More signs of life on the Leicester eating out scene with news of a pop-up collaboration between St Martin’s Tea and Coffee and chef Chris Elliman of Crafty’s.

The two businesses are taking inspiration from the likes of The Smokehouse and Byron to run a burger and craft beer pop-up at St Martins on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from the end of October for six weeks.

A special blend of beef is being dry-aged by Woods butchers of Clarendon Park which will be handmade into a range of burgers which, it is promised, will showcase the best of local produce. Leading the pack in tasting tastes is El Gordo featuring a beef patty, pulled beef  chilli, Red Leicester, jalapenos and smoked chilli ketchup, all in a brioche bun with pickles. All burgers and fries will cost under £10.

“We’re excited about kicking off Crafty’s in St Martin’s- a cool venue with a similar ethos to our own,” said Chris Elliman. “We both want to offer something unique to Leicester and encourage people to support local suppliers and try something a bit different.”

Andy Hall of St Martin’s said that this “short blast of creativity” fitted his company’s ethos perfectly, adding  “Collaborations between independents are so important for a vibrant Leicester.”

Further details of discounted soft opening nights and how to book will be out soon on social media via @stmartinscoffee and @craftyburgers and their Facebook pages.

 

The Smokehouse

November 11, 2013

Having already given quite a decent big-up to The Smokehouse pop-up at Leicester’s O Bar, I suppose I was a little nervous about it being a bit of a let down.

Fortunately, turns out I needn’t have worried. Aside from the pretty basic and uncomfortable seating, five of us had a gorgeous lunch there on Sunday. I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow review – the venue is already getting plenty of  positive coverage  – but the long and the short of it is that here was very good, down-to-earth flavour-led food at fair prices. We enjoyed pulled pork, 12-hour brisket with house rub and barbecued chicken with smoked bacon rub – all of them really showing the benefit of the long and slow treatment.

I really loved the sides too  – smoked fennel and aubergine salad with sweet raisin puree was a complete revelation, fennel and jalapeno slaw was lip-tinglingly good while delicious barbecue baked beans seemed to have had a hearty slug of maple syrup to give a sweet edge. Opinions were a little divided over the salt baked potatoes, baked in a pastry crust, but I certainly felt they gained something from the treatment.

Pick of the deserts was an absolutely stonking sticky toffee pudding with a salted caramel bourbon sauce. Definitely recommend finding space for that if it’s on when you go.

The craft beers were great, you’re even offered tasting if you’re unfamiliar to what contemporary brewers are doing. I  had  the Camden pale ale, and it was a good match for the food on offer.

Staff are lovely too and generally you want to thank everyone involved for giving it a go.  I’m sorry there’s no pictures, but anyway this isn’t pretty food to be admired on the plate –  it’s food to get stuck into and enjoy.  You should try it while it’s here. I’m certainly going back.

 

It’s great news that Leicester’s West End is about to get a specialist  barbecue restaurant – even if it’s only going to last a month. The Pop-Up Smokehouse will be operate from 7 November to 8 December and will bring flavours of the American mid-west and south to the O Bar on Braunstone Gate. It’s an initiative of the Orange Tree group who want to try and bring back a bit of innovation to this part of Leicester’s West End which has suffered a spate of closures. It’s also lost a fair bit of its special character since De Montfort University used its muscle to get the Bowstring Bridge removed. The owners sat down with chef Liam Watson, who spent three years with the group at the Lansdowne on London Road, and thought about how to bring a bit  buzz back.

Liam Watson with his grill

Liam Watson with his grill

I caught up with Liam on Saturday when he was giving away a few free samples at Orange Tree on High Street.  “Most of recent  investment has gone to the Cultural Quarter in the East of the city,’ he explains “That’s great, but it’s no secret that the West End needs a bit of a push. We had a think about what we could do and tried to come up with something outside the box – something enjoyable that would make a big impact on customers but didn’t involve too much cost.” The answer was a new Green Mountain grill and a pop-up restaurant in a bar that has not previously served food.  The inspiration came from a trip to Pitt Cue, the hugely popular Soho smokehouse.  “It blew me away,” enthuses Liam.  ” And fortunately they’ve now brought out a book with recipes…”.

So what can we expect? Classic, dry-rubbed, slow-cooked, St Louis cut of pork ribs given 12 hours with a hickory, maple and oak smoke. Chicken,  of course. But the hugely enthusiastic Liam also wants to be more adventurous, so look out for braised oxtail with smoked oysters in chocolate porter (all the meals are going to be matched with craft ales), beef ribs, pork cheeks and scorched mackerel. For this dish the fish just gets a sousing and then subtle smoke from a blowtorch to crisp up the skin. There’ll be  vegetarian options too – “we found butternut squash takes the smoke really well,” says Liam.

After December they’ll have a think about how it all went. Maybe they’ll have to put it down to experience. Maybe they’ll be tempted to try it again and keep popping up at festivals and events. Or just maybe they’ll be encouraged to think about something more permanent. Whatever, judging by the beautifully tender and tasty samples I tried, and the impressive way they seem to have thought this through, the Smokehouse would appear to be well worth a trip (you can book on 0116 255 8223).

Last week the Nottingham Evening Post was boasting about how their city had totally trumped Leicester and Derby in  Observer Food Awards.  Initiatives like this – as well as smarter openings such the White Peacock –  are exactly what we need to maintain and improve the city’s food culture.

Events

May 10, 2012

News has reached me of another of Lucy Cufflin’s local food pop-ups. After a successful couple of nights at the White Room in Stoneygate, she’s taking over Kibworth Cricket Club on 24 May.  This is a larger venue and there’s (no BYO this time – a local shop is supplying a selection of wines at £12).  The menu sounds very appealing – chicken liver parfait from the wonderful Fosse Meadows chickens, fresh pasta with pesto and British asparagus, pork belly with bourbon glaze, saute potatoes and apples, and crispy fennel with lemon and chilli, plus a trio of local berry deserts – raspberry posset, summer pudding and chambord liquer tart.  Tickets are £30 from Lucy’s Foods in Stoenygatre  or the Deli at Kibworth.

In case you were wondering about the calcotada I was getting excited about last month, it was cancelled at the last minute. Very disappointing.

Not a pop-up but of interest to those with a love of gutsy French regional food is a special cassoulet night at La Table d’Yves in Thorpe Satchville. Yves Ogrodski and his wife Elizabeth came from Provence to the UK and for six years have run this fun, authentic French restaurant in an otherwise unremarkable pub in the heart of East Leicestershire. I’ve not been for a couple of years,  but given it’s looking like we’re not having a summer I’m tempted by the hearty delights of the bean, duck, sausage combo offer on 18 May.

Finally a reminder about some local food events – the Artisan Cheese Fair  takes place at Melton’s Cattle Market this weekend, Leicester’s Summer Food festival will be at Leicester Market on 27 May,  and Stoneygate local food and drink fair is on 4 June (stalls for local producers still available, contact Zoe Brady of Brady’s Fish and Seafood Market)

Pop ups for Spring.

February 29, 2012

 

 

Good to report that finally there’s some stirrings in Leicester of a pop-up restaurant scene.  Lucy Cufflin of Lucy’s Foods in Stoneygate has teamed up with Powder Blue, an interior décor shop opposite her own store, to stage two nights (sorry, it’s tonight and tomorrow and they are both full), with a locally themed four course menu including “pannacotta of Rutland trout” (not sure about the sound of that), terrine of duck with vine fruit and Muscat jelly, Bouverie Farm venison pudding with Tiger ale, plus apple tart with walnut pastry and Brucciani’s ice-cream. Both nights sold out within a week but if you like the sound of it, go to White Room Dining’s Facebook  page to look for future events.

I have to say I’m not really a Stoneygate kinda guy. But I am definitely attracted by news of a calcotada being held at the lovely Crumblin’ Cookie on High Street.  Calcotadas are Catalan feasts that feature in particular calçots – giant spring onions with romesco sauce.  I heard about them years ago from a friend who went to one with their ex-pat pal near Taragona, but never thought I’d see one in Leicester. Calçotadas are being popularised here by Rachel McCormack (one of the panellists at the recent Kitchen Cabinet recording at Melton), who is behind the website  Catalan Cooking 

 

The traditional menu includes nibbles, calcots, barbecued meats, crema catalana, fruit and a glass or two of cava, and the idea is very much to have a lot fun. Sounds great.  Have a look at Catalan Cooking  for details, though as of today I don’t think it mentions the Leicester event yet.  Cost is £32 – book with the Crumblin’ Cookie at 68 High Street.

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