A quick little plug for Onggi, a Korean restaurant and takeaway at 98  Welford Road  (between the Bricklayers Arms and the prison).  It’s been a while since we’ve had a Korean restaurant in the city and while this is a fairly humble sort of place, I’ve really enjoyed the two meals I’ve had there recently. Fresh, zingy kimchi-stuffed pancakes, spicy, crunchy chicken wings and LA Galbi – thinly sliced beef short ribs quickly barbecued with a sweet marinade – were among the highlights. Then there were beautiful, crisp leaves of seaweed (below) – a treat for the eyes and the palate.

 

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Hopefully there will be a full review shortly in the Leicester Mercury – and on here  – but if you like the idea get down there soon. Their main clientele of Chinese students are starting to disappear for the summer so it’s a good time to go.

 

A significant event  for Leicester’s food culture today  with the opening of Delilah’s  at 4 St Martin’s.

Delis have tended to struggle in Leicester.  The Deli on the Square in St Martin’s and Deli Flavour in Silver Arcade  do a decent job, particularly with superior sarnies,  but Delilah’s is a big step forward. It’s opened a month or so later than planned, not that surprising when you look at the complex but beautiful job done at converting the former Allied Irish Bank. There’s a shopfloor, café/bar area and mezzanine dining under a stunning glazed atrium and the whole place has an almost “temple of food” feel about it.

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Those who know the Nottingham branch will know the feeling. Turns out I was the first customer ever to sit at the bar this morning. I enjoyed a cappuccino from their house blend  (called Sampson, lol) as I looked around at staff frantically putting out price tickets and being brought up to speed on service. There’s a tremendous selection of wines from independent vineyards  – quite possibly the best in the the city centre – and then sections for baked goods, chocolates, condiments, seasonal goods, coffees, cooking ingredients and a superb deli counter, with service but where you can wander around and get close to the literally hundreds of cheeses and meats.

The food  menu upstairs looks instantly appealing – from breakfasts such as rarebit made with black bomber, Magpie ale, poached eggs and Alderton ham to extravagant platters of Bellota grade iberico ham (free range, acorn fed), wild boar and venison salami, bresaola, duck rillettes, black truffle gouda, oak roasted tomatoes and more.

WP_20160623_002Sure it’s quite pricey, and no doubt some are going to respond to the whole enterprise with hilarious jokes about middle-class foodies and their “keenwah”, but for me this is a great addition to the city centre.  There is a commitment to quality and to celebrating the best of  international and local products, and there are going to be a lot of things you’ve not previously been able to get in a Leicester shop.

Go and have a look and see what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

The Royal Oak

June 7, 2016

Another lovely country pub for you  – this time in the north of the county. The Royal Oak was featured in The Leicestershire and Rutland Cookbook and I was pleased to see they have a good display of it in the restaurant.  This is another review from my Leicester Mercury column:

 

The Royal Oak
The Green
Long Whatton
Leicestershire
LE12 5DB

Long Whatton is a pleasant village on the Northern edge of Charnwood. It’s close to some massive, noisy and busy pieces of infrastructure in the shape of East Midlands Airport, Donnington Park and the M1 and A42 junction, but it is tucked away off the main routes and remains both surrounded by greenery and reasonably peaceful.

It is, then, a great location for a gastropub with accommodation,  hence why it attracted the attention of brothers Chris and Alex Astwood. With 20 years of hospitality experience, including fine dining restaurants, they recognised the opportunity in 2010 here for a smart pub with smart food and stylish rooms. Together with chef James Upton, that’s just what they have created

The pub combines rural character with contemporary styling and on our Saturday night visit both the bar and restaurant areas were packed with both locals and, judging by the branded jackets and t-shirts on show, teams from the Superbike World Championships at Donington racetrack.

The food and drink they were enjoying is based on making the most of local ingredients wherever possible – there’s a detailed list of local suppliers on the menu – and reflects the diversity of the customer base. There’s pub classics of fish and chips and steaks and these are done at a high level – triple-cooked chips, home-made pea purée and so on – but the real interest is in the highly seasonal main menu. The dishes here position themselves some way above the more routine kind of dining pubs, but avoiding anything too fancy-dan. It’s not intimidating, just attractive-sounding dishes that seem to be put together with thought and flair.

And that is what we got. Both our starters were completely satisfying affairs. A dense, meaty mackerel fillet had been cured and charred and served on top of a fine potato salad with a mustard and dill dressing, a smart little salsa of cucumber and a delicious, crunchy tuile made with fennel seeds. The little microherbs – apparently from the kitchen garden – were not just a mimsy addition but gave real little punches of flavour.

Royal Oak menu extract

Extract from the Royal Oak’s Spring 2016 menu 

 

The judicious combination of flavour and texture was also present in the another highly seasonal starter of charred asparagus with poached duck-egg, intensely-flavoured dried parma ham crisp, shavings of parmesan and a wonderful wild garlic mayonnaise. See what I mean? Nothing too flashy but good ingredients, good technique and well-composed dishes.

Rack of lamb was another really good dish. Beautifully cooked, it was a credit to the kitchen and to suppliers Coppice Farm near Swadlincote. It had a lovely crust made with pine nuts and more wild garlic and came with crushed Jersey royals, and petit pois a la Française – with braised baby gem lettuce, pancetta and a light creamy sauce.

The meat in a supreme of chicken was also first rate, seasoned to absolute perfection too. Best of its accompaniments was charred cauliflower, a really good way of getting the most out of this sometimes anodyne veg. A sauce of sweetcorn and cumin chowder didn’t really convince me as an ideal match, but it was executed well, as were the little discs of fondant sweet potatoes, even if they were a bit too sweet for my palate.

The drinks list at the pub is high standard. We started with a divine citric gin and tonic with Burleighs gin (distilled in Charnwood), and a delightful half of the hoppy Charmer from Charnwood brewery. There are some well-chosen wines available by the glass and a French Malbec was a brilliant companion to the lamb.

Deserts had less menu appeal for us, the likes of Millionaire shortbread cheesecake with jelly bean fudge and chocolate syrup might have their place but sounded a bit overly sweet at the end of a quite sophisticated meal. We did try a lemon posset with poached rhubarb though and it was excellent. A lovely contrast between sweet and sharp, and again texture was an important element – there was still a bit of bite in the rhubarb and there was some little discs of a crumble topping that been baked to give serious crunch.

This was lovely meal, with competent, confident service from a friendly and well-run front of house team. No surprise that the Royal Oak draws in people from the airport and race-tack, it should also be on the list for residents of Loughborough and beyond.

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