March of the Buffets

September 13, 2011

First the good news. The Litten Tree – that  tatty, mothballed pub that has for some time been a wart on the airbrushed good looks of High Cross – is slated for redevelopment into a restaurant. Now the “meh” news – the planned occupant is Red Hot World Buffet.  The Leicester branch will join Nottingham, Northampton, Manchester, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Liverpool in offering you the chance to have Indian, Italian, Mexican, Chinese etc all in the same place, for an inclusive price, alongside several hundered others.  I’ve been to the Nottingham one and when I say it was better than Leicester’s Zucchero, I’m not really paying that much of a compliment.

It’s a fairly brash, go-ahead business so no doubt you’ll get to hear when it’s nearer to launch. It joins the soon-to-open More on London Road as the latest mega-buffet and while I can see why they have an attraction, it will be a great pity if they take business away from smaller restaurants that are trying to do something more interesting.  I can’t help but feel that a fundamental part of their appeal is they take away risk – the risk that you might not like something, that you might somehow embarass yourself by misprouncing something, ordering the wrong thing. Go to a big shed where everyone just piles in and you can stay safe and anonymous – like the food. I think I actually quite like risk.

Slightly different in scale will be Lupa di Roma on Market Street, in the premises of a former Cornish pasty shop. Don’t know much about it other than it bills itself as a tavola calda, so is likely to be simple food – pizza, pasta, pannini  –  in a cafeteria/buffet format.

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Round up

August 24, 2011

OK, time for a bit of a round-up.  Good news for the Cultural Quarter as cocktail bar/cafe Manhattan34 nears completion. Due for a soft launch on 8th September this place at the other end of the Exchange Building  from Exchange bar  promises a “jazz and Motown vibe” with the emphasis on high quality drinks. There will be some vaguely Noo Yawk-themed food in the daytime such as hotdogs and bagels and as with Exchange there could be live music, comedy and so on  in the basement.  The venture is run by Roop Kahlon, who some may know from his time at Time bar and Chris Baker who, understandably, decided he’d had enough of running a Travelodge in Derby.

With the 115-room Encore hotel on the corner of Rutland Street and Charles Street now looking like it is nearing completion (complete with “stylish bar and bistro”) the area is showing some much needed fighting spirit.

An interesting recent opening in Birstall of all places is The Dining Room. This is from members of the team behind the restaurant of the same name in Oakham, which is turn traces it’s geneology from the Red Veil on Charles Street (now housing the somewhat grim Zucchero) and before that The Mint in Moutsorrel. These restaurants have all been marked by a brave  attempt  to introduce a fine dining approach to Indian food – regional classics updated  and served with a cheffy touches in  a smart contemporary environment. Alright it’s not Atul Kuchar but I’ve always enjoyed the food.  Why they’ve chosen Wanlip Lane, Birstall, I don’t know (I did ask the PR bod but got no repsonse)  – perhaps they feel the city centre and London Road are full enough.  Hope to go sooner or later but I’d be interested to hear any reports in the meantime.

Getting in just before them on London Road was 4550 Miles from Delhi – though as far as I can work out this is more of a rebranding of Shimla Pinks. A quick look at the menu would seem to confirm this.  Another new development exactly opposite this venue is More, one of these cover-all-bases buffet resuarants in the style of the huge Feast India on the Melton Road. More promises Indian, South Indian, piri-piri, Chinese, “Pan-Asian” and Mexican food cooked at seven live cooking stations for up to 250 covers.  It opens in October in time for the lucrative Christmas party market. Hurrah.

It may also be in time for National Curry Week, 9-15 October. This PR event also see the latest running of the Curry Capital of the UK event. I suppose I ought to get all patriotic about it and urge people to support Leicester’s bid by nominating your favourite restaurant with the Mercury  (by this Friday). If it’s a useful tool for bringing tourists flooding in to our city then all well and good but it all feels a bit, well artificial. Just go and have a nice meal somewhere eh?

Paul Leary and his brigade at The Woodhouse

And finally congratulations to two local restaurants that have received first-time listings in the Good Food Guide  –  The Woodhouse and Boboli have both featured in these pages and deserve their success.  Hambleton Hall is listed as number 31 inthe GFG’s list of the nation’s top fifty restuarants and Nottingham’s Sat Bains is up to no.3.  I’ve not been there yet but if anyone wants to take me I’m sure I’m available.

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