The first Elephant & Castle opened in New York way back in 1973 before it eventually made the move across the Atlantic in 1989 when it added a site in Dublin. Further restaurants have since popped up across Ireland but at the moment the only UK-based site is located, luckily for Yorkshire folk, in Doncaster. It will surely only be a matter of time before more English cities get to sample the restaurant’s offering but in the meantime we hopped on the train to make our way to the Frenchgate Shopping Centre to check it out.
Although the Elephant & Castle in Doncaster opened last year when the challenges of the pandemic were still being felt by the hospitality sector, this hasn’t stopped the restaurant from gaining a reputation for the quality and range of its gourmet burger menu. With plenty to go at, we opted for the Buffalo Mozzarella, Pesto & Roasted Tomato (£12.95), which proved to be a sound choice. The substantial patty was well seasoned and flavoursome, while the accompanying veg had a satisfying ‘crunch‘, particularly the gherkin, the texture of which was offset by the rich creaminess of the mozzarella. A more than generous helping of skin-on fries rounded off the dish nicely.
Our other choice of main, the Mexican Chicken Ciabatta (£10.50) came from Elephant & Castle’s Homemade Sandwiches selection but was no less substantial. Housed in wonderfully toasted ciabatta buns, the nicely spiced chicken was delicious, as was the lime and ginger mayonnaise that provided just the right amount of heat. Again the accompanying avocado, baby gem lettuce and the pico de Gallo were reassuringly fresh. Mirroring the portion of fries that came with our burger, there were plenty of tortilla chips to get stuck into.
With the quality of the food being so high, we were keen to see if the cocktails were of a similar standard and they didn’t disappoint either. The Espresso Martini (£6.75) was excellent, while the New York Mule (£6.75) had a nice gingery kick. The 1973 (£6.75), meanwhile, was a more complex offering with Lot 40 Rye, Creme de Mure, Lillet Rose and Angostura Bitters combining superbly. For those looking for a bit more ‘fizz’ in their lives, the Lillet Strawberry Spritz (£5.95) offers prime summery flavours at a reasonable price.
Having foregone any starters, and despite the best efforts of the generous portions of our mains, we still had room for dessert. Of the many delicious-sounding options available, we went for the Heart of Darkness Sundae (£6.95), which provided plenty of high quality chocolate ice cream adorned with toasted hazelnuts and fudge sauce. The classy Chocolate Delice (£6.95) also hit the spot in the sweetness stakes, with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce complementing the velvety richness of the mousse-like delice.
The spacious restaurant affords a pleasant view of the high street for a prime bit of people-watching between courses, while the staff are friendly and attentive. As for the food, the dishes were excellently put together with fresh ingredients and offered good value given the portion sizes. The desserts were also of a high quality, while the cocktails were equally well-made, ensuring another important box was ticked.
Doncaster has perhaps suffered in comparison to the likes of Sheffield and Leeds in the restaurant department but hopefully its new city status will attract more visitors in the future. For those looking for well-made food and high quality cocktails, we’d definitely advise them to give the Elephant & Castle a try.