The Big Eat

September 29, 2011

I’ve somehow seemed to miss out on the early publicity for this, but Leicester’s Big Eat looks like a worthwhile intiative. On 6 October 40-odd restaurants, cafe and bars  in the city centre will be doing two-for-ones or other special offers and events. This includes venues such as Chutney Ivy (which will have Indian and English singers in for the night) Kayal, The Case, The Boot Room, Rutland and Derby and Cedars Lebenese which be hosting belly dancing. The precise offer varies so make sure you have a browse of the offical information (Click here).

Given the depressing news this week about the failure to thrive of Market Corner, it would be good to have the city heaving with people enjoying their food.

 

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Paddy’s Marten Dhaba

September 27, 2011

A few months back I wrote an enthusiastic review of Paddy’s for Great Food magazine, but somehow I don’t seem to have written the place up here. After another first rate meal there this weekend I better put that right.

You’d be unlikely to ever just come across Paddy’s, it being located up a fairly lonely sidestreet off Catherine Street. So it’s a good mile out of the city centre in what is, with due respect to locals, not exactly a fashionable part of town. Out of the way maybe, but it is massively popular. I was first shown there by an Asian friend who wanted to show me an alternative to what he saw as the over-priced, westernised tandoori places that tend to predominate even in a city such as Leicester. “You’ll see all these smart cars lined up outside,” he said. “Successful Asian businesspeople like to come here for good value home-style food”.

It’s not a flash place, but a perfectly serviceable old pub that now buzzes with happy people. It has a truly diverse clientele – couples, family groups, groups of young people, old people of every stripe.  On most nights it’s busy, on a Friday it does an extraordinary trade but seems to run with clockwork efficiency,  friendly management setting the tone for well-trained staff.  There’s a very wide menu, lots of vegetarian options in a home cooked style (gunga peas with fenugreek leave, butter bean curry, rajastani paneer) and dishes can be served mild, medium or hot. There’s no false emphasis on authenticity, just a recognition that people like traditional food and in their own way.

And it is great food. I started with kathiawadi masala fish  – and it was probably the best dish I’ve had anywhere this year. Fillets of excellent white fish (tilapia I think) covered in a wondeful, vibrant green masala paste – for the first time I genuinely understood why the term masala gets used figurativly to mean a lively, exciting mixture. My main course was chicken machoosi – on-the-bone meat cooked in a style which, it is promised, will take you back to East Africa. Can’t comment on that really but it was extremely tasty.  Friends had variations of “sizzling combos” – mountains of highly-flavoured minced lamb kebabs and a variety of chicken pieces with highly addictive caramelised onions. A fish and prawn mixed curry impressed too. A warning though – the portions are generous and mains are served with rice and naan so, while they’ll pack up leftovers for you, best to order conservatively.

Paddy’s is the kind of place that makes Leicester great. Next month it will feature in an episode of a new Channel 4 series Jamie’s Great Britain, so the rest of the nation may to get to know of it too. There’s no website, but if you want to visit it’s at 98 Martin St, Leicester LE4 6EU. Booking advised on 0116 266 5123.

[Edit 4/11/11 – Paddy’s now does have a website – visit  www.paddysmarteninn.co.uk]

Sven at The Star

September 23, 2011

Earlier this  year I asked readers to keep their eyes open and file reports of spottings of Sven around the restaurants of Leicestrshire. You all let me down badly on that one but we’ll let that pass. I found myself tonight out at the newly-refurbished Star Inn at Thrussington (about 7 miles up the A46 from Leicester).  Pictured below with his wingman Alan Birchenall, Svennis was doing an admirable job for the opening party which doubled as a fundraiser for LCFC’s chosen charity.

He was endlessly charming and helpful amid the crush of people wanting their photo taken and neatly sidestepped mischeivous questions about who he wanted to win Strictly – I hope they made piles of cash.

The pub looks very nice – done out in a stylishly understated way by the owner Nigel Richardson who recently did the fit out of Jason Atherton’s Mayfair venue the Pollen Street Social (Atherton was due to attend until a last minute chef crisis intervened). The food looks worth a try too –  upmarket pub stuff such as steaks, rump of lamb, and slow roasted belly of pork and there’s also dishes such as roasted figs, parma ham and dolcelatte that suggest a touch of subtlety from chef Adam Barnacle.  It’s clearly hoping to rival local venues such as the Golden Fleece in South Croxton and the Bull’s Head in Woodhouse Eaves. If you get to eat there soon – do let us know your thoughts.

March of the Buffets

September 13, 2011

First the good news. The Litten Tree – that  tatty, mothballed pub that has for some time been a wart on the airbrushed good looks of High Cross – is slated for redevelopment into a restaurant. Now the “meh” news – the planned occupant is Red Hot World Buffet.  The Leicester branch will join Nottingham, Northampton, Manchester, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Liverpool in offering you the chance to have Indian, Italian, Mexican, Chinese etc all in the same place, for an inclusive price, alongside several hundered others.  I’ve been to the Nottingham one and when I say it was better than Leicester’s Zucchero, I’m not really paying that much of a compliment.

It’s a fairly brash, go-ahead business so no doubt you’ll get to hear when it’s nearer to launch. It joins the soon-to-open More on London Road as the latest mega-buffet and while I can see why they have an attraction, it will be a great pity if they take business away from smaller restaurants that are trying to do something more interesting.  I can’t help but feel that a fundamental part of their appeal is they take away risk – the risk that you might not like something, that you might somehow embarass yourself by misprouncing something, ordering the wrong thing. Go to a big shed where everyone just piles in and you can stay safe and anonymous – like the food. I think I actually quite like risk.

Slightly different in scale will be Lupa di Roma on Market Street, in the premises of a former Cornish pasty shop. Don’t know much about it other than it bills itself as a tavola calda, so is likely to be simple food – pizza, pasta, pannini  –  in a cafeteria/buffet format.

Maiyango Kitchen Deli

September 6, 2011

By and large, Leicester city centre has struggled to support a really good deli.   Stones in St Martin’s prospered for a while, there’s the market and a couple of Polish enterprises and the revamped Rutland and Derby is an innovative response, but mostly delis survive out in the suburbs and in farmshops. So it’s great to see Maiyango extend their succesful brand with the launch of a Kitchen Deli on 1 October.

Located on Highcross Street round the corner from their restaurant and below their hotel, it promises fresh bread baked with locally produced flour, pastries, petit fours, pasta,  chutneys, pickles, cordials, spice blends and sauces. Much of it will be made in their own kitchens, using local produce and they will be running a veg exchange scheme to encourage local small-scale growers to swap their produce for Maiyango goodies. It will also offer the chance to eat in and to have stuff delivered locally by bike.

I’ve admired owner Aatin Anadkat’s commitment to Leicester and enjoyed Maiyango’s food both at the restaurant and at catered events and am confident this will be a real boon to the city.

Another quick note – the lovely Belgrave Hall Good Food Fair takes place on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September. Lots of local suppliers of good food in a charming setting from 11am to 4pm. I’ll be there Sunday.

Born and Bread

September 3, 2011

A reminder that as of Thursday, Leicester Born and Bread is now up and trading and providing handmade, small-batch bread for the Leicester masses.  Jessica has now added prices to the website and is also now using organic flour from the Whissendine windmill in Rutland.  You can pick up the likes of a small white sandwich loaf for just £1, half a dozen cheese and spring onion rolls for £3.50 or a herb fougasse for £2.50.

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