Now that Delilah has got its feet firmly under Leicester’s table, it’s starting to run the wine and food evening events that have become popular at it’s Nottingham branch.

The first one of these themed evenings ran last night and focused on the wines of Lombardy and the Veneto. They were presented with great enthusiasm by wine buyer  Rick Tryner, who’s collection is full of wines from owner-managed wineries, often small family concerns  in up and coming areas. It means there’s not much at the cheaper end of the market but lots of interesting, full-flavoured exciting wines.

The events involve around 8 wines, matched  with generous-canapé portions of food from Delilah’s chefs and using ingredients on sale in the deli. Our evening started with a creamy  prosecco (£12.99)- their best selling wine – to go with very posh truffle-scented crisps and nuts. Then  an entry level Soave Classico (£7.99) with a brilliant sharp ceviche of seabass. Then two more serious whites – a peachy. very lively 100 per cent Turbiana I Fratti (£18.99) matched with a fantastic lobster ravioli, and an upmarket Soave “La Rocca” from Pieropan (£28.00), which stood comparison with big white burgundies. That came with more excellent pasta – handmade in Italy and imported fresh – this time in a creamy wild mushroom sauce.

Then four reds, starting with a Valpolicella Classico from Zenato (£13.99) – soft and gluggable but still complex – served with lovely little tomato and mozzarella arrancini. Then a Zenato Ripasso (£24 – Valpollicella  that has been “repassed” over the used grape skins of an Amarone), a big beast of a wine that was beautiful with strips of rare bavette steak from the Vale of Belvoir. Then for me the star of the night – Marion, a big 2010 cabernet sauvignon from Veneto (£30) bursting with fruit, for which Delilah is the only UK supplier. The rest it seems goes to the USA where it is seen as a rival to those fabled Napa Valley reds. This was magnificent with some  Italian cheeses including a 36-month aged parmesan and a sensational creamy number from Beppino Occelli that was wrapped in grape must.

We finished with a sweet red Veronese  Recioto della Valpolicella (£22), where selected grapes are dried for three months on wooden racks then pressed and fermented to create a desert wine that is full of fruit and floral notes.

A high-end tasting like this, with simple but excellent food, is yet another feather in cap for St Martin’s. Just a few back I could never envisaged saying this but within literally a few paces we have wines, gelato, burgers, chocolates, gins , cocktails, charcuterie, coffee and cheeses that are the equal of anywhere in the country.

 

 

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A first look at Middletons

October 19, 2016

People often tell me Leicester lacks a good steak house. There are a couple of candidates- from 1583 on the edge of Highcross to a couple of Halal places catering mainly, obviously, for Muslim communities. They seem to do good business but don’t really  appear to  have established a name for great steaks.

Now however we have an interesting new arrival in the shape of Middletons Steakhouse and Grill.  This is small chain with big ambitions, that started as a gastro pub in the eponymous Norfolk village. But, says MD Steven Hutton, ” changes in the market place saw the fortunes of pubs decline and it became clear family restaurants were the way forward.” They rebranded as a steakhouse and now have branches in Norwich, Kings Lynn, Colchester,Watford and Milton Keynes.

Their Leicester project is a big one  – they’ve taken the Grade II listed former Nat West and TSB building in St Martin’s, empty for some 16 years, and invested £1.5 m into converting it into a 200 cover restaurant.  It’s a stunning space. A tremendous set piece chandelier dominates the room which is done out with warm red banquettes, and there’s a large mezzanine area that gives you a chance to survey those below you.

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I got invited along to try the food on one of three preview nights.  The place was buzzing and there was a slightly manic atmosphere, not least around the pass where wait staff queued up as the kitchen struggled somewhat to keep up. With service routines obviously not quite up to speed I won’t comment too much other than to say our young Slovak waiter was a complete pleasure to deal with, though unfortunately one other waitress did manage to throw a side order of mushrooms all over our table. I’ll put that down to third night nerves. In fact despite some frazzled faces on the staff, we didn’t have excessive waits or other issues.

The food though. The menu is pretty mainstream reflecting that desire to be  a successful family restaurant and take on some of the well-known chains. We started with mussels (£5.25) done in white wine, cream garlic and lemon which were completely fine.  Rather better than fine was “Middleton’s terrine (£5.25) combing pork, liver, cider and  herbs and wrapped in Serrano.  I enjoyed this immensely – good flavours, good coarse textures, lovely salty ham.  It was curious then that the “pickled relish” it came with was a strong traditional chutney of the Branston variety – not unpleasant in itself but far better suited to a cheddar sandwich than this lovely terrine.

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The steaks we are not told much about other than they are “carefully prepared at our butchery in Middleton”.  I had an 8oz rib-eye (£15.95) and was quietly impressed. Cooked accurately to medium rare it was tender and  had a nice char – it wasn’t going to keep the likes of Hawksmoor  or Goodman’s in London awake at night but then it didn’t cost £35.  It passed muster fine. My choice of Diane sauce (£2) was a good one – well-made and tasty. Fries were good, though the garnish of “roast tomato” was misnamed  – it had barely cooked at all.

Steaks go right up to an 18 oz chateaubriand or a 36 oz rib eye on the bone  for sharing, and there are other choices such as jerk or piri-piri chicken, ribs, lamb steak, pork chop, surf and turf and a range of burgers. There’s not much to intrigue any vegetarians who get dragged along here – breaded brie with chilli jam, vegetable  and halloumi skewers, falafel burger  and that’s about it.

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Several dishes are offered “half and half” for the hard of decision-making, and  we had a 6oz sirloin with half rack of sticky ribs (£15.50). Again the steak was good, but the ribs were very ordinary – a rather sharp, vinegary sauce and ribs that were redolent of supermarket vacuum packs.

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Deserts “made in house by our pastry chefs in each of our restaurants” are the usual suspects  – sticky toffee pudding,  Eton mess, chocolate brownie, tiramisu and so on.  My chocolate pot (£5.15) was thick and overly sweet, with a layer of even sweeter caramel, while a crème brulee (£5.15) was ok but unremarkable.

Wines range from £16 to £50 for a Barolo riserva, and rather curiously they don’t list the country of origin. It may be obvious in many cases but it’s a pretty crucial piece of information. We had a Dona Paula Malbec (£21.95), which I assumed correctly to be Argentine, but wasn’t overly impressed – lacked much in the way of tannins or varietal character.

The opening of Middleton’s is a great vote of confidence in Leicester and it’s terrific to see one of our most impressive buildings come back into use. It’s located right in the heart of a thriving area of independents and the hope must be that it brings more diners to the area and lifts all boats. It may not have the interest for foodie types of the more or less adjacent Delilah’s, Crafty, Cured, Gelato Village and others but it does ok on its own terms and is a welcome alternative to Highcross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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