November 7, 2009

036Lunch on Friday at Flores. When this “world tapas” restaurant opened at the bottom end of New Walk, it was a very welcome attempt at bringing a bit of grown up sophistication to an area which come the evenings tends to be dominated by young people on the razz. It has a handsome exterior and a beautifully calm and comfortable interior.

As a bar it’s stunning – with an extraordinary, if pricey, range of beers and wines. When having dinner there I found the food imaginative and exciting – my main issue was with the world tapas concept. It offers a broad range of dishes from all types of cuisines in tapas-size dishes to share, mainly around £4 to £6. Individual dishes sounded wonderful but I found it hard to order a coherent meal, and if you found a dish you really liked, you not only had to try and hog it from everyone else, but it was gone in a couple of bites anyway.

An informal lunch for two seemed a better way to enjoy it. Starting with the best we had some fantastic belly of pork (below) – crisp skin and softly yielding meat, with superior black pudding, feisty English mustard and a healthy splodge of apple sauce.

pork belly and black pudding

Also excellent was a Greek salad, with some stunning feta. Now I really try with olives but have never been able to face them. The ones in this salad seemed so right for the dish I wolfed them down – a real breakthrough moment. Rather less successful was a claggy, luke warm pea,mint and saffron risotto, and a beautiful, elegant aubergine and mushroom moussaka with rather undercooked and bitter aubergine. Two glasses of excellent pinot grigio and two pots of really wonderfully large-leaf morrocan mint tea and the whole thing was £30.

Flores is most definitely a good thing. Even with the reservations expressed above, I reckon you should try it and see for yourself.


Market forces

November 5, 2009

Farmers market 107

Made a lightning guerrilla raid in a spare 15 minutes to Leicester’s relaunched Farmers’ Market (see post on 25 October). First signs were very positive. It felt a lot more special in its new home and even at 10am appeared to be creating a lot of interest. First purchase was some Egremont Russets (see left – how do ya like dem apples?), the arrival of which is always a highlight of the year for me – though I admit I’m happy to just look at how beautiful they are. Then it was along to the Pick’s farm stall for a couple of dexter burgers (see 31 October). I also picked some value items for autumn evening comfort eating – pork ribs and some dainty little pieces of dexter oxtail. Brockleby’s farm is another stalwart of these events and I got some lamb fillet from their flock of rare breed Jacob sheep.

Farmers market 097

With a bit more time I would have investigated some fantastic looking bread, smoked trout, Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, and some of the tasty-looking game (below). Talking briefly with some of the traders they seemed optimistic about the new site. Would be interested to know how the figures stacked up by the end of the day. Did anyone rock along at lunchtime – how did it look?

Farmers market 105

Go on, go on, Goan

November 4, 2009

Another new restaurant is close to opening on the edge of Highcross. Anjuna bills itself rather curiously as “Indian and Goan”. Much as I like the idea of a Goan restaurant in Leicester,  that soubriquet does ring a few alarm bells  – as if they want to trade on  the cachet of something a little different, while still reassuring punters that, yeah you can till get an onion bhajee and lamb bhuna.  One of the reasons that Granby Street’s Kayal is such a fine restaurant is that they focus on  authentic Keralan food. Now authenticity by itself does not guarantee food being good or bad, but what it does suggest is that a restauarant is confident of its offering,  that it is serving up a cuisine that is tried and tested over generations rather than something trimmed, altered and messed around with in the pursuit of  custom.

I look forward to trying Anjuna in due course nonetheless.  It’s located on Highcross Street, next to the casino in a site that previously housed relatively shortlived Italian and Thai restaurants.

It’s an Autumn Almanack

November 3, 2009

A quick spin around Highcross this morning showed work is progressing apace on the Almanack. I’ve got moderately high hopes for this venture (located near the Highcross Street entrance  – opposite  Canas Y Tapas). Owners the Peach Pub Company appear to have done a good job with the Kenilworth gastro pub of the same name. Co-founder Lee Cash worked with Raymond Blanc for eight years and appears to take sourcing very seriously,  joining initiatives such as Scottish Skippers Scheme, linking up chefs to trawlermen so that chefs are able to plan for what is in the catch.  All their chicken and pork is free range, and the company – which has I think around eight pubs now –  won a Caterer award recently as one of the best places to work in the industry. 

The Kenilworth  pub offers  food all day round, under direction of Corin Earland,  and while fish and chips and sausage mash are on offer, so is  a wide range of more unexpected fare – salt & vinegar baked beetroot with spiced lentil salad or pan-fried Welsh sea bass, sauteed leeks & artichokes. There are also   “deli boards” for under a tenner offering combinations such as smoked mackerel pate, prawns in marie rose, sweet cured herrings, fish goujons, beetroot tartare sauce and rye bread, or a cold cuts board with free-range ham, roast beef, chipolata, pate, piccalli and warm bread.

Hambleton Hall

November 2, 2009

Booked in for dinner at Hambleton Hall at the end of  November. Very excited. This extravagance will  be covered by a combination of redundancy cheque and a tidy little bet placed last year on Leicester City to win League One.  I’ve eaten Aaron Patterson’s food only once – an experience that was broadcast on the Great British Menu on  BBC 2, but I don’t like to talk about it – and it was heavenly. The fattest langoustines I’ve ever seen with a clear tomato essence  of rare intensity, plus an assiette of rabbit that was both technically spot on and fantastically flavoursome. I’ve met him on a couple of other occasions and he has always struck me as an extremely modest and pleasant man.  I suspect the main reason he was not selected for GBM was not so much his food but  that the producers felt they would get “better TV” by pitching the more upfront personalities of Glyn Purnell and Sat Bains into the kitchen together for a week.  No disrespect to those two of course.

Anyhow I’m hoping there will be some game on the menu. If anyone has been recently and wants to make some recommendations – please go ahead.

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