”, said former chef tutor Mick Burke.

“A lot of people don’t know about Silver Plate and the standard of food and service that we deliver.

“On the Thursday gourmet nights we are trying to assimilate a high class fine dining menu where we are stretching and challenging the students, who are in their final year and using all their learning to produce a nice tasting menu.

“Largely throughout the service I tend to stand back and let the students do it for themselves.

“The restaurant has the top rating from the AA and the inspectors that visited are the same ones that go to Fischer’s Baslow Hall and Gordon Ramsay’s.”

Mick - famous for teaching generations of Sheffield chefs, many of who have gone on to have major success - officially retired from the college in January so it was a surprise to see him appear on the live kitchen screens as we ate.

But last Thursday was his ‘final service’ at the college restaurant’s gourmet nights, although one suspects that might not be the end of it.

Mick, who was born in Bolton-on-Dearne and was the first boy in his school to take domestic science, said: “I’ll never hang up my apron!

“There’s no chance of that, it’s been my life.”

He has helped out with the gourmet nights as the college finds a replacement.

The menu has been overseen by him, and usually includes items that will involve putting lessons into practice to reinforce cooking techniques, as well as having a seasonal focus - with last Thursday’s featuring asparagus and wild garlic.

“I think it’s important that the students are aware of the ingredients growing out there”, he said.

He heaped praise on the college’s front of house staff, who pass their knowledge of customer service on to students who act as waiters or waitresses.

I’d been hoping for good food but the flawless service was a pleasant bonus - water was poured, drinks ordered and window blinds adjusted against the blinding sunshine within seconds of sitting down.

There were check backs at every stage as well.

Another surprise was the buzzing ambience. A mixture of college staff and ordinary residents filled the expertly laid tables, including Sheffield’s favourite baker Howard Middleton. You would never have known it was anything but a classy restaurant.

Canapés were an added extra to the fixed five course menu ( a tiny £20 per person)

A tiny, creamy salmon tart and sticky chicken wing were of particular note, as was the nutty, seed-packed bread.

Excellent knife skills had been at play with the cream of watercress soup - I’ve never seen such miniscule pieces of chive. They added a lovely zing to the creamy , fresh base, with one big circle of soft potato gnocchi hidden at the bottom.

Our next dish was a masterclass in presentation. It had it all: a green swirl of wild garlic infused oil, a pretty wildflower and vivid orange fish roe.

They topped off pieces of succulent honey salmon and a celeriac remoulade with just enough crunch. An aroma of wild garlic came from the plate, and a tiny salmon scotch egg featured a gooey golden yolk inside a crispy crumb coating.Delightful.

Texture was at play in the grilled plaice, a rustic dish where the simple flavours of the fish were complemented by juicy pork belly, an intense and sticky jus, al dente bok choi and, unusually, pecans.

Does this sound like we’d eaten a lot? Despite well-thought out portion sizes, we were getting full before the main even materialised.

The marinated spring lamb loin - excellent for teaching boning skills, apparently - was the kind of dish you’d like to serve guests at a casual dinner party.

He found the olive in the crust and tartness in the jus overpowering - I lapped it up.

There was asparagus - cooked just the right amount without going soggy - and slow braised peppers though personally I’d have preferred a slightly more rare meat.

And so to dessert.

The slices of caramelised golden delicious in the croustade were almost paper thin, arranged in a symmetrical circle atop the expert pastry.

Vanilla seed ice cream was a welcome cooling element, with a triangle of crunchy honeycomb (we guessed).

Since that final mouthful I have urged colleagues, friends and strangers to try Silver Plate.

Go, before it closes for the summer. They do lunch and Wednesday evenings too.

With drinks - they have a well-stocked bar, even champagne - our bill came to an incredible £52.90.

Silver Plate, city campus of The Sheffield College, Granville Road

Tel: 0114 260 2060