Highcross market

December 19, 2011

More than probably you want to steer clear of Leicester – or any other  – city centre this week, but if you do find yourself forced into last minute shoppping on Thursday it might be worth taking a look at  Highcross which is holding a Christmas speciality farmers’ market from 11 to 6pm. Now whether or not this conforms to strict definitions of a farmers’ market ( see Matt Gregory’s views on this) I don’t know, I’ve not seen a stallholder listing and it may be full of over-priced gimicky stuff, but you never know it might be a good chance to get something special.   And if it gives small traders and craft producers a chance to access the wallets of Highcross shoppers , then I’m all for it.


December 16, 2011

Entropy has always been popular with the critics. I’ve always been impressed  by the food, the service and philosophy of the place, but I wouldn’t say every report I’ve had from local people has been unequivocally positive. It’s the kind of place you know some people will want to call over-rated.

I think the doubters would have been won over at this week’s wine tasting event with Amphora wines because it brilliantly showcased the skill in kitchen. Tom Cockerill put together a four course game menu that was wine-matched by Patrick Whenham-Bossy of Amphora, a former sommelier at La Gavroche and Hambleton Hall no less.

Things kicked off with a sweet and fruity Malvoisie frizzante aperitif from Lombardy before a stunning local game terrine – a thick tranche of cuts of  meats wrapped in parma ham and studded with grapes and pistachios, providing a beautiful contrasting range of  flavour and texture. It was a brought together with  a fine cumberland sauce and matched with an a 1999 Chateau Grand Pey Lescours, Grand Cru  St. Emilion.  Next up were perfect tortellini of wild rabbit with pine nuts and micro leaves and a wonderfully intense, beautifully clear game consomme. The rabbit was coarse cut and satisfying,  finely seasoned with pepper and lemon and further enhanced  with a glass of Oloroso Riserva by Emilio Lustau .

Main course was a rich and warming venison casserole  with smooth celeriac mash and a root vegetable pave. This later was cut so finely on a mandoline that it needed only the briefest of cooking, meaning all the elements maintained their flavour. Comfort food of a high quality, taken to a higher level with a glass of  Chateauneuf du Pape “Capelan”.

Desert was a dark chocolate mousse with olive oil, perked up with white chocolate thins flavoured with rosemary and seasalt. I always find herbs with chocolate a high risk strategy, but when it works it can be great and these were fantastic. This was matched with a South African muscatel de Frontignan, almost less of desert wine and more of  a digestif.

So you get the picture.  Fine food, fine cooking.   Some of it simple, some of it more technical, all of it done with style. I got the feeling the chefs were enjoying laying on a bit of a treat – and that’s a great feeling to get coming out of a kitchen. I’d say look out more of these special events because this one was great.


Kayal and the Hairy Bikers

December 13, 2011

I’ve been a big fan of Kayal since it first opened and have got to know Jaimon Thomas and his team well as they have expanded from their Leicester base to open in Nottingham and Leamington  Spa.  But sometimes you just don’t get round to going back to your old favourites. After a gap of around six months I’ve been twice in the last couple of weeks and am pleased to say it’s in great form.

I tried a few new dishes including a super fish soup that was as smooth and flavoursome as a classic lobster bisque, a fiery starter of adipoli kozhi – tender chicken pieces with chunks with onions, black pepper ginger chillies and shavings of coconut, and main courses  such as pala beef chaps which is beef with mushroom pepper sauce and spicy beans, spicy potatoes and crunchy matchsticks of bread.  Other favourites were consistently good.  Kottayam egg fry doesn’t exactly sound over appealing – “batter fried boiled egg with chutney” – but is a complete delight, with heavenly freshly-spiced sauce. Tilapia pollichattu – the fish being wrapped in banana leaf which seems to seal in in falvours and succulence – features another superb spice mix.  Ammmachi piddiyum kozhiyum was a great chicken dish served up with rice dumplings in coconut sauce – the dumplings were fairly anonymous and  too glutinous to my taste but again the spicing in the dish was top-notch.

The Hairy Bikers with Jaimon Thomas (right) and colleagues outside Kayal

The restaurant seems permanently packed and there’s a great buzz about the place. I’ve heard some complaints of service being slow – though I’d attribute this more to fresh food and busy-ness rather than a staff attitude problem. Prakash heads up front of house in Leicester and I’ve rarely met someone more committed to customer service.

Anyhow I’m pleased to give them a further plug especially as they feature on TV this coming Friday 16 December at 3.45pm in the Hairy Bikers Best of British programme on BBC2. Jaimon Thomas used to zoom around Kerala on a bike and his old Royal Enfield has pride of place in the restaurant.  The Hairy Bikers were there though to learn dosa making skills  – and it’s worth bearing mind by veggies disappointed when Kayal morphed from the vegetarian Halli that its masala dosas are great,  up there with best I’ve ever tasted.

The HB’s visit follows on from Jamie Oliver visiting Paddy’s Marten Inn and Hugh Fernely Whittingstall’s recent visit to Indigo which included a dosa-making stint at a lavish wedding at De Montfort Hall (still available I think somewhere on 4OD).  Great to see our restaurants recognised in this way.

The Gate Bistro

December 11, 2011

I’m not over on Braunstone Gate very often thse days but it’s good to see a new independent restaurant opening in the heart of the strip there. Several of my West End pals expressed disappointment  when Jones’ Bistro closed a couple of months back – every neighbourhood needs a nice little bistro serving a decent steak, something mediterranean and maybe a good breakfast at weekends and it looks like The Gate fits the bill .

Now I’ve not been yet so reports from you lot are welcome, but I like the cut of it’s gib – nothing too fancy or pricey but it looks fun enough. Evening menu has fully garnished 28-day hung steaks at around £12,  other dishes such beer battered haddock, pork tenderloin wrapped in sage and serrano, free-range chicken breast with garlic and thyme rosti and grazing boards come in at around £9-£12.   If it’s all done well – and head chef Adam Lynch has worked at a high level before  –  that sounds a bargain. Breakfasts sound promising too – full English, eggs benedict, eggs florentine, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon etc.

It’s located at 32-36 Braunstone Gate, next to Left Bank.

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