Quick heads up on a couple of attractive food events this weekend in Leicester.

The Swans and Rushes,  a terrific traditional pub on Oxford Street (near the Infirmary) that does a great line in draught and bottled ales and pizzas, is having a Sri Lankan and Indian streetfood takeover.  Not sure of the menu but the pub states that starting from 3pm on Friday  chef Samith “will be executing some home grown Sri Lankan recipes.” It runs over and Saturday and  I reckon it might be worth a trip.

Then there’s the official launch event  for Delilah at 4 St Martins on Friday afternoon. Readers of this blog should know all about this place but if you’ve not managed to get down yet then  this launch – open to the public at 4pm – will see plenty of free tasters and a chance to meet some of the many producers who supply this great delicatessen.

 

 

 

I know I’ve written about Delilah’s already, but for the sake of completeness, here’s my review of the food offering from this weekend’s Leicester Mercury. Unfortunately the Ngolo Kante analogy is already out of date, but hey ho, heroes come, heroes go…

Delilah’s Fine Foods
4 St Martins
Leicester LE1 5PL

The St Martin’s area is booming. Finding a buried king, building a tourist attraction and a public square and investing heavily in improving the public realm will generally do that.

But you also need an entrepreneurial spirit to make the most of those developments and Leicester’s independents have certainly risen to that challenge. And now with the opening of Delilah’s the area has another bright jewel in its crown.

Many Leicestershire people will be aware of Delilah’s in Nottingham, which under the dynamic leadership of owner Sangita Tryner has gone from a cult success as a small corner deli to a large two-story venue packed with hard -to-find deli produce from the East Midlands and around the world. It was the UK’s deli of the year in 2012 – described as the kind of place where “you want to spend a whole day.”

The dynamism of Leicester’s retail core attracted Tryner to branch out with a second branch. Fortunately there was a lovely empty building right in the heart of St Martin’s that was perfect for redevelopment. Consequently the Victorian, Grade II-listed Allied Irish Bank has been revived from years of slumber – with help from public funds – and turned into a light, roomy and remarkable space.

The venue resembles the Nottingham branch with a large retail floor, a horseshoe shaped bar with stools for diners and drinkers and a mezzanine dining area that takes diners close to the beautifully-restored glazed ceiling and masonry.

The deli offering is huge, diverse and beautifully displayed, and much of it is used to furnish the cafe menu. During its first week I called in for morning coffee, a lazy weekend brunch and a midweek working lunch – and all three were first-rate.

In terms of coffee there’s a house blend named Samson but also some 30 coffees which are listed with helpful information on the bean and the roast. I tried Rwandan Koakaka, which was tremendous. With St Martin’s Tea and Coffee round the corner and the newly-opened Coffee Counter cafe roasting their own small batches on Bowling Green Street, Leicester city centre is thankfully no longer left to the big coffee chains.

The breakfast menu at Delilah, which runs until 11.30am during the week and 12pm on Sunday, is hugely appealing. Dishes are not cheap but this is very high quality produce. I was tempted by Inverawe smoked salmon and scrambled eggs but settled for the Delilah rarebit, which had the same relationship to cheese on toast as Ngolo Kante to …well, pick your own hapless City midfielder from the past. Pokey Black Bomber cheddar had been whisked with Magpie ale leeks and mustard and grilled on a doorstep of artisan bread, then topped with generous amount of splendid Alderton ham, a succulent Nottinghamshire ham with a marmalade glaze and one of the best of its kind I’ve ever encountered. Then there were two perfectly poached egg, the yolks of which oozed delightfully over the whole ensemble.

My friend picked avocado, fried eggs and crispy pancetta on toast. Again, every thing was exceptionally good. Ripe fruit, great bread, and intense salty ham.

Lunch items have a similar vibe to these dishes. Don’t go looking for fancy restaurant cooking but if the idea of fine charcuterie, cheeses and salads appeals, you will love Delilah’s. At our working lunch I had a frittata with spicy chorizo and piquillo peppers and a super-fresh green salad, my friend having the salt-beef and morcilla hash, again topped with a poached egg . The only criticism he could think to make that it was almost too good – not quite having the down-and-dirty comfort food quality some will want in a hash. But the powerful flavours of the salt beef and the rich Spanish black pudding made it very tasty.

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We also managed to squeeze in a sideplate of charcuterie – a peppery salami and shavings of speck and serrano, and washed it down with a fine craft beer.

The deli section at Delilah’s is going to fill-up a lot of Leicestershire pantries and fridges, and their cafe offering will provide the perfect venue for some top-notch breakfast and lunches. A real boost for the city centre.

A significant event  for Leicester’s food culture today  with the opening of Delilah’s  at 4 St Martin’s.

Delis have tended to struggle in Leicester.  The Deli on the Square in St Martin’s and Deli Flavour in Silver Arcade  do a decent job, particularly with superior sarnies,  but Delilah’s is a big step forward. It’s opened a month or so later than planned, not that surprising when you look at the complex but beautiful job done at converting the former Allied Irish Bank. There’s a shopfloor, café/bar area and mezzanine dining under a stunning glazed atrium and the whole place has an almost “temple of food” feel about it.

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Those who know the Nottingham branch will know the feeling. Turns out I was the first customer ever to sit at the bar this morning. I enjoyed a cappuccino from their house blend  (called Sampson, lol) as I looked around at staff frantically putting out price tickets and being brought up to speed on service. There’s a tremendous selection of wines from independent vineyards  – quite possibly the best in the the city centre – and then sections for baked goods, chocolates, condiments, seasonal goods, coffees, cooking ingredients and a superb deli counter, with service but where you can wander around and get close to the literally hundreds of cheeses and meats.

The food  menu upstairs looks instantly appealing – from breakfasts such as rarebit made with black bomber, Magpie ale, poached eggs and Alderton ham to extravagant platters of Bellota grade iberico ham (free range, acorn fed), wild boar and venison salami, bresaola, duck rillettes, black truffle gouda, oak roasted tomatoes and more.

WP_20160623_002Sure it’s quite pricey, and no doubt some are going to respond to the whole enterprise with hilarious jokes about middle-class foodies and their “keenwah”, but for me this is a great addition to the city centre.  There is a commitment to quality and to celebrating the best of  international and local products, and there are going to be a lot of things you’ve not previously been able to get in a Leicester shop.

Go and have a look and see what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

I had a fascinating chat yesterday with Sangita Tryner, the woman behind the extraordinary Delilah’s deli in Nottingham, which is set to open its second branch in Leicester.

And we can start to get very excited. The new deli will be located with the old Irish Bank in St Martin’s, within an impressive banking hall which will enable the shop to replicate the formula which has made Nottingham so successful. So with the high ceilings there will be space for a mezzanine dining area which sit people close to some of the beautiful original features. The hall itself will stock an immense selection of cheeses, wines, charcuterie and other deli goods displayed in order to let customers get close to the produce.

I can’t say a lot more at this stage  but it was inspiring to hear Sangita talk about her confidence in Leicester and where it is going right now. Work on the building could start as early as next week, when the result of grant applications to protect some of the heritage features  of the building should be known. Then we are looking at an opening in April or May.

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