I ran into Aatin Anadkat of Maiyango at last week’s Winter Food Festival at Leicester Market. He was buzzing over the prospects for his business – “these last few weeks it’s like I’ve had a shot of adrenaline” he told me.

Sweet potato and chipotle veloute, mango salsa

Sweet potato and chipotle veloute, mango salsa

Aatin launched the restaurant when not long out of University. It was stylish, cosmopolitan and offered something new for Leicester. Over the last decade Aatin and his colleagues showed considerable savvy and skill to not just secure the restaurant and bar, but to develop the City’s smartest boutique hotel, a banqueting operation running out of the St Martin’s House by the Cathedral and a Kitchen Deli on Highcross St.

So when his long-term head chef and friend Phil Sharpe left last month to set up on his own at The White Peacock, it was naturally one of the occasions when you drag out that old (apparently erroneous) notion that the Chinese word for crisis equates to “danger and opportunity”.  So, hence the adrenaline.

The opportunity to refresh the operation has seen the appointment of Nick Wilson as head chef. He is a hugely experienced chef but appears to be a great fit for Maiyango.  At a tasting session last week he provided a mightily impressive debut for a group of experienced and hard-to-please diners.

Things started off with Maiyango’s typically inventive cocktails (chilli and lemongrass mojito, star anise-flavoured oriental julep) and canapés including an exceptionally gorgeous cod and chorizo samosa.  The starter of a smooth sweet potato and chipotle veloute gave a real tingle to the tongue but was brilliantly paired with a cooling mango salsa and crunchy kohlrabi bhaji.

“We’re not doing fusion food.’ said our maître d’.  “We say this is modern European food with influences from the East”.  Fusion cooking doesn’t have a great name, but with food this good I don’t really mind what you call it.

roast cod, celeriac puree, curried mussels

Roast cod, celeriac puree, curried mussels

Next up came distinctly Eastern tandoori paneer and vegetable skewers with carrot pickle, sag aloo salad and a belting cherry tomato jam. Well cooked, with nicely balanced flavours, this was another winner.  Then came what I think most people thought was the star dish of the night – perfectly roasted cod with a seared edge, rich and smooth celeriac puree, crunchy aubergine crisps, wilted spinach and fantastic mussels with a lightly curried creamy broth. Great cooking and a very well-conceived dish.  To serve at least 30 people more or less at once and get things so right suggests Chef Wilson has very quickly got things right in the kitchen.

Glazed duck, leg hash

Glazed duck, leg hash

The main course of duck was a showstopper but for me had one or two elements too much.  The duck breast was great, the hash of duck leg in a sweetish/sourish sauce was really great. Cayenne potatoes could have been a bit spicier and  a bit crunchier, and while the bok choi and date puree both worked, another puree (squash?), orange and vanilla syrup and a smear of tapenade seemed to take the focus away from the main event of the dish. Some of the combinations worked in the mouth, others didn’t.

Desert featured a cardamom and white chocolate brulee.  Cardamom can be a bit of a beast used in delicate puds, but I thought the balance here was spot on and the result was totally delicious.

Overall then – very good cooking, well-composed dishes, served up by well-trained and charming staff.  I spoke to several people afterwards who said they’d always enjoyed Maiyango but had maybe got a little bored of the menu – and they were now eager to come back and try again.

No doubt that will music to Aatin’s ears. For Leicester diners, it seems the shot in the arm provided by a bit of friendly rivalry could have rich dividends.

Update:30/11/13 – …and congratulations to Maiyango for winning both Hotel of the Year and Taste of England Award in Leicestershire’s 2013 Excellence in Tourism Awards

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Menu drooling

November 13, 2013

Menus – I love ’em.

As anyone who has ever walked past a new restaurant with me will testify, I’m almost certain to disappear for two minutes for a peer at the menu. A poorly written one is a disappointment and a warning. A straightforward one that hits the right notes gives a little thrill. Hmmm. Have I overshared there?

Two rather exciting menus came into my inbox today. Les Rosbifs Bar and Grill, which recently relocated from Northfield Farm in Rutland to Six Hills off the A46 between Leicester and Nottingham, are having a game night on 23 November which sounds packed with autumnal goodness.  There are canapés  including seared carpaccio of Leicestershire venison, juniper, smoked sea salt and pepper, roasted beetroot and sloe gin compote, plus smoked pigeon
and griottine cherry tapenade en croute. Then there’s a first course  of slow braised rabbit tartlet  with garlic gazed girolles, toasted pancetta and black truffle oil. There’s an epic sounding main course of shin of venison and ox-tail Bourguignon with vintage Lincolnshire Poacher and parsnip dauphinoise.  Pudding sounds equally warming  – apple and bramble crumble with roasted macadamia and oat crunch, Whissendine honey and damson whisky ice-cream. With palate cleanser and coffee and truffles for £29.95, it sounds a right deal.

chef watsonAnd secondly, we now have the first menus from Nick Wilson,  new head chef at Maiyango (right). It looks like evolution rather than revolution from the man who has helmed Michelin star and four rosette kitchens. New to the city, Nick describes Leicester as “a melting pot of people, culture and flavours” and reckons “it will be fantastic to explore different tastes and cooking techniques.”

I hope to be sampling some of the new the menu next week, but among the immediately appealing elements are starters such as king scallops, squash puree, squid and chorizo cannelloni, or presse of local game, bitter chocolate, pancetta, prunes and treacle bread. Front runners from the mains for me are seabass with thai spiced rissotto, crab croquette, coconut and shellfish bisque, and gressingham duck breast, leg hash, cayenne potatoes, bok choi, date puree, orange and vanilla syrup.  And well done to Nick for offering a complete tasting menu for coeliacs and even a couple of vegan options.

Right that’s enough menu drooling – I’m off to cook something…

New chef for Maiyango

October 30, 2013

News reaches me from Maiyango that they have now recruited a new executive chef to head up their restaurant, hotel and banqueting operation. As reported here recently,  Phil Sharpe has moved on – on good terms I’m assured –  to run his own venture the White Peacock on New Walk, which opens this weekend. The new chef at Maiyango is Nick Wilson, who trained under Jean Christophe Novelli, eventually heading up Novelli’s Michelin-starred Les Saveurs in Mayfair. He also counts celebrated venues including Gleneagles Hotel and Sharrow Bay on his CV, with more recent jobs at the all-organic Walnut Club in Hathersage, and the Swan at Lavenham in Suffolk.

Maiyango currently has an AA rosette,  Good Food Guide listing and a big commitment to showcasing Leicestershire produce.  I look forward to seeing how that legacy is going to be built on.

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