This review for the Leicester Mercury focuses on a relocated, reconceived former favourite of this blog. I was worried that in the tweeting the concept, the quality of the food would suffer. To find out, read on…

 

Fenways
17-18 Baxter Gate
Loughborough
LE11 1TG
01509 210100

 

8 out of 10

The Smokehouse on Braunstone Gate was one of the city’s stand out restaurant successes of recent years. At the time of its closure there were some rumours of a possible reappearance in Loughborough.

Well it’s taken a while, but it turns out there was substance to the gossip and so a big welcome to Fenway’s. It’s part of the Orange Tree group, which already has the Orange Tree and the Kelso in the town, and while there are some obvious differences to The Smokehouse, the good news is that the head chef Liam Watson is back in charge and that the menu features some of the dishes that made the Smokehouse special. Crucially, it takes no shortcuts to those big smokey, barbecue flavours that characterise the food of the American South.

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Chef Watson plates up (photos from Fenway’s website)

Located in a large pub building, they’ve given it an extensive refurbishment that thankfully doesn’t go overboard on the American diner theme. Nonetheless Fenway’s is a different proposition to the rather intimate, bistro style of its predecessor. It’s big, informal, a bit noisy with a bar area at the back. Open all day from 12, it’s family-friendly, student- friendly, the staff are young and funky and there are craft beer and cocktails – it’s good fun.

We started off with excellent cocktails – one of their originals featuring locally-made Burleigh’s gin with cointreau, passionfuit and ginger beer, and a sophisticated adult milkshake with Jamaican rums, vanilla and chocolate ice-cream, ginger cake and milk.

Food starters included an absolutely stonking dish of smoked ox cheek. Smoked meats here are marinated overnight and smoked for at least 8 hours and the time given to it really shows. I went at the nuggets of beef with a knife and fork but the knife wasn’t necessary – it fell apart with a fork and had great depth and complexity of flavour. It was nuthin’fancy – served up in a pork-fat yorkshire pudding with gravy and nicely sharp house pickles – but it was proper cared-for food. Bourbon and orange cured salmon was a fruity delight too, allowing the flavour of the fish to come through, and with sourdough toast and plenty of green leaves it was still a substantial dish. Jalapeno and smoked onion hush puppies – fritters made with cornmeal batter – were light, crisp, tasty and the significant but sensible chilli heat was spoked with thyme and garlic sour cream.

My guests had admitted they probably wouldn’t have come in from the look of the place, but were by now really pleased they had come along. If the starters were substantial, the mains fully merited the “come hungry, we don’t mess about” warning on the menu. The core of the selection is burgers (28 day aged beef) and a variety of smoked meats – brisket, pulled pork, St Louis cut ribs and so on.

Fenways1

From the burger menu we had the buttermilk fried chicken breast – moist, tasty and well-served by its dressing of avocado, pickles and sweetcorn and pepper relish. The sweet potato fries failed to impress – I tend to avoid them as the moisture content makes them hard to crisp but my friend who generally is a fan found these a bit flabby. I picked the house sausage bun, which came with lashings of the juicy, 14-hour smoked pulled pork. The sausage was a very long way from your traditional banger – more like the traditional Louisiana boudin, it was coarse-textured with a strong tang of offal. This maybe won’t be to everyone’s taste but well done to the chefs for not taking the easy way.

Both these came in a manchet bun, a traditional English bread that the menu claims to be better than brioche – and in this context I’d concur. Firmer and not so sweet, it’s an excellent burger bun.

One more main was 12 hour smoked brisket – copious amounts of beef dripping with a spiced gravy, piles of smooth mash and nicely spiked red cabbage.

We may have been stuffed but in the interests of reviewing we had to try deserts. Salted caramel sticky toffee pudding had been a highlight of The Smokehouse menu and reappears still in very good form – sprinkled with pecans and a touch of popping candy. My guests immediately made plans to bring their 10 year old daughter, a connoisseur of the desert. Key lime pie – sometimes a virulent green cliché – brought a big smile of delight. It was lightly bruléed and gave a great balance of sharp and sweet with a fine dark pastry case.

I was relieved to find that expanding the Smokehouse concept to a bigger and brasher format has been been done without sacrificing too much flair and quality. You’ll need to buy into the concept – it’s not for faint hearts or those who want pretty pictures on a plate – but if you do there’s much to enjoy.

 First off, don’t mistake this venue for Kuru Kuru, the splendid little sushi bar on Welford Rd, Leicester.  It’s in Loughborough and as you’ll see from my review below,  done for the Leicester Mercury, it’s recently refurbished and rebranded from The Noodle Bar – and if that sounds familiar beyond Loughborough it’s because this is latest version of the old Noodle Bar on St Nicholas Place (where the Clockwise Credit Union now sits)  and which  – research tells me – is very fondly remembered by many in Leicester.

It’s exactly the kind of place every British city should welcome – a bit adventurous, a bit different, great value, informal, tasty, not without flaws but good fun:

Kura Kura

32 Bedford St

Loughborough

LE11 2DS

Tel:01509 269247

Open: Mon-Thu -5pm-10pm

Fri-Sat 12pm -10.30pm

Sun 12-10pm

Cost: two courses, around £12

8 out of 10

Singapore is one of the world’s great multicultural communities and food is a national obsession. So when a friend with roots there recommended a pan-Asian restaurant to me, I took notice.

It turns out that Kura Kura is something of an old friend anyway. It’s owned by the people who some time back ran the Noodle Bar on St Nicholas Place in Leicester, a cheap and cheerful canteen where I would often fill up with something tasty from a wok. The Noodle Bar reappeared in Loughborough a few years ago, out the back of the White Horse, an otherwise unremarkable boozer on the edge of the town centre.

Kura Kura  (photo taken from their Facebook site)

Kura Kura (photo taken from their Facebook site)

Earlier this year the whole venue was rebranded to Kura Kura, along with a substantial refit and a general uplift to the menu. A couple of the signature communal benches remain, but the others have been cut up and turned into a selection of two and four-tops, and there is an area offering a Japanese-style low table along with cushions and tatami matting. There’s also a striking ceiling made from sinuous, twisted strips of wood, very reminiscent of a bowl of noodles. There is a bit of an issue with acoustics, it does seem to be quite noisy, but all in all it is pretty stylish.

The menu is thoroughly appealing and very reasonably priced. There are appetisers ranging from miso soup with tofu and watame seaweed, through to Indonesian spring rolls, prawn gyoza dumplings and a Cantonese take on crispy aromatic duck, shredded at table and served with pancakes, spring onions and red miso sauce. There’s even a Peruvian-style ceviche with spicy yuzu dressing – actually Japanese-Peruvian fusion, known as Nikkei, is huge fashionable in foodie circles and there’s an obvious link between sashimi and citrus-cured ceviche.

We picked Thai squid – or calamari as it is deemed here. This was a large bowl of tender, marinated and seared, bite-sized pieces of squid with bagfuls of flavour from juliennes of fresh ginger, green peppercorns, sesame and an umami-rich sauce. A snip at £4.95. We also had “hairy prawns” three huge shelled prawns, rolled out and wrapped in katafi, thinly shredded filo-style pastry you might be familiar with from Greek or Turkish sweets. Here though, as well as a touch of humour and visual appeal, it adds a savoury crunch. With a spicy wasabi dressing these were another real treat.

Main courses on offer include grills, stir-fries, curries, spicy soups and a range of rice and noodle dishes. Our Stargazer monkish curry was a full-on, feisty affair with a large amount of firm-fleshed fish with plenty of red chillis, fennel and green beans retaining plenty of crunch, all in a red curry sauce spiced up with krachai or “lesser ginger”. Again, good value at £6.95. We added a freshly-made roti, a truly outstanding flaky flatbread that was a great accompaniment.

We also had a Sulawesi nasi goreng. While this didn’t look especially appealing – a huge, monochrome pile of fried rice – there was plenty going on in there with flavours from finely diced ingredients including smoked chicken and spring onions and side salads of pickled cucumber, tomatoes and black hijiki seaweed. In truth it wasn’t a very balanced plateful but with our additional bowl of wok-fried bok choi with mushrooms, this was good comfort food.

With its generous portions, keen pricing and lively atmosphere it is not surprising Kura Kura is hugely attractive to the town’s famously sporty students. But, while this is obviously not haute cuisine, it should also find favour with with a more quality-focused clientele who will enjoy its bold approach to flavour and some of the skilful cooking on show. I walked out already mentally picking dishes for my next visit.

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