A night at the dogs and a high-end restaurant experience may not be two things we expect to go hand in hand.
But Nick Middleton, head chef at Owlerton Greyhound Stadium, knows he’s on to a winner – and he has the customers to prove it.
The Panorama restaurant, which underwent a £1.5m refurbishment in 2010, is the largest restaurant in Sheffield with 300 covers. And it’s virtually full on race nights – Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays each week.
It’s clear to see that Nick’s work ethic has played a key part in that success.
“I’ve only had one day off sick in almost 20 years,” he says. “I enjoy what I do and I think it’s important to lead by example. I have such a good, young team – they want to try new things and push me to innovate. You’re only as good as the people around you, that’s for sure.”
It’s an inspiring success story for the lad from Stannington, who dreamed of becoming an engineer until getting a part-time job in the Owlerton kitchens at 16.
His passion for great food was ignited and he completed his catering training at Castle College.
After a spell in Australia, working in restaurants in Sydney, he returned to Owlerton full time and made his way up through the ranks, becominghead chef in 2004.
“We get all sorts of characters in the restaurant and we’ve served a number of MPs, professional boxers, footballers, soap stars and even Eurovision song contestants over the years!” says Nick.
“People come to us because we’re different. We have dog racing but we also offer contemporary dining with quality cuisine – it’s more of a full night of entertainment than just a meal out.
“We do get a number of regular customers who aren’t interested in greyhound racing, but just come for a meal because of the quality of the food and the great value for money.
“Almost everything is made fresh in-house on the day and we use many local suppliers so we know where our ingredients are coming from.
“I adore lamb, seafood and curries in particular but just love good food. I take great pride in developing a dish right from the concept phase to seeing it on the plate. “
For Owlerton Stadium’s signature dish, Nick has chosen a chocolate chip brownie, with almond popcorn and toffee sauce.
He says: “The chocolate brownie is on our menu – it’s relatively simple but we’re proud to serve it because we get such good feedback and it sells so well. People are always asking how they can make it properly at home, so finally the secret is out of the bag!”
Chocolate Chip Brownie with Almond Popcorn & Toffee Sauce
250g dark chocolate – 70% cocoa
2tsp vanilla extract
325g caster sugar
225g plain flour
180g dark chocolate chips
200ml double cream
300g freshly popped popcorn
220g brown sugar
55g golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bi carbonat ofsoda
300g almonds (whole)
Grease and line a baking tray with parchment.
Melt chocolate and butter slowly, remove from the heat.
Whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy. Beat in chocolate mix with a spoon.
Add vanilla. Fold in flour and salt. Add chocolate chips.
Pour into baking tray at bake at 1600C for 20-25mins.
Remove and leave to cool.
Melt sugar and butter.
Add cream and boil until mixture reaches a syrupy consistency.
Line a baking tray with parchment.
Place sugar, syrup, butter, salt & vanilla in pan on a low heat.
Cook without stirring for 5 – 7 minutes.
Stir in bicarbonat of soda, then add popcorn & almonds and stir to coat .
Pour on to baking sheet & allow to cool.
Slice brownies and assemble as in photo, with toffee sauce and almond popcorn; decorate to taste.