The White Peacock

March 19, 2019

peacockwbsThe White Peacock has stood proudly at the bottom of New Walk, Leicester for a good few years offering one of the city’s most smart, sophisticated but relaxed environment’s for good food.

The restaurant was set up by former chef patron Phil Sharpe, who earned his spurs in the city at Maiyango. Some 18 months ago Phil decided he’d had enough of the stress and sold up to the Koban Group, a locally based company which also runs Aspects in Enderby (and more recently has bought Leicester’s Lansdowne and 1573 bar and grill).

I’d not been in since Phil departed, but last week went down and tried the tasting menu. First thing to say is that not only have the excellent staff team been retained, but the classy interior and the fine dining approach have not been messed with – this is still a very pleasant environment to enjoy a cocktail and good food.


The nine course menu started with what is described as a plate of snacks. This felt a bit random and unfocused – there was a sausage roll that was really not very nice, a little rice crisp with a smart crab salad, a crisp little bird nest of fried potato and a superb tranche of hake in squid ink batter. The four things stood on the plate like strangers, reluctant to talk to each other. There was maybe some sort of allusion to the British seaside going on but I think it would work better to just keep the hake and maybe create another proper crab course to replace the rest.

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Ox cheek with yeasted cauliflower puree

Next up was a hefty slab of beautifully slow-cooked ox cheek, served with a yeasted cauliflower puree and a light, sweetish ponzu sauce. This was great – good hearty food given a smart twist. Then came cured salmon with cucumber, fennel and avocado mousse – a beautifully composed dish which looked great and had good clean flavours. The salmon in particular pleased, with a little light scorching on top but otherwise with a sashimi-like quality.

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Salmon with cucumber, fennel and avocado mousse

Then a little break with a palate cleansing yuzu sorbet livened up at table by being given a good hearty slug of prosecco.

Last of the mains was a really beautiful piece of tender, medium rare, fillet of beef with nice and crunchy pommes anna (basically thinly sliced layers of potatato cooked with butter), herby lovage puree and a Madeira sauce. Lovely as this was, I don’t think ox cheek and beef fillet should be on the same tasting menu – it made the meal feel a bit lop-sided. There was a faux-pas with the steak – some of the tape used to keep it in shape during cooking had been left on.

20190307_215641We transitioned to sweet with a quenelle of excellent goat’s cheese mousse served simply with fine lightly pickled red onion. One of the pleasures of this meal was that all the dishes were beautifully plated, both in choice and variety of plates and in the arrangements.

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Cherry baked Alaska

 

The first desert sounded right up my street but was a bit disappointing – cherry baked Alaska with almond meringues and almond brittle. Obviously this being a tasting menu you don’t want huge deserts but the baked Alaska was just too small to allow the different elements to interact properly. The cherry element had gone before I knew it, unable to deal with the sweet Italian meringue, which I felt need a bit more attention from a flame.

The slight frustration with the Alaska was made more pointed with final main element – a large, super-rich chocolate fondant tart with tonka bean milk gel, chocolate tuile and tonka bean crème anglaise. All elements were done very well but it felt a bit much at the end of such a meal – though of course I still just about managed to clear up a couple of first-rate petit fours with the coffee.

We had the wine matching and there were some lovely choices including a fulsome Australian shiraz with the steak and a stunning black muscat with the baked alsaka. But a rather light Chevanceau from Herault failed to stand up to the ox cheek.

Service throughout the evening was charming and helpful, and the pace was just right. Maybe not the best structured tasting menu I’ve ever had, but plenty to like in a restaurant that will give pleasure to many.

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Some of you may have heard that after 12 years on St Nicholas Place, Leicester’s Maiyango is to close later this month. Well, yes, but it’s not necessarily the bad news you may have feared. The restaurant will reopen under the same team but with a new name and a new concept in August.

I reviewed Maiyango for Metro when it first opened (and at least four times since) and have enjoyed watching it thrive and mature into one of the city’s most consistent, innovative and enjoyable smart restaurants.  It started with a global fusion style that was slightly hit and miss, but developed a self-confident signature style that successfully blended influences from all around the world.

Last week I sat down with founder and  boss Aatin Anadkat  who explained why, despite the pride in what they’ve achieved with Maiyango, he felt the time was right to tweak the format.

 

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Maiyango’s distinctive style

 

“We never really intended to be high end or a place that people think of just for special occasions – the idea has always been to be quirky, original and fun,” said Aatin. “I’m not sure so many people want to spend all evening in a restaurant any more – the time seems right to appeal to a wider spectrum of diners.  But we’ll definitely be keeping our brand values – we worked hard to get our AA rosette and will maintain our quality.”

The restaurant will shut after 22nd July for a complete overhaul, but Aatin is not revealing too much at the moment about the new style  – he understandably doesn’t want people to have preconceived ideas or to immediately compare to Maiyango. He will confirm, thankfully, it’s  not a burger restaurant.

For those who have loved the place, or who might want to know what they missed out on, Maiyango is holding two weeks of special events that mark their distinctive style. For full details and to book, go to their website ,  but briefly here’s what’s going on:

7 July  – Four course gin-tasting dinner, with matching gin cocktails

9 July – Deserts and cocktails evening

12 July – Six course wine-matching dinner

13 July – Four course dinner and cocktail tasting evening

14,15,21,22 July  – Six course “Best of Maiyango” tasting menu. There will be two sittings each night at 6pm and 9pm, with a menu featuring popular dishes from the last 12 years including  the likes of the “picnic loaf” with spiced ham, quail egg, cheddar mousse, apple sausage and bacon jam,   and seared king scallop with  sambal, samphire, coconut and lime leaf. A vegetarian menu is available at all events.

The Collyweston Slater

July 19, 2010

 

[Update 3/03/2011 – Dameon Clarke has now moved on and has opened Assiette in Stamford]

A couple of years back I had a great meal at Nick’s restaurant in Oakham, courtesy of chef Dameon Clarke. Yes it was bit a showy, a bit bling, but for all the complex plates and modish foams and jellies there was a focus on flavour that made the meal a resounding  pleasure.

Clarke is now established as chef patron at the Collyweston Slater, a handsome pub over on the Rutland/Lincolnshire border near Stamford. There’s a bar menu on offer but one look at the a la carte shows he is still interested in pushing the boat out – one starter involves rabbit and foie gras terrine with carrot jelly, pistachios, carrot and parsley salad and deep fried mustard ice cream.

A little note on the website mentioning that he’s willing to create a seasonal tasting menu for those interested had raised our interest, so four of us headed out from Leicester on a Friday night prepared to be impressed. And we were. Mightily.

First of all the pub. There’s low ceilings,  a quaint exterior, and sympathetically modern interior.  There’s plenty of room for local drinkers and an informal dining area staffed by refreshingly enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff.

Now for the food. First off, a lobster latte – an intense fishy broth in tall glass topped with beautifully judged parmesan foam, and accompanied by spoonful of lobster meat with veg and a cube of mild ginger jelly.  Great combinations of flavour and witty presentation.  Next up were some seared scallops, topped off with a crab foam and prettily laid out with cauliflower puree, samphire grass, asparagus, quail’s egg, crispy pancetta and cubes of cauliflower panna cotta.  Another wonderful collection of flavours put together with technical skill, even if the texture of the final item was not welcomed by everyone.    

scallops

 

Clarke had been happy to talk to us in advance about likes and dislikes but we had left it mainly to him to surprise us and the surprises kept coming. What was particularly pleasant was that our waiting staff seemed almost to be having as much pleasure at bringing and introducing our various dishes as we were in scoffing them.

An exquisite carpaccio of beef followed – a lovely piece of meat complemented with more quails egg, truffles, wild mushrooms and a  horseradish cream. It may all sound a bit busy but none of it overwhelmed the terrific centrepiece.

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The next dish was probably voted our overall favourite – a cracking piece of sea bass with immaculately crispy skin, was perched on a beetroot risotto – probably the tastiest, definitely the prettiest food I’ve eaten all year. Grilled artichoke gave additional texture and flavour. Sadly the photo below fails to capture the vibrancy of the risotto, but let me asssure you it was simply lovely.

The “main” course was some excellent belly and fillet of pork with generous shavings of truffle and a sweet squash puree.  The potatoes  – a kind of champ duchesse – were probably the only less than excellent element of the whole night, having a rather unpleasant texture.

Coming towards an end now and we were treated to a very superior desert  – a somewhat deconstructed rhubarb crumble  cheesecake with rhubarb sorbet. The fruit came in a layered cocktail glass – a jelly, a compote and toped with a light crumble spiked with a touch of popping candy, some super- rich cream and a chocolate covered wafer filled, I think, with more cream and mascarpone.

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A gratifyingly stinky collection of cheeses finished off what had been a memorable meal. Friends compared it very favourably to a tasting menu taken late last year at  Michelin-starred Glyn Purnell’s in Birmingham. At £45 this was better food, much better value, none of the corporate feel, and staff who not only put you at ease but were enjoying themselves. 

This kind of complexity is not going to convince everyone. But while there’s always a pleasure in, say, a simple salad picked fresh from the garden,  sometimes it’s nice to sit back and say to a chef “come on, impress me”. If that’s what you’re after, get to the Collyweston Slater quick.

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