December 11, 2014
The latest of my reviews to go up on the Leicester Mercury website is the Queen of Bradgate. I enjoyed it and its tasty, slightly off-kilter food. It’s a good complement to the neighbouring Orange Tree, which has got decent food and drink too but, which I can find a bit too boisterous – no criticism of a well-run bar, simply a sign I’m really starting to feel my age.
So here’s the link to the review – Queen of Bradgate - with the usually warning/apology for the aggressive ads on the Mercury site.
On another note, I’m sorted for Christmas wines after a super tasting at the weekend at Evington’s on Evington Road. Simon March always seems to find interesting wines and this year the standouts for me were a superb Sauterne from Chateau Villefranche (£11.89 half bottle) and, much to my surprise, a wine from FYR Macedonia called made by Stobi called Vranec Veritas Reserve (£14.79) and made from local Vranec grapes. The latter is a booming 14.5 per cent red which would sit in for Clarets priced much higher, and while – sadly – I can’t say I drink Sauterne regularly, this one was the best I’ve encountered – incredibly complex and multi-layered for wine that sweet.
If you are looking for something special for the festive period I do recommend a visit – Simon is always happy to advise.
December 9, 2014
Well, sort of. It’ll be one of his franchised “New York Italian” restaurants and it will be at the Yew Lodge Hotel in Kegworth, which is definitely just in Leicestershire, but for the purposes of the restaurant is more accurately thought of as a suburb of East Midlands Airport and Donnington racetrack.
This will be the 15th restaurant in the chain and should open in April. I’ve heard good things about the others. Anyway, watch out for the syndicated interview and recipe with MPW in the Mercury, Derby Telegraph and Nottingham Post around late March.
December 4, 2014
I had dinner last night at The Bradgate, Newton Linford, as a guest of David Keatley-Lill. I first met David when he was GM at Grayson’s, a terrific fine dining venue in Quorn in the mid-noughties. He now runs the White Horse in Quorn and, since last year, this venerable institution on the edge of Bradgate Park.
It’s not fine dining, it’s tasty pub food designed to please the hordes who descend all year round on Braggy for a yomp. It’s a huge place with high overheads – in the summer with its outside space it can serve some 300 – and it’s been nicely smartened up in an unpretentious way.
David gave some interesting insights into running this kind of place, where people still turn up regularly and expect a £5 carvery that they had on their last visit five years ago. He recognises he probably pitched it a bit high to begin with, but eventually refined the offering, introducing barbecue ribs and wings – including an outdoor rib shack in the warmer weather – and a big pizza oven. This knocks out great thin and crispy pizzas with local themed names such as the Old John, with pulled pork, sausage, caramelised apple sauce and chilli – not for the traditionalists clearly but very tasty. Part of the inspiration here is the success of the award-winning Bulls Head in Repton Derbyshire, which has made a name for itself with inventive pizzas.
I tried the ribs and a main of boeuf bourguignon and a ginger and toffee cheesecake, with other dishes tried at our table including piri piri chicken wings, that Old John pizza, smoked mackerel pate, rump steak with king prawn skewer and nutella brioche bread and butter pudding. So you get the picture – hearty stuff, and enough nice touches to take it a level or two above those identikit family pubs that seem to thrive on the edge of our city, whilst remaining accessible and inclusive.
November 26, 2014
I’m trying with my Leicester Mercury reviews to get around to a range of places in and out of the city and to cover a range of venues. I’ve written about Mrs Bridges tearooms before on this blog but I suspect it may not be fully appreciated elsewhere, hence: Mercury review – Mrs Bridges
November 19, 2014
My Leicester Mercury review of Ascough’s in Market Harborough is now up online. It’s a really well-run place, that strikes a good balance between food that is done with a bit of style and pizzazz while staying appealing to a wide range of diners and, crucially, good technique and solid flavours.
November 18, 2014
One of the great joys for a restaurant lover is to visit a tiny, unprepossessing place you’ve probably walked past before and barely noticed, and discover it is doing completely wonderful food.
So today I share with you Kuru Kuru Sushi on Welford Road in Leicester city centre. I’m no expert on sushi – and my last visit to Yo! Sushi left me with no desire to go back – but I was pleased to take up an invitation to join Chris from Crafty Burger and Andy from St Martin’s Tea and Coffee for lunch at this tiny kitchen opposite the doomed New Walk Centre.
It’s full with five of you in there, but that means we had a ringside seat as chef Shyiam created a series of fantastic dishes. Basically we had him as our personal chef for an hour. You can order set sushi variety boxes, set menus with main courses such as salmon teriyaki, tempura prawns or Java curry, or just order individual rolls, sushi and hot dishes. We just asked chef to keep giving us highlights from the menu, with Chris putting in a couple of specific requests.
We started off with really tasty hot pumpkin croquette, then a divine soft shell crab roll with flying fish roe and avocado, California rolls with crabstick, avocado and mayo, superfresh salmon sashimi, eel teriyaki, salmon minced up with Japanese chilli and rolled with tempura prawn, and a remarkable roll made with crispy salmon skin. I’ve probably missed a couple – suffice to say from the rice to the seaweed wraps to the fish it was all umami-tastic. We ran up a bill of just over £20 a head but you could lunch handsomely for under a tenner.
Now for the bad news. Chef Shyiam is off to Sri Lanka shortly and the restaurant will be shut during December. So either get down there quick, or make it a new year resolution to give it a try. It’s open lunch times and evenings until 10pm and they will deliver to homes and offices.
With Peter Pizzeria now confirmed as opening in nearby Welford Place on Valentine’s Day (below), a promising-looking Chinese snack café on Pocklington’s Walk, and the ever reliable Shivalli just a few yards further down Welford Road, it’s good to see a range of quality independents providing an alternative to Highcross.
November 18, 2014
First the bad news. The splendid Wicked Witch in Ryhall, near Stamford, closed this summer. Now the good news – it’s reopened this weekend with chef Dameon Clarke once again in charge. I know strictly speaking this is outside Leics and Rutland but I’ve written several times about Coalville-boy Dameon’s cooking and am pleased he’s got another chance to do his thing.
I don’t know the full story behind the closure – assume it was something to do with financial backers – but after a couple of months doing pub food at the Exeter Arms in Easton on the Hill, he was offered the lease on his old pub back by the brewers Marston’s.
The menu looks to have all the appeal of his previous venues (Assiette, Collyweston Slater, Nick’s), combining flair and technique with feel-good food. The dinner menu is two courses for £19.95, three for £26.95, and the first iteration takes in starters such as cep velouté, crispy truffle risotto, quail egg and marinaded ceps or pan fried pigeon with pigeon scotch egg, cauliflower and curry. Mains include sage and onion crusted pork loin, quince, crackling, parsnip dauphinoise and pressed duck leg with crispy duck wings, spiced plums, and star anise stuffed pak choi.
November 14, 2014
A couple of quick things the. Don’t forget it’s Leicester ‘s Winter Food and Craft Festival at the Market on Sunday. Always a good opportunity to pick up something nice for Christmas and see what’s new – full details including stallholders here.
Secondly, congratulation to Phil and Charlotte at the White Peacock who are celebrating one year at their smart New Walk restaurant this week. I had a drink with them last night and it was great to see and hear their continuing enthusiasm and desire to constantly improve.
And commiserations to Sam Owen of 34 Windsor St, who was selected for this season of Masterchef The Professionals, but exited at the first stage this week. I can’t say I know his food inside out but I guessed he would either go a long way or crash and burn. Word on the street is that he and Marcus Waring had a frank exchange of views, but sadly none of that made it to screen.
Finally a link to a Mercury review of a restaurant where another Masterchef professional cooks – great to see ambition but this was an up and down experience. Sorry about the Mercury website – it’s an irritating mix of pop ups another invasive stuff, I understand if you prefer to buy the paper: Lilu
November 6, 2014
Wailing and gnashing of teeth from the people of the Belvoir village of Stathern today with the news that the Red Lion has been put on the market. It’s a hugely successful pub, laden with accolades for its food and atmosphere, and recently done up too, but owners Sean Hope and Ben Jones have decided they want to focus on their other venue, the even more award-winning Olive Branch in Clipsham.
It’s got to be a great opportunity for some other ambitious business to pick up the reins, and Hope and Jones say they are willing to work with the right people to keep it a high-performing food-focussed pub.
November 4, 2014
Bit delayed, but my recent review for the Leicester Mercury of The Lighthouse in Kibworth is now online here. I hadn’t been since it rebranded to a specialist fish restaurant but having been to Firenze, Boboli and, back in the day, Welford Place, I was expecting it to be good, and it was. By the way, the mackerel dish in the picture was our actual dish – I don’t have really much contact with the Mercury and purely coincidentally the photographer turned up when we were eating there and we were the only diners in at the time (it was very busy an hour later), so our food got snapped on the pass. The restaurant, I should stress, did not know I was reviewing.