I SHALL probably never fly first class and get served dinner at 50,000 feet with silver service but at least young Chloe is giving me a taste of it at zero feet.
We are lunching at Sheffield College’s admirable Silver Plate training restaurant on the main Granville Road campus and the vegetables – broccoli and green beans – are being served silver service: that is directly from a dish via fork and spoon on to your plate by the waitress.
I smile wryly. Didn’t this sort of thing go out with the ark, along with synchronised cloche lifting and serving gloves?
The reason, says instructor Shelley Kirk is that Chloe and co are on the Cabin Crew Course and need to know this sort of thing. Well, chocks away as waitresses unfold and place our (paper) napkins in our laps. At 50,000 feet it would be linen. But you might not get Sheffield cutlery as you do here!
I haven’t eaten at the college, one of the best for catering in the country, for years. Lunches are a steal: £11 for two courses, £13 for three, while you have to book the evening wine and dines months in advance. There is a waiting list.
It’s ideal for silver surfers wanting a taste of middle of the road dining they might not be able to afford regularly, or those who just want to support the next generation.
Things don’t start well: we are all squashed like sardines in a lobby with the size and atmosphere of a dentist’s waiting room before the doors open. Silver Plate’s predecessor, Sparks, had a decent lounge where students could practice their drinks ordering skills.
It’s a highly enjoyable meal, cooked for us by eight second year level 2 professional cookery students under the supervision of lecturer Andy Gabbitas, formerly chef-proprietor of the Wortley Arms.
The menu is short with just three choices at each stage but first some really good breads (focaccia, black pudding and herbs) and a sip of better than expected pinot grigio.
For starters there is mushroom soup, goats cheese parfait and red mullet on shaved fennel, which I have. My pan-fried fish has only just been cooked – it is on point, as they say – with the flesh a little too translucent but still acceptable. My wife approves her parfait as ‘not too goaty.’
For mains there is roast belly pork with a parsnip mash, pan-fried salmon and a butternut squash and spinach tart.
My pork is a treat. The meat is soft and sweet, cutting almost like butter. The skin, detached, is crisp and crunchy. It’s on a bed of mash, possibly slightly over-nutmegged, with some partially dehydrated apple rings for garnish.
Here come the vegetables. Of course students must learn but silver service does muck up the kitchen’s presentation skills, which are good. I adjust my napkin on my lap. Experience has taught me stray vegetables served this way can end up there but Chloe’s trajectory is true.
That broccoli came with a hollandaise sauce, by the way, and like lecturer Andy, I agree it was very creditably done.
My dessert, a simple steamed, not messed about with syrup pudding with a thin custard, rounds off an excellent meal. My wife’s chocolate torte is a belter. “Didn’t have to touch the sable pastry,” says Andy later.
A final accolade: the coffee is first class with a good crema.
You’d have easily been happy to pay £22 for this at a little side street bistro and it’s not hard to see why the college and the restaurant keeps earning plaudits. It only just missed out being in the AA’s top three training restaurants this year. Don’t miss out on a visit.
*Lunches run Tuesday-Friday in term time. To book call 0114 260 2060 or e-mail email@example.com