Further to my recent post about ” A Touch of Community” – the White Peacock’s fundraising dinner next Thursday, 5 November for the youth arts charity Soft Touch – I can now confirm the menu. As of this morning there are a few places still available but you better hurry if you want to enjoy this fantastic menu that chef Phil Sharpe has put together for us:

Goat’s cheese mousse with pickled beetroot, toasted almond and fig, parmesan and basil

****

Guinea fowl, ham hock and mango terrine, warm toasted brioche, herb salad

****

Earl grey and gin-cured salmon, citrus crème fraiche, cucumber and fennel

*****

Lemon and basil sorbet

*****

Slow-roasted blade of Leicestershire beef, pommery mustard mash, mushroom and shallot jus

*****

Salted caramel pannacotta, banana sorbet, peanut praline, toasted banana bread

The cost is just £35  a head and there will be alternatives for vegetarians if notified in advance.

To secure your place and to check details please click here: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-touch-of-community-dinner-evening-at-the-white-peacock-tickets-18713380224

Phil Sharpe fo the White Peacock with a stunning stencil done for the restaurant by a young artist supported by  Soft Touch

Phil Sharpe of the White Peacock with a stunning stencil done for the restaurant by a young artist supported by Soft Touch

I’ve written on here some time back about Soft Touch, a charity of which I’m a volunteer director that does fine work with young people using the arts, including work on healthy eating and cooking skills.

In recent years the organisation has had some great support from Phil Sharpe and his team at the White Peacock, now our near-neighbour on New Walk. Phil has now kindly offered to host a fundraising dinner for us on 5 November which, among other things will help us to complete the kitchen we’ve installed at our new premises and which we will use to help young people learn new skills, improve existing ones and enable the projects we run to prepare food for each other.

So here’s the deal – there’ll be a six course taster menu for £35. The menu is yet to be confirmed  but if you’ve read this blog, you’ll know the quality of the food at the White Peacock. You will also have a chance to win some wonderful prizes donated by local businesses in a fundraising draw.

You can book now and see some further details at:

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-touch-of-community-dinner-evening-at-the-white-peacock-tickets-18713380224

I’ll post a reminder nearer the date  – if there’s tickets remaining – but do feel free to book now. There’s just a £15 deposit to pay – the balance being taken on the night.

White Peacock Dinner Event

The Red Lion, Stathern

October 7, 2015

My recent review of The Red Lion, Stathern, for Leicester Mercury:

There was a fair degree of concern in North-East Leicestershire last year when it looked like this much-lauded pub was going to be sold off. A long-term holder of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand for good food at moderate prices, it regularly featured in the smart papers as one of the nation’s top country pubs and picked up awards such as Leicestershire Dining Pub of the Year 2015 in the Good Pub Guide.

The sale never quite happened. Co-owners Sean Hope and Ben Jones did however withdraw from active management to concentrate on their other venue, the equally celebrated Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland. It would now be run by the returning Mark Barbour, who had been general manager from 2002 to 2006. There was a change in the kitchen too with new head chef Luke McGowan taking over. It seemed the place remains in good hands, and the Dining Pub of the Year gong was recently re-awarded for 2016. On the day of our visit, however, it was announced it had lost the Bib Gourmand (the tyre people don’t like change or uncertainty).

So was there evidence of eyes being taken off the ball? No – this remains a completely delightful dining pub with excellent cooking and competent, relaxed service.

It doesn’t actually look all that when you arrive. But its fairly nondescript outside hides a cosy but not twee interior of beams and yellow plaster. There’s a welcoming bar with good selection of draught beers – the light, golden Red Lion Ale is made for them by Grainstore in Oakham – rustic wooden tables and, in an apparent search for quirky, Leicestershire’s finest collection of colanders on the wall.

The menu is printed out daily on a simple piece of paper and ranges from fish finger sandwiches through to smart though not overblown dishes such as crab and crayfish risotto or blade of beef with girolles and truffle sauce. There’s a “Dine for Less” menu with three courses for £17.50 which looks a compelling offer but this time time we went à la carte.

Top marks for a little loaf of toasted pumpkin seed bread with a lovely open texture and soft crust with orange and thyme butter. Choosing a starter was a simple affair once I saw a listing for partridge with damsons and chorizo. The bird’s breast was perfectly roasted, while in effective contrast the leg had been neatly pared, crumbed and fried. With bang-on seasonality the meat was paired with sweetened, poached local damsons. I was slightly nervous about the chorizo and it was a bit too powerful – it didn’t ruin it but it just felt a bit of a Mediterranean intruder on a gentle, autumnal British plate.

Goats cheese panna cotta was strongly-flavoured and, pleasingly, had a bit more texture than the smooth desert version. With its ideal partner beetroot, this time in ketchup form, and a salad with pea shoots and pak choi, it was a great lunchtime starter.

We both chose fish for main courses – both were perfectly cooked with a crisp skin and yielding white flesh, but in ways which maintained the characteristics of the fish. Sea bass was soft and delicate and came with fresh egg linguini, doused in a simple veloute sauce with tiny brown shrimp, fresh peas left al dente and copious chives. The firmer, meatier hake fillet was matched with an appropriately rich gravy made with roast chicken and the dish also featured retro little balls of breaded scampi, charred leeks and superb “crispy potato” – a slice of thinly-layered potato cake cooked in butter to give a satisfying crunch.

These were dishes that wear their high quality lightly – uncomplicated but well thought out, with fine ingredients and good cooking throughout. With a glass of superb Chilean sauvignon blanc from Casas del Bosque, which was on a par with celebrated New Zealand expressions of this grape, this was a fine lunch.

For desert a super-rich chocolate and amaretti mousse gateaux impressed with shards of white and dark chocolate, a quenelle of light chantilly and smooth, refreshing orange sorbet.

The food may be exceptional but this is a village pub and you might find live music on a Sunday, take-away fish and chips on a Friday for locals and other proper pub things. It’s good to report on a down-to-earth Leicestershire classic on good form.

Cedars Lebanese

October 2, 2015

I had a very enjoyable meal at Cedars Lebanese Restaurant on Churchgate recently – here’s my review of it for the Leicester Mercury:

One in four of the population of Lebanon is now a Syrian refugee. If the UK had received the same proportion, there would be 16 million.

I bring this up because somehow it seems to chime with the philosophy of Lebanese hospitality explained in the preamble to Cedars‘ menu. This tradition, it explains, stems from when the Levant developed as meeting place for European and Asian trade routes. “As Lebanese, we offer our guests the best food and comfort that we can afford…which generally consists of a variety of dishes and can always be produced at extremely short notice.”

The reference of course is to mezze, the variety of small dishes to be consumed in leisurely fashion over conversation that is familiar throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. It’s a familiar approach at the burgeoning number of Turkish restaurants around Leicester. Can I give you chapter and verse on how precisely Lebanese mezze differs from the Anatolian style? To be honest, no.

But what I can say is that the mezze at Cedars stands up well to similar offerings around the city. In fact I’d say there’s a wider range of flavours on offer here and they pack a bigger punch. A lunchtime visit for the mixed mezze platter for £7.50 featured some excellent food with a pleasing variety of textures and flavours. Should you be on your own, this is definitely the way to sample the range on offer. It features eight items from smooth, nutty hummus drizzled with good quality olive oil through to savoury filled pastries such as sambousek, stuffed with delicous minced lamb given a sweetish edge with a hint of cinnamon and fattayer, an oven-baked filo pastry with sharp minerally spinach, onion, lemon juice and pine nuts.

More sweetly spiced lamb was contained in kebbeh, a little parcel wrapped in bulgur wheat and deep-fried, and there was more sharpness from the parsley, onion and tomato salad tabouleh and from vine leaf rolls filled with rice and herbs with lemon juice. Probably the only element I didn’t really warm to was the moutabel, grilled aubergine puréed with sesame paste, lemon juice and garlic. Despite a sprinkling of sumac this was a bit bland and I wasn’t keen on the “scrambled egg” texture.

On a quiet lunchtime the relentless Europop was a bit of an irritant and the staff were busy rearranging the back part of the restaurant rather than paying much attention to me, but the food definitely warranted a follow up.

Our self-selected mezze at an evening visit was even more impressive. Superbly grilled chicken wings came with French-influenced aioli – a powerful paste of whipped-up garlic and olive oil. We also loved the foul medames, tender broad beans and chickpeas with lemon juice and garlic, and the feisty sujuk, densely meaty little sausages in a mild chilli and tomato sauce.

We shared one main course too, a mountainous mixed sharwama, with piles of spiced, sliced and roasted lamb and chicken along with rice, salad, pickles and flatbread. The spicing dominated the flavour of the lamb somewhat but this was all good flavoursome stuff.

Unlike the majority of the new breed of Turkish restaurant, Cedars is licensed and has a fairly extensive Lebanese wine list, including the divine Chateau Musar. On this occasion we limited ourselves to a Lebanese pilsener, a mite sweet to my taste but good to try. We wrapped things up with refreshing mint tea and some nutty pastries.

I would imagine Churchgate must have it challenges when running a restaurant but Cedars has survived a good few years now. I can see why and it deserves to be far busier than it was on our visits.

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