The Wicked Witch, Ryhall

November 30, 2012

Finally got over to Ryhall near Stamford this past weekend to get reacquainted with the work of Dameon Clarke at the Wicked Witch. I wondered whether he might have been chastened by the failure of his previous venture Assiette into a simpler, crowd-pleasing style.  Not a bit of it, it seems. The five of us who went over enjoyed a thrilling range of dishes, full of both invention and hard work.  It’s not really a place for those who like a simple, not-messed-about-with approach – which is an entirely honorable position to hold – but will delight those looking for exciting flavour combinations, artistic presentation and technical skill of  the “I couldn’t possibly reproduce this at home” variety. The venue is smart, but clings on to being a dining pub rather than just a restuarant. Nevertheless  it seems the kind of place to start with cocktails and they were very good  – the rhubarb and prosecco-based Rhububble being a particular hit. We started of with an amuse of earl-grey scented consomme with truffle – beautiful, elegant and ‘shroomy. My starter was a boned quail, wrapped in parma I thinnk,  coming with a fantastic quail scotch egg – runny yolk and all – and sweetish almond gazpacho. A great plateful of flavour and texture. Others enjoyed an immensely elegant beef carpaccio,with all sorts of little extras like more quails eggs and pickled mushrooms that had a hardened anti-fungi person on the turn. Seafood was well represented – a tuna sashimi starter was given a resounding ten out of ten, and other dishes of sea urchins and scallops also impressed. My main course showed the potential dangers of Clarke’s high wire approach  – you might think you shouldn’t do much to rump of salt marsh lamb but this had been given a long marinade resulting a strrong, almosy gamey flavour. I loved it, but others having a taste weren’t so sure. I loved the roasted sweetbreads with it too and the coriander risotto was suitably restrained – an overly assertive flavour here could have killed the dish   Lincolnshire beef with horseradish hashbrowns and roast beetroot went down very well –  a cod dish with gnocchi, seaweed and crispy chicken skin less so, though it was acknowledged this was down to personal preference rather any fault of cooking or ingredients.  I was enjoying myself far too much to take detailed notes but the other mains of pork and duck were throughly enjoyed for the liveliness and invention of the cooking. Deserts were extraordinarily pretty – I had a pecan tart with incredibly fine pastry and a maple syrup parfait that was just enough to moisten the fairly dry tart. And just look at the tonka bean desert with chocolate mousse and orange jelly  pictured right – what an absolute beauty.   The relentless pace of invention continued across the deserts  – a refreshing cider sorbet here, an intense grapefruit jelly there. By the end you definitely felt well fed, but you also felt entertained. Given the work that must go on in the kitchen prices are not that high – you could eat three very good courses for £30 plus drinks and service – and there’s nothing stuffy about the place. It adds up to a perfect place for those who want to push their culinary boundaries a little. Just wish it was a bit nearer Leicester.

Well Cool sushi

November 27, 2012

When I’m not leading the exciting life of Leicestershire’s sixth best food blogger, one of the things I do is sit on the management board of Soft Touch, Leicestershire’s very best participatory arts body.

Last night we had our AGM – and before we settled down to look at balance sheets, draft policies and so on we were treated to a lesson in sushi making by young people from the Well Cool group in New Parks.

For those not from Leicester, this is not exactly an area famed for its sushi bars, farmers’ markets and cafe society. But these young people, a mixed group and including one not actually welcome at school right now, responded really positively to this Soft Touch project designed to encourage them to look at health and nutrition in their food.

Over the last year the Well Cool group started with easy wins like fruit smoothies (made with a pedal-powered blender) and have gone on to develop tasty and fresh recipes which they’ve prepared at a number of community events. They’ve also produced colourful recipe cards for dishes such as Primary Mess – a low-fat yoghurt version of Eton Mess developed for New Parks Primary, and vegetable pasta with a low-fat cream cheese and herb sauce.

For our meeting they had had an earlier masterclass in sushi making from one of the chefs at Zucchero on Charles Street,  which they then ran with us on the Board.  It was really great to see these young people’s enthusiasm as they had their horizons widened though taste sensations such as wasabi and caviar (well I think it might have been lumpfish roe or similar but it’s a start).

Well Cool sushi class

And here’s the proof – a round of applause for my humble efforts.  Big thanks to the  Well Cool guys for their contribution to our meeting and congratulations for their efforts in spreading the word in their communities that it is possible to prepare tasty and nutritious food on a budget.

Q’minn

November 15, 2012

I’ve no idea what went on with Endimaj. Due to open around a year ago, the Indian-Italian-Arabic fusion theme set off all sorts of alarm bells, but the restaurant seemed to be well-backed and its location in the late, generallly lamented, site of Watson’s restaurant by the Phoenix Arts Building on Upper Brown St made it an intriguing prospect. But it never actually opened.

Now it seems there are signs of life.  The name is now Q’minn – though the website remains www.endimaj.co.uk and the triple themed menu is there too. It is currently just open for light lunchs and hence you can get yourself samosa or chicken tikka, bruschetta or baked pasta, and baba ghanouj  or pomegranate chicken wings. Or you can try fusion with panninis such as chicken tikka and hummous or paneer and pesto.

Apparantly they will be open for breakfast and evening meals soon.

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