With so many people now spending most of their day in reach of at least three social media channels, old fashioned blogs like this aren’t great for breaking news. But in case you missed it, there’s been a buzz this week over the return of the much-missed Smokehouse after a gap of nearly four-years.

smokehouse2       smokehouse

To begin with at least, this is just in the format of a pop-up kitchen taking over venues  and catering for events and festivals. Their first announcement of a kitchen takeover at Leicester’s Rutland and Derby Arms on 11th April led to an almost instant sell-out and a quickly-added second night on 10th April is selling fast too.  They are currently looking for more partners who might want to host a pop-up or takeover.


Chef Liam Watson, who developed the Smokehouse when it was based within the O Bar on Braunstone Gate, says he couldn’t be more delighted to find out there is still a hunger in Leicester for his brand of gutsy, original, flavoursome food based on his own extensive research and passion for smoking.

To book and keep in the loop for further Smokehouse events, visit their  website, facebook page site or follow on twitter @popupsmokehouse



So here’s some nice things happening in Leicester.

First off, I went to the launch of Cured at the end of last week. This is the business of chef Martin Powdrill, who previously has worked at the much-missed  Smokehouse on Braunstone Gate and is basically offering the bar food within Leicester’s Brewdog. The USp is food that uses Brewdog’s distinctive beers to cure meat and fish. Judging by the tastes we had, this will be a terrific addition to food options in the city centre.

Martin is a young,  enthusiastic chef on a mission to transform expectations of curing from the short-cut injected processes used in supermarket produce to exploring the long, slow alchemy of traditional curing. His audition piece with the Brewdog people involved a few simple pickled vegetables – demonstrating the variability of the process and the fact that the simplest items on his menu would be given the same attention as the headline dishes.

At the launch event we tried the likes of: sweet maple cure bacon cured in Punk IPA with picallili: terrifically tasty salmon ‘pastrami’ brined in smoked porter; brisket cured for some two weeks and roasted with burnt barley and treacle; an amazingly accurate vegetarian recreation of the pulled pork experience using jackfruit and a fennel slaw; an oriental take on beef jerky using soy, coriander and sesame; and, oh yes, the best pork scratchings ever.


All these dishes have been researched, developed, tested and show real character. ‘m looking forward to going back shortly to try more and urge others to try it too. Watch for the beer matching recommendations too.

Food will be available 12-8pm with a special “hangover club” on Sundays, but Martin hopes to use the large upstairs space at Brewdog  for special restaurant nights in the future.

More good news for beer lovers with the imminent opening of the Blue Boar on Millstone Lane, a micropub using a historic name with an interior  designed for good conversation and good cask beer and real cider.

On the same road The Rutland and Derby is starting monthly pop-up nights starting tomorrow (Tuesday 6th September) with a  pop-up chippy. We’re told to  “think red and white check tablecloths, waiters in white aprons and sustainably sourced fish”.

A little further down the line a big presence will arrive in the middle of all this activity with Middleton’s Steak House having its Soft Launch starting around 10 October. This of course is set in the massive wedding cake in St Martins that is the grand old Nat West Banking Hall. I was besotted with that building when I used to bank there – I hope they’ve not ruined it.


The Big Eat 3

June 29, 2012

I somehow missed the publicity for the Third Leicester Big Eat restaurant promotion, but I usually try and give it a plug and I’m just in time.  So Big Eat 3 takes place on Monday 2 July, nicely coinciding with arrival of the Olympic torch in Leicester.  Anyone would think they planned these things.

For those don’t know the format, it’s simply that all restaurants are enouraged to put on special events, special menus or just nice big discounts on the same night to get as many people as possible eating out on a Monday.  This year they’ve got over 70 restaurants and bars involved. Have a look at the list of offerings on the One Leicester website but among the interesting ones are:

– 2 for 1 on food at Five Thai (next to Curve on Rutland Street)

– 2 for 1 main courses at The Boot Room

– 2  champagne cocktails for £10 plus Olympic prize quiz at the Case Champagne bar (and 2 for 1 three course meal upstairs at the Case when buying wine)

– 2 pizzas, two sides and a bottle of wine for £20 at the Rutland and Derby.

– 2 for 1 off a selected menu at Anjuna with “the latest Kizomba and Anjuna beats”. I’m off to Anjuna tonight as it happens.

One last word – many of the offers require pre-booking and mentioning of the offer. Previous events have been very popular so check out the details and make your plans in advance. (Sorry for the late notice!).

The Big Eat

September 29, 2011

I’ve somehow seemed to miss out on the early publicity for this, but Leicester’s Big Eat looks like a worthwhile intiative. On 6 October 40-odd restaurants, cafe and bars  in the city centre will be doing two-for-ones or other special offers and events. This includes venues such as Chutney Ivy (which will have Indian and English singers in for the night) Kayal, The Case, The Boot Room, Rutland and Derby and Cedars Lebenese which be hosting belly dancing. The precise offer varies so make sure you have a browse of the offical information (Click here).

Given the depressing news this week about the failure to thrive of Market Corner, it would be good to have the city heaving with people enjoying their food.


The Rutland and Derby

February 10, 2011

Had an interesting morning recently talking to Sam Hagger, the publican who has taken over Leicester’s Rutland and Derby pub on Millstone Lane and turned it back into a more mainstream pub but also added a deli. 

Where once were low sofas is now a cabinet full of fancy cheese, glistening olives and a range of antipasti and charcuterie. It’s an interesting move based on Hagger’s own interest in food and his observation of the local clientele.  He first discovered the venue while his other pub, the Forge in Glenfield was being done up. When it became available he had thought about opening a restaurant but decided it was too close to Stephen Fitzpatrick’s Boot Room and Bistrot Pierre. But seeing the brass plaque offices surrounding him in the Catherdral Quarter  (is it called that? It is now)  he felt those professional types would jump at the chance of  a cheeky piece of  gorgonzola or 36-month aged  parmesan for lunch or with an after work pint.  

Sam Hagger - "I can tell you a story about every cheese here"

Most of what’s on offer comes through  a specialist supplier who seems to have good links with the Slow Food network of  suppliers in Italy and Sam takes pleasure in sharing tales about artisan makers who bury their cheeses in caves and all that. 

Food at the deli – and there is some really interesting stuff there you would struggle to find elsewhere locally – can be bought to take away, but also forms the main eat-in offer of classy deli sandwiches and deli boards.  The Rutland Board, for example, offers semi-roasted Puglian tomatoes, Nocellara del Belice olives, black olive tapenade, char-grilled artichoke hearts, prosciutto, aged Parmagiano Reggiano and oregano crackers.  You can get a local pork pie or samosa too, and Sam promises that as they settle in  they will source more and more local produce:  “For us it’s an evolution – a voyage of discovery”. If you are a local producer with the right credentials, maybe you should get in touch. 

The drinks menu has been pared down from the extravagance of the ancien regime, but still includes some premium lagers, three beers from partners Everards and other ales including Old Hooky and Adnam’s Broadside.  There’s a rather handsome whisky cabinet too. The space is still pretty much the same but the feel is rather more homely (see below) and Sam has both kept and extended the pub’s pleasant  outdoor space, adding an astroturfed roof garden that should be blissful on a hot summer’s evening should we get one.   All in all, definitely worth a visit. Watch out for the full story, and rather better pictures in next month’s Great Food Leicestershire and Rutland

Interesting developments at this Leicester stylish city centre pub. A slightly scruffy studenty place in the eighties and nineties, it had a major makeover and emerged as smart, continental-style bar with a fantastic range of beers and spirits. It had good service, a lovely little courtyard and generally a bit of  the sophistication in short supply in Leicester.  When I was at Metro we made it Bar of the Year. It appeared to aim to offer serious food but never quite delivered,  finding it difficult to pull off the  urban gastropub thing. 

Anyway it’s now changed hands and is currently again being refurbished, shortly to emerge as the city’s first ‘deli-pub’. It promises to continue to offer a great range of drinks but will now also  have “an exciting range of foods from gorgonzola piccante to prosciutto da cinta” for consumption on and off the premises.

The people behind it are Ssoosh inns, a Kirby Muxloe-based  company that have developed The Forge in Glenfield and The Willow in Thurmaston. I’ve not visited either pub – so any views welcome – but the company seems to have a bit of something about them, so fingers crossed they hold on to what made the R&D a  welcome piece of Leicester’s jigsaw.  Should  re-open some time in November.


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