North’s Bar and Kitchen

February 11, 2015

north'sIt was good to attend a busy pre-launch party at North’s Bar and Kitchen on Hinckley Rd last week. Sited in the same corner building as the much-loved Entropy, it’s been smartened up outside and refitted inside, retaining the two-sided layout and (semi-)open kitchen, but extending the bar and upgrading the outdoor area at the back.

The food doesn’t try and replicate the high-end approach of its predecessor, but does promise simple, affordable British and European food, cooked onsite and with a commitment to local sourcing. So for the evening menu starters might be mushrooms with garlic and parsley or whitebait, mains parma-wrapped chicken breast or goats cheese and caramelised onion tartlet.

There’s bar, business, and restaurant experience in the management team and it’s good to see a stylish independent opening up here. West End folk will be pleased to see it retains an all day approach and there seems no reason why it won’t become a popular place to while away time with a coffee and sandwich, and for those lazy Sundays with the paper that turn into a meet-up with friends, a  late lunch and few glasses of wine.

 

 

 

 

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Entropy comes to an end

June 26, 2013

More sad news for Leicester in that Entropy is set to close on 19 July. Tom Cockerill (below, having prepared a South Devon steak and smoked oyster pie just for me – smug grin) said earlier this year that the restaurant was on the market but he has now confirmed the closure.  He wants to find a suitable Leicestershire pub to take on but at the moment is still looking.

It’s a great shame for Leicester to lose such a highly regarded and characterful independent, one that had earlier spawned a very high achieving restaurant in the city centre, and as a bar had helped kickstart the Braunstone Gate scene.  But nothing lasts for ever, or rather everything moves to a state of inert uniformity (attempted out-of-my-depth physics joke there).  Would it be too much to hope that not only will Tom find the ideal place to cook  – not too far from LE2 – but that someone else will be along to fill the space left by Entropy?  

Tom Cockerill

Entropy on the move

January 21, 2013

Interesting news coming out of Leicester’s West End. Entropy – high-performing, Slow Food loving, rare breed cooking, all-round nice guys – is up for sale. It’s not closing yet – and as far I’m aware it continues to trade successfully – but has more to do with chef patron Tom Cockerill’s desire to get back to the countryside. He’s not letting on whether he’s actually found a venue but I do remember conversations with him when he expressed a desire to open a restaurant or food-led pub in the relatively under-served countryside between the Eastern edge of the city and the Rutland border. If that’s the case, it would be a really exciting development for those of us in that catchment area. He says wherever it is, it will use the Entropy model of “relaxed informal dining using amazing Leicestershire produce”.

It’s a bit of body-blow for the West End, Entropy was one of the earliest and the best venues that sparked the regeneration of that area. But maybe a quality operator will want to take on and extend Tom’s leagcy. If that’s you, contact James Philips at APB on 0116 254 0832.

Summer Food Festival

May 28, 2012

A lovely afternoon at Leicester’s summer food festival. Good to catch up with with people such as cider maker Rob Norton (right) of the Bottle Kicking Cider Company.  The company is going so well he’s gone full-time and has  just launched a second brew  – Rambler is a lighter, 4.9 per cent version of his Scrambler, which will shortly be appearing in local Tesco’s as well as Waitrose.

Also enjoyed watching Tom Cockerill of Entropy  doing some live cooking (below). In a profession not short of its egoitistical prima donnas, Tom is an extremely laid back character (I should say I’ve never worked a service with him, so his staff may have a different view, but I doubt it).  His unusally casual manner disguises a  very skilled and precise approach to his food. His dish was a loin of Leicestershire lamb (a gorgeous looking cut from Archers on Queen”s Roaad) that was given a wild garlic crust and a stuffing of locally foraged wild mushrooms. I held back from the unseemly scrum to taste it  but I’m sure it was fantastic.

The wild garlic had been picked that morning from Castle Gardens – where as luck would have it i was haded for a picinic after the festival. There’s plenty still there, so I picked a discreet handful which is going to enliven a risotto tonight.

 

Entropy

December 16, 2011

Entropy has always been popular with the critics. I’ve always been impressed  by the food, the service and philosophy of the place, but I wouldn’t say every report I’ve had from local people has been unequivocally positive. It’s the kind of place you know some people will want to call over-rated.

I think the doubters would have been won over at this week’s wine tasting event with Amphora wines because it brilliantly showcased the skill in kitchen. Tom Cockerill put together a four course game menu that was wine-matched by Patrick Whenham-Bossy of Amphora, a former sommelier at La Gavroche and Hambleton Hall no less.

Things kicked off with a sweet and fruity Malvoisie frizzante aperitif from Lombardy before a stunning local game terrine – a thick tranche of cuts of  meats wrapped in parma ham and studded with grapes and pistachios, providing a beautiful contrasting range of  flavour and texture. It was a brought together with  a fine cumberland sauce and matched with an a 1999 Chateau Grand Pey Lescours, Grand Cru  St. Emilion.  Next up were perfect tortellini of wild rabbit with pine nuts and micro leaves and a wonderfully intense, beautifully clear game consomme. The rabbit was coarse cut and satisfying,  finely seasoned with pepper and lemon and further enhanced  with a glass of Oloroso Riserva by Emilio Lustau .

Main course was a rich and warming venison casserole  with smooth celeriac mash and a root vegetable pave. This later was cut so finely on a mandoline that it needed only the briefest of cooking, meaning all the elements maintained their flavour. Comfort food of a high quality, taken to a higher level with a glass of  Chateauneuf du Pape “Capelan”.

Desert was a dark chocolate mousse with olive oil, perked up with white chocolate thins flavoured with rosemary and seasalt. I always find herbs with chocolate a high risk strategy, but when it works it can be great and these were fantastic. This was matched with a South African muscatel de Frontignan, almost less of desert wine and more of  a digestif.

So you get the picture.  Fine food, fine cooking.   Some of it simple, some of it more technical, all of it done with style. I got the feeling the chefs were enjoying laying on a bit of a treat – and that’s a great feeling to get coming out of a kitchen. I’d say look out more of these special events because this one was great.

 

Scrambler

August 17, 2011

ScramblerSeveral months ago I welcomed the launch of a new commercially available cider made in Leicestershire.  It’s taken me a while to actually track down a bottle of Scrambler but I’m glad I did. It’s a pleasure to report that’s very good  – clean, medium dry, bright rather than over-fizzy and a respectable but not head-banging 6.5% – it wipes the floor with 90 per cent of what’s in the supermarkets.  After just one tasting I’d say it’s possibly too spick and span, maybe just lacking a little character that would put it among the very best.  I’ll try it again tonight when celebrating City’s imminent victory over the renowned cider drinkers of Bristol City. [Edit at 10.30pm: well I really asked for that didn’t I? Let’s make that “when I’m trying to cheer up after an embarassing 1-2 home defeat”.]

Cider appears to be on the upswing right now  – there’s been the big money launch of Inbev’s Cidre this summer.  But why drink that when this is available? Scrambler is made in Hallaton by the Bottle Kicking Cider Company and it’s the Hallaton-Medbourne Easter rumble that seems to be the marketing focus, rather the apples – which are apparently a blend of handpicked fruit from Leicestershire and Gloucestershire.

Having launched last Easter, the entire draught stock sold out at at the Welland Valley and Grainstore cider festivals, but the bottles are available at 50 outlets in the area. I got mine at the Case shop on Millstone Lane in the city centre.   In Leicester it’s also available at Taps bar and Entropy, while county outlets include Duncan Murray wines in Market Harborough and Wing Farm shop, or pubs such as the Nevill Arms, Medbourne or the Olive Branch in Clipsham.

The makers at Cross Farm, Hallaton, are currently preparing for the next pressing  in October – good luck to them.

Make jam not war

August 10, 2011

All things considered, today I feel we need to hear stories of people co-operating on a human level and trying to build constructive relationships. Looking around for something, anything, heartwarming in the area appropriate to theis blog I was cheered  to see Entropy on Hinckley Road is offering to barter food and drink vouchers in exchange for people’s excess allotment produce.  Yesterday 3kg of damsons were swapped for two pints of lager and at this moment are becoming jam. Contact Tom Cockerill if you’ve got good produce you think he might be interested in.

Northumbrian damsons – what would you do?

Me, I’m just back for a trip up north and actually returned  with a big bag of damsoms from a farm shop in Corbridge. My friend Sylvia who’s an artist introduced me to the fruit and influenced by her I love them as much for their colour as for their taste.  I’m currently trying to decide whether this batch will also become jam or go towards flavouring a bottle of vodka. Anyone else got any good ideas for around 1kg?

One more thing  – best wishes to Cassie and the staff at the Exchange Bar in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter who suffered broken windows last night.  Hope they and everyone else can get back to what passes for normality soon.

More on Market Corner

May 17, 2011

Well the Market Corner launch all seemed to go off with bags of good will.  The presence of the new mayor at his first public function helped and there seemed to be a feel good factor all round.

Look, I know you probably want pictures of creamy cakes or spicy curries but what you've got is Cllr Westley, Mayor Soulsby and Cllr Alfonso and you'll just have to live with it for now.

There was particular satisfaction from Cllr Paul Westley, who’s family has been on the market for over 100 years, and who had had to really battle against some who wanted to resist the change. Chatting with Westley and newly-elected Councillor Dawn Alfonso, a leading figure with the Market Trader’s Federation, there was a clear sense both of their passion for the 2,000 year old market and their relief at reaching this key stage in the regeneration of the area and of a refocussing of the market towards quality. They know, as is obvious, the process doesn’t stop here but must involve other areas of the market along too. There will be different solutions for different aspects  but the market will have to shed any lingering reputation for knocking out cheap poor quality, end of life goods and the meat, game and fish market  must somewhow be revived and reintegrated.

As for Market Corner itself,  there was a buzz on opening day and if the area can be kept clean and tidy I think trade will continue to find its way there. It’s great that businesses like Bobby’s, Pick’s Farm, Woodhouse Farm and Deliflavour now have a regular city centre presence – their coffee is defintely worth a try. There were also  few new people to me  – the cakes at Dessert Island were lovely, and I was even won over by the cupcakes at Viva la Cupcake .  Food stalls will be there Fridays and Saturdays.

The launch comes handily before the latest Summer Food festival  – always an enjoyable event – which takes place on Sunday 29 May and will feature live presentations from people such as Bobby’s, Entropy and the Rutland and Derby deli-pub.

Sadly I’ll be off enjoying choucroute in Alsace, but I do hope to be around for the small  but equally enjoyable  Belgrave Hall Food Fair  which takes place 17 and 18 September  – put in your diaries.

Incider news

April 15, 2011

Good to hear that a new commerically-produced Leicestershire farmhouse cider is being launched next week.  The BottleKicking Cider Company is based, naturally,  in Hallaton and started its first brew in September last year.   They are now ready to launch two ciders – the dry Scrambler and the medium Try-Line.  They are not saying too much about the apples – just that they are locally-grown that they use their own blend of eaters and cookers.

You’ll be able to sample both ciders  at the traditional Hallaton/Medbourne Bottle Kicking scrummage on Easter Monday and I know that Leicester’s Entropy is already lined up to stock it, with other venues hopefully to follow.  If you manage to find  some, do let us know here whether it hits the spot.

Pork to Fork

March 18, 2011

Clarissa Dickson Wright  – not her biggest fan but she’s had an extraordinary life and I think I’d trust her judgement on pigs and pork.  So it was good to see her on BBC 2 on Wednesday night scuttling around Rutland’s Northfield Farm with Jan McCourt Farm admiring their new English Lop boar. 

I’ve been thinking a lot a about pork recently, partly inspired by a recent conversation with Tom Cockerill about rare breeds  and also because of a revelatory pork chop from the fine Archer’s butchers on Queen’s Road,  Leicester.  The quality of the meat came out in the way it felt in the pan but mainly obviously in the eating quality – tender and deeply flavoursome, it seemed simply a different order of substance from some chops I’ve had.

So my interest was piqued by a message from Leicester pub The Almanack that is organising a hands on Pork to Fork day out at the Peach Pub company’s farm in Oxfordshire on Saturday week.  They promise you can learn about how free range pigs are turned into succulent pork, and butchery skills from a whole carcass down to chops. There’ll also be lessons in how to cure a ham and make sausages.  At £125 (including roast pork lunch and other treats) it’ll only be for the truly committed – if that’s you, see more details at the Almanack’s website.

The Almanack

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