No awards this year

February 26, 2010

I’ve  just been advised that there will be  no Nottingham Restaurant Awards this year,  the organisers deciding to focus on the city’s Food and Drink festival. Sadly this  means my services as a judge are not required.  I’m sure you all gutted for me. This has consistently been one of my favourite times of the year – last year I had three splendid meals at the Tarn Thai in Hockley and Memsaab and Chino Latino on Maid Marian Way. The last two especially are warmly recommended next time you are out and about in the second city of the East Midlands.  

The Leicestershire and Rutland Awards have not run for a couple of years because of the difficulty in finding a headline sponsor. Ok, it’s not exactly the worst thing that’s happened in the recession but nonetheless it’s disappointing the county can’t support community-building initiatives like this which can provide rewards and incentives for good restaurants.

Of pubs and politicians

February 18, 2010

Back on the post of 10 January, I was eulogising over the Victoria Arms in Beeston and asked what pubs people would like to see lifted up and put down in the middle of Leicester. To answer my own question – I think it’s this one in Norfolk – . I’ve not been but the website makes it look irristible. Who could not love a pub that says of itself that it’s a “traditional pub with continental leanings  – if The Pigs was a politician it would be Kenneth Clarke” ?

The approach to combining food in a pub setting appears spot on and menu looks so inviting – they have a lot of tapas-style small plates called “Iffits” – if it tastes good and if it’s in season, it’s in.

Plenty of Leicester folk make it over to Cromer for the weekend  and this is only a small diversion, so if you do visit please do file a report here. 

And here’s a game next time you’re out for a beer – matching Leicester pubs with politicans. I suppose Entropy has to be Sir Peter Soulsby (his daughter owns it), Dos Hermanos maybe  Ed and David Milliband and The Last Plantaganet is obviously John Prescott.

Yesim Patisserie

February 14, 2010

I get asked a lot for recommendations, so I really appreciate getting recommendations in return.  The Yesim Patisserie at 29  Narborough Rd was one such and I had a very pleasant lunch there yesterday, an excellent curtain-raiser to City’s 5-1 annihilation of  Scunthorpe. It’s in a undeniably scruffy part of town but once inside this is a smart and cosy venue.

It’s a Turkish cafe and bakery, with breads displayed invitingly along with a range of homemade sweet and savoury pastries.  There’s more room than you’d  think from the outside and the atmosphere is warm  – a keyboard is on display invitingly for those inclined to play.  Staff are charming too.  I had a fantastic strong and sweet Turkish coffee, while the pastries were light, delicate and very tasty indeed  – spinach-stuffed borek  (below right) and lahmacun, ultra-thin pizza-like dough with a smear of spicy lamb mixture (below left).  Friends  Mike and Jessica had a selection cheese pastries and russian salad, and we finished up with a selection of lokum/turkish delight, featuring a particularly lovely walnut variety, and some utterly gorgeous baklava, bursting with pistachios and dripping in honey.  Could have carried on eating this all day.  

Food festivals

February 12, 2010

After last November’s city centre food festival (see  post on 22nd November  2009) ) I said I hoped they would do it again when the weather was rather more clement.  And now it seems they are. So put Sunday 30th May in your diairies for the summer event at Leicester Market which will have more of a drinks focus, as well as showcasing top local produce. The winter event will again coincide with the switching on of the Xmas lights and takes palce on Sunday 21st November.

Tarte Tatin

February 11, 2010


Sorry if I’m boring people with my pear obsession but I made this  tarte tatin and the result was so simple and so freakin’ delicious I had to let everyone know. It’s slightly adapted from Yottam Ottolenghi. I made it in a 9 inch tatin dish  but any reasonably deep pie dish about this size should do.

Peel, core and halve four ripe pears.  Take a heavy pan and melt 100g of sugar until it becomes a dark caramel and, with care cos obviously it’s very hot,  add the pear halves and cook fairly slowly for 15 mins.  Meanwhile roll out 250g of puff pastry – thank you Jusroll – to a circle  just larger than your pie dish.  Put the pears cut side up in the  dish. Make a new caramel with a 100g of sugar and stir in 30 gm of butter – it will turn a lovely light milky brown. Pour it on the pears and place the puff pastry on top, just tucking it down the sides so you are making a shallow, upside-down bowl shape. Cook until the pastry is done – about 40 mins at around mark 5 should do.

Let it cool for a bit and invert on to a plate – there shouldn’t be much runny caramel but take care. I’d serve it with it nowt but a bit a cream. And it’s as glorouous cold as it is warm (don’t it eat from-the-oven hot).

Restaurant round-up

February 9, 2010

Late notice I know but it seems Connie’s Nine Mile, the Caribbean restaurant/takeaway on Evington Road is featured in tonight’s edition of the Hairy Bikers – BBC 2 8pm, though I suppose iplayer will have it too if you’re interested.  I’ve eaten there a couple of times and been to a few events for which they’ve catered and it’s been good, tasty stuff.

And props to Entropy. The Hinckley Road restaurant  bar is celebrating its 10th year by running a series of events to raise money and awareness for the mental health charity Mind. There’ll be a wine tasting, gourmet night, birthday party and boss Cassie is running the London marathon  – if you feel like backing her, go here.

Interested to see the people behind the Fat Cat chain have diversified from city centre cafe  bars and opened up a village pub.  The Crown in Anstey appears to be run with the same verve as the cafe bars and the menu looks more appealing. I like Fat Cat as a  bar but have been disappointed with the food, lacking any kind of finesse or subtlety it always seemed just about filling up thirsty drinkers.   The Crown offering has most of the current shibboleths of the gastro pub menu – ham hock terrine with apple chutney, beer battered fish and chips, sticky toffee pudding and so on. I’m curious to find out if it’s done with a bit more commitment than Fat Cat. Good to see faggots appearing on the menu too – I trust they are not Brain’s.

I just missed out on a new pop up restaurant run by Greengages. Apparently on 6 Feb they took over a disused pub in the county and provided a meal by a chef “who has worked in some the countries (sic) best resaurants”. Don’t know how it went or if they are doing it again but would be interested to hear more if anyone knows.

Not sure what’s happening at Flores but it’s been shut the last few times I’ve looked, with tables unlaid. Friends who tried to book got a slightly curt email back saying they  were “currently closed”.

The Golden Fleece

February 7, 2010

I still remember being actively shocked the first time I found the Golden Fleece. South Croxton is one of the villages that may only be five minutes north of the city boundaries at Scraptoft but just seems remote and out of the way.  You rock up to its pub and expect chintz, hunting prints and a cosy fireplace.  What you find is metropolitan chic – the lowest,widest sofas I’ve ever sat on, blonde wood, white walls, a huge open dining room and a menu that goes well beyond country pub grub.

Golden Fleece

Last week I took advantage of a slack Friday to call in for lunch. A starter of home cured gravadlax was very good indeed. Good, thick slices of salmon copiously trimmed with  dill, a dollop of creme fraiche and a really good, sympathetically dressed salad. Particular praise for the judicious use of rocket – this is so often over-used but here it just gave peppery background notes. Main course was a generous amount of pork fillet with a similarly well-judged green peppercorn sauce – lying pretty much equidistant  between gently warming and really quite pokey. Good mash, crisp greens and caramelised carrots completed the dish. At £10.95 for two courses this is very acceptable value.

 Service is superior and the brisk lunchtime trade suggests that the place is very well established in what is a quite competitive market.  The set lunch menu is also available early doors until 7pm ( and Monday night features pizza and pasta for a fiver),  but if you’re looking to splash out a bit you’ll find an a la carte  including starters such as pigeon breast, mushroom duxelle and puff pastry at £5.95 and mains including pan-fried hake with king prawn and mussels, sauted potatoes and spinach and parsley puree at £14.95.

It may not be up there with the likes of the  Olive Branch but The Golden Fleece definitely earns a place on your list for impressing a date,  a birthday celebration, business lunch or just a midweek treat.

Jazz and Puddings

February 3, 2010

Had a quick return trip to The Almanack  in Leicester’s Highcross this weekend for their “Jazz and Puddings” evening on Sunday. It was a very pleasant way to finish a weekend – a lively but informal buzz with families  and groups of friends winding down, eating, chilling and in our case, playing jenga.

The impression of a stylish venue that is eager to please was confirmed, but so was a sense that not everything is running quite as smoothly as it should. Booking for the event was a little chaotic apparently, and there were a few slapdash things about the food.  Most seriously my slowcooked rib-eye of pork had not been sufficiently reheated and remained cold in the middle – it was edible and I didn’t make a fuss but it was not charged for  and my comment was dealt with swiftly and sympathetically. The buttterbean  and paprika stew that it came with was wonderful and most of the eight of us were broadly positive about their meals ranging from sausage and mash to a caeser salad to roast lamb.

For deserts we all shared three of the special deliboards – an assiette of puddings including ffuit salad trifle, rhubarb crumble, a chocolate brownie and a lemon meringue parfait kind of thing. They were presented with fireworks and in the main were totally delicious, the parfait in particular.  The trifle started off wonderfully with a tremendously boozy syllabubby topping but was let down  by some tasteless, seemingly tinned, fruit.  

They’ve  got the atmsophere right, and there’s plenty to like at The Almanack but the impression lingers the kitchen isn’t yet operating at maximim efficiency. (Thanks to Mike for the pictures – see his flickr site )

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