Ok it’s about time I wrote something here. This time it’s something of a reflection on the city centre and the ever-onward march of the cocktail bar and of 45 West (makers of Burleigh’s Gin)  in particular.

I went out for a little tour of their distillery and gin school near Nanpantan, last week (these are regular events now  – see http://burleighsgin.com/tours).It’s on a gratifyingly boutique scale, with a centrepiece of a shiny 450 litre copper still “Messy Bessy” (below right). German made, it’s got a pleasing number of pipes, levers, columns and chambers, though really compared with wine, whisky or even beer, the manufacturing of gin seems fairly simple – buy alcohol and boil it up with some flavourings, put it an a bottle and bring in the branding consultants. If Toby Fairweather can do it, how hard can it be?

 

Ok, a little unfair, but the simplicity is the reason they can run gin schools in the same room where you can come and use a mini-still, select your botanicals from a rack of jars and leave with your own unique bottle at the end of the day.  You can’t do that at Talisker.

The school has been that successful that they’ve opened another in the heart of Leicester. Located in the corner of the new Market Square (that shop adjacent to the Knight and Garter and which used to sell posh furniture?), this has 24 mini-stills and a private bar area. They are hoping to crack the corporate market as well as riding the general wave of gin enthusiasm.

It is the company’s third venue in the St Martin’s area. There is their Bottle Shop and Bar (the one beneath The Case restaurant) launched partly as a market research base for their Burleigh’s products but which appears rammed with aspirational types every  weekend.  Then they also recently opened a champagne and fine wine bar in St Martin’s (opposite the entrance to  St Martin’s Tea and Coffee), and which I hear will shortly start to feature food from Martin Powdrill at Cured. I had one of his great platters at The Cookie on Wednesday this week before seeing the awesome David Thomas Broughton in the downstairs venue – a world class Leicester night out  – and I think that could be a very fruitful match for both of them.

bottlegardenSt Martin’s Square already has the delightfully intimate  33 Cank Street cocktail bar, and now has added  The Bottle Garden,  an urban garden-themed  “botanical style bar and café” coming from the people behind the Outerspace garden shops in Stoneygate and Wistow, again focused on premium spirits which has had a flying start (I’ve not been yet).

 

Just around the corner is yet another cool new cocktail bar The Gadabout. It is in the building that previously housed Taps bar and the Opera House restaurant – one of Leicester’s oldest and most characterful spaces – and is getting praise for great service.

Naturally the big Pubcos have cottoned on to this trend, with Stonegate having rebranded the Slug and Lettuce on Market Street as The Distillery – though fortunately as well as pitching for cocktail trade they also seem to retain a commitment to real ale and to craft beers, and it looks an ok place to catch the match with a bowl of wings or whatever.

Beer aficionados though will probably be heading back to St Martin’s where the latest, but probably not the last, new opening is The Tap in the Square (the unit that was previously The Deli in the Square). Initially a temporary venture, this is a collaboration between Leicester brewers Framework and Welford Road beer specialist Brewklopedia and their sister shop, 23 Wine and Whiskey on Granby Street. It has four taps – three Framework and one guest  – as well as other drinks supplied by the partners. An excellent bolthole during Xmas shopping.

I said probably not the last as I see Grillstock has gone into administration. I understand administrators want to sell it as a going concern  but obviously its future is in doubt. Sad to see to see any business in trouble and I liked the enthusiasm of the owners when I met them at the launch, but I just didn’t find the food good enough. Given the pace of change outlined in this blog post, I suspect someone will be eagerly eying up that site.

  • Update 7/12/17 – Grillstock is now out of administration. They have closed their London restaurant, but appear bullish about the future of their business which also has two restaurants in Bristol and one in Bath.

 

 

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Cured at the Cookie

September 19, 2017

I was pleased to be an early enthusiast for the work of Cured. Young chefs with a passion for flavours and produce who want to forge their own way – that’s the lifeblood of any city’s food scene. And to be based at a bar such as Brewdog – heaven.

So it’s great news that Martin and Oliver are finally back in town with a full-time base within lively independent cafe, cocktail bar and venue The Cookie. They keep the menu format of beautifully stacked platters for sharing – or for one if you’re as greedy as me – plus innovative side dishes and their own take on comfort food. This includes a burger yes, but also a “gobi cheese toastie” featuring spiced cauliflower in a turmeric cheese sauce on sourdough or soft duck tacos with jerked duck and pineapple salsa.

The model has also been moved on. The cures for their key elements are now spirits rather than beer. On your platter you’ll find a little jar of divine orange-scented duck cured and confited with Legendario rum that beats many a rillette in a French bistro. Then there’s bourbon and maple cured bacon like a sweet, fine ham, and purple-tinged salmon cured in Brooklyn gin and blueberries.  As before, the platters are packed with carefully chosen and well-executed extras that more than earn their place – sesame bread, crispy duck fat toasts, herb butter, crunchy house pickles, inspired zingy apple and ginger slaw, dill and pink peppercorn potato salad, apple piccalli, home-made chutneys and more (gluten free available).

small platter

Small platter

The tapas-sized sides now include the like of Vietnamese meatballs with a belting, coriander-rich green chilli jam which knocks spots of most version of this increasingly common condiment. If the newly-opened Pho across the road can do Vietnamese snacks this good I’d be surprised and delighted. Then there’s jackfruit bhaji which combine sweetness and spice in a way that suggests a sophisticated, grown-up version of the guilty pleasure that is a banana fritter.

jackfruit bhaji

Jackfruit bhaji with pineapple salsa

 

attic cocktail

Gin, blueberries, pink peppercorns and dill

This hugely enjoyable food can be enjoyed in the laid-back cafe surroundings of the Cookies ground floor, or the more tucked away environment of the upstairs Attic bar where the chefs’ pal Xander Driver is creating top-notch contemporary cocktails.

The Cookie looks a good cultural match for the business and the food deserves to be both sought out by serious food lovers and those simply out on the town and looking for sustenance (watch out for the late night street food offering from the front of the cafe on Saturday nights). Two people can have a platter and two sides for around £20 – the price of two burgers (but no fries) from Byron.

Taking influences from traditional techniques and from the multicultural cuisines that abound in our city, here is exciting food and a proper bargain. If this was in Shoreditch, the place would be over-run with hipster food writers – as it is, fill your boots Leicester.

 

Cured
68 High Street
Leicester
http://www.facebook.com/CuredLeicester/

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