Forest Park

August 15, 2011

The Forest Park on Hinckley Rd, Leicester Forest East, isn’t really the sort of place I’d rush to try. Part of the pub restaurant chain Table  Table, its menu has the familiar family-friendly staples of burgers, chilli, breaded scampi, “chicken and ribs combo” and so on.  You kind of suspect not a lot of cooking as such is done in the kitchen.

I was however intrigued that they are now running a “Best of British”  seasonal menu changing every month. The menu even has a little map of the UK with arrows pointing to show where ingredients come from and each entry elaborates further –  the whitebait are “mainly landed in Brixham  by the ‘Constant Friend’ fishing boat skippered by Dave Herfox, coxwain of Torbay lifeboat for 28 years”.  So is this a cynical attempt to sound sophisticated,  or a genuine move to source better food and support small suppliers?

I tried Dave’s whitebait as a starter, the fish seemed fine but they hadn’t really been done justice by a really thick crumb. Why do that to a delicate little thing like whitebait I don’t know. They were served nicely with a surprisingly delicate gooseberry relish – so a good dish let down by a lack of finesse.  Gill’s starter was field mushroon topped with Blacksticks blue cheese from Lancashire  (“handcrafted in small batches from locally-sourced pasteurised cow’s milk”) and bacon.  These were two huge, very meaty mushrooms that had been well grilled, cooked through but very succulent, and the melted cheese topping was excellent. Nothing too individual or  strongly flavoured to scare the horses here but hearty and tasty food.

For main course I selected the Leicestershire offering of a Long Clawson Stilton and broccoli tart.  It had the strengths and weaknesses of the previous dishes  – the main elements were actually pretty good. The stilton was well-chosen, the tart well made and tasty,  but the accompanying huge pile of plainly boiled potatoes was a few carbs too far. It just seemed as if the kitchen’s main aim was that no-one was going to leave this restaurant saying “this poncey food’s all well and good but you never get enough veg”. The salad too was ok but again lacked a little lightness of touch, a little artistry that would have lifted everything.   Gill’s dressed crab (caught by “a fleet of 60 small fishing boats in the cold North Atlantic waters”) was simple, fresh and excellent – wouldn’t criticise it and the salad with it seemed to show a bit more imagination too.

Deserts kept up the hearty and tasty approach. Kentish apple and damson lattice pie was an acceptable pub Sunday lunch style piece of patisserie and the custard that came with it (made in the Chiltern hills from fresh Jersey whole milkand rich double  cream”) was  far better than the yellow gloop often found desecrating crumble. Ripe tart  (“based on a traditional recipe which originates from the village of Ripe in the Sussex South Downs”) was something of treat, a huge slice of tart with a coconutty filling, lots of black cherry compote and a mountain of a very decent vanilla ice-cream.

I think I’d give Table Table the benefit of any doubt and commend them for trying to push their own boundaries a little and respond to customer interest in seasonality and provenance. That said, it would be even better to see more evidence of a lighter touch in the kitchen, a greater awareness of balance in individual dishes.

One more thing  – we were very impressed with our waitress, who was genial, well-informed and sensitive to our needs. What you hope for in a chain restaurant but do not always get.









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