King Richard III

May 5, 2017

 

Just back from a great trip to Paris including a couple of delightful restaurant meals. Nonetheless, I still have happy memories from the week before of my first meal at the King Richard III, a lovely addition to the city centre. Here’s my review done for the Leicester Mercury.

King Richard III

70 Highcross St

Leicester

LE1 4NN

0116 262 6833

 

Various deranged heads of state seemed to be moving us towards nuclear war. Then it was announced we face a six week election campaign. And then City were knocked out of the Champions League. I needed cheering up.

Fortunately I had a table booked at Leicester’s newest dining pub, the beautifully renovated King Richard III. It’s another edge-of-Highcross location, right next to the Chinese cafe Spicy Temptations which I enthusiastically reviewed here a few weeks ago. The old pub was one of those euphemistically labelled “traditional”, though “rough” was a more commonly heard term. It’s passing has been mourned by a few regulars and a greater number of enemies of progress who would probably never have set foot in the place.

The new pub is a joint venture between Everards and the team behind the successful St Martins Tea and Coffee/Crafty Burger business in St Martin’s. So that’s the heft of Leicestershire’s biggest brewing concern combined with one of our leading nimble and creative independents.

It looks fantastic. Bright, airy, stylish but approachable. The front bar retains a pubby vibe and there are real ales from Leicester microbreweries as well the Everards range. The back room is more of a restaurant space, again looking lovely in green with artworks featuring local scenes by well-known Leicester printmaker Sarah Kirby.

Service is cheerful, friendly and competent, striking a good balance between informality and informed helpfulness throughout. We went only a few days after opening but service routines seemed well established and staff knew the menu well.

That menu is instantly appealing, especially across the starters which are have a light, modern feel based on classic fresh ingredients. Our little party tried a fair few of them. Smoked haddock, clam and leek chowder was beautifully balanced, given a little texture with a sourdough crumb floating on top. Like all the dishes here. it benefitted from being some presented in some really lovely plates and bowls. Chicken kara-age (Japanese fried chicken) was crisp, savoury and well-served by a mouth-tinglingly fresh dipping sauce with spring onion and honey and some strips of pickled kohl-rabi. Then there was sensationally soft and creamy burrata (mozzarella with cream) that was a sheer delight on the mouth and given texture from fresh walnuts and sharpness from pickled beetroot. A real delight.

Then there was an eye-catching crispy spiced lamb roll with lovely moist meat fried in a thin crumb served on pickled red cabbage with yoghurt, chilli and mint – the sort of dish that would earn an ambitious contemporary Indian restaurant great plaudits. Possibly winning the line-up of starters were little queenie scallops in a mini seafood stew with crisp smoked bacon and super-fresh peas (above right).

 Great flavours allowed to simply sing.

The kitchen is very proud of its robata grill, a Japanese-inspired indoor barbecue grill that cooks at very high temperature. It was shown to good purpose on a sirloin steak with a lovely dark, smoky seared outside but nice and rare inside. With a simple bearnaise and a little bowl of a super earthy but sweet mushroom ketchup it again highlighted this venue’s signature approach of high quality produce done simply but with flair. Lamb chops may not have been the sweetest I’ve ever had but again were brilliantly cooked on the grill, coming with a sparkling chimichurri sauce – all the sauces, dips, ketchups and extras here were notably fresh and zingy. We had them with some of the crunchy skin-on fries that fans of Crafty have come to know and love.

From the specials board came perfect roast cod with elegant barbecued cauliflower and romesco, a Spanish sauce made with red peppers and almonds. No need for a bowl of random veg here, these are well thought-out dishes.

There’s just three deserts on the current menu, including a cheese board, and we had a fine, springy, cinnamon dusted doughnut ball with a crème anglaise – or vanilla custard as this resolutely unponcey place lists it – and seasonal Yorkshire rhubarb.

As you can tell, we thoroughly enjoyed the King Richard. Co-owner and chef Chris Elliman, who has headed up fine dining kitchens as well as top-notch burger joints, seems to have nailed his vision of an unprententious dining pub focussed on great contemporary British food with a minimum of fuss. Great roasts, high quality seafood and fresh seasonal ingredients presented with flair but nothing that gets in the way of simple enjoyment.

Quick one for fellow LCFC season ticket holders.

Earlier in the season chef Chris at Leicester’s fantastic Crafty Burger made a rash promise of free burgers if we won the premier league  – and he’s now working on exactly how he’s going to make good on that.

In the meantime, Byron in Highcross have also taken this step and are giving free burgers on production of your season ticket from today until 5pm on Monday 16th May.

“This is Byron’s way of repaying the fans for their loyal support throughout the season said manager Vicky. “You can’t escape the buzz in the city and we are really keen to continue the celebrations in the best way we know how – with free proper hamburgers. We’re looking forward to welcoming a sea of blue coming through our doors throughout this weekend.”

There’s a few t&cs (not takeaway or Deliveroo, no extra toppings, subject to availability etc) but a nice gesture to celebrate the Greatest Sporting Achievement of All Time.

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It’s good to see that Cocoa Amore has successfully relocated to the St Martin’s area, further fuelling the sense that there’s a high quality independent food and drink cluster emerging there.

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The company has relocated from Silver Arcade to larger, two-story premises on Silver Street. I was fortunate to get a Wonkaesque Golden Ticket for their launch last week and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening checking out not only their great chocolates – single estate nibs through to really superior truffles – but some savoury dishes too. Canapes included smoked duck breast and mackerel on chocolate bread – which all worked surprisingly well.

The new shop is licensed and while not promoting itself as a bar, matching chocolate with wines and spirits is going to be of the attractions.

Upstairs is the production area and space for workshops where couples and small groups can learn about chocolate production around the world and make their own chocolates.

Self-taught chocolatier Pete Gardener (right) with Alan Pomfrett at the Cocoa Amore relaunch

Owner and self-taught chocolatier Pete Gardener (right) with Alan Pomfrett at the Cocoa Amore relaunch

The business was only formed three years ago and has won numerous awards, including being one of  only ten businesses to be invited to take part in the Chancellor’s Downing Street Christmas Market. I won’t hold that against them though and look forward to see them thrive in their location, just a few yards from great businesses such as St Martin’s Tea and Coffee and Crafty, Gelato Village, the Case and its Champagne Bar and the soon-to-be-opened Burleigh’s Gin Parlour.

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Meatcure

July 23, 2015

A welcome for “burger shed” Meatcure, which launched its Leicester branch last night and adds another lively, motivated independent outside (just, but definitely outside) of Highcross.

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I reviewed their Harborough operation and was impressed with the burger, the bun, the beer and their general approach.  The grass-fed, dry-aged meat is from Joseph Morris in Kilworth, the brioche bun is the result of a prolonged process of refining with Harborough bakers Emerson and West and the care and attention shows. Having had a few tasters at last night’s launch, the spicy chicken wings and ribs seem pretty good too. The brunch menu served from 9.30 looks appealing too. It’s a simple, stripped down sort of place but should have a quite wide appeal.

Every city needs people with a local commitment doing quality food and, along with Crafty Burger, these guys are showing it can be done for the burger.

Find them at 19 Highcross Street, an area which is now gathering a fair number of interesting places to eat and drink.

 

Crafty Burger returns

May 6, 2015

Just a quick heads up about Crafty Burger. As I wrote here last month, chef Chris Ellison and his partner Andrea have joined the business to upgrade the cafe’s daytime offering and run Crafty Burger on a permanent basis from 6-9pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

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I joined some other bloggers at the launch night and was mightily impressed by the burger. I’ve had quite a few  “better burgers” recently as readers of my Mercury column will know and I’d say for pure meaty taste this shaded it.  I was also impressed by some of the sides, including beautiful little breadcrumbed cubes of pork belly.

I’ll save writing more when I’ve been back for another review visit but it’s definitely good stuff. If you are partial to the patty watch out too for the June launch of Meat Cure on Highcross Street. This will be their second branch and I hope they recreate what was on offer at the first venue in Market Harborough. It’s not easy to prise the masses out of Highcross, but these two should give Byron a run for their money.

Welcome developments in St Martin’s Square, Leicester. This pleasant area has struggled somewhat as the Shires grew into Highcross but remains an important element in the city centre’s mix.

Firstly, St Martin’s Tea and Coffee is further upping both its coffee business and food offering.  Last year it hosted a successful  pop up restaurant run by Chris Elliman aka Crafty Burger, and now Chris and his partner Andrea have gone into partnership with Andy and Ellie Hall of St Martin’s to take the business further.

As a result the coffee roastery, which does a thriving retail and wholesale business,  moves upstairs where there will be dedicated space to run coffee courses and barista training. Space is freed up downstairs for a kitchen refurb which will enable Chris Elliman to revive Crafty Burgers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings with its 28 dry aged beef burgers and craft beers from brewers Purity.

craftyBut also this will prompt a step change in the food available at St Martin’s regular daytime café, moving beyond their quality bought products. Chris will now be slow cooking big joints of meat for the likes of mojo marinated pork shoulder for Cuban sandwiches and homemade sausage rolls, salads and relishes such as cucumber ketchup. Chris says he will “champion the best of Leicestershire produce” and can’t wait to get stuck in. Ellie Hall said “We want to say to Leicester ‘Sure you can go to Highcross and have a standardised meal – or you could come to us, eat something a little bit different and have a great coffee. And guess what  – it’ll cost you less’.”

You have to admire a manifesto like that. The building  closes for refurb from 13-17 April with the new café menu running from 18th  April and Crafty Burger reappearing from 1 May.

The other intriguing news is the closure of Pizza Express, which will be replaced by the American barbecue restaurant Grillstock.  With two other branches nearby the pizza place won’t really be missed and Grillstock – which has two branches in the South West and one in London seems to be a quality offering.

The Bristol-based business made its name hosting barbecue and music festivals.  Whether their current expansion is “organic” or bankrolled by voracious business types I don’t know but it will be interesting to see whether the venue can match both the great flavours and the independent flair of Leicester’s excellent  Smokehouse. The core menu is along similar lines – pulled pork, braised brisket, ribs, chicken, slaw and pickles etc – though no sign of the more adventurous and flexible menu that Liam Watson is able to implement at the Smokehouse.

No date yet for an opening on this – “coming soon” according to the website.

 

 

 

 

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