Grounded Kitchen

June 13, 2017

Believe me,  it took me some courage to go into a place that offers food alternatively described as “nourish bowls” or “Buddha bowls”. I’ve a deep suspicion of anything that promises to do me good.

But I’m delighted I went into Grounded Kitchen, a new takeaway and cafe on Queen’s Road, Clarendon Park in Leicester. They have started with a simple offering of three dishes – Korean-inspired salads that combine avocado, cherry, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, cucumber, chestnut mushrooms and spring onions, served on short grain rice and with Asian style dressings plus chilli, chia seeds, corianders and sesame. There is a veggie option and those featuring bulgogi chicken and beef bibimap.

grounded4

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I had the chicken and it was great – really lovely flavours and good fresh ingredients. The place has the Clarendon Park types swooning (though there’s a faction that are campaigning for brown rice of course), and with good reason. I may be a health food sceptic but I’m very happy to eat this and look forward to forthcoming salmon and gochujang (Korean chilli paste) dishes.

The restaurant is an initiative of Oadby lad Ahmed Kidy, who has spent  a lot of time working and travelling in the far East and has had help developing recipes from Korean pals.  He has also  developed a range of Japanese matcha and sencha  teas, including those steeped with the likes of mint, lime and spinach – this is definitely an alternative to the coffee culture on the rest of Queens Road.  If Grounded Kitchen continues its early success, we could be seeing more branches appearing soon.

 

 

 

This review for the Leicester Mercury focuses on a relocated, reconceived former favourite of this blog. I was worried that in the tweeting the concept, the quality of the food would suffer. To find out, read on…

 

Fenways
17-18 Baxter Gate
Loughborough
LE11 1TG
01509 210100

 

8 out of 10

The Smokehouse on Braunstone Gate was one of the city’s stand out restaurant successes of recent years. At the time of its closure there were some rumours of a possible reappearance in Loughborough.

Well it’s taken a while, but it turns out there was substance to the gossip and so a big welcome to Fenway’s. It’s part of the Orange Tree group, which already has the Orange Tree and the Kelso in the town, and while there are some obvious differences to The Smokehouse, the good news is that the head chef Liam Watson is back in charge and that the menu features some of the dishes that made the Smokehouse special. Crucially, it takes no shortcuts to those big smokey, barbecue flavours that characterise the food of the American South.

Fenways2

Chef Watson plates up (photos from Fenway’s website)

Located in a large pub building, they’ve given it an extensive refurbishment that thankfully doesn’t go overboard on the American diner theme. Nonetheless Fenway’s is a different proposition to the rather intimate, bistro style of its predecessor. It’s big, informal, a bit noisy with a bar area at the back. Open all day from 12, it’s family-friendly, student- friendly, the staff are young and funky and there are craft beer and cocktails – it’s good fun.

We started off with excellent cocktails – one of their originals featuring locally-made Burleigh’s gin with cointreau, passionfuit and ginger beer, and a sophisticated adult milkshake with Jamaican rums, vanilla and chocolate ice-cream, ginger cake and milk.

Food starters included an absolutely stonking dish of smoked ox cheek. Smoked meats here are marinated overnight and smoked for at least 8 hours and the time given to it really shows. I went at the nuggets of beef with a knife and fork but the knife wasn’t necessary – it fell apart with a fork and had great depth and complexity of flavour. It was nuthin’fancy – served up in a pork-fat yorkshire pudding with gravy and nicely sharp house pickles – but it was proper cared-for food. Bourbon and orange cured salmon was a fruity delight too, allowing the flavour of the fish to come through, and with sourdough toast and plenty of green leaves it was still a substantial dish. Jalapeno and smoked onion hush puppies – fritters made with cornmeal batter – were light, crisp, tasty and the significant but sensible chilli heat was spoked with thyme and garlic sour cream.

My guests had admitted they probably wouldn’t have come in from the look of the place, but were by now really pleased they had come along. If the starters were substantial, the mains fully merited the “come hungry, we don’t mess about” warning on the menu. The core of the selection is burgers (28 day aged beef) and a variety of smoked meats – brisket, pulled pork, St Louis cut ribs and so on.

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From the burger menu we had the buttermilk fried chicken breast – moist, tasty and well-served by its dressing of avocado, pickles and sweetcorn and pepper relish. The sweet potato fries failed to impress – I tend to avoid them as the moisture content makes them hard to crisp but my friend who generally is a fan found these a bit flabby. I picked the house sausage bun, which came with lashings of the juicy, 14-hour smoked pulled pork. The sausage was a very long way from your traditional banger – more like the traditional Louisiana boudin, it was coarse-textured with a strong tang of offal. This maybe won’t be to everyone’s taste but well done to the chefs for not taking the easy way.

Both these came in a manchet bun, a traditional English bread that the menu claims to be better than brioche – and in this context I’d concur. Firmer and not so sweet, it’s an excellent burger bun.

One more main was 12 hour smoked brisket – copious amounts of beef dripping with a spiced gravy, piles of smooth mash and nicely spiked red cabbage.

We may have been stuffed but in the interests of reviewing we had to try deserts. Salted caramel sticky toffee pudding had been a highlight of The Smokehouse menu and reappears still in very good form – sprinkled with pecans and a touch of popping candy. My guests immediately made plans to bring their 10 year old daughter, a connoisseur of the desert. Key lime pie – sometimes a virulent green cliché – brought a big smile of delight. It was lightly bruléed and gave a great balance of sharp and sweet with a fine dark pastry case.

I was relieved to find that expanding the Smokehouse concept to a bigger and brasher format has been been done without sacrificing too much flair and quality. You’ll need to buy into the concept – it’s not for faint hearts or those who want pretty pictures on a plate – but if you do there’s much to enjoy.

I had a first look at the Knight and Garter last night  – and Sam Hagger’s Beautiful Pubs have done a terrific job at transforming this marvellous and strategically important building into a terrific asset for Leicester city centre.

The former Oirish pub Molly O’Grady’s is now a elegant pub and restaurant doing good quality pub food in a way that should attract families,  business people and casual drinkers alike. The fit out is reminiscent maybe of a sophisticated New York bar, or maybe a smart London steakhouse – not opulent or flashy, but with a smart contemporary style.

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For those that know the building, the bar that opened on to Hotel Street is now a sizeable restaurant area, with that entrance now sealed off. The bar area is accessed through the Market Street South entrance, and there’s a bookable downstairs function room too.

It’s unrecognisable from its former incarnation and boasts a brand new £350,000 kitchen which Hagger reckons makes it one of the most technologically-advanced pubs in the UK. The food offering includes some tremendous steaks from Owen Taylor butchers, with whom Hagger has built a long-term relationship for his other pubs The Forge in Glenfield and the nearby Rutland and Derby.  He explained last night they’ve initially even had their own beasts identified from field to abattoir – certainly the texture and flavour of last night’s trial tasting of picana and bone-in sirloin was spectacularly fine.

2017-06-01 19.27.09The drinks offering includes the Everards range but at least three other hand-pulled ales and, much to their excitement, unfiltered, unpasteurised Budvar Krausenden lager, delivered straight from the brewery and with a nice extra tang. Naturally there’s a good selection of gins and wines too.

After spending nearly two years full time on this project Sam Hagger retains his boyish looks and enthusiasm, but clearly has a determined, business head on him to pull this off.  The pub’s not quite finished yet – the outdoor terrace onto Champions Square is still to be done but should be a splendid place to look out from once the Square and Market building are completed. Also in a couple of years the upstairs room are likely to be done out as a boutique hotel.

All in all, this looks a splendid contribution to the ongoing redevelopment of the Market and St Martin’s area.

Tipu Sultan

May 31, 2017

Another recent review from my Leicester Mercury column, this time of a remarkable new Indian restaurant – huge in scale, done up like a palace,  but serving village style food. Some of it I loved, some of it needed more love and attention. Interesting whatever…

Tipu Sultan
12-16 The Parade
Oadby
LE2 5BF

No doubt some people want their restaurant reviews to be all about the food. It’s a fair point, but such people will have to bear with me a little this week because there’s so much to say about the this jaw-dropping new restaurant before we even begin to consider its take on food from the North West of the subcontinent.

First off, the sheer scale of the place. It’s been converted and extended from the Old Library pub on The Parade in Oadby. With its upstairs function rooms it can feed some 350 people – I can’t think of another table-service restaurant in the county that comes close. It is attempting to repeat the success of its namesake in Birmingham with which it shares both size and a design aesthetic that takes in huge chandeliers (including in the Gents), gilt ceilings, huge gilded mirrors, deep pile banquette seating in rich purples and more classical Indian artworks than you can shake a dandiya stick at.

You are probably going to either love it or hate it, but you can’t ignore it. I couldn’t count the number of staff present on our midweek visit, but including in the glass-sided kitchen which is open for all to view, it had to be more than 50. The first person you encounter is at the welcome desk, then there’s a designated lady to show to your table – a necessity considering the vast scale of the place – and then a phalanx of busy, likeable, young waiters in smart suits who take orders and set and clear your table, while there’s another class of waiter who bring your food from the pass.

The place was very busy but everything seemed to operate like clockwork – truly impressive. The restaurant is halal and does not serve alcohol, and this appears to be a big draw with the more traditional Asian families. There were lots of big family groups dining – from bearded patriachs to young guys with sharp Riyad Mahrez-inspired haircuts and young kids. Unfortunately the six munchkins near us were rather hyped up and were running noisily around until they got fed – family-friendly is great, but it can have a downside.

Tipu Sultan was the late-18th century ruler of Mysore and a hero of the struggle against colonialism, and this whole show of magnificence is designed to make you feel like an emperor – “Majestic Dining” as their strapline would have it. The food is more representative of Tipu’s Mughal ancestors than of Mysore which is in the Southern state of Karnataka. This means most of it will be familiar to a British audience – seekh kebabs, tikkas and familiar curries plus a few desi-style specialities such as paya (lamb trotters), which you’ll often see in halal butchers but rarely in mainstream restaurants. So the décor may be regal but the food here is by and large home-style, rustic even.

My starter was sultani chops – four large mutton chops marinaded in herbs and spices and flame grilled served with a little salad including a delicious little apple chutney. They were superb. You had to quickly give up any idea of a knife and fork and just pick them and get stuck in (I did wonder why we were presented with a cleansing hot towel before the meal started) . Not as tender as lamb chops (which are also available), this scored very highly for flavour and spicing and were truly enjoyable. We also had sultani pakora – pieces of potato, aubergine, paneer and onion in a spicy batter. Again these were big and tasty rather than refined fine dining – maybe it’s inevitable in such a busy kitchen but the coating was a bit thick and thin in places, maybe it was all a bit rushed.

A main course course of peshwari chicken divided opinion somewhat. A lovely sauce, full of fresh ginger and slow-cooked green peppers had chicken on the bone, which made it tender and tasty but the chicken had really just been hacked up, so they were odd bits of drumstick bone and thigh bone around. I’m happy to try alternatives to breast meat but I felt this needed a bit of delicacy. Bhindhi Gosht was fine – plenty of tasty lamb in a thick sauce and while okra can certainly put some people off, this was cooked very nicely indeed.

Rice was fine and the breads impressed. Kashmiri naan (more commonly known as peshwari) may have lacked a lightness of touch but delivered on nutty sweetness with its almond, pistachio and coconut filling and the roomali roti – a lovely thin bread folded like a handkerchief – was perfect for wrapping tasting morsels and wiping up precious sauce.

So a remarkable, spectacular venue but with food which is more homely and prices which don’t require a sultan’s income – a combination that is likely to attract many.

King Richard III

May 5, 2017

 

Just back from a great trip to Paris including a couple of delightful restaurant meals. Nonetheless, I still have happy memories from the week before of my first meal at the King Richard III, a lovely addition to the city centre. Here’s my review done for the Leicester Mercury.

King Richard III

70 Highcross St

Leicester

LE1 4NN

0116 262 6833

 

Various deranged heads of state seemed to be moving us towards nuclear war. Then it was announced we face a six week election campaign. And then City were knocked out of the Champions League. I needed cheering up.

Fortunately I had a table booked at Leicester’s newest dining pub, the beautifully renovated King Richard III. It’s another edge-of-Highcross location, right next to the Chinese cafe Spicy Temptations which I enthusiastically reviewed here a few weeks ago. The old pub was one of those euphemistically labelled “traditional”, though “rough” was a more commonly heard term. It’s passing has been mourned by a few regulars and a greater number of enemies of progress who would probably never have set foot in the place.

The new pub is a joint venture between Everards and the team behind the successful St Martins Tea and Coffee/Crafty Burger business in St Martin’s. So that’s the heft of Leicestershire’s biggest brewing concern combined with one of our leading nimble and creative independents.

It looks fantastic. Bright, airy, stylish but approachable. The front bar retains a pubby vibe and there are real ales from Leicester microbreweries as well the Everards range. The back room is more of a restaurant space, again looking lovely in green with artworks featuring local scenes by well-known Leicester printmaker Sarah Kirby.

Service is cheerful, friendly and competent, striking a good balance between informality and informed helpfulness throughout. We went only a few days after opening but service routines seemed well established and staff knew the menu well.

That menu is instantly appealing, especially across the starters which are have a light, modern feel based on classic fresh ingredients. Our little party tried a fair few of them. Smoked haddock, clam and leek chowder was beautifully balanced, given a little texture with a sourdough crumb floating on top. Like all the dishes here. it benefitted from being some presented in some really lovely plates and bowls. Chicken kara-age (Japanese fried chicken) was crisp, savoury and well-served by a mouth-tinglingly fresh dipping sauce with spring onion and honey and some strips of pickled kohl-rabi. Then there was sensationally soft and creamy burrata (mozzarella with cream) that was a sheer delight on the mouth and given texture from fresh walnuts and sharpness from pickled beetroot. A real delight.

Then there was an eye-catching crispy spiced lamb roll with lovely moist meat fried in a thin crumb served on pickled red cabbage with yoghurt, chilli and mint – the sort of dish that would earn an ambitious contemporary Indian restaurant great plaudits. Possibly winning the line-up of starters were little queenie scallops in a mini seafood stew with crisp smoked bacon and super-fresh peas (above right).

 Great flavours allowed to simply sing.

The kitchen is very proud of its robata grill, a Japanese-inspired indoor barbecue grill that cooks at very high temperature. It was shown to good purpose on a sirloin steak with a lovely dark, smoky seared outside but nice and rare inside. With a simple bearnaise and a little bowl of a super earthy but sweet mushroom ketchup it again highlighted this venue’s signature approach of high quality produce done simply but with flair. Lamb chops may not have been the sweetest I’ve ever had but again were brilliantly cooked on the grill, coming with a sparkling chimichurri sauce – all the sauces, dips, ketchups and extras here were notably fresh and zingy. We had them with some of the crunchy skin-on fries that fans of Crafty have come to know and love.

From the specials board came perfect roast cod with elegant barbecued cauliflower and romesco, a Spanish sauce made with red peppers and almonds. No need for a bowl of random veg here, these are well thought-out dishes.

There’s just three deserts on the current menu, including a cheese board, and we had a fine, springy, cinnamon dusted doughnut ball with a crème anglaise – or vanilla custard as this resolutely unponcey place lists it – and seasonal Yorkshire rhubarb.

As you can tell, we thoroughly enjoyed the King Richard. Co-owner and chef Chris Elliman, who has headed up fine dining kitchens as well as top-notch burger joints, seems to have nailed his vision of an unprententious dining pub focussed on great contemporary British food with a minimum of fuss. Great roasts, high quality seafood and fresh seasonal ingredients presented with flair but nothing that gets in the way of simple enjoyment.

Peppercorn Catering

April 25, 2017

A quick plug for family-run Leicestershire caterers Peppercorn, who’s double decker bus known as Ella Louise can now be found parked up at Abbey park over the summer. Peppercorn, who already run two cafes in Barrow and Anstey, have taken on the PavilWP_20170421_006ion café in Abbey Park which will open later this summer once a complete refurbishment is done.

They have also launched a new, next-day-delivery, postal service for their traybakes and they were kind enough to send me a selection.  I’ll have a good hefty slab over a mimsy cup cake any time and their bakes have all the virtues of the style – white chocolate tiffin (right) had a solid layer of chocolate with a rich, sweet, coconutty biscuit underneath, leavened with glace cherries.  Peanut butter brownies were also substantial but didn’t have the cloying texture of others I’ve had. Rocky Road  was full of badness in all the right ways.

A dairy and egg free apple cake seemed underspiced, underfruited and a bit dull though. I’m sure it must be hard to make much of interest without butter or eggs, so full marks for trying – I’m sure it will be appreciated as will others such as the gluten free chocolate slice and strawberry and honey cake.

For more information, visit Peppercorns by Post

The Spotted Duck

April 18, 2017

My latest review for the Leicester Mercury – a fine dining opening for hard-core foodies. Will be interested to see what Leicestershire makes of it:

The Spotted Duck
61 Leicester Road
Mountsorrel
Leicester LE12 7AJ
0116 237 6571

It’s been a while since we’ve had a really ambitious, fine dining restaurant to review. The last was probably John’s House in Mountsorrel which of course has gone on to win Leicestershire’s first Michelin star. And it’s hard not to think that the runaway success of John Duffin (just try getting a weekend booking) has influenced the opening of The Spotted Duck just a few yards up the Leicester Road.

This handsome new restaurant is a vehicle for the talents of Johnny Prince, a Leicestershire-raised chef who has worked stages – short work placements in kitchens – at some of the nation’s top restaurants including Hambleton Hall and the three-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsey. Still in his early 20s, he has been making a name for himself locally as a private chef and teacher.

The Spotted Duck now offers him further career progression. He is undoubtedly aiming high – it takes some chutzpah to create a very slick, glossy website with your own name and declare your “boundless ambition” and an aim of becoming the world’s youngest chef to hold two Michelin stars.

If that makes you think the restaurant might be horridly flash, fret not. This is a not just a beautiful, calm and elegant restaurant but the food is unpretentious and driven by quality ingredients and seasonality. For example, three of our dishes last week featured local wild garlic at its absolute stunning best before the plants flower.

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But let’s get this straight from the beginning. If you’re looking for good hearty food and measure value by the number of roasties or the size of your naan, you may not be satisfied here. Maybe pick one of the many other splendid options we write about here every week. However if you’ve got the money ( three courses a la carte will be around £40 a head plus drinks) and are interested in seeing what a talented young chef does with fine ingredients then you will want to get along.

You’ll find a restaurant done out in smart greys, furniture with a rustic feel, nicely-chosen art work and a Bang and Olufsen sound bar giving out a smooth soundtrack. There are smartly dressed staff who float around being quietly effective. Chef Johnny seems to have effectively moved his pass out into the room and he is a very focused presence at the end of the bar area finishing plating and briefing staff.

We start with some very fine bread – lovely spongy white and rye sourdough with heavenly truffle and balsamic butter. This great start continued with an amuse of raw mackerel pieces with aerated pork skin and a charred cauliflower emulsion – a good combination of flavours and textures.

The dishes that followed all focussed on top quality ingredients given a chance to sing. My pigeon breast, cooked sous-vide I think, was extraordinarily rich and gamey and came with lightly charred onions, wild mushrooms, a punchy mushroom puree and some of those wonderfully fierce wild garlic leaves – a real forest medley. Then there was a single hand-dived scallop from the East Coast of Scotland, impeccably cooked, accompanied by a Granny Smith and celeriac purée and little crumbed cubes of “pig’s head” meat. These sweet and succulent little beauties were one of the highlights of the night.

My main course was poussin and lobster – the crustacean simply poached, the chicken simply roasted. The breast was wonderful, the leg possibly a bit overdone. There was a superb layered potato cake giving crunch and flavour, there was a fine, sweet carrot purée and a huge – too huge for the dish – barbecued onion that threatened to overhwhelm the other ingredients. Individually items were fine but for me they didn’t really all come together – I couldn’t really work out where it was all going.

More coherent was the loin of lamb with wild garlic. Firstly the loin itself was completely sublime – tender, pink and subtly infused with rosemary. The look it brought to my partner’s face was a joy to behold. Then it was matched with some crisp and fatty breast meat, a herby salad of pearl barley and quenelle of tapenade-style olives.

My desert was a white chocolate and cardamon mousse. This was sizeable, rich and delicious though picking holes I’d have been happy with a tad more spice and the mousse was very slightly grainy. The fresh mango and mango sorbet with it gave acidity which cut the richness of the mousse. My partner’s beef suet sticky toffee pudding had the richness of flavour you’d expect but a lightness you might not. The caramel sauce was superb.

The wine list is still relatively short at the moment but I suspect will build. We had a glass each of a house Pays d’Oc and Argentine Malbec – both were good enough to think it wasn’t really necessary to spend more.

The Spotted Duck was full enough on a Wednesday evening to suggest wording is spreading fast about the place. It’s not surprising – here’s a good-looking young chef with all the skills plus a rock’n’roll name and a flair for promotion. It’s going to be interesting to see how this develops.

Hercules Revived

April 10, 2017

Here’s a review from my Leicester Mercury column of a rather nice country pub out near Market Bosworth. We went midweek and it was doing good business – I suspect it’s one that many people could usefully bear in mind for Sunday lunch too:

 

Hercules Revived
Main Street
Sutton Cheney
Leicestershire
CV13 OAG

01455 699336

It’s been a while since we’ve been out to the West of the county to report on good places to eat. They do seem a bit harder to ferret out than in some other parts of Leicestershire and Rutland.

There are though some lovely old villages which seem to be calling out for great dining pubs. It’s good to report that Sutton Cheney is one of those villages and that Hercules Revived is one of those pubs.

Hercules

I’ve a memory of stopping off for a pint here a decade or so back and thinking it a nice enough old village pub. Back then it was just The Hercules – named after a celebrated racehorse in the 18th century owned by the Dixies, the owners of nearby Bosworth Hall until, ironically, losses on the geegees caused the spendthrift 11th baronet Sir Beaumont Dixie to sell up.

Hercules Revived opened its doors in December 2012 after a total refurbishment that retains a smart but cosy country pub environment downstairs and an upstairs restaurant which has a suite of stylish rooms for small and large groups. The pub has a good selection of local and regional cask ales, bottled craft beers and rare gins and the food offers a broad choice of menus over the week from full à la carte to lunchtime sandwiches, good value Monday and Tuesday night set menus, comfort and retro food nights and one-off special events such as a six-course beer-matched menu.

The main evening menu, like virtually all such pubs, offers it collection of staples – fish and chips, burger, steak and a penne arrabiata for the veggies. Looking at other tables, these seem to be well done but we were after more interesting fare. I started with a leek brulée, a savoury custard with a parmesan crust and served with two sizeable slices of lightly smoked applewood cheddar and grapes. The smooth bruleé was an excellent vehicle for the sweet flavour of leeks, though I would have liked more of the excellent wholemeal crostini – it worked best when the creamy leek was combined with crunchiness of the bread. Leek and cheese are of course a champion flavour match and while I suspect not everyone would warm to the texture, there was no doubt that the dish delivered on freshness and flavour.

We also had a terrific haddock fishcake – round and fat, lightly crumbed – served with lemon and pepper mayonnaise and surrounded by fresh prawns and a tomato concasse. Nicely made and elegantly presented, it tasted great and gave a sense that there was experience, skill and good judgment in the kitchen.

Mains were both substantial meaty feasts but also showed culinary intelligence. My duck breast at first seemed not quite pink enough for my preferences but on investigation it was moist and flavoursome and I wouldn’t have changed it. Coming with it was a delicious little shepherds pie made from leg meat which – in a slightly larger form – would have made a great comfort food lunch on its own. It was advertised as having a redcurrant jus, but that suggests simple meat juices and this was more of an epic sauce – thick, fruity and intense. Not subtle, but I really liked it.

Slow-braised belly of pork, a staple dish of your country dining pub but which can be deadly dull, was first-rate. A man-sized tranche of meat had a nice crusty outside and softly yielding inner, and there was much more porky goodness on the plate – a loose-textured honey-roasted sausage, a satisfying wedge of crackling and a pile of mash with faggot distributed through it. Apple sauce, wholegrain mustard and another rich, glossy sauce completed this unashamedly hearty dish which still had an elegance about it.

Wines are clearly an enthusiasm here with monthly tasting events designed to widen horizons of regulars and the list, while not huge, looks well chosen. There are tempting Meursaults and Barolos for those able to push the boat out, as well as around a dozen more humble bottles available by the glass. Our Argentinian malbec was excellent.

For desert passionfruit cheesecake was light, well-made and with neat slices of sweet, ripe mango and refreshing raspberry sorbet the plate was another goodlooking one. An individual dark chocolate tart needed finer pastry but with a rich ganache, a dab of salted caramel, peanuts and white chocolate ice-cream it was still polished off with a smile.

This independent pub is offering self-confident, highly competent pub restaurant food. It may not be at the very first rank of the region’s restaurants but under head chef Glyn Windross Hercules Revived is stretching out a lead over its competitors.

OK then, following the round-up piece earlier in the week a few updates and some more news.

fullagers

The team from Cured have confirmed that their new venue will be called Fullagar’s and is to be located in the revived Registry building on Pocklington’s Walk. The project will be a joint one with their pals who run the Attic, the upstairs bar at The Cookie on High Street (which remains unaffected). Opening early next month they promise “small plates and tall drinks”.

Also at The Cookie, I forgot to welcome Grey’s – the innovative team who run the food at the LCB Depot – who on 4th April took over the kitchen here. This time the strapline is “providing fresh, seasonal, food choices into the heart of Leicester’s music scene”.  They offer vegan, vegetarian and omnivore food  – look out for the likes of muffins with halloumi, balsamic, blueberries, pumpkin seeds and rocket, or with merguez and red pepper coulis, and salads such roasted cauliflower, pomegranate, chickpeas and tahini.

canteen

Meanwhile back at their home base plans are being made to further expand the wildly successful Canteen streetfood nights on the final Friday of the month. I couldn’t go in March but it seems an astonishing 1200 plus people went along – a real heartwarming figure, even if meant some were disappointed as traders sold out.  An extra two traders and an additional bar are being arranged for 28 April when traders will include the wonderful Caribbean food of Leave it to Esmie, stuffed Bao from Manchester’s Wallace and Sons, grilled meats from Street Souvlaki, Street Chef from the West Midlands, Gray’s themselves and two more to be confirmed.

Further update on the pizza joint Oscar and Rosie’s – it opens tonight at 4 Market Place.

Then a trio of new openings to mention, Most excitingly is The Spotted Duck in Mountsorrel, the first restaurant of young gun Johnny Prince. This is serious fine dining of type we’ve not seen too much of recently in Leicestershire and is clearly linked to the success of village neighbours the Michelin-starred John’s House. Not saying too much more just yet as I’m doing a  full review for the Mercury next week but it’s all rather splendid.

spotted

Then there’s Wygston’s House on Applegate, one of Leicester’s few medieval buildings which has now finally opened as a restaurant run by the people behind Taps, another restaurant in another of Leicester’s oldest buildings. The 15th century building has been renovated but retains lots of features and has a daytime café downstairs and more formal restaurant upstairs. The chef has described the food as “haute rustic” and from the menu I think I can see what he/she is on about  – eg rolled curried goat on a saffron pilaf with tomato curry sauce and fried plantain, rabbit pie “on a bed of” celeriac mash with peas and radishes. Sounds fairly sturdy stuff.

Finally, on the Parade in Oadby is Tipu Sultan, an incipient chain coming out of Birmingham offering “majestic dining” in fairly bling surroundings. Located in what was The Old Library bar it centres on Mughal cuisine form the North West of the sub-continent and has a number of desi-style dishes and items such as paya (lamb trotters). It looks very grand  – I hope the same effort goes into the food. Opens on 10 April.

PS. For all my lovely readers in Bristol – you know special you are to me  – please check out a new blog This Girl Eats by my wonderful niece Amy which will focus on the vibrant food scene of that city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I don’t update this blog frequently enough for it to be an important source of news, but every now and again I feel the need for a round-up of stuff and today is one of those times.

First off, we’re getting very close now to the welcome opening of the King Richard III pub on Highcross Street, Leicester.  The website is up, bookings are being taken from 11 April (though the first couple of nights are already full for food bookings it seems).  I’m confident that head chef Chris Elliman, who has done such a good job with Crafty and St Martin’s café, will make this a great addition to the city scene. The menu looks a good combination of classic British roasts done on their Robata grill – a 1 kg dry-aged forerib of beef on the bone for two (£45) sounds a particular treat – and dishes with a little contemporary flair such as agro-dolce onion, sorrel and goat’s curd on sourdough toast (£5.50) and below, crispy spiced lamb roll, pickled red cabbage, yoghurt, green chilli and mint.

kriii

Also coming soon is the opening of what I think of as Plaza Claudio Ranieri – and it seems may actually  be called Champions Square. This is the area that used to be the indoor market and will shortly be a public space. This development is giving a chance for the further expansion of developments around St Martin’s Square. Already happening is the conversion of what was Molly O’Grady’s into the Knight and Garter – a joint development between Beautiful Pubs, Sam Hagger’s company that run the nearby Rutland and Derby  and the Forge Inn in Glenfield, and brewers Everards. This is a lovely , grade II listed building and is set to open in Mid-May with an 82-cover restaurant and an impressive drinks selection with a terrace overlooking the new square. I imagine the food will be of the crowd-pleasing variety but likely to be done well.  It may be  tough to overcome City people’s preconceptions about this site but I reckon Beautiful Pubs are up to the task.

Also brought in by the new square is Oscar and Rosie’s, a highly-rated independent pizza company founded by a Nottingham lawyer.  I’ve never tried their Nottingham outlet but they seem  to have a commitment to high quality ingredients. I’ve not got an opening date yet but it all sounds rather promising.

Opening on 13 April in Loughborough is Fenway’s, the reincarnation of the much-missed Smokehouse from Braunstone Gate.  Fenway’s on Baxtergate is the latest opening form the Orange Tree group and will also have Liam Watson from the Smokehouse heading up the Kitchen. The Leicester restaurant had a great indy feel about it – and indeed came about as a result of the Orange Tree bosses giving a creative young chef the chance to do his own thing. Fenway’s appears to have a more corporately-themed feel about it and a more generic smokehouse menu,  so I hope there’s still the opportunities for the chefs to play and experiment. Good news is that it looks like some of the splendid dishes Liam came up with are still present in some way on the menu  – including 12-hour smoked brisket, smoked ox cheek with house pickles and the legendary sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce.

fenways menu

Part of Fenway’s menu

 

And finally, another ex Smokehouse chef is Martin Powdrill who also went on to do great work at Cured at Brewdog. He and co-chef Ollie have confirmed they have now have a new venue for their restaurant. More news is promised soon but the restaurant will have a new name to reflect the new location.

 

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