The Oat Hill

January 15, 2012

Now I’d better get something sorted straight away.  I do not look to the Leicester Mercury and its reviews for advice on where to eat. The fact that I was eating in The Oat Hill at the weekend had everything to do with my friend Deborah living in Market Harborough and nothing to do with the fact the Mercury sent Joan Stephens to review it last week.  OK? Good.

A short way out of town on the Kettering Road,  the Oat Hill is in the shadow of the local branches of both Aldi and Lidl. If that puts you off, it shouldn’t because this is a really rather good dining pub. There’s a smart and comfortable bar – big comfy sofas, heavy red velvet  curtains, young staff all in black and so on.  The restaurant is equally appealing and the menu is well designed and seemed to be well-priced. We passed on starters because it was really just a quick supper but given the quality of our mains I wished  I’d gone for something such as roasted breast of pheasant  with roasted honey soused root veg or baked figs with melting gorngonzola and rocket salad.

My main was slow braised shin of beef   – a flavoursome cut I’ve eulogised on this blog before and done very nicely here, presented beautifully on excellent creamed mash with two contrasting sauces making the plate look a ying and yang symbol, a dark port jus and a creamy, mustardy sauce. The cheffy parsnip crisps were just right and a bowl of veg were perfect.   Deborah’s sea bream with crayfish and tomato bisque  was also very good indeed – two large fillets with crispy skin and real depth of flavour and a well-made sauce.  These were well-conceived and well-executed dishes.  We shared a desert that was well up to standard, a creme brulee with beautifully pared slices of ripe pear and excellent homemade shortbread.

It’s always nice to find a place that exceeds expectations and The Oat Hill did for us  – Deb immediately booked to go back with a friend next week.  There is a proper chef in the kitchen and while it may not have the picturesque setting of some gastropubs out in the South of the county,  I think this place should definitely be on your radar when in the area.

Oh and Joan liked it too.

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A winter stew

February 21, 2011

I went out on Saturday thinking it was time to do an oxtail stew. But as my friendly neighbourhood butcher pointed out, cows tend only to have one tail and thus he’d run out.  He suggested shin instead. I must admit I’d always thought  shin was just another variety of cheap braising steak, but I think I’m now a convert to this humble cut.

Looking at the meat pictured  right you can see some of the connective tissue and it’s this that breaks down during long slow cooking to help create  an  extraordinary rich, thick sauce. It’s got to be long and slow but you are rewarded with ultra-tender, ultra-tasty meat.

I’ve no pictures of the fabulous stew I’m afraid but it was simplicity itself. For a generous meal for two people,  toss one pound of  meat in seasoned flour (try adding a little mustard powder too), fry an onion and some garlic, brown the meat, toss in some carrots, a few sprigs of thyme, a bayleaf.  Let it all stick a bit to the bottom of the pan and then add half a bottle of red plonk, making sure to stir up all those wonderful sticky bits from the bottom of the pan all up to mix.   Put it in a casserole, cover tightly, cook for as long as you’ve got as low as you can – at least two hours – and just let the magic happen.  It’s worth checking every hour or so because this will be a fairly dry stew and you don’t want to over do it.  

I’ll definitely be looking to use this specific cut for a range of other slow cooked recipes now.

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