REVIEW: La Vlad Romanian RestaurantPosted by: Ashley Birch
The La Vlad mixed platter - Oh yeah!
We checked out Sheffield’s first and only Romanian restaurant – find out what we made of the place
Going in, I'll admit we weren’t exactly sure what to expect from La Vlad Romanian Restaurant. Romanian cuisine is not something that’s often poppped up on our radar, and given that La Vlad’s is the only restaurant of its kind in Sheffield, we can probably be forgiven.
Nevertheless, we made the short journey out of the city-centre and along Attercliffe Road (a five minute walk from both the Woodbourn Road and Attercliffe tram stops), with empty bellies and an eagerness to find out more.
On arrival at the family-run restaurant we’re greeted by Camelia Colnic and Adrian Briciu, the wonderful couple who own the bistro, and they show us to our table. Walking through the glass fronted venue, the first thing you notice is the happy mixture of modern and traditional features, with walls adorned by pictures of the couple’s native Romania, as well as Vlad the Impaler himself, taking pride of place.
Adrian is a joiner by trade and most of the the work in the restaurant, from the beautiful wooden bar to the lettering for the sign, have been created by his hand. The restaurant is a labour of love, and it’s all these personal touches which add to the atmosphere - It’s big hearted and relaxed, much like its owners.
Owners Camelia Colnic and Adrian Briciu
Waiting for us at the table is a menu full of exotic sounding treats that Adrian, who spends the evening wandering amongst the tables, happily chatting with customers and making recommendations, talks us through with an straight forward charm.
Dishes such as starter Sarmale, consisting of two portions of seasoned ground pork, pickled cabbage and bacon, served with cornbread, sour cream and chili pepper (£6) and mains Mici A La Bucharest (£10.45), a skinless sausage made with a mixture of beef, lamb, pork and spices, which we’re told is ‘the real taste and smell of authentic Romanian street food’, and Romanian stew (£13.45) immediately jump off the page.
But in the end, and on Adrian’s recommendation, I go for the Aubergine dip (£5.50) to start, followed by mushroom stew (£11.45) and my meat-eating guest in turn opts for the bean soup (£6.50) followed by the La Vlad mixed platter (£16).
It’s worth mentioning at this point, just how much variety there is for such a simple and well balanced menu. You’ve got soups and stews rubbing shoulders with meaty grills and flavourful veggie and vegan options, and we’re told this diversity of dishes boils down to the ever-changing cultural and political landscape of the country of the food’s origin.
“Romania is a melting pot of different cultures, cuisines and cooking styles that have influenced the region over the last 2000 years.” Adrian tells us. Explaining that the volume of vegan options is a consequence of the Romanian religious calendar, where many Romanians observe lent, in some cases giving up all animal products for up to half of the year. A divine intervention as far as I’m concerned.
While we wait for the starters, we get stuck into the drinks which have just arrived. All the drinks on offer hail from Romania and, again on Adrian’s recommendation, we opt for a Romanian lager, which is similar in style to Efes, and a delicious cabernet sauvignon, made with Romanian grapes, giving it a unique, bold flavour.
Romania has a long history of wine making and it’s a subject Adrian is incredibly passion about. “We have a longer history than France of making wine, you know?” says Adrian: “There are wine varieties which are unique to Romania that create incredible blends and are guaranteed to be like nothing you’ve ever tried before, and of course go perfectly with the flavours in our food. What you have here is a premium variety.”
So, the wine passes the test, but what about the food? Happily, my aubergine dip is fresh and clean and tastes great on Adrian’s home-made bread, while the bean soup makes even better use of the bread, becoming a vessel for a meaty, bean-filled soup that soaks into the walls of Adrian’s loaf. Removing the little bread hat, my mate devours the lot.
Next up are the mains, and fortunately we’re hungry as the portion sizes are far from stingy! The mixed platter arrives on a custom made wooden board (Adrian’s handy-work once again) chocka-block with a chicken breast, pork chop, two mici sausages and Romanian smoked sausage, as well as umptious garlic and rosemary roast potatoes and a serving of tangy pickled veg. All the meat has been marinated for at least 24-hours and falls apart at the very idea of a knife.
The mushroom stew is no less impressive and there are so many different varieties of fresh and dry mushrooms tucked away in the rich tomato sauce that even the unflappable Adrian struggles to remember them all! All that mushroom-y goodness reveals no end of different textures and flavours. Perfect for the coming autumn months.
At this point we’re feeling pretty full up, however we’ve heard rave reviews about the desserts so we let out the belt buckles and give them a go. You’re welcome.
I try the pancakes topped with the home-made wild berry jam, which are fluffy and light and finish of a big meal perfectly, however the real star of the show here is the papanash. The closest thing Romania has to a national dish, it’s made using a unique doughnut recipe with more of that wonderful home-made jam and sour cream.
“Our papanash is so good we even thought about naming the restaurant after it!” says Adrian: “If you come to try it, we promise you’ll come back, it’s that good. We’re very proud of it.”
And so you should be, Adrian. It definitely didn’t disappoint. And neither did the restaurant. If you haven’t tried Romanian cuisine before, or if you just want to try something a bit different in a friendly, relaxed environment, then you can’t go wrong with La Vlad’s. Our only advice is to get in quick, before the invasion. Oh, and remember to bring your appetite!
Their next bistro night will be held on 3 October. For more info and to book a table head over to their website here.
La Vlad Romanian Restaurant
539 Attercliffe Road
T: 01142 443 123