Hammer and Pincers

August 16, 2016

My recent review from the Leicester Mercury. Always good to find an old favourite is on good form.

The Hammer and Pincers
5 East Road
Wymeswold
Leicestershire
LE12 6ST

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I first reviewed the Hammer and Pincers around 12 years back. Since that time it has, as restaurants must, tacked and trimmed to meet prevailing economic currents but has remained in high esteem among East Midlands diners. A quick look at the online menu suggested chef and owner Danny Jimminson is currently back to offering appealing, fine dining dishes, so a good time to go back and see how it’s doing I thought.

Jimminson has a strong CV, including training at the Savoy with Anton Edelmann, but crucially for a chef who wants to prosper, he can also pick talent. A few years back he gave a job to a 16 year old local lad who had just been expelled from school – and now fiery Tom Sellers and his Michelin-starred Restaurant Story is the talk of all London.

Sellers own CV refers to his first job “in a pub”, but in truth the Hammer and Pincers is not really one of those. Wymeswold already has The Windmill, part of the Little Britain Pub Company (along with Rothley’s Bluebell and The Curzon in Woodhouse Eaves), and from August former Leicestershire cricket stars Stuart Broad and Harry Gurney are re-opening the Three Crowns, so the village is well-equipped for pubs. This is more a smart, stylish destination dining venue.

We struggled to get a table in the week we wanted to go as the restaurant was booked up with proud parents and their offspring celebrating graduation. You can see why it’s so popular for such events – the menu reeks class and the place is run by with friendly efficiency by Sandra Jimminson and her well-trained team.

Our meal started with superb bread – sweet walnut and raisin and nicely savoury rosemary foccacia. Both were so good we were pleased to be offered a second round when they saw we’d wolfed down the first lot.

Then starters – both tremendously thought-through dishes that offered a wide range of pleasures. A large, pillowy raviolini was stuffed with chorizo – suitably chopped and cooked to create a spicy, sauce-like filling – and smeared in a great smoked garlic purée. It sat on a little bed of sweet onion marmalade and then there were salad leaves covered in generous shavings of manchego, a little twist on more usual parmesan. Bringing it all together was a completely wonderful little pot of intense pork stock made with Pedro Ximenez sherry – completing the Spanish-Italian fusion style of the dish.

Our second starter was a real beauty, a ballotine combining duck liver and confit leg meat rolled in crushed pistachios with a toasted brioche roll, with lovely little balls of poached peach and melon and a sour peach purée. It looked a picture and tasted as good as it looked.

 

Then there was a palate-cleansing cucumber and herb sorbet – heavenly stuff – before tucking into our mains. I don’t know if it says more about me or the Hammer and Pincers but I realised afterwards that the two main courses were pretty much identical to those ordered on that first visit. Fortunately there was no real drop-off in standard in the intervening years. Mustard-rubbed fillet of beef was impeccable, and the sauce with it showed – like the porky one with my starter – that the kitchen takes no short cuts in with its stocks, jus, gravy whatever. There was a sort of pastilla of 48- hour cooked shin and a tremendous potato cake with thyme and smoked bacon plus roast heritage carrots. It was a hefty dish for a summer menu but great steaks will always sell and this was certainly that.

From the specials menu I ordered monkfish with lobster and crayfish risotto, not least because I was keen to pair it with one of the Rieslings that German-born Sandra had added to the wine list. Monkfish doesn’t have the kind of sublime texture and flavour of, say , turbot or halibut, or even a really good piece of cod, and it needs strong flavours around it. The risotto was indeed rich and intense with fish and herbs, though for me it was little overdone – I think risotto always needs a just a little bit of bite left in the rice. There was also an unnecessarily huge pile of peashoots with it – on this occasion a case of more is less. So a satisfying, if not perfect dish, but a great match for the Dr Loosen Riesling from the Mosel valley.

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(pics are from Hammers and Pincers website – not my meal)

 

Our shared desert was dreamy though, if you are a chocolate lover anyway. A pavé of chocolate sponge topped with rich ganache came with a light mousse contained in a quenelle of thin, crisp chocolate, a perfect raspberry sorbet, fresh raspberries and dabs of raspberry gel.

Well constructed dishes, solid classsical technique, fine ingredients and careful service all typify the Hammer and Pincers. It’s certainly a place to celebrate but should also just be enjoyed by anyone who loves their food.

I was  invited to yesterday’s launch of the new branding for Everards beers. With big plans for their new brewery, offices, restaurant and cycle centre out near Fosse Park now reaching a crucial stage, the rebrand emphasises the companies Leicestershire roots – hence from today you’ll see their main logo use the portrait of founder William Everard and the words “Everards of Leicestershire”.

EVOL Low Detail Light Base Black & Gold Logo [3-7cm] CMYK

Their four key beers get a rebrand with beautiful nostalgic illustrations from local design agency Juice featuring a Leicestershire fox character, though Tiger retains a distinctive Tiger design that emphasises  its links to the Royal Leicestershire Regiment and to the rugby club.  Beacon is clarified as “Beacon Hill” and Old Original’s design is linked back to the original brewery in Southgate Street

Everards Beer Range Illustration

The new branding also gives a little more information on each beer – hence from today onwards you’ll find pump clips that explain a little more about taste and style   – hence the 5.2  per cent Old Original is described as “rich and fruity amber ale”. I’m all for such clarity at point of purchase and find it hard to believe much beer is just given a stupid name and left to sell itself.

I know some find their beers a little “safe”, but personally I’ve always enjoyed Tiger – a solid well-balanced best bitter – but it was a long while since I’d sipped Old Original and enjoyed a swift half at the launch event very much. I also admire the way Everards – still a family-owned company   – seems to do business. It supports other local food and drink businesses,  keen to have partnerships rather than growth at all costs. Its pubs are reliably good and independent licencees with vision – such as Sam Hagger of the Rutland and Derby and The Forge and Jay Cooledge of the Griffin and Odd John’s –  get the chance to develop their pubs their way.

Oh yes, the new brewery – the move across the ring road to the 12 acre Everards Meadow site is now just dependent on the planning decision from Blaby Council expected in July. Good luck to them.

OLD ORIGINAL POSTER

 

 

 

Leicestershire_cover_11042016

In this most marvellous, historic week for our city and county I’m delighted to announce that the Leicestershire and Rutland Cookbook is now available!

Published by specialist cookbook publishers Meze, it’s the latest in a series of regional cookbooks that celebrates local restaurants, food producers, delis, markets, brewers and more. In each case Meze works with a local food writer (in this case me!) to capture the spirit of each business and create profiles along with superb photography and recipes supplied from each business.

It’s been a great project for me to be involved in – giving the chance to meet and talk with many of the most passionate, creative and committed food  people in the region. The 192-page book  features  over 30 great businesses from the city centre  to rural Rutland – many of whom have been featured in this blog over the years as well as some new arrivals and older busineses that were new to me.

The book really does look beautiful and I hope is a good read as well as a storehouse of recipes. It is priced £14.95 and is available from all the businesses featured. Have a look a around for it and if you are interested please buy from them.  It should also be available from Waterstone’s and online ordering soon too for those outside the county.

  • The Leicestershire and Rutland Cookbook, written by Tim Burke,  published by Meze Publishing  £14.95 ISBN 9780992898182

 

Huge thanks to those who attended and many congratulations to the White Peacock. Last night’s event for Soft Touch was not just a cheerful evening of great food but a highly successful fundraiser that will enable the charity to complete the kit-out of its kitchen training young people to prepare and enjoy and healthy food.

And elsewhere in the City centre during the same evening,  the restaurant was carrying off the Taste of England Gold Award in Leicestershire’s Excellence in Tourism Awards – with a highly commended going to 34 Windsor St. (Not to forgot my friend, and reader of this  blog, Richard Buckley who, not surprisingly I think we can agree, helped win the “tourism experience” of the year for his leading role in the reinterment of Richard III).

With front of house manager Charlotte off at the awards, the young White Peacock team managed to serve a six-course menu to more than forty people with admirable skill and elegance.

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The menu showcased great produce and a fine intelligence in dish construction. Highlight of the evening for me I think was gin and Earl Grey cured salmon – thick cut, lightly cured fish with a sweet edge and which sang of the sea. It was really effectively matched with slightly astringent pickled fennel, a tangy citrus crème fraiche and pared cucumber.

Gin and Earl Grey cured salmon

Gin and Earl Grey cured salmon

Picking up comments from others there was clear enthusiasm for the elegant starter of pickled beetroot with goat’s cheese mousse and a parmesan crisp and fig, which converted at least one person to the possibilities of the much abused beetroot. Another well-balanced dish that showed how a few fine ingredients can combine to really great effect.

Goat's cheese mousse, fig, beetroot and parmesan crisp

Goat’s cheese mousse, fig, beetroot and parmesan crisp

The desert of salted caramel panna cotta, toasted banana bread, banana sorbet and praline was a tour de force finish, the sorbet in particular getting people very excited.

Banana sorbet, sated caramel panna cotta

Banana sorbet, salted caramel panna cotta

One final point – a reminder that Leicester folk can check out some of the the impact of Soft Touch’s work at the weekly pop-up café on Thursdays 12-2pm at the New Walk premises (opposite Museum Square). Good variety  of sandwiches, soups and cakes prepared and served by young people with professional supervision at around just £2.50

The White Swan, Shawell

February 10, 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young Midlands chef with big ambition and talent to match is likely to pitch up in London. Fortunately for the rest of us there comes a time when they’ve had enough of the pressure cooker and look to return home. Sometimes it’s because they want a more human place to bring up a family, or maybe they just compare the costs of setting up a restuarant in Mayfair or taking over a pub in Leicestershire. I think of Brian Baker at the Marquess of Exeter, Dameon Clarke at the Wicked Witch and Adam Grey at The Red Lion in East Haddon as among the local boys who’ve returned from ostensibly more glamourous careers.

News now reaches me of another wanderer returned. Rugby lad Rory McClean has spells with Angela Hartnett at the Connaught, Jason Atherton at Pollen Street Social and Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley on his CV, but has now taken over the White Swan at Shawell, just south of Lutterworth. The 17th century pub has been renovated inside and out and looks modern and smart with lots of light oak, comfy sofas and so on.

There’s an all day pub food menu with the likes of rabbit scotch egg, chorizo arrancini and venison burger, and then a proper a la carte menu in the evening. This looks rather attractive with starters such as Orkney scallops with egg,peas and bacon and mains including suckling pig with black pudding, apple and cider and roast Northfield Farm duck with lentils.There’s a great looking winelist and Leicestershire real ales from Dow Bridge of Catthorpe are on offer. It’s not been open long and I’ve not seen any reviews but everything looks promising. Good luck and welcome home Rory.

[Edit – see also this quick review from later in the year]

White Swan Restaurant

White Swan Restaurant

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.

The Oat Hill

January 15, 2012

Now I’d better get something sorted straight away.  I do not look to the Leicester Mercury and its reviews for advice on where to eat. The fact that I was eating in The Oat Hill at the weekend had everything to do with my friend Deborah living in Market Harborough and nothing to do with the fact the Mercury sent Joan Stephens to review it last week.  OK? Good.

A short way out of town on the Kettering Road,  the Oat Hill is in the shadow of the local branches of both Aldi and Lidl. If that puts you off, it shouldn’t because this is a really rather good dining pub. There’s a smart and comfortable bar – big comfy sofas, heavy red velvet  curtains, young staff all in black and so on.  The restaurant is equally appealing and the menu is well designed and seemed to be well-priced. We passed on starters because it was really just a quick supper but given the quality of our mains I wished  I’d gone for something such as roasted breast of pheasant  with roasted honey soused root veg or baked figs with melting gorngonzola and rocket salad.

My main was slow braised shin of beef   – a flavoursome cut I’ve eulogised on this blog before and done very nicely here, presented beautifully on excellent creamed mash with two contrasting sauces making the plate look a ying and yang symbol, a dark port jus and a creamy, mustardy sauce. The cheffy parsnip crisps were just right and a bowl of veg were perfect.   Deborah’s sea bream with crayfish and tomato bisque  was also very good indeed – two large fillets with crispy skin and real depth of flavour and a well-made sauce.  These were well-conceived and well-executed dishes.  We shared a desert that was well up to standard, a creme brulee with beautifully pared slices of ripe pear and excellent homemade shortbread.

It’s always nice to find a place that exceeds expectations and The Oat Hill did for us  – Deb immediately booked to go back with a friend next week.  There is a proper chef in the kitchen and while it may not have the picturesque setting of some gastropubs out in the South of the county,  I think this place should definitely be on your radar when in the area.

Oh and Joan liked it too.

The Leicestershire Cook-off

October 4, 2011

Just spent an entertaining lunchtime watching the Leicestershire Cook-Off, a project prompted by Leicester City Centre management body Le-One and designed to come up with a signature dish for the county.  Winning submissions in four categories were invited to a cook off at St Martin’s House where a voting system that combined public acclaim with the views of five judges saw Clarendon Park baker Rosie Clark win with her selection of three Leicestershire loaves. As well as winning a range of kitchen goodies, Rosie gets her bread put on the menu at the restaurant at John Lewis Leicester – which must feel like a bit of a result.

Turns out Rosie is a real bread evangelist for Virtuous Bread, a network that is trying to kickstart small scale baking businesses in communities.   As she lives nearby hopefully we’ll fix up something more from her in this blog but for now here’s one of her winning loaves,  billed as Leicestershire Stilton Irish Soda Bread. It looks simple and if you can get it as good as the sample I tried, is well worth trying.

275g Claybrooke strong white stoneground flour

250g buttermilk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp sugar

50g crumbled Stilton cheese.

Mix ingredients in a bowl, kneading to ensure ingredients are well incorporated. With wet hands scoop into a ball  and place on a greased baking tray. Make a cut in a cross shape that is about one third through the bread. Bake at 200 degrees for about 20-25 mins.

Rosie Clark with fellow finalists and chef James Tanner (centre), chair of the judges

Other finalists included a delicious venison curry from Amadeep Singh Amand, inspired he says by a visit to Bradgate Park. This was served to the public as a canape though the published recipe involves a red wine sauce and a Red Leicester-stuffed naan. Amadeep is chef at the soon to open Arabic-Indian-Italian fusion restaurant Endimaj – must say I’m more inclined now to give it a try.  Catering student Coaralie Featherstone had won the aged 16-18 category with a dish of stuffed pork tenderloin with flavours of apple, mustard and honey, while the fourth finalist was Maurice Flynn with a delicately spiced apple and mulberry crumble cake.

  

A Dish for Leicestershire

August 12, 2011

Leicester’s city centre management organisation LE One is keen to get entries for it’s competition to uncover what it somewhat optimistically calls “Leicestershire’s Favouritie Dish”.

It’s a  simple idea – just send them your recipe, either an old family one or something new you’ve discovered or indeed invented. They want it to be  a “signature dish” of the Cornish Pasty, Lancashire Hotpot variety,  but seem fairly relaxed about what it might be. There’s something of a hint that dishes that reflect Leicester’s diverse cultural mix would be welcomed, but that would seem to allow anything. Apparantly they’ve already had curried shepherd’s pie so don’t do that  – but hopefully you wouldn’t, it does sound a rather desperate attempt at being “diverse”.

Anyhow,  you enter in one of four categories 16-18s, Over 18s, Quirky or Professional.  Four finalists will be selected and these will be cooked by professional chefs at a cook-off and tasted by a panel of judges. There’s a decent prize for the winner  of £1,000 in kitchen equipment from John Lewis and Fenwick’s, with three runners up gaining a place on a cookery course at Maiyango.

Deadline is 4th September and you can enter by visiting  www.leicestershirecookoff.co.uk.

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.

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