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A Festive Dinner at Taste Restaurant, Chesterfield College

Published On Thursday 22 Dec 2022 by Sticky Beak
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The Man Bird is always keeping his beady eye out for a tasty supper, so when he spied the advert for Chesterfield College’s Taste restaurant and their Christmas Dinner. For those that don’t know, Taste restaurant and the Conservatory are operated by the college’s students (under their tutors’ supervision), so it’s great experience for these budding Chefs and managers of the future.

Having got Mummy Bird and me in on the action, His Nibs reserved a table and paid the £5 deposit for each place to secure it and then downloaded a copy of the menu for us to decide what we wanted and get our pre-orders in.

We bagged a parking spot just outside the entrance and walked up the steps where a young lady (kitted out with some fab Reindeer antlers on her head!) greeted us and escorted us over to the lift, giving us directions for when we exited on the next floor. Taste’s entrance was beautifully framed by a faux Wisteria draped arch and as we got to it, one of the students asked if we would like our coats popping into the cloakroom and then another took us over to our table.

Once sat down, we took in our surroundings and were pleased to see that probably 95% of the seats were taken; I love it when communities come together to support their local colleges and students. Ice buckets filled with bottles of wine were flying over to tables at a fair rate of knots, as were glasses of prettily garnished cocktails; mind you, when the wine was a tenner a bottle and cocktails were £5 each or 2-4-£8 you could certainly afford to push the boat out a bit! We had a bottle of Prosecco to go with our dinner and as we toasted each others’ health, one of the student team came to ask if we’d like some bread and butter with our meals. Using tongs (to practice their silver service technique) we each had a slice of fresh white bread and a sealed pat of butter gently placed on our side plates in readiness for our starters arriving, which was very shortly after.

The Man Bird had chosen Roast Tomato Soup served with Mozzarella Toast and Pesto to begin his meal, Mummy went for Smoked Haddock Fritter Cullen Skink with Leek Sauce, and I opted for warm Smoked Duck Breast with Bulgar Wheat and Celeriac. All the dishes had been plated up very carefully and looked superb, especially the vibrant soup! We all tucked in and smiled happily at the initial tastes hitting our palates.

Nothing warms the cockles like a hearty, flavoursome soup and The Man Bird had picked an absolute belter with this satisfyingly thick morsel; the intense sweetness of the Tomato marched happily over the tongue, partnered brilliantly by the tangy Pesto. There was a lovely textural element provided by the Mozzarella topped toast, and the lighter nature of this starter made this an excellent choice to kick a meal off.

Mummy Bird was chuffed to bits with her posh fishcake, and it was easy to see why; packed to the gunnels with a tasty Smoked Haddock and Potato mix this super-crisp outered morsel was stimulating lots of senses! Whilst there was a lovely moistness to the fritter, it wasn’t sloppy at all; the extra ‘wetness’ came via the Leek sauce (which tasted superb, by the way). For a starter, this was a very generous size; if there were two of the Fritters, this could easily be a main course option – especially at lunch time.

My Smoked Duck Breast had been cut into dainty slices and, as I cut into one and popped it into my eager mouth, I was rewarded with a delightfully subtle smoke note followed by the gamey taste of moist Duck. The soft texture of the meat was revved up by the chopped Carrot and Spring Onion that punctuated the grains of Bulgar Wheat and pieces of Plum added a kick of fruity sharpness to the dish. Celeriac had been puréed, and its smoothness was like silk in my mouth; my palate appreciated its creamy mildness too, as it tempered the Plum’s exuberance very nicely and brought balance to the dish.

As we’d been munching away at our starters, several of the students had come to check that we were happy with our meals and ask if we needed more drinks. There was a discreet pause between us placing our cutlery down and one of the team coming over to clear the empty plates away. We were also asked if we’d like our main courses to come out straight away or if we’d like a small interval – a nice touch, I thought.

Mummy Bird had fancied the traditional Roast Norfolk Turkey Breast and trimmings for her main course, and though I had initially dabbled with continuing the game theme of my meal by having the Guinea Fowl, I eventually chose the Seafood Gratin with Caramelised Apple and Emmental crumble. Capitalising on my decision, His Nibs swooped in and bagged the Roast Guinea Fowl with Pear (served with stuffing and trimmings) for himself: you snooze, you lose is the mantra in our nest!!

My Seafood Gratin came in an individual cast iron pot and the Emmental Crumble was moreishly deep and crisp on top and had a superb taste to it, that was enhanced by the smooth Caramelised Apple purée. There were golden toned , super-crispy roast Potatoes and  Parsnips already on my plate and they got my taste buds chattering happily as I tucked into them. We’d also been served with dishes of Brussels Sprouts and Star Anise-infused Carrots, so I helped myself to plenty of them and they were cooked perfectly to retain their taste and texture. As I delved into the dish deeper, I was pleased to discover large chunks of both Salmon and white fish, both bound in a superbly unctuous white sauce that enriched (rather than drowned) the morsel.

It was a good job that Mummy had just had a couple of crackers and soft cheese for her lunch because the Chef at Taste restaurant is certainly a feeder! A trio of massive (and I really do mean massive!) slices of succulent Turkey took centre stage on her plate, accompanied by the biggest Pig-in-Blanket I’ve ever clapped eyes on – thankfully its largesse was matched by its scrumminess; can you imagine how cheated you’d feel if it was lack-lustre?! Chunky Cranberry sauce added its characteristic tang to the meal as well as a pop of festive colour. Both His Nibs and Mummy Bird commented on how delicious the glass-smooth, perfectly seasoned Mashed Potato was, their greedy bellies again thanking the generosity of Chesterfield College’s level 3 student Chefs.

The Man Bird hasn’t had Guinea Fowl before and was pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed it. This bird certainly has more oomph to it than chicken, but is a subtler game meat than Pheasant, which makes it a good entry point for those that are unfamiliar with this type of poultry. Tying in with the more robust flavours of this dish was a wonderfully rich sausage-meat stuffing; this dish certainly wasn’t lacking in the flavour stakes!

Yet again, there were three clean plates awaiting our servers; not that this would’ve shocked any of the team because, when they’d asked if we were enjoying our food, we replied very, very enthusiastically that we were.

You can’t offer a festive menu and not include good old Christmas pud as an option, and much to Mummy Birds’ joy, Taste had got it paired with Rum Sauce so that was her sorted! I am rather partial to a rich, fruit-laden pud myself but I just wanted something a little different for a change, and so I had chosen the Panettone and Butter Pudding for my final course. The Man had got dibs on the Festive Chocolate Mousse and it was very stylishly served in a heavyweight water glass, to good visual effect. Chocoholics would have been drooling with jealousy as they heard His Nibs praising the indulgent character of this treat as he scooped spoonful after spoonful of its velvety yumminess into his mouth.

My Panettone pudding was gloriously moist and offered me that perfect, soul-soothing comfort factor that never fails to please, especially on colder nights. There was plenty of plump, luscious fruit and zesty citrus peel in this treat to provide texture and flavour, all against the backdrop of a warming, rounded Vanilla custard. We all cooed appreciatively at the dinky individual Christmas pudding that had been placed before Mummy Bird and the tendrils of steam carried its rich, intoxicating aromas across the table. Never has the phrase ‘small but mighty’ been more apt than here, with this pudding; the sheer richness and density of this delight absolutely nailed the satiety brief.

Embracing the excess of the season, Mummy and I ordered Espresso Martinis for ‘coffee’, leaving The Man to actually have a black coffee! Our tummies were bursting at this stage, but there is always, magically, that small space reserved for Mince Pies and these ones, offered with the tea or coffee as a final treat, got chomped through steadily.

As you may expect in a training venue, the prices were below market value; we paid £21 per person for the three course feast and it was well worth every penny!!  There were even little goody bags given as a festive surprise to each guest as they left Taste; how sweet is that?!

Don’t despair if you feel you’ve missed out, there are other theme evenings going on at regular intervals through the year. The students themselves choose the theme of each one, designing the menu choices and the decoration to go with it within the budget they’ve been given from their tutors. If you fancy trying one of these events for yourselves (and why wouldn’t you?), then phone the Hospitality Bookings team on 01246 500596 for more details.

Hot Wings happily given to these Food and Beverage stars of the future, they all worked really well together to ensure every one of their diners had a great time. Thanks too, to tutor Caleb, who kept a discreet eye on proceedings without smothering the learning experience.

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