Much as Queen’s Rd gets lauded as a place of lively independent venues, there’s always been a sense that it doesn’t really rise to its potential as far as restaurants are concerned. So here’s a hearty cheer for 100andSix, the bar and restaurant that opened at that address this week. We just popped in for a quick supper, but that was more than enough to suggest this is some of the best and certainly most interesting food available in the city.

The site has in recent years been home to Don Leone, Cultura and Moow, none of which set things alight. This new venue may well be a better fit for Clarendon Park. It is an initiative of Kal Ruparell, who knows the area well from having run Dos Hermanos bar and who is also behind the classy city centre cocktail bar 33 Cank St. The downstairs bar area is geared around cocktails and wine, and the upstairs area more for dining – and this is where things get interesting.

Head chef is Martin Powdrill, well-known to readers of this blog as being behind Cured, a fantastic operation running out of Brewdog and later the Cookie in Leicester City Centre. Martin’s distinctive approach has been with cures, smokes, fermentations and other approaches to building flavours and highlighting quality ingredients. With 100andSix he has been given the chance to refine and elevate his approach from interesting platters of pub food to elegant, exciting restaurant food. The whole thing has a Nordic feel, with the daytime offering focussing on smorrebrod, open sandwiches such as roastbeef with Danish remoulade, horseradish, crispy onions, pickled green onion and tarragon.

The main menu is mainly presented as nibbles and small plates (“don’t mention tapas” implores the menu) that offer flexibility in terms of snacking, sharing or building up to a more substantial meal. Most dishes are between £2.50 and £10 – with a couple of more substantial dishes such as hangar steak with celeriac fondant (£14) and monkfish cooked in blackened banana leaf with shallots, choy sum, almond, lemongrass and yukon gold potato (£19).

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Cured cod (picture from the restaurant’s Facebook page)

We were having a little treat after two-hour evening work meeting, and sure enough the food on our order of five plates between three lifted spirits immensely. Triple cooked chips with a thyme and garlic rub were superb, while little strips of black treacle and burnt barley candied bacon were a real revelation. Beautifully prepared, these would have been easy to get wrong but provided a lovely balance of crispness and chewiness while the sweetness was well judged. Then there was delicately sliced duck breast sprinkled with liquorice powder and doused in a sensational fermented prune foam, giving a terrific fruity punch and a slight fizz on the tongue. Sea asparagus and charred broccoli completed the dish. There was more superb innovation with our vegan dish of fried avocado (I know!) with a light tempura coating and smoked chilli ponzu sauce and ginger and cucumber salsa. This was another well-constructed dish with stunningly fresh and clear Asian flavours. Finally there was a ceviche-style dish of cod cured in cazcabel tequila with little dabs of a banging saffron aioli and a super squid ink cracker that had both visual and taste appeal.

20190321_205402Alongside our dishes was a complementary selection of pickles and extras that, the kitchen advises, are served to work as condiments to complement the main dishes. These were hugely successful too – from little strips of chilli that gave a fantastic uplift to the chips, to beautifully soused strips of cucumber and slices of lemon that had been lightly confited (I think) giving a mild sweetness to the inherent sharpness.

100andSix may not please those who like to fill up on meat and carbs but there are plenty of places for pizza and kebabs. Here though there is fine, unusual and innovative cooking and an exciting approach to flavours. I’m looking forward to trying those sandwiches and to seeing what ther take is on traditional Sunday lunch.

  • Sorry for the lack of photos – mine just didn’t cut it, but the food does look delightful. 

The White Peacock

March 19, 2019

peacockwbsThe White Peacock has stood proudly at the bottom of New Walk, Leicester for a good few years offering one of the city’s most smart, sophisticated but relaxed environment’s for good food.

The restaurant was set up by former chef patron Phil Sharpe, who earned his spurs in the city at Maiyango. Some 18 months ago Phil decided he’d had enough of the stress and sold up to the Koban Group, a locally based company which also runs Aspects in Enderby (and more recently has bought Leicester’s Lansdowne and 1573 bar and grill).

I’d not been in since Phil departed, but last week went down and tried the tasting menu. First thing to say is that not only have the excellent staff team been retained, but the classy interior and the fine dining approach have not been messed with – this is still a very pleasant environment to enjoy a cocktail and good food.


The nine course menu started with what is described as a plate of snacks. This felt a bit random and unfocused – there was a sausage roll that was really not very nice, a little rice crisp with a smart crab salad, a crisp little bird nest of fried potato and a superb tranche of hake in squid ink batter. The four things stood on the plate like strangers, reluctant to talk to each other. There was maybe some sort of allusion to the British seaside going on but I think it would work better to just keep the hake and maybe create another proper crab course to replace the rest.

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Ox cheek with yeasted cauliflower puree

Next up was a hefty slab of beautifully slow-cooked ox cheek, served with a yeasted cauliflower puree and a light, sweetish ponzu sauce. This was great – good hearty food given a smart twist. Then came cured salmon with cucumber, fennel and avocado mousse – a beautifully composed dish which looked great and had good clean flavours. The salmon in particular pleased, with a little light scorching on top but otherwise with a sashimi-like quality.

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Salmon with cucumber, fennel and avocado mousse

Then a little break with a palate cleansing yuzu sorbet livened up at table by being given a good hearty slug of prosecco.

Last of the mains was a really beautiful piece of tender, medium rare, fillet of beef with nice and crunchy pommes anna (basically thinly sliced layers of potatato cooked with butter), herby lovage puree and a Madeira sauce. Lovely as this was, I don’t think ox cheek and beef fillet should be on the same tasting menu – it made the meal feel a bit lop-sided. There was a faux-pas with the steak – some of the tape used to keep it in shape during cooking had been left on.

20190307_215641We transitioned to sweet with a quenelle of excellent goat’s cheese mousse served simply with fine lightly pickled red onion. One of the pleasures of this meal was that all the dishes were beautifully plated, both in choice and variety of plates and in the arrangements.

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Cherry baked Alaska

 

The first desert sounded right up my street but was a bit disappointing – cherry baked Alaska with almond meringues and almond brittle. Obviously this being a tasting menu you don’t want huge deserts but the baked Alaska was just too small to allow the different elements to interact properly. The cherry element had gone before I knew it, unable to deal with the sweet Italian meringue, which I felt need a bit more attention from a flame.

The slight frustration with the Alaska was made more pointed with final main element – a large, super-rich chocolate fondant tart with tonka bean milk gel, chocolate tuile and tonka bean crème anglaise. All elements were done very well but it felt a bit much at the end of such a meal – though of course I still just about managed to clear up a couple of first-rate petit fours with the coffee.

We had the wine matching and there were some lovely choices including a fulsome Australian shiraz with the steak and a stunning black muscat with the baked alsaka. But a rather light Chevanceau from Herault failed to stand up to the ox cheek.

Service throughout the evening was charming and helpful, and the pace was just right. Maybe not the best structured tasting menu I’ve ever had, but plenty to like in a restaurant that will give pleasure to many.

This week I was judging in the British Pie Awards in Melton Mowbray. This is always a highlight of the year even if the demanding pace of tasting means that Rennies are really missing a trick in not sponsoring the event.

I thought people might like an insight into how these events are judged. I’m sure many may have cynicism about award schemes but this one at least is a genuine event that manages to minimise both subjectivity and bias in the judging.

So, for the awards a pie is defined as “a filling wholly encased in pastry and baked”, and there are some 23 categories defined by filling (Steak Pie, Speciality Meat or Game Pie, Melton Mowbray Pork pie etc) or by producer (Small Producer, Public Sector etc).

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Judges are briefed at St Mary’s Church, Melton Mowbray.

Judges – mainly industry insiders and other food producers – are allocated a category and work in pairs to assess submissions against a clear marking scheme. Pies start with 100 points – 20 for overall appearance, 15 for bake quality, 5 for pastry thickness, 15 for pastry taste and texture, 5 for how well filled and 40 for taste of filling. Judges remove points for where pies fall down. There are plenty of explanatory notes unpacking the criteria, plus at the beginning of judging the chief judge takes all judges through an example judging of a “control pie”, explaining why points might be deducted for overbaking, uneven pastry, under or over-seasoning, poor balance of meat/gravy and so on.

Pies are delivered to our table – hot if appropriate – and we get stuck in with the visual assessment before cutting the pie in half, tasting the pastry and then the filling. Each pie has a code number – so judges are unaware who made it, we simply have a list of the primary ingredients and allergens. Forms are duly filled in and a final score arrived at, and the remaining half-pies of three top scorers are delivered to the senior judges who confirm the class winner and also select an overall supreme champion.

No system is going to be perfect but with the measures put in to bring about some level of consistency and transparency (makers get to see judges marks and comments) this is at least a genuine attempt to get to the best pie.

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The end of an arduous judging process

This year I had the “Pub Pie” category , I assume meaning made either by or for pubs. The majority were steak and ale but there were a few outliers such as smoked bacon and brie. Overall the quality was high – my judge pairing had no real clunkers – with a fair few pies awarded bronze (70-79 points) and silver (80-89 points) awards. We were waiting for a real star though and it came with the very last pie of the day – a stunning boeuf bourguignon effort with beautifully made pastry and a remarkably flavoursome filling with tender beef and all elements in balance. If that was served up in a pub you know you’d know you were in a special place.

*Friday 8 March, 3pm: The award winners have finally just been announced and I’ve discovered our winning pie was from The Bell Pie Shop at the Bell Hotel in Winslow, Bucks. It appears they won the category last year too. I hope that doesn’t seem suspicious  – hopefully the above explanation should assure everyone concerned that the best pie won.

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