Queen Victoria Arts Club

November 11, 2018

Dinner at the Queen Victoria Arts Club in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter on Thursday. The capsule review is that it’s a lovely place, we had some good food, but it’s clear neither the kitchen nor the food are fully up to speed yet.

One of the key reasons for this is that they lost head chef Steve Durham just before opening night in Mid-October and it’s currently unclear whether he’ll be returning. They’ve got in some emergency help and I’m assured “issues have been resolved and a firm plan is in place”.  However there were some very basic errors.

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Photo credit: Saul Morgan

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First off though , it’s a splendid environment. I enjoyed the sophistication of the dark green colour scheme and there’s a pleasing sparkle from immaculate glassware and cutlery. The view from the big windows across Orton Square to Curve is a really superb urban vista. Just to confirm, the venue’s restaurant is open to the public while other areas, including meeting rooms and an elegant but cosy basement bar, are either bookable or for use by members as they develop a membership scheme.

Some people seem to have got the impression it’s super-exclusive, but in fact the restaurant is not all that expensive and they want to attract regular, repeat custom not just special event dining – the opening menu sees starters around £5-8, main courses £14-£18.  I started with roast salmon, a small but perfectly cooked piece of fish which should have come on a slaw of shaved apple and fennel with dried tomatoes. However it actually came with some dabs of lime mayonnaise and  sugar snap peas, which should have been the accompaniments for our other starter of a salmon fish cake, which in turn got the slaw. So, three weeks after opening neither the chefs or the wait staff picked up that the dishes had got swapped somehow. The fishcake and slaw were both very tasty though.

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photo shame: me

A further issue came in that there was no offer of a wine list until we chased it up sometime after ordering. I ordered a white wine for the fish but it didn’t show up – eventually I chased again and it came just as I was finishing. The waitress was most apologetic, blaming some communication problem between her tablet and the till – not good enough.

Looking at the menu I was attracted to “lamb with peppercorn sauce” – I asked about the cut and the waitress thought it was loin, turned out to be shoulder. However, it was some of the best shoulder I’ve encountered in a long while, tender and well-flavoured with a terrific sauce. A fondant potato was technically excellent – combining the roast and poaching processes to perfection.  The vegetables were beautifully prepared and cooked too – though there was nothing to suggest they were “lightly pickled” as described on the menu.

My partner’s main was a terrific dish – moist, flavoursome roast chicken with a very well-balanced cream sauce with wild mushrooms and tarragon. It came sitting on some wonderful roast garlic mash – again a well-judged balance of flavours.

A word on the wines – a NZ sauvignon blanc (when it came) was excellent and the Chilean carmenere was a great match with the lamb. Looking at the well-stocked bar it does look the drinks offering is sorted at least.

A desert of a blackberry bavarois with charlotte russe cake was a bit under-flavoured, though a quince sorbet with it was excellent. I don’t think it benefitted from all being put in a glass with the sorbet on top – made it a bit hard to savour different elements of the dish.

It’s tough for any new business and losing one of your major assets just as you open must be a stressful experience. But if it’s to bring in the local businesses and the creative types who you’d think will be it’s main clientele, QVAC will need a period of stability and some sharper service.   At the moment I’d have to put it in the “promising” category.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks to Matt at Great Food Leicestershire and Rutland for alerting me to this beautiful, atmospheric film about Leicester Market, made by Nick Hamer of Intrepid Media. Filmed from early in the morning during the recent icy weather it really deserves two and a half minutes of your day.

While on the subject of the market, the council is taking suggestions of names for the new openair food court area to be created next year. The council has suggested  five names  but you can come up with your own  alternative to either Market Corner, Market Piazza, The Courtyard, Exchange Plaza or Market Courtyard. To vote, via a local newspaper site, click here .

Finally, on the subject of food courts, I have heard a  rumour there could be plans for the redevelopment of the old International  Hotel site on Rutland Street that might involve  student accommodation and  a public food court with opportunities for entry-level food businesses offering food to residents,  local shoppers and businesses.  I’ll look out for more details on this as it sounds a promising addition to an area that needs  investment.

More good news for Leicester’s Cultural Quarter. Shortly to open on Rutland Street  is Lanna Thai, not just an upmarket Thai restaurant but a “media performance centre” to boot.  The  venue is situated in the Leather Factors, that glorious  Rennie Mackintosh-style building between Curve and the old Helsinki bar. The upper part of the building was converted into smart,  short-let apartments about the time of the construction of Curve and the new restaurant will be over two lower floors, with developers promising that historic features have been  maintained and renovated, such as the rear glass curtain wall which will feature a “stunning 5m cascade of white Thai orchids”. 

The media performance centre is on the lower ground floor, accessed through the restaurant and can be decked out with tables,  sofas, a stage or a catwalk  for private dinners, exhibitions, performances launches, parties, cinema screenings, comedy, dance  – there’s a sprung floor –  and so on.  Total capacity at the venue will be around 160.

This week I’ve been to the Cultural Quarter for a sell-out afternoon film at Phoenix Square, a near sell-out opera at Curve, and am going to a social media seminar at LCB Depot this early evening, followed by dinner at the newly-opened Chutney Ivy.  With the Xchange Bar set to open in December, a hotel soon after and now this intriguing new venue, it feels the area might – despite economic gloom – just starting to be coming into its own.

Chutney Ivy

October 30, 2010

 

[Update 19/2/11 – Groupon people looking for reviews  – why not come back here once  you’ve been and give your views in a comment?] 

Chutney Ivy, the Indian restaurant located in what was once The Quarter near Leicester’s Curve theatre, has made a  low-key start this week, offering a lunchtime buffet at an introductory price of £4.95. Following the recommendation of a reader – thanks  Ben – I gave it a go and was rather pleased I did.

First off, the restaurant has kept the same layout  – a single large, airy room, bar area at one end and an open kitchen. The decor has been given a slight overhaul – sort of  purple and creams  – but it maintains the smart, contemporary feel of its predecessor. The downstairs bar has also been given a makeover and will still be available for those wanting a drink in a smart  hideaway.

The buffet lunch seems a smart move – they offer just a few dishes, cooked in small batches that can be replenished quickly by the chefs behind the coutner.  Starters were a moist, peppery  chicken pakora, thinly sliced potato bhaji  in a very light batter and well-cooked  aubergine bhaji. Poppadums and relishes were there too.  Mains included a creamy korma and what our  friendly waiter discribed simply as chicken curry and kofta curry. All three were good  – distinctive, well-flavoured and nicely spiced. The lamb kofta in particular was excellent. There were also three vegetarian dishes  though I only had some of chickpeas, which needed a bit more bite left in them to my taste.  Rice and frehly prepared naan breads were good.

So, nothing groundbreaking on this evidence but I tasted enough to want to go back to sample the a la carte offering  that will be available in the evening. No menu available as yet though they did promise to email one through soon. Staff were pleasant and seemed eager to please. They obviously haven’t quite got all their routines worked out yet – I had to ask for my change to be returned – but that’s why they sensibly seem to have gone for the soft launch.  Nice restaurant, think it could  do well.

Cultural Quarter

October 2, 2010

Good to see the premises formerly known as the Quarter are about to re-open as a bar and Indian restaurant called Chutney Ivy. And word on the street is that Cassie from Entropy is opening a bar (“Xchange”) in the Exchange buildings a few doors down – this is the splendid “flat-iron” building opposite the entrance to Curve.  

It’s important for Leicester that the area thrives and buisnesses like this are needed. If Ramada/Butterfly could just increase the pace and open their 115 -room Encore hotel on Rutland Street we might just start to see the elusive critical mass kick in to the benefit of the beleaguered Phoenix Square and Curve. The stated December 2010 date suggested looks somewhat optimistic to me, from the street anyway.    

No sign of a website  or menu up at Chutney Ivy yet  but initial impressions suggest upmarket rather than cheap and cheerful.

The Quarter

July 10, 2010

Sad to see the events this week at The Quarter – one of my favourite city centre venues.  Janice and Nigel Gordon were brave to be one of the first bar/restuarant to open up in Leicester’s cultural quarter and I always found them very pleasant hosts and the restuarant had that pleasant knack of somehow being that little bit better than you thought it was going to be.  It seems there has been a falling out  with the landlord – and I have to be careful here because I’m told there’s been a bit of  claim and counter-claim in the courts this week.  I understand the landlord is waiting to grant the lease to a new tenant to establish an Indian restaurant but as of last night the situation remains unclear.    

If that were to happen I hope it would be a really interesting and high quality place rather than an identikit curry house.  The Cultural Quarter needs distinctive and attractive venues if is to thrive – the Quarter tries to fulfil that brief and I’d be sad if the Gordons’ drive were to be lost to the area.

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