Round up

August 24, 2011

OK, time for a bit of a round-up.  Good news for the Cultural Quarter as cocktail bar/cafe Manhattan34 nears completion. Due for a soft launch on 8th September this place at the other end of the Exchange Building  from Exchange bar  promises a “jazz and Motown vibe” with the emphasis on high quality drinks. There will be some vaguely Noo Yawk-themed food in the daytime such as hotdogs and bagels and as with Exchange there could be live music, comedy and so on  in the basement.  The venture is run by Roop Kahlon, who some may know from his time at Time bar and Chris Baker who, understandably, decided he’d had enough of running a Travelodge in Derby.

With the 115-room Encore hotel on the corner of Rutland Street and Charles Street now looking like it is nearing completion (complete with “stylish bar and bistro”) the area is showing some much needed fighting spirit.

An interesting recent opening in Birstall of all places is The Dining Room. This is from members of the team behind the restaurant of the same name in Oakham, which is turn traces it’s geneology from the Red Veil on Charles Street (now housing the somewhat grim Zucchero) and before that The Mint in Moutsorrel. These restaurants have all been marked by a brave  attempt  to introduce a fine dining approach to Indian food – regional classics updated  and served with a cheffy touches in  a smart contemporary environment. Alright it’s not Atul Kuchar but I’ve always enjoyed the food.  Why they’ve chosen Wanlip Lane, Birstall, I don’t know (I did ask the PR bod but got no repsonse)  – perhaps they feel the city centre and London Road are full enough.  Hope to go sooner or later but I’d be interested to hear any reports in the meantime.

Getting in just before them on London Road was 4550 Miles from Delhi – though as far as I can work out this is more of a rebranding of Shimla Pinks. A quick look at the menu would seem to confirm this.  Another new development exactly opposite this venue is More, one of these cover-all-bases buffet resuarants in the style of the huge Feast India on the Melton Road. More promises Indian, South Indian, piri-piri, Chinese, “Pan-Asian” and Mexican food cooked at seven live cooking stations for up to 250 covers.  It opens in October in time for the lucrative Christmas party market. Hurrah.

It may also be in time for National Curry Week, 9-15 October. This PR event also see the latest running of the Curry Capital of the UK event. I suppose I ought to get all patriotic about it and urge people to support Leicester’s bid by nominating your favourite restaurant with the Mercury  (by this Friday). If it’s a useful tool for bringing tourists flooding in to our city then all well and good but it all feels a bit, well artificial. Just go and have a nice meal somewhere eh?

Paul Leary and his brigade at The Woodhouse

And finally congratulations to two local restaurants that have received first-time listings in the Good Food Guide  –  The Woodhouse and Boboli have both featured in these pages and deserve their success.  Hambleton Hall is listed as number 31 inthe GFG’s list of the nation’s top fifty restuarants and Nottingham’s Sat Bains is up to no.3.  I’ve not been there yet but if anyone wants to take me I’m sure I’m available.

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The Woodhouse

November 19, 2010

It’s six years since Paul Leary decided he’d had enough of teaching catering students and felt the need to get his name over the door and get back behind the stove full-time. I think I gave The Woodhouse one of its first reviews  in Metro and it’s good to report that this Woodhouse Eaves restaurant has continued to thrive and currently exudes confidence both front of house and on the plate.

Leary made his name at Louis Scott’s in Newton Linford and later gained a wider fan club running Fusions at the Walkers Stadium. He gave that up after the Mandaric regime was established and has since focused on consolidating his fine dining offer here in prosperous Charnwood Forest.  He has also consolidated his reputation as a teacher, with one of his young proteges recently awarded a Gordon Ramsey Scholarship.

The atmosphere and decor of the place pulls off a nice balance of being smart but not stuffy.   It feels a fairly special night out, but you’re also put at your ease.  There is a ten-course tasting menu, though  we ordered a la carte (£35 three courses) and started off with an amuse of a really super espresso cup of turnip and white onion soup with a little garlic foam – smooth and tasty it did its job of waking up the taste buds.     

Our starters were a salmon plate  including  smoked slamon, blinis and a  mi-cuit slice that had real depth – a long way  from some of disappointing bland stuff I’ve had in recent years.  My Woodhouse Salad was a fantastic assemblage of  a gamey pigeon breast, duck egg with nicely gooey yolk, strips of home cured duck  that were dried out a bit like biltong and which  released tremedous flavour once you started to chew and well-dressed leaves. There was a touch of sharpeness from pickled apple and pear, while  a few  tempura hazelnuts adding sweetness and crunch. 

For main I had my first venison of the season and it was excellent.  Great flavour and the plate looked wonderful, the dark red of the  meat matched with red cabbage, purple potato and several plump blackberries.  Tender slices of  rare loin contrasted in texure with a block of slow-cooked shoulder on an onion marmalade,  both with excellent bits of cooking.   The jus was intense and there was well-judged  smear of licqourice.   I only got a quick taste of my friend’s beef but it too was excellent, coming with ox cheek fondant, bone marrow, fondant potato andautumn greens and a watercress puree. 

There was a pre-desert of a smooth, rich and sloppy chocolate mousse with pistachio biscuit  and I tucked into a desert of an elegantly constructed chocolate cyclinder, encasing  a white chocolate and passionfruit mousse on a light sponge base.  The mousse  seemed  somewhat unbalanced – I think it would have been improved with a bit less chocolate to make it lighter and enable the fruit flavour to come through more strongly. Very pleasant nonetheless.

I thoroughly enjoyed the food here – there’s high-quality ingredients, rigour and skill in the kitchen and an approach which is contemporary but not flash or showy.  

One more thing , apologies but I didn’t have a camera I didn’t have a camera  and on the basis that every post is enhanced by a picture,   the one below is shamelessly ripped off the website  – if that ‘s problem, somebody please tell me.

The Woodhouse

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