I’ve written on here some time back about Soft Touch, a charity of which I’m a volunteer director that does fine work with young people using the arts, including work on healthy eating and cooking skills.

In recent years the organisation has had some great support from Phil Sharpe and his team at the White Peacock, now our near-neighbour on New Walk. Phil has now kindly offered to host a fundraising dinner for us on 5 November which, among other things will help us to complete the kitchen we’ve installed at our new premises and which we will use to help young people learn new skills, improve existing ones and enable the projects we run to prepare food for each other.

So here’s the deal – there’ll be a six course taster menu for £35. The menu is yet to be confirmed  but if you’ve read this blog, you’ll know the quality of the food at the White Peacock. You will also have a chance to win some wonderful prizes donated by local businesses in a fundraising draw.

You can book now and see some further details at:

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-touch-of-community-dinner-evening-at-the-white-peacock-tickets-18713380224

I’ll post a reminder nearer the date  – if there’s tickets remaining – but do feel free to book now. There’s just a £15 deposit to pay – the balance being taken on the night.

White Peacock Dinner Event

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I was invited last week to provide a bit of feedback on the new menu at Maiyango. I enjoyed the work of chef Nick Wilson but it seems personal matters have drawn him away to Cambridge and now in charge behind the stove is Salvatore (Sav) Tassari.  Recruited with Nick Wilson’s involvement  as a possible successor, Sav has recently come to Leicester after four years cooking out in Tenerife but also has experience at a fine dining hotel in Chester and out in Italy.

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Andy Hall from St Martin’s Tea and Coffee with Aatin Anadkat of Maiyango

Before tasting though I was lucky enough to get a further insight into restaurant operations by sitting in on a session with Andy Hall from St Martin’s Coffee who has been charged with coming up with a new blend for Maiyango to grind. It’s great to see quality independent businesses co-operating like this. Andy had high hopes for a El Salvador Salmon Bourbon bean but while it was a complex bean the roast – done back in Central America – had not done it any favours, leaving it lacking body.  More promising was a blend from Brazil and Ethiopia.

On to lunch and I was able to sample some of Sav’s dishes – including a seemingly simple  but stunning starter of fragrant winter vegetables, including butternut squash, artichoke, beetroots. It’s billed as sweet and sour, but the slight spicing didn’t detract from the earthy essential flavour od the veg. Very impressive mains of a wonderful tender, rare beef fillet with asparagus, mushroom puree and truffle sauce showed really good balance of flavours, not easy with truffle. This impression was backed up by a taste of the steamed wild sea bass, spiced coconut laksa, bok choi, chilli and a refreshing mint relish which gave the whole lift.  A desert of a pineapple parfait with yoghurt foam and a foaming cucumber soup was a clever combination – the cucumber was a bit insubstantial on its own but with the pineapple it all made perfect sense.

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Winter vegetables

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Wild seabass

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Pineapple parfait

 

 

All in all it seems Sav has understood his brief here and is producing interesting food that continues the house style fine dining with international influences but strong local roots too. There’s plenty of invention and plenty for vegetarians and vegans too.

Coincidentally I reviewed one of Sav’s predecessor’s in my Mercury Column this week. Phil Sharpe opened the White Peacock in late 2013 and my impression is the place is really hitting its stride. We had a lovely tasting menu full of good flavours and confident cooking in a smart, upmarket but relaxed environment. It’s a lovely building too and provides an excellent dining experience in the heart of the city – you can see the review here 

One more bit of news, former general manager Mark Barbour has returned to the Red Lion, Stathern, after a gap of nine years. The pub holds a Michelin Bib Gourmand and is the Good Pub Guide’s Leicestershire Dining Pub of the Year for 2015, but owners  Sean Hope and Ben Jones recently announced that they are withdrawing from active management  to focus on their other venue, the wonderful Olive Branch in Clipsham.  Mark ran the pub fron 2002  to 2006 and since then has been training manager for the Bistro Pierre chain, opening its flagship Ilkley hotel,  and  general manager at the award-winning Fleece Inn at Addingham, West Yorkshire.

 

It’s always good to see a serious new independent restaurant open in the centre of Leicester. It’s been a bit of a graveyard of dreams but there’s always the hope that someone will make a new place work, and so a big welcome and good luck  to Phillip Sharpe’s new venture The White Peacock.

He’s no stranger to Leicester having been head chef at Maiyango for what must be around a decade. It’s been good to see his development there in producing ever-more ambitious and high-quality food as the young business grew. Now he’s getting his own venue at the foot of New Walk, the building that was most recently Barrington’s but before that was Flores, a fine-ish dining global tapas place that looked beautiful but I never really warmed to the food.

I’ve not got details of what exactly the offer will be The White Peacock, but it’s set to open by the end of October I believe.  Certainly they will be hoping to capture some of the Christmas action and the festive menu features dishes that seem to reflect the eclectic influences Phil implemented at Maiyango – Japanese green tea and lime cured organic salmon, micro cress, wasabi crème fraiche; organic rump of lamb, slow roast shoulder, root vegetable  dauphinoise, redcurrant and rosemary jus;  mandarin and hazelnut jelly, hazelnut ice-cream.

Phil also comes across as a really genuine sort of chap – committed to using great Leicestershire produce where possible and he and Maiyango have also recently been offering great support to a youth arts project I’m involved with called Soft Touch  which is helping disadvantaged kids to develop healthy eating awareness and spread the word in their communities. It’s great he’s having a go in the city centre – I’ll give more news as and when.

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