Tag Archive: Featured

  • “This will be my 36th Fathers’ Day at The Bull’s Head”

    In 1983, Paul Hodges – then 14 years old – moved into The Bull’s Head in Cosby with his family. His Dad, Brian, had become the new landlord of the popular Leicestershire community pub. In June that year – more than three-and-a-half decades ago – Paul and his Dad celebrated Fathers’ Day together while living and working at ‘The Bullies’.

    Back then, Paul had no idea he would be spending 36 consecutive Fathers’ Days at the pub. Paul followed in his father’s footsteps and became the landlord in 2001. Ever since, he has retained his Dad’s approach of running a family-friendly, welcoming pub that sits at the heart of village life.

    This year, Paul will again be celebrating Fathers’ Day at the pub – now with his own children, Samantha and Katie, and grandson, Cody. “It’s amazing to think that this will be my 36th Fathers’ Day at The Bull’s Head,” says Paul. “In many ways, Fathers’ Day is just another day – I’ll be working behind the bar as usual with Samantha and Katie. But it does remind you how nice it is to run a business surrounded by your family. We all live in the village, which makes it easy for us to chip in and make the business work. Us working together also gives The Bull’s Head a friendly, family feel. We all work hard to provide a very good service. We try to make everyone feel welcome.”

    Paul’s grandson, Cody – Katie’s son – is now three years old. What are the chances of Cody following in the footsteps of his grandfather and great-grandfather? “You never know,” says Paul. “Ask me again in 36 years!” 

    Bull's Head Cosby
  • 14 award-winning Midlands pubs to try out

    Fourteen Midlands pubs have won Everards’ ‘Make A Difference Awards’. Check out the list below, or read on to find out more…


    Your local landlord or landlady doesn’t often get to be on the other side of the bar. That’s why every year Everards invites the business owners who run its 175 pub estate to a day to celebrate the hard work that goes into making a great pub. That day is called the ‘Make A Difference Awards’.

    The Awards

    This annual get together provides a rare day out of the pub to enjoy a fantastic meal and a fun day at Leicester Racecourse. But the day is also about recognising business owners who have gone above and beyond to make a difference to their pub and communities. This could be through innovative events, money raised for charities, as well as exciting experiences for their customers.

    Trip to Florence

    This year, 14 pubs were awarded Make A Difference Awards. These winners will join the Everards team on a trip to Florence, Italy later in the year as a thank you for all their hard work.

    “We had another great day at Leicester Racecourse this year. It was a pleasure to host everyone, crown our 14 winners and celebrate such successful businesses. We are proud of every one of our pubs and it’s great to be able to recognise the hard work the business owners all put in throughout the year,” said Richard Everard.

    The 14 Winners

    You may have visited one of the winning pubs, or it could even be your local. They are:

    • Kevin & Dee at The Old Horse, Leicester
    • Stuart & Luke at The Architect, Cambridge
    • John & Moira at the Sir Robert Peel, Leicester
    • Chris & Yolanda at the White Lion Inn Whissendine
    • Paul & Gaynor at The Bulls Head Cosby
    • Mick & Lynda at The New Inn, Enderby
    • Sam at The Forge, Glenfield (The Beautiful Pubs Collective)
    • Richard & Catherine at The Red Admiral, Broughton Astley
    • Alan & Sarah at The Black Horse, Aylestone
    • Jim & Sue at The Pheasant, Wellington
    • Jayme at The Bulls Head, Ratby
    • Zoe & Mark at The Queen Victoria, Syston
    • Paul & Lisa at the Elephant & Castle, Thurlaston
    • Paul & Margo at The Barley Mow Cosgrove

    If you’re interested in running your own independent pub business, visit the Everards website to find out more.

  • UK’s first consumer magazine dedicated to great cider

    Full Juice is a brand-new free magazine that celebrates the world of craft cider.

    From four of the world’s most acclaimed cider champions comes a new publication entirely focused upon the fermented apple. Pete Brown, Susanna Forbes, Bill Bradshaw and Gabe Cook have spent the last decade travelling to the world’s greatest cider making regions – learning, talking and writing along about what they found there. Now, they’ve come together to create a regular, periodical celebration of the world of craft cider.

    Full Juice launches on May 28

    Too often viewed as a cheap or poorly made drink, cider has struggled to gain the attention that it deserves. Full Juice will show how cider is one of the world’s greatest drinks, which can boast all of the finesse of any great wine and all of the attitude and creativity of any fabulous beer.

    But crucially, cider is unique – a drink like no other – with its own story to tell and characters to meet. Full Juice invites us all into this world of apples, pears, orchards, fermentation and blending.

    Full Juice is an ode to centuries of cidermaking culture in the UK and beyond. It is a stage to showcase today’s finest cider makers. It is a rallying cry to join the world of #rethinkcider.

    As Pete Brown says in his ‘Juice Matters’ feature in Episode 1: “Above all, Full Juice is a declaration that quality counts and a rallying cry for aspiration. Despite being the world’s largest producer and consumer, cider in Britain has been much maligned for far too long. Now is the time to gain inspiration from the fun, boldness, creativity and language of other drinks that have experienced a recent boom lately, while ensuring that at the core of everything is the apple.”

    Full Juice will be published four times a year and given away free in quality pubs, bars and bottle shops, and at festivals and events. Episode One lands on May 28, with Episode Two scheduled for September.

    Special thanks must go to Martin Coyne and Lucy Harmer from design agency Bond & Coyne for all their sterling work in making Full Juice a reality.

    Follow Full Juice on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

  • Food & drink stroll: Melton Mowbray to Great Dalby in Leicestershire

    Walking from Melton Mowbray to Great Dalby in Leicestershire is a beautiful foodie affair. The three-mile stroll (one way) takes in three independents that we recommend.

    Map of the walk route
    The walk starts on Kirby Lane just outside Melton Mowbray, exactly at the bottom of the big arrow. Click on the image to enlarge.

    First, just before reaching the village of Great Dalby, you hit March House Farm Shop & Cafe. This is an exceptional family-run shop and its adjoining café serves teas, coffees, cakes, breakfasts, lunches, light bites and Sunday roasts.

    A few hundred yards up the road, you come to Vine Farm Dairy’s milk vending machine, which now sells delicious milkshakes as well as farm-fresh locally produced milk.

    Vine Farm Dairy's milk vending machine

    Finally, you reach the Royal Oak in Great Dalby. Here you can enjoy a drink and good quality pub food.

    The distance from the walk’s starting point to The Royal Oak is around three miles. The terrain is easy-going. You can see the starting point on the map above. It begins on Kirby Lane just outside Melton, exactly at the bottom of the big arrow. Look for a sign to Old Guadaloupe. Then simply follow the waymarkers towards Great Dalby.

    Remember to book a table at The Royal Oak on 01664 501029 if you want to eat there.

  • Bath Soft Cheese triumphs in 2019 Artisan Cheese Awards

    Bath Soft Cheese Company has been declared Supreme Champion at this year’s national Artisan Cheese Awards for its eponymous Bath Soft Cheese.

    Bath Soft Cheese Company also won Gold in the ‘Organic’ category for its Bath Soft Cheese and was judged against more than 400 cheeses from across the British Isles at St Mary’s Church in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire on April 2019, 25. This year’s runner-up was Templegall from Hegarty Cheese in County Cork.

    The award winners were announced at a special ceremony at the Cheese Makers’ Supper on Saturday, May 4 during the weekend of the annual Artisan Cheese Fair in Melton Mowbray.

    Bath Soft Cheese Company’s award-winning organic cheese is made by hand at Park Farm, Kelston near Bath, with milk from its own cows. The Bath Soft Cheese is soft and yielding with a white, bloomy rind. Once cut, it reveals an ivory-coloured interior. The flavour is mushroomy and creamy with a hint of lemons. This cheese dates back to the time of Admiral Lord Nelson who, in 1801, is believed to have been sent some by his father as a gift. It was recorded that Nelson’s sweetheart was ‘gratified’ by the flavour of this cheese.

    The gold winners in each category were:
    • Soft: Rollright from King Stone Dairy, Oxfordshire
    • Semi-soft: Durrus Og from Durrus Cheese Ltd, County Cork
    • Hard: Templegall from Hegarty Cheese, County Cork
    • Blue: Stichelton from Stichelton Dairy Ltd Cheese, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
    • Cow: Graceburn from Blackwoods Cheese Company, Brockley, London
    • Sheep: Sharpham Washbourne from Sharpham Partnership Ltd, Totnes, Devon
    • Goat: Killeen Goat Mature from Killeen Farmhouse Cheese, Portumna, County Galway
    • Vegetarian: Isle of Wight Blue from Isle of Wight Cheese Company, Sandown, Isle of Wight
    • Raw Milk: Extra Mature Keen’s from Keen’s Cheddar Ltd, Wincanton, Somerset
    • Organic: Bath Soft Cheese from Bath Soft Cheese, Bath
    • Farmhouse: St James from St James Cheese, Cartmel, Cumbria
    • British Territorial: Mature Keen’s Cheddar from Keen’s Cheddar Ltd, Wincanton, Somerset
    • Protected Food Name: Dorset Blue Vinny from Dorset
    • New Cheese: Evenlode from King Stone Dairy, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
    • Washed Rind: Edmund Trew from Blackwoods Cheese Company, Brockley, London
    • Flavoured/Smoked Cheese: Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese Honey with Garlic & Thyme 500g log from Bluebell Falls Cheese, Charleville, County Cork
    • Bentons’ Stilton Cup: Tuxford & Tebbutt, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

    Awards organiser Matthew O’Callaghan from the Melton Mowbray Food Partnership added: “Many congratulations to Bath Soft Cheese Company; a well-deserved victory against strong competition from UK and Irish cheese makers. The judges were impressed by the range and diversity of tastes of all the finalists this year.”

    Sponsors for this year’s Artisan Cheese Awards included: Fine Cheese Co, Melton Town Estate, NFU, Bradbury’s Cheese, Bentons, A La Carte Packaging Solutions, Marks & Spencer, Melton Mowbray Food Partnership, Vegetarian Society, Melton Borough Council, Harvey and Brockless, Neal’s Yard, Howes Percival LLP and La Fromagerie.

  • Ten great restaurants in the East Midlands

    A meal out should be a memorable experience. Below are ten restaurants that will do the job and then some…


    Each of these restaurants serves excellent food, but each also provides a very different kind of experience. The George Hotel of Stamford and Falcon of Uppingham exude the pleasant feel of a classic English hotel. The King’s Arms at Wing, Staunton Arms and Three Hills at Bartlow offer a rustic gastropub experience. The stylish Hammer & Pincers, peerless Hambleton Hall (one Michelin Star) and unique House of Feasts showcase exquisite dining and artistic presentation. And The Hercules Revived and Don Paddy’s are laid-back and buzzy but offer a satisfying food and drink experience.

    Over the years we’ve enjoyed many memorable dining experiences at these ten places. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!

    Hambleton Hall, near Oakham

    A Michelin Star holder since 1982

    Hambleton Hall is a stunner, both inside and out

    With a spectacular location overlooking Rutland Water, this Victorian building was converted by proprietor Tim Hart into a hotel with 17 double bedrooms in 1979 – perfect for anyone thinking of staying in the Rutland area. The cooking at Hambleton Hall is incredibly accomplished. Inventive and technically perfect, eating here is a memorable experience. It has held a Michelin Star since 1982 – Britain’s longest-running Star holder, and in Aaron Patterson, they have one of Britain’s best chefs, not to mention a brilliant mentor for younger chefs. Hambleton Hall exudes old-school country house luxury and is a pleasure on all levels. Book on 01572 756991.


    The Hammer & Pincers, Wymeswold

    Stylish, accomplished cooking

    Inside Leicestershire’s stylish Hammer & Pincers

    The stylish Hammer & Pincers in Wymeswold, Leicestershire, narrowly finished runner-up in the Great Food Club Awards 2018/19. The cooking here is genuinely exceptional. Proprietors Danny and Sandra Jimminson trained at the Savoy under Anton Edelmann. The sourcing is conscientious, and the menus showcase “Local Food Heroes”, ranging from local allotment holders to Bradgate Park. Giles Coren, often a harsh restaurant critic, scored Hammer & Pincers 8.5 out of 10 when he dined here. A great way to sample the Hammer & Pincers’ accomplished, stylish cuisine is through their Saturday Night Grazing Menu, which is exceptional. Book on 01509 880735.


    The Hercules Revived, Sutton Cheney

    A top quality foodie pub

    The Hercules Revived is a former coaching inn

    The Hercules Revived (20% off the a la carte menu for GFC card holders) is a beautifully run former coaching inn located a stone’s throw from Bosworth Battlefield in north-west Leicestershire. This fantastic village pub is often buzzing, and that’s not surprising because the food and hospitality are excellent. There’s a great selection of casual, pubby food like pizzas cooked al fresco in wood-fired ovens and sublime burgers. But head chef Glynn Windross and his team also produce some excellent, creative dishes such as Portuguese Piri Piri spring lamb with mixed beans and crushed potatoes; and salmon & prawn tian with English asparagus and a lemon & chive dressing. The Hercules Revived is a top quality foodie pub. Book on 01455 699336.


    The King’s Arms, Wing

    Committed to local sourcing

    If there’s a country pub more committed to local sourcing, we haven’t found it. The 17th century King’s Arms in Rutland has established strong relationships with all their local suppliers – including fishermen, hunters, brewers and foragers. The ingredients here are fresh and of excellent quality, and the cooking is skilled and intelligent while retaining a satisfying rustic charm. Yes, there are rich sauces, jus and unusual flavours to enjoy here but don’t expect tiny, delicate mouthfuls. This is generous, delicious pub food – locally sourced and cooked to be heartily enjoyed rather than picked over. It has rooms too, so why not treat yourself to a lovely Rutland mini-break? The King’s Arms runs a brilliant dinner, bed and breakfast offer for Great Food Club Premium Members, allowing you to save more than £30 on the standard price. Book on 01572 737634.


    The Staunton Arms, Staunton in the Vale

    A fantastic gastropub experience

    The leisurely and welcoming Staunton Arms in Staunton in the Vale, Nottinghamshire, is set in rolling countryside and provides a fantastic gastropub experience. The menu is original and varied, listing smaller snacks, light lunches and a full a la carte section. Example dishes include traditional pub classics such as Staunton Arms beef & ale pie with mash, and ale-battered haddock and chips, plus more imaginative dishes such pan-fried duck breast with a thyme terrine and butternut squash arancini. All the food is freshly prepared, and there’s a good range of carefully chosen cask ales and wines to go with it. The Grade II-listed building is 200 years old and has eight bedrooms, and there’s also a self-catering cottage nearby, making it an excellent base from which to explore the Vale of Belvoir. If the sun’s shining, the heated patio seats up to 48 people. Book on 01400 281218.


    The George of Stamford

    One of Britain’s most historic inns

    The George’s hidden courtyard

    The George of Stamford is one of Britain’s most historic inns. Privately owned, it exudes a real sense of history – the interior and exterior are full of character that has built up over the centuries like the rings on an ancient English oak. It is one of just a handful of UK hotels to have appeared in every edition of the Michelin Guide since 1911. Excellent food and drink are crucial elements in The George’s successful recipe. There’s an extensive menu of British and European classics available for both lunch and dinner. With summer on its way, the beautiful courtyard – a hidden gem – is perfect for al fresco dining. The ‘Oak Room’ menu is served under the canopy, while the ‘Garden Room’ menu is served on the patio itself. The bright, airy and convivial Garden Room is a wonderfully vibrant dining room. Private dining is also available. Book on 01780 750750.


    The Three Hills, Bartlow

    Gastronomic downtime in a rural idyll

    The short but well-thought-out menu at The Three Hills in Bartlow, East Cambridgeshire, champions local suppliers and follows the seasons. Expect dishes that use local ingredients such as venison and wood pigeon, or maybe you’d prefer something like poached halibut with clams, mussels, fennel purée and a herb beurre blanc? For pudding, you might go for plums and baked custard. This beautiful Grade II-listed 17th century pub-restaurant has six bedrooms, so it’s ideal for a foodie getaway (it runs a special offer to Great Food Club Premium Members). It’s been lovingly decorated and is just 14 miles from Cambridge – perfect for those wanting some gastronomic downtime in a rural idyll. Book on 01223 890500.


    The Falcon Hotel, Uppingham

    Fine dining with seasonal menus

    The Falcon Hotel is a quietly elegant 16th-century coaching inn in the heart of Uppingham with 25 bedrooms. Expect fine dining with seasonally changing menus and a wide variety of flavours. Example dishes include wild boar tortellini with chestnut mushrooms, roscoff onions, celeriac purée, hazelnut crumb & game jus; and tandoori monkfish with onion bhaji, Bombay potatoes, cauliflower, roast onion purée & a mint & yoghurt raita. Alfresco is dining available in the summer (no reservations taken for outside tables) and full traditional English afternoon tea is served every day from 3-6pm. Breakfast is served daily. Book on 01572 823535.


    House of Feasts, near Peterborough

    Passionate about Polish cuisine

    House of Feasts chef-patron Damian Wawrzyniak is not only an exceptional chef, having been selected to cook for the British Royal Family on more than one occasion, he’s also passionate about Polish cuisine. At his restaurant, House of Feasts near Peterborough, Damian shows why BBC Good Food named him a Top 10 UK Food Pioneer. Expect sumptuous food elegantly presented using local produce and homegrown fruit and vegetables. Gems served here include a lovely aged beef tartare served with pickled mushrooms and red onions marinated in blackcurrants, and a traditional Polish Smalec served with sourdough and pickles; or succulent half of chicken, brined and roasted, and served with Fenland potatoes and Cambridgeshire vegetables. Visit House of Feasts once, and you will keep going back for more! Book on 01733 221279.


    Don Paddy’s, Uppingham

    Friendly, bustling and laid-back

    Don Paddy’s is a friendly, bustling and perennially popular cafe, bar and restaurant in the centre of Uppingham. It offers lovely casual dining, with good food and drinks from an eclectic menu that includes breakfasts, lunches and dinners – from American-style pancake stacks to red Thai chicken curry, to breast of pheasant with bubble and squeak. The new Spring Menu lists some great new sharing dishes such as Piri Piri chicken and a tapas board. Brunch is served every day from 9am until 11.30am and is becoming popular. Don Paddy’s is good for al fresco dining in Uppingham market square, and a vegan menu is now available, too. Book on 01572 822255. 


    This is a promoted feature. However, all the restaurants featured here are part of GFC’s recommended network and meet our criteria of being independent and somewhere our reviewers would recommend to a friend.

  • Controversy as London ‘pub’ bans drinkers

    A ‘pub’ in Shoreditch, London, has banned all drinkers of alcohol from its premises. ‘The OJ’, which offers a 100% vegan, organic menu and serves only fruit juices, uses a simple skin test to check if customers consume booze.

    On entering, they are asked to place a finger inside a thimble-like device connected to a computer. This device can decipher – by measuring the chemical content of their sweat – if they have consumer alcohol within the past 30 (or so) days. If the test is negative, customers receive a membership card and are able to enter in future without taking the test. If the test is positive, they are politely asked to either leave or sign a pledge promising to give up booze.

    The OJ’s owner and founder Priti Borlotti said: “We are turning the concept of a pub on its head. Millennials are less interested in alcohol so it’s only right they have a pub that rejects booze and the people who drink it. The test we run on the door is completely safe and non-intrusive. We welcome non-drinkers and also welcome drinkers as long as they see the light and promise to change their ways. If the skin test is positive but the customer does not want to leave, we invite them to sign a pledge in which they promise to give up alcohol. If they sign, they can come in. If they refuse to sign then we ask them to leave. If they refuse to leave we simply won’t serve them.”

    Local CAMRA member Steve Mild said: “This is discrimination. We’re looking into tests that pubs can run to ban teetotallers from their premises. We’re not going to take this lying down.”

    London beer drinker Bob Stevens said: “This is 2019. I can’t say I’m surprised.”

     

     

     

  • Where to eat and drink in Bury St Edmunds

    Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk is the perfect town for a food and drink tour. It’s pretty, compact, historic and packed with excellent independent pubs, restaurants and cafés. There’s even a brewpub – and it’s nothing to do with Greene King, the UK’s biggest brewer and pub operator, which is headquartered in the town.

    We meandered through Bury’s streets last week looking for gems. This cathedral town (it has an abbey, too) is clearly well supported by a passionate community of food lovers. When we put the word out on social media that we were coming, we were inundated with tweets pointing us in the right direction. That really helped us – so thanks!

    Just a few of the tweets we received. There are more at the end of the article


    Stop 1: The Nutshell

    Our first stop was The Nutshell, long regarded as Britain’s smallest pub*. It comprises a single room with bar measuring 15ft by 7ft, and it’s been a pub for 150 years. We simply had to visit.

    The Nutshell is a Greene King pub in the town centre and feels pleasingly timeworn inside, a bit like a weird old antique gnome you can’t help but love. The walls and ceiling are plastered with ephemera, from bank notes and school ties to an ancient mummified cat (I kid you not) that hangs above your head like a horrific sprig of mistletoe.

    There’s not much beer choice but you can forgive them given the size of the bar. There are standard fonts of keg lager and Guinness, plus two casks lines – Greene King IPA and the stronger Abbot. We went for the IPA (3.6% ABV). IPA is a beer I haven’t tried for years – you can get it in your local JD Wetherspoon for something like £1.50 a pint, so it’s become the beer equivalent of Tesco Basics Baked Beans. However, when in perfect condition – and it was here – it’s actually a lovely pint: light, refreshing and floral.

    *Upstart hostelry The Little Prince in Margate claims to be even smaller at 11ft by 6.6ft


    Stop 2: The One Bull

    A three-minute stroll past Abbey Gate took us to The One Bull, a pub/restaurant that’s the polar opposite of The Nutshell. This place is spacious, modern, bright and contains no dead felines.

    Abbey Gate

    The One Bull

    We didn’t eat here but it has a good reputation for food and we found it welcoming. We also enjoyed its beer line-up. It’s the brewery tap for Brewshed Brewery, which is located five miles north in Ingham. The American Blonde went down a treat.

    Inside The One Bull


    Stop 3: 1921 Angel Hill

    Next door to The One Bull is 1921 Angel Hill. This new restaurant’s home is an attractive, ancient timber-framed building, and this was to be our lunch stop.

    This was a good decision. Wow. The food here is outstanding. Chef-patron Zack Deakins’ cooking is skilful and refined, using carefully chosen flavours and putting the icing on the cake with delicate, attractive presentation.

    Ancient timbers aplenty in 1921 Angel Hill

    We went for the set lunch menu, enjoyed three courses each, two canapés each and a drink each, and paid £35 a head including tip – incredible value for the quality of the cooking. We started with a gruyere and mustard croissant and a pork rib spring roll & cauliflower from an intriguing and unusual canapé menu. Perfect.

    Canapés

    Next, I went for white onion and thyme veloute with Baron Bigod cheese (from Suffolk’s Fen Farm Dairy) and pickled potato. The smooth, silky, comforting veloute contrasted beautifully with the acidic pickled potato and set me up nicely for the main course.

    White onion and thyme veloute

    Next out of the kitchen was tender, moist Suffolk chicken wrapped in wild garlic leaves and served with parsley root. Pretty to look at, even better to eat – nothing overly fussy but just wonderful local, seasonal ingredients, brilliantly prepared.

    Suffolk chicken, wild garlic leaves, parsley root

    We also had the smoked coley with leek, confit egg yolk and cockles (pictured at the top of this feature).

    This was the best lunch we’ve had in a very long time. Zack and his team are talented indeed.

    Chef-patron Zack Deakins. We hauled him out the kitchen to say thanks


    Stop 4: The Old Cannon Brewery

    After a 10-minute stroll north we found our next target: The Old Cannon Brewery – a microbrewery, brewpub and hotel that calls itself a “gastro brewery”.

    Steam rising from a grate in the pavement was a telltale sign we’d found it and as we walked in our eyes were drawn to the shiny brewing vessels next to the bar. It’s fantastic for any town to have a brewpub, and this is a particularly nice example.


    Stop 5: Pea Porridge Restaurant

    For our evening meal, it had to be Pea Porridge, situated opposite The Old Cannon Brewery. Pea Porridge had been almost universally recommended to us on social media by those in the know.

    It’s a cosy neighbourhood restaurant that was originally two cottages. The team here are keen on sustainability and nose-to-tail cooking, utilising their “Bertha” charcoal oven as much as possible. We found the recommendations to be accurate: Pea Porridge really delivers on flavour, serving up big, bold gutsy dishes. The rose veal chop was excellent, and the tarte tatin was probably the best we’ve eaten this side of the Channel!


    Other independents to check out in Bury St Edmunds

    Ben’s Restaurant is one we’ve recommended for a while. It prides itself on using high quality ingredients from Suffolk producers, and featured in many of the tweets we received.

    Ben Hutton, the well-respected chef behind Ben’s, also runs Queens Bar & Grill. His new venture offers an American-themed grill menu featuring burgers and slow-cooked meats. The bar serves cocktails, wines, craft beers and real ales.


    Maison Bleue was recommended to us by a local journalist. It offers French fine dining and professional service. Here are some more tips from Twitter…


    Casa is a tapas and meze restaurant on Risbygate Street. Well worth a visit, according to several sources.


    Abbeygate Cinema’s dining room – No.4 Restaurant & Bar – was recommended to us. “The poutine is a must,” she said. Here’s another fan of No.4 Restaurant…

    Another tip was the buck rarebit at “all-day-and-night café”, Gastrono-Me.


    Finally, for something cheap, cheerful and tasty, try Bury Fish & Chip Shop.


    NB. We were not given any freebies and turned up to all places mentioned unannounced. The above article mentions places we liked that met our criteria – “independents we’d happily recommend to a close friend”. 

     

  • From Battersea to Bloomsbury: Dalloway Terrace, London

    Last weekend, I spent my Sunday lounging in Battersea Park, book in hand, basking in the weekend sunshine; however, a week on and all hope for a bright Spring dissipated. Instead, Storm Gareth meant Londoners spent the week cowering under umbrellas and dodging the puddles.

    I was amongst them and with the weather showing no sign of letting up, I went from Battersea to Bloomsbury in search of an alternative reading spot. Situated on Great Russell Street, Dalloway Terrace offers the perfect solution – an enchanting hideaway from the rain. With Champagne-coloured foliage dotted around, silver hanging lanterns and bouquets of baby pink flowers, it’s like stepping into the depths of Narnia.

    The cosy outdoor terrace has seating which, layered in faux fur throws, woollen blankets and piles of pillows, makes you forget you are outside at all. Traces of metallic silver and a lengthy Champagne menu retain the class of central London’s Bloomsbury, while their turmeric or chai lattes are sure to warm your insides.

    While the restaurant frequently appears on social media for its ‘Instagrammable’ brunches and bright-green juices, by night it offers a generous three-course menu for a reasonable £35*. This features feel-good, British comfort food. Try their pan-fried pork belly with apply jus followed by a portion of carrot cake with cream-cheese mousse and carrot sorbet.

    With a find like this, it’s easy to forget the weather and so, book in one hand and a glass of Beaujolais in the other, I’ve decided that maybe the rain isn’t so bad after all.

    *Prices apply to pre-theatre menu only.

    Dalloway Terrace,
    16-22 Great Russell Street,
    London,
    WC1B 3NN

    Photos: Dalloway Terrace

  • Editor’s Blog: Latest Discoveries & Gems

    Hello from Great Food Club HQ in Melton Mowbray,

    Last week I delivered a guest lecture about Great Food Club to final-year students at the University of Leicester Business School. It was a surprise and an honour to be asked. I explained how GFC has developed over the past nine years and how we decide who to write about. It was an interesting exercise because it made me re-examine our editorial policy. So… how do we choose who to write about?

    • We focus on local independents
    • We focus on places we’d happily recommend to a friend

    If food and drink producers, pubs, delis and restaurants meet those criteria, we write about them.

    Why do we focus on independents? Because, for us, independent is king. We’re not interested in corporates and we ignore chains. That’s not because chains are ‘bad’ – independents can learn a lot from them – but rather because we believe in celebrating independents. These local gems are what make our towns, villages and cities better, more colourful places to live in. They are not all good, of course, but those that are tend to be run by passionate entrepreneurs who have roots in their local communities.

    Several gems are featured below. I hope you enjoy reading about them!

    Matt
    Founder & Editor, Great Food Club
    👇👇

    Matt delivering his lecture


    The Crown at Elton

    Owner Marcus Lamb and head chef Gavyn Willimer have brought bags of experience and passion to the beautiful The Crown Inn at Elton in Cambridgeshire – one of the newest additions to our recommended list (it has quite a serious horse chestnut tree outside, too!). More here.

    Inside The Crown


    The Sorrel Fox, Mountsorrel

    Last week we paid a flying visit to Charnwood Brewery’s newish micropub in Mountsorrel near Loughborough. It’s just a short walk from Michelin-starred John’s House Restaurant on Stonehurst Farm. The Sorrel Fox’s manager Nick told us there used to be 28 pubs in Mountsorrel! It’s is a lovely little pub in a former pet shop. More here.

    Inside the Sorrel Fox


    Warner’s Distillery & The Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards

    Lois Gauthier, the French head distiller at Warner’s

    Last week saw the launch of the annual Carlsberg Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards in Harrington, Northamptonshire. As part of the launch we enjoyed a tour of Warner’s Distillery (previously Warner Edwards). Last time we toured this distillery on Falls Farm in Harrington was on the day the business launched in 2012. It’s been a rollercoaster ride since, but what a local success story!

    Tom Warner and the team like to call themselves ‘Gin Farmers’ and that’s bang on. Twice a week they extract two tonnes of spring water from their farm in order to make the gin. They flavour their gins with as many fresh ingredients from the farm as possible – including elderflowers (they’ve just planted a new orchard), lemon balm, borage, honey from their own hives and camomile. They’ve set aside another 17 acres for growing more botanicals and have recruited Jonny Easter, their own conservation and sustainability manager. It’s a great story of farm diversification.


    A thatched beauty

    The Tolly, Harrington, Northamptonshire

    A few hundred yards from Warner’s Distillery in Harrington is ‘The Tolly’ – a beautiful thatched pub that’s won a strong reputation over the past few years under head chef Joe Buckley. It’s now part of our recommended network. More here.


    The Leicestershire pub that changes lives

    The White Horse in Quorn, Leicestershire, is a pub that amazes time and again. Their charity The White Horse Wishing Well helps people in the local community going through tough times. Some of the stories are amazing. You can read a few here.


    The Queen of Black Garlic


    Derbyshire’s Kay Hawkins (aka The Quirky Cook) is a magician with Black Garlic! So much so that she won a Golden Fork in the Great Taste Awards 2018 for her Honeyed Fig Relish with Black Garlic relish. To give some context, there were 12,634 products entered into the awards and just 17 Golden Forks awarded! We’ve finally got round to adding Kay to our recommended list. More here.


    Love pies and ferrets? Read on…

    By Graham Wright

    A while back, Countryfile Magazine commissioned me (GFC founder Matt) to write a food tour of the East Midlands. I’ve just updated it, so please give it a read – especially if you’re a fan of pies and ferrets. Here it is.


    The Plough at Sleapshyde

    The Plough is owned by the team who run Dylans at The King’s Arms in St Albans. Following their success there, they have transformed this previously neglected thatched country pub in the hamlet of Sleapshyde, Hertfordshire. The food is modern and exciting. More here.


    The Bookcafe, Derby


    The Bookcafe in Derby is a stylish yet quirky city-centre retreat, where the ambience is calming and inspiring. More here.


    Gourmet Goat, London


    One of our six new London recommendations, Gourmet Goat in Borough Market, offers an East Mediterranean-style menu with stunning options such as kid-goat kofta and slow-roast rosé veal. More here.


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    Everyone we recommend on our website is listed on merit. They do not pay to appear

  • The Leicestershire pub that transforms lives

    The White Horse in Quorn, Leicestershire, is a pub that amazes time and again through its selfless and tireless work for charity. Since 2015 it has raised approximately £80,000 for local projects through its own charitable foundation, The White Horse Wishing Well.

    The brothers who run The White Horse, David and Martin Keatley-Lill, set up The Wishing Well in 2015 to help people in the local community going through tough times.

    The catalyst was a customer who, following a cancer diagnosis, spent her savings on a holiday for her children, meaning she had no money for essential work on the family home.

    “We found 17 local tradespeople who agreed to refurbish her bathroom for free,” says David. “While she was away with her kids, they got to work and rebuilt the bathroom. It was a complete surprise for the family, but if you ask anyone who worked on that job, they will all tell you they would do it again. It was a real success and gave us the inspiration to set up The White Horse Wishing Well.”

    The charity comprises a committee of seven, with local customers and business owners all having an input, too. The committee are unpaid volunteers.

    The Wishing Well has been responsible for some spectacular, heart-warming initiatives. For example, in summer 2018 they heard about a mum from Barrow-upon-Soar who’d suffered a brain bleed after giving birth to her second child. In hospital for two years, unable to come home due to lack of facilities, The Wishing Well launched their biggest campaign to date: #Barrowdiysos and #getrachelhomeforxmas.

    To be discharged, Rachel needed a wet room and a wheelchair-friendly bedroom. After raising £2,500 via a Just Giving page, the Wishing Well was flooded with offers of help from local tradespeople. Work on the house began on October 23 and the house was given a complete overhaul. Stunningly, 124 days of labour were donated for free, which enabled The Wishing Well to buy the family a wheelchair-accessible car, too. Rachel was able to return home for Christmas. Here’s a video of #Barrowdiysos.

    Other recent Wishing Well heroics include paying for and organising the wedding of a terminally ill Leicestershire couple, and taking two sisters who had lost their mother to Disneyland. These extreme acts of kindness are paid for using funds raised at charity golf days, dinners including the annual Wishing Well ball (on September 6 this year) and other events. “The aim is simple – all proceeds go to local families in need,” says David.

    The White Horse Wishing Well shows just how much a driven group of people can achieve when they join forces to help the local community. It also demonstrates how a pub can be so much more than just a place to eat and drink.

  • Round Corner Brewing wins gold at the International Brewing Awards 2019

    A little more than three months since the launch of its brewery-taproom in the heart of Melton Mowbray, the East Midlands’ own Round Corner Brewing has walked away with a gold medal in the 2019 International Brewing Awards for its iconic black lager, Gunmetal. It also won a silver medal for its Frisby Lager.

    The winning entries by one of the UK’s newest and most exciting breweries were chosen by an elite international judging panel headed by Bill Taylor. The panel tasted more than 1,000 beers from around the world in a judging session held in Burton-on-Trent from March 4-7, 2019.

    Launched in 1888, the International Brewing Awards are often dubbed the ‘the Oscars of the brewing industry’. Round Corner Brewing founders Combie Cryan and Colin Paige will be awarded the trophy by the Association of British Beer Writers in a celebratory event at London’s Guildhall alongside this year’s batch of recognised brewers. For Colin and Combie, it’s an early validation for their lifelong ambition to make great beer. Both are understandably over the moon. Combie met the news by acknowledging that given Colin’s pedigree as a brewer over the previous two decades. “This was not a surprise for those who know Colin,” he said. “It’s emotional times for us and that’s not just the Gunmetal Black Lager speaking.”

    Silver medal winner Frisby is a 4.2% ABV bright straw-coloured lager with a dense white foam. It’s made with a blend of German and English malts for a honied sweetness with crisp biscuit notes, while English Fuggles hops are used to create a light herbal spice aroma and a soft, pleasing bitterness. Nick Holden, publican at a local inn – the Geese & Fountain in Croxton Kerrial, Leicestershire – where Round Corner Brewing beers are served on draft is already a fan: “It’s lovely when a new local product turns out to be this good.”

    Gunmetal (4.8% ABV) is a black lager – a style more familiar to German beer lovers. Hailing from Germany’s Saxony region, it is one of Colin’s favourite styles to make and drink, and a style he has been trying to perfect for over 10 years. A long and slow ferment at 9 degrees Celsius helps produce an incredibly clean beer. Roasted malts create a striking black lager with a deep garnet colour (unusual for a lager in the UK) and delicious earthy notes of Noble hops and a toasted malt nose.

    Colin sees the result as a validation of the brewery’s core principles around integrity of ingredients, patience and finesse to produce incredibly balanced beers as suitable to connoisseurship as they are to a session – with no rough edges. The brewery’s vision has always been to brew classic global beer styles and execute them perfectly.

    He says: “A brewery of our size and absolute newness needs all the validation and nurturing it can get. We’ve decided to tread our own path and not brew ‘me-too’ extreme beers where it is easy to mask flaws with over-the-top flavourings. We’ve built our core range on malt, hops, yeast and water, the way we believe beer should be. It’s tough for newbies to stand out in a crowded marketplace with bigger peers with deeper pockets to spend on research, marketing and sales. Ultimately the beer has to speak for itself. To be awarded the accolade of producing the best lager beer of its class in the world is the best validation we could receive. For now, we’ll take these wins and use them to share our message across the East Midlands, the UK and abroad of what truly great beer is, and sticking to what we do best – brewing and serving pints in our brewery taproom and getting the word out to pubs across the East Midlands.”

    The gold and silver medals are a wonderful turn of events just in time for St Patrick’s Day, and the perfect excuse to pay a visit to the East Midlands’ most exciting new brewery, get a fresh pour, meet the team in person and support a great new business that aims to make waves in the East Midlands beer scene and beyond. Events information and opening hours are published on their website and Facebook.

  • Lilu’s Pratik Master launches #notjustacornershop

    Last week I visited a corner shop (aka #notjustacornershop) in Wigston, Leicestershire, that is taking a brave new approach to retailing.

    Many Leicester food lovers will know Pratik Master for the indefatigable enthusiasm he brings to the running of his top-end Indian restaurant, Lilu (known on social media as #notjustacurry). Now he’s turning his attentions to the family shop on Carlton Drive in suburban Wigston. On Saturday March 2, 2019, Master’s General Store will relaunch as Wigston Fields News & Deli. It will continue to sell newspapers and other basics for the local community, but will also be a platform for the region’s finest artisan food producers.

    Out go the bottles of Echo Falls and in come both excellent Leicestershire wine from Rothley and fine bottles from the list at Lilu. Standard sliced bread will be replaced by loaves from Hambleton Bakery and Bisbrooke Artisans, with dairy products from highly regarded Vine Farm Dairy of Great Dalby. Leicester producers and retailers such as Gelato Village, Cocoa Amore, Choux’tique and Christopher James Deli will also be represented, and no-waste retailers Nada will supply a wide variety of dry goods. Pratik’s own restaurant will produce items such as their popular pineapple relish for sale at the deli to complement fine cheeses and locally cured charcuterie.

    “The shop as it had been was not really working,” said Pratik. “My Dad’s heart was no longer in it and he was ready to retire. The family felt we needed to do something more, and since running the restaurant I’ve got to know many fine local producers. I phoned around and asked them if they felt they’d like a stage where they could showcase their produce. I got to number 15 before I got a no.”

    So during February, Pratik, his wife Bee and family and friends have been clearing out the old stock, making arrangements with new suppliers and converting the shop from a run-of-the-mill newsagent to an atmospheric deli.

    The opening-day event on March 2 (10am to 2pm) will see a wide range of producers present to introduce their wares to locals, and others will be there over the following Saturdays. If you want to follow on social media look out for #notjustacornershop.

    News & Deli, 29 Carlton Drive, Wigston, Leicestershire, LE18 1DF

  • Reflections on blogging and Leicester restaurants, by Tim Burke

    OK, so I’ve not posted a blog for a long time. There are plenty of reasons for this. For one thing, blogging of the type I’ve done over the last 10 years seems to fit less easily with the bite size nature of more instant social media platforms – newsy bits seem better suited to twitter or instagram. Plus there’s now a great job being done across various channels by the likes of Cool As Leicester in keeping people up to date.

    I’m sure there is a lingering interest from some in well-written (hopefully), longer-form reviews and reflections. I wish I could do more of these but it’s difficult now there’s no newspapers wanting independent reviews. Equally it’s a difficult time for Leicester’s restaurants – there’s activity at the lower and middle parts of the market but it’s not easy at the top end.

    Tim Burke

    Anyhow just to get my own thoughts in order as much as anything, I thought I’d reflect a little on where we are now. I’ll just focus on the city for now.

    It was hugely disappointing to see that The King Richard III didn’t make it – the food was fantastic and while they were regularly busy at weekends, the midweek trade wasn’t there for them – especially sad when there were some bang average places not far away doing OK. At least it means that Chris and Andrea can put energies back into Crafty at St Martin’s Tea & Coffee with its exuberant burger menu. It would be nice to think new operators will do something worthwhile at KRIII.

    A dish at Lilu

    For smart food in the city I lean towards Lilu (watch our for owner Pratik Master relaunching his family convenience store in Wigston next month as a deli promoting lots of fine local produce) and the Knight & Garter’s brasserie-style offering. On the edge of the city is the Black Iron at Winstanley House in Braunstone Park, which really impressed me and from which I get consistently excellent reports.

    Winstanley House

    Of the other contenders, I’ve not been to The White Peacock since chef Patron Phil Sharpe moved on, but one regular tells me it has been inconsistent. The place is now owned by the Koban group, which also runs Aspects in Enderby and has recently bought The Lansdowne on London Road and Fenway’s in Loughborough from the Orange Tree group and also the 1573 Steakhouse on the edge of Highcross. There’s the venerable Case, which you have to admire, but much as I love the venue the food has tended to leave me a little indifferent – not been for several years though. I hope to give the Queen Victoria Arts Club another go after a mixed result when I went soon after it opened.

    The Fish & The Chip

    At a more everyday level The Fish and The Chip seems to justify Aatin Anadkat’s decision to move away from fine dining with his bright and breezy, classy chip shop, and Crafty burger continues to attract large numbers. There’s also much interest in the Asian sector – Kayal and its vegetarian sister Herb continue to produce outstanding food and the more humble likes of Spicy Temptations and Wakaze are a delight. Paddy’s Martin Inn, Mithaas and Mumbai Inn are very different places which have all impressed me in recent months. Korean food is at last making an impact with Ongi and the wonderful Grounded Kitchen and I’m looking forward to trying Oppa – a new Korean barbecue place on High Street. I’m also quite fond of the Vietnamese chain Pho – though would love to see a quality independent doing south-east Asian food in the city.

    Delilah’s is of course a big loss to the city and to St Martin’s in particular but let’s not forget there are still many terrific cafes and food and drink retailers in that area. Mrs Bridges is an under-appreciated gem, St Martins is quality as are Gelato Village, Cocoa Amore, Kai, The Bottle Garden, The Two Tailed Lion, 33 Cank St and others.

    There’s now two competing street food nights competing for the pay day dollar on the last Friday of the month, and recently one of them, Canteen, has started having traders in New Market Square on Wednesdays during the day (12pm-8pm).

    Two-Tailed Lion, Leicester

    One word too for an unprepossessing little fast food outlet called Cha Cha’s Griddle at the bottom end of London Rd. It’s not going to change your world, but its Kolkata street food Kathi rolls – parathas lined with egg and wrapped around chicken or lamb kebabs or veg are fresh, hot, tasty, cheap, filling and just the thing when you want something quick and on the go. The likes of pau bhaji, bhel poori, and samosa chaat also available – run by nice people too.

    So what is there to look forward too? In my neighbourhood I’m delighted to see that we’ve now got a Moroccan restaurant, with Al Ma’idah opening imminently on Queen’s Road. It will soon be joined by the reappearance of Friends Tandoori, a Belgrave institution which disappeared a decade ago. Clarendon Park has long needed a good Indian restaurant and hopefully this will be it. Also on the horizon on Queen’s Road is a new bar and restaurant in what was Cultura. Not many details yet but it’s an initiative of the people behind 33 Cank St and they’ve got a good chef on board so I’m hopeful.

    In town the biggest news is probably Mowgli coming to St Martins – if it can maintain the liveliness and quality of its original branches then I can’t wait. But there’s the doleful example of Bill’s before us for places that can’t reproduce the magic ad infinitum.

    Mowgli in Nottingham. It’s coming to Leicester soon

    OK that’s enough. Do let me know if there’s anything you want to add or feel I’ve got wrong and I hope to be back soon, or at least when I’ve got something to say.

    This was taken from Tim’s Eyes On The Prize blog.

  • Burleighs unveils new Doddie Weir gin

    45 West Distillers have unveiled an exciting partnership with the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, creating a new Burleighs Gin crafted alongside Scottish rugby legend, Doddie Weir. All profits will go directly to the foundation, helping to fund vital research into the causes and potential cures of Motor Neurone Disease.

    The Doddie’5 Gin recipe was developed by Burleighs head distiller Ed Gibson and Doddie Weir at the 45 West Distillery. They combined the unique Burleighs Signature recipe with specially selected botanicals that pay homage to Doddie’s roots in the Scottish Borders. Ed said: “By including milk thistle and heather flower to our Signature blend, we have created an incredibly vibrant artisan gin that we are proud and excited to put our name to.”

    45 West Distillers are calling on rugby and gin fans to help tackle MND and be part of the cure by pre-ordering the special-edition bottle online from the Burleighs website. With the profit from each bottle sale going directly to the Foundation, the Leicestershire-based distillers are committed to achieving their goal of raising £1 million.

    The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation was set up in November 2017 by Doddie and his fellow trustees, five months after he revealed the he was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease. Doddie earned 61 caps for Scotland during a successful playing career and represented The British & Irish Lions on their victorious 1997 tour to South Africa.

    From the moment of his diagnosis, Doddie has been driven to help fellow sufferers and seek ways to further research into this as yet incurable disease. In its first year, the Foundation committed to £1 million to help find a cure and to support those affected by MND, and are confident of investing a similar figure in 2019.

  • Editor’s Update: February 8, 2019

    Did I feel spring in the air the other day? I’m sure I caught a fleeting aroma of roast lamb. Or maybe it was an hallucination…

  • This business does NOT serve great food… but we want to thank them anyway

    This business does NOT serve great food. Some of their boss’s packed lunches are only fit for the swine at the local Tuesday cattle market.

    Happily, in this case it doesn’t matter because I’m talking about NFU Mutual Melton Mowbray, one of Great Food Club’s major long-term sponsors. GFC would not exist without supporters like NFU Mutual Melton, and therefore I want to encourage you all to give them a call (01664 898114).

    But you shouldn’t call them just because they sponsor us. If you’re a foodie, NFU Melton is a great choice full stop. They are passionate about food and farming, they care about small, local businesses like GFC and the people and places we recommend, and they have a brilliant track record in their industry. They have more integrity than Melton Mowbray has pork pies.

    So please think about NFU Mutual Melton Mowbray next time you’re considering insurance, investments or pensions. Their logo – with link to their website – is at the top of all our email newsletters.

    A big thanks to them – we couldn’t do it without their support.

  • Opinion: The barrier between guests and staff has got too big. Let’s break it down

    Things are not getting any easier for pubs, cafés and restaurants. Good chefs and kitchen staff are increasingly hard to find and cook under intense pressure. Front-of-housers and bartenders work long hours for small financial rewards, while their career choices are seen as second-class options by much of the public.

    Meanwhile, customers’ expectations are sky high. Over the years we have been encouraged to think of ourselves as all-knowing critics, sharing our harsh judgements on TripAdvisor and social media. Sometimes these comments are justified but in many cases they are not. Rather than being constructive, they are designed to wound.

    At the same time, business rates bite hard, rents remain challenging and no-shows are on the rise.

    The media has not helped. First Gordon Ramsay turned it into a sport to treat people in hospitality abusively. Then MasterChef transformed us all into “experts” who stand in judgement over the wannabes who must please us. Diners are the masters; cooks and waiters are the slaves. This narrative has fed into the way restaurants and pubs present themselves day to day. A constant gloss is applied to live up to the image – which pushes diners’ expectations up yet further.

    We need to break the cycle. Pubs and restaurants must communicate more honestly with customers, showing them the reality behind the gloss rather than covering up whenever there’s a problem. Guests would then better understand why the occasional less-than-perfect experience is inevitable. They would also get a better grasp of the realities – financial and practical – of running a pub, café or restaurant.

    “Sorry, the head chef is off sick tonight.”

    “We’re under a bit of pressure in the kitchen tonight.”

    “The sous chef has burnt his hand – bear with us.”

    Restaurants should say things like this to customers more. Communicate with candour. Let’s break down the barrier between guests and staff by all being honest with each other, while also being as supportive as possible.

  • Discoveries of the Weekend – January 21, 2019: The Four Bells at Woodborough and other fantastic finds

    A road trip around rural Nottinghamshire kicked off the weekend. Two highlights were within a stone’s throw of each other. The Four Bells at Woodborough is a unique and beautiful pub built in the late 1920s in a faux Tudor, faintly gothic style. Inside it’s furnished simply but stylishly, cosy and atmospheric – fire roaring away on our visit. With hearty, comforting mains (example: shin of beef stew with butter beans, crusted onion dumplings and rye & caraway bread), this is a pub to bask in and enjoy.

    Inside The Four Bells

    Just up the road is Spring Lane Farm Shop in Mapperley – a spacious, traditional, no-nonsense farm shop with its own bakery, impressive cheese counter and large butchery. Much of the meat sold here is raised on Spring Lane Farm. It’s a good, honest and down-to-earth farm shop selling local produce.

    Back in Leicestershire, a quick trip to Beardsley’s Tea Room & Village Shop in Rearsby left us feeling all warm and cosy. Entering is like walking into the house of your favourite grandma after she’s been on a cake-baking, tea-making, fire-laying masterclass. Delightful.

    One of the rooms at Beardsley’s

    Next came a journey to Warwick. The Rose & Crown is tucked just behind Market Place. It’s a cracking pub that serves well-cooked food and local beers. The only negative (we’re being petty now) was waiting an aeon to get served at a quiet bar. Pubs that serve cocktails can suffer from this problem. As two bar tenders mixed mojitos, two other staff on restaurant duty chatted among themselves, studiously ignoring the bar. Guys – if a thirsty guest needs serving, they need serving, no matter where they are standing, OK?! That said we enjoyed our time here and would definitely recommend this pub. We especially loved the local beers – Mad Goose from Purity and Harry’s Heifer from Church Farm Brewery.

    Next up: Italian food, three minutes’ walk away from the Rose & Crown. Micatto is a strong contender for the most Italian restaurant in the UK. Proud and extremely smart Italian waiters – not a Brit member of staff in sight – strutted around this sleek, ultra-stylish restaurant taking good care of the equally smart (except us) guests. The atmosphere buzzed and the food was enjoyable – as authentically Italian as the team who run this place. A drink in the Rose & Crown and a meal at Micatto is a great way to spend a night in Warwick.

    Micatto

    Meanwhile Philip, our editor-at-large, squeezed in lunch at The Abbot’s Elm near Huntingdon, cooked by talented chef-patron Julia Abbey: Welsh rarebit and crisp pancetta followed by roast skate wing with a sauce vierge, finishing with a citrus posset with blood orange sorbet.

    In the Big Smoke, Philip also enjoyed a bite in The Bull, Devonshire Row (EC1). “Good pub, good food,” he says. “And interestingly owned by Kent’s Hush Heath Winery.”

    On Sunday night we returned to our own stoves in Melton Mowbray. A sausage casserole made with Lincolnshire sausages from Northfield Farm, Cold Overton, Rutland, hit the spot. If there’s a better sausage out there, we’re yet to find it!

  • Discoveries of the Weekend – January 15, 2019

    A trip to Dickies ‘Butchery & Farm Dining’ in Plungar, Vale of Belvoir, on the Leicestershire/Nottinghamshire border, was a good way to start the weekend. This on-farm butchery/cafe/restaurant (bring your own) with its open kitchen is enjoyably rustic and homespun – the sort of ambience that chains try to create artificially but never quite manage. We enjoyed a bacon, sausage & egg sandwich on sourdough with a cappuccino (no expense spared on the coffee machine here).

    Dickies

    Then it was onward to Langar Hall (free glass of wine per person for up to four diners when you show one Great Food Club Membership Card) to deliver copies of the Great Food Club Handbook 2019. It’s a stunning building, closed for redecoration during our visit. Back open again tomorrow (Jan 16), I believe.

    The historic Unicorn’s Head (20% off the total bill for GFC members when dining Monday to Sunday), also in Langar, has been restored magnificently over the past 24 months or so. On our visit it was doing a good job of being a traditional village local, with drinkers chewing the fat in the bar over pints of Everards Tiger. The large restaurant area was just warming up on our visit early on Friday evening.

    The Unicorn’s Head, Langar

    BeerHeadz is a new pub in the centre of Melton Mowbray, located in a 14th century building on Kings Street (an old toy shop). No food is served here – it invites you to bring your own in fact – but there’s beer and plenty of it. The people behind BeerHeadz (outlets already exist in Grantham and Lincoln) are passionate about craft brewing and pride themselves on pouring some of the UK’s most creative, up-to-the-minute beers. We tried ‘Fugitive’ – a ‘Fruited Brut IPA’ (7%) – a collaboration brew between Cornwall’s Verdant Brewery and London’s Gypsy Hill. It was a bombshell of tropical fruit flavours – as much a cocktail as a beer and ridiculously drinkable, despite the ABV.

    Sunday evening can be a tricky time to eat out – lots of places are closed. But it’s no problem on Belgrave Road in Leicester (aka ‘The Golden Mile’). The curry houses here do a good trade on Sunday nights. We found ourselves in Bobby’s (a recommendation by Pratik Master, who runs Lilu in Leicester), which serves Gujarati-style vegetarian dishes. Run by the same family since 1976, it’s a joy to eat here: fun, bright, breezy and friendly, with great service and tasty, comforting food. This restaurant is perfect for kids and families.

    Indian sweets in Bobby’s

    Over the weekend we also managed to get some farm-fresh milk from Vine Farm Dairy‘s vending machine in Great Dalby (highly recommended); and grab some sausages and braising steak from Northfield Farm Shop in Cold Overton (Leicestershire/Rutland border). This farm and farm shop, run by Jan McCourt and family, also has a permanent stand at Borough Market. In our experience, their beef and sausages are very hard to beat.

    Vine Farm Dairy bottle and vending machine, Great Dalby

    There was a quick trip to Leicester’s Two Tailed Lion, too: a post-craft-beer-revolution version of a classic British pub, from the outside it looks like a beautiful, compact traditional city hostelry. On the inside it’s modern-feeling and sophisticated. No expense has been spared on the interior design, but the timeless attributes that make a great pub great are present: a warm welcome, great beer and wine, and a cosy space to refuel, socialise and take stock. The Kernel Double India Porter was excellent, too.

    Two-Tailed Lion, Leicester

    Meanwhile, in London, our Hampshire & Dorset editor Penny enjoyed a fabulous blood orange and sesame crunch porridge at 26 Grains in Neal’s Yard.

    Penny’s porridge at 26 Grains

    And up in ‘God’s Own County’, our Yorkshire editor Ann raved about her brunch at Cardamom & Dill in York – Turkish-style eggs with feta, plum tomatoes, red chillies and spring onions, served with sourdough bread toast. “Just one of many delights on a chilly Sunday when touring York,” she says.

  • January deadline fast approaching for UK’s first ever artisan food production degree

    Students have until the UCAS deadline of January 15, 2019 to apply for the UK’s first artisan food production degree to learn all aspects of artisan bread-baking, cheese-making, butchery, charcuterie and patisserie creation.

    Nottingham Trent University and professional artisan food specialists The School of Artisan Food have teamed up to offer the new Foundation degree in artisan food production across the two locations in Nottinghamshire from October 2019.

    The Foundation degree – which can be studied either two years full time, or three years with a placement – will help to meet increasing demand for skilled producers of high-quality artisan food that is sustainably produced.

    The news has been greeted with delight by many across the food sector. Karen Barnes, Delicious magazine editor, said: “The School is a wonderful place that has been reviving forgotten skills for 10 years now. Their new degree in artisan food production is so important as we need to have people who know how to make fantastic bread and cheese as feeding the nation good quality food is the root to everything.”

    Patrick Holden, chief executive and founder of the Sustainable Food Trust, said: “This sounds like a really excellent development, exactly what is needed to improve the cultural, economic and societal status of people who wish to develop skills of this kind. Blessings upon the partnership!”

    Julie Byrne, managing director of The School of Artisan Food, commented: “We are really looking forward to working with Nottingham Trent University to inspire the next generation of artisan food producers. This unique, new course will provide students with the opportunity to learn in two great settings and to develop the skills and knowledge required to be successful in the world of artisan food.”

    The School of Artisan Food, Welbeck

    Teaching will be split between the university’s Brackenhurst Campus, home to the School of Animal, Rural & Environmental Sciences, and The School of Artisan Food, based in north Nottinghamshire on the Welbeck Estate.

    Students will be taught by experienced artisan food specialists and food science lecturers. They will learn all the skills needed to work in the artisan food industry – developing practical expertise, producing a range of high-quality food products and understanding what is needed to establish an artisan food business.

    They will also study the functionality of high-end food ingredients and develop skills to produce patisserie and viennoiserie to professional standards.

    The course includes an opportunity to work in a placement in artisan food production, to help students prepare for a career in the sector. Upon completion of the Foundation degree, students will have the option to join the final year of the university’s BSc Food Science and Technology course.

    Julia Davies, Head of Environmental Science in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural & Environmental Sciences, said: “We are delighted to have formed a partnership with The School of Artisan Food to develop this unique course. This will provide students with such a wonderful opportunity to study artisan food production both at NTU and at The School of Artisan Food at Welbeck.”

    To apply, visit the UCAS page here.

  • Introducing Round Corner Brewing, Melton Mowbray’s new state-of-the-art brewery

    Located in the heart of Melton Mowbray’s iconic agricultural market, Round Corner Brewing is the newest addition to the East Midlands’ food and drink scene that you’ve got to see for yourself.

    It’s the culmination of a 15-year vision shared by two life-long friends, internationally acclaimed brewer Colin Paige and City director Combie Cryan. They’ve always dreamed of building the brewery of their dreams and making iconic British beers. And with a gorgeous bespoke brewkit and taproom serving up fresh-pours daily, beer lovers are in for a treat.

    Colin Paige (left) and Combie Cryan

    The brewery boasts a unique town-meets-country location, a state-of-the-art brew-kit capable of brewing 2,000 litres at a time, and a taproom that promises to become a star attraction.

    Launching in December 2018 at Melton’s Victorian Christmas Fayre, Round Corner’s first batch of Topside Golden Ale got rave reviews from thirsty punters in a part of the world whose passion for artisanal food and drink is renowned.

    Pouring a Topside Golden Ale in the new tap room at Melton Mowbray Market

    And with a vibrant market to call home, celebrated food and drink festivals and hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, Combie and Colin are committed to making beer with unmistakable character, which is a reflection of a unique regional heritage.

    Round Corner brews classic styles while embracing the experimentation and discovery that is the hallmark of the UK’s contemporary beer scene, including seasonals, collaborations and taproom specials with other local food producers. The core range will include a Golden Ale, a West Coast IPA, a Lager, a Black Lager and a Pale Ale, all brewed with Colin’s exacting patience and finesse – something for every palette and every occasion.

    For more information on Round Corner’s exciting range of beers, opening hours or to join its Refill Club (including your very own three-and-a-third pint growler), stop by in person or visit the website.

    The brewery

  • Three great frugal ‘leftovers’ recipes by Mia Vincent

    Here are three of our favourite recipes to use up leftovers. Enjoy!

    Pantry Pesto
    We often find ourselves throwing away loose greens, whether its some sweating rocket, carrot tops or browning herbs. However, a pesto can be a great way to use up these ingredients. Perfect in a sandwich or tossed through some pasta, a vibrant, nutty pesto is a store-cupboard staple. The greens, nut and cheese elements are all interchangeable, so be creative*!

    1 big bunch of green leaves (rocket, spinach, carrot tops, beetroot tops, herbs)
    ½ a garlic clove
    1 handful of toasted nuts or seeds (pine nuts, cashews, brazil nuts or walnuts)
    1 large handful of grated cheese (Parmesan is best as a base but don’t be afraid to throw in some leftover feta or cheddar)
    Extra-virgin olive oil (enough to loosen the pesto)
    Zest and juice of half a lemon (optional)
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Peel and crush the garlic, add a little salt to achieve a smooth paste. Add the leaves, garlic, nuts and half the cheese to the food processor and blend. Gradually drizzle in the oil until a oozing consistency is achieved yet the pesto is still slightly chunky. Add the remains of the cheese and the lemon before pulsing in order to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add more cheese or oil until you are happy with the consistency.

    *Variations, try: basil and pine nut; coriander and cashew; carrot top and pumpkin seed; or spinach and walnut.


    Browning Bananas: a waste-free shake
    The spotty banana is an all-too regular feature in our fruit bowls as we buy large bunches that we just can’t get through in time. You may not be a fan of an over-ripe banana but don’t be too hasty chucking them away. Banana bread is one option, and so is this delicious milkshake/smoothie.

    1-2 over-ripe bananas, frozen or fresh
    150ml of milk (or lactose-free alternative)
    1 tsp of vanilla extract
    4-5 ice cubes (optional)

    Peel and slice the bananas, placing into a blender or food processor. Add in the milk, vanilla and ice, and blend until smooth.

    For added flavour, optional add-ins include: 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tbsp of honey or maple syrup, 1 tbsp of crunchy peanut butter, 2 tbsp yoghurt, 1 tbsp of oats.


    Crispy Potato Peels
    Peeling potatoes can be gruelling work, so why not make yourself a pre-dinner snack to ride you over whilst those roasties cook? Roast your potato peels for a crispy snack that falls between a crisp and a French fry – delicious dunked in ketchup or on their own with a scattering of sea salt.

    Leftover potato peelings
    A drizzle of rapeseed or sunflower oil
    A pinch of salt
    A pinch of pepper

    Heat the oven to 200°C. Toss the potato peels in the oil and season with salt and pepper before placing them on a baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 minutes, tossing once half way through as they turn golden brown. Once cooked, remove from the pan onto some kitchen towel to drain, and allow to cool slightly so they crisp up before serving.

  • Four London independents doing their bit to reduce food waste

    With the Government’s recent announcement of a £15m project to cut food waste, our leftovers have become a hot topic. In recent years, chains, independents and supermarkets have all come under increasing pressure to reduce their carbon foodprint and waste as little as possible. This campaign has been particularly strong in London.

    Here at Great Food Club, we understand this mission’s importance and know that wonky vegetables and staling loaves aren’t to be sniffed at. To give you a little inspiration, we’re letting you in on a few of our favourite sustainable London independents…


    Gourmet Goat, Borough Market

    Photo: Gourmet Goat

    For founders Nadia and Nick Stokes, sustainability and waste reduction are a big deal. Since they started Gourmet Goat in 2015, the Stokes have managed to develop a waste-reduction strategy by using foods commonly discarded due to lack of demand.

    From kid goat to dairy calves, surplus vegetables to excess milk, Gourmet Goat makes use of these leftovers on their East-Mediterranean-style menu. Options like kid-goat kofta and slow-roast rose veal, once wrapped in fresh flatbreads or added to bowls of bulgur wheat and served with more familiar ingredients like salsas and slaws, are truly delicious, making you wonder why these meats aren’t eaten more widely.
    Borough Market, 8 Southwark St, London, SE1 1TL

    Photo: TripAdvisor


    Farmacy Kitchen, Notting Hill

    Photo: Farmacy

    Known for its do-good ethos, Farmacy Kitchen has also become a celebrity hotspot thanks to its creative take on ‘clean’ food. Featuring only plant-based, organic and chemical-free foods, Farmacy isn’t everyone’s restaurant of choice. Yet with its high-end take on hippy-chic vegan brunches and lunches, it provides many elements of a more traditional restaurants: house pancakes coated with caramelised pecans and maple syrup; and mac ‘n’ ‘cheese’ (vegan, of course) with a golden sage crumb.

    Photo: Farmacy

    With everything from falafels to kimchi bowls, Farmacy builds on the recent vegan and raw-food trends, at the forefront of modern ideas about what we ‘should’ and ‘should not’ be eating. But whether you’re a devout vegan or a meat-feast fanatic, there’s no denying Farmacy’s mission-driven commitment to reducing waste. As well as serving up delicious food, this vegan hub in the heart of Notting Hill pays close attention to minimising its fruit and veg wastage by developing intuitive dishes to make use of every aspect of its produce. By using the whole plant to make their signature burger or whizzing leftover carrot tops into their hummus, Farmacy gives a new meaning to to waste reduction. Perhaps ‘root to shoot’ is the new ‘nose to tail’ cooking after all.
    74-76 Westbourne Grove, London, W2 5SH

    Photo: Farmacy


    Leiths School of Food & Wine, Shepherd’s Bush

    Photo: Leiths

    While you’ll probably recognise ‘Leith’ as the surname of the Great British Bake Off judge, Prue Leith is better known in the food world as a restauranteur, chef and caterer. Back in 1975 she founded Leiths School of Food & Wine in an attempt to supply the catering industry with professional and well-trained chefs. While the school has come a long way since its origins, it remains a world-class cookery school.

    Photo: Leiths

    As well as passing on great skills to its students, the school also boasts strong sustainability credentials, doing its bit to minimise food waste. From using seasonal, thoughtfully sourced ingredients to donating leftover food to City Harvest – a charity delivering food to the most vulnerable people in London – Leiths sets a fine example for schools and businesses alike.
    16-20 Wendell Rd, White City, London W12 9RT


    Nine Lives Bar, Bermondsey

    Photo: Nine Lives Bar

    Based in a Bermondsey basement, this drinking den employs a zero-waste policy to each ingredient it carefully selects and sources. Designed by the mixologists at Sweet & Chilli, a top London drinks agency, Nine Lives has a constantly changing cocktail menu with seasonal ingredients that are ingeniously reinvented.

    Although short, their house cocktail menu makes it impossible to choose, with flavours of brandy, cherry and hazelnut or rum, almond and beetroot. After a busy weekend in this cosy bar, anything leftover is composted in the back garden, where fresh herbs, also used in the drinks, are grown.

    Photo: Nine Lives Bar

    Nine Lives develops original recipes to use every part of its ingredients: for example, lemon pith is used to make essential oils, and vanilla pods are used for infusions.
    8 Holyrood St, London, SE1 2EL

    Photo: Nine Lives Bar


    Whilst these London independents are doing their bit, we can all play our part in reducing global food waste. Click here to see three of my favourite ‘leftovers’ recipes…

  • All aboard! Burleigh’s Gin Train is back!

    Burleighs Gin’s luxury steam train experience is back on December 13!

    The Great Burleighs Express will depart from Loughborough at 7pm and ride Leicestershire’s Great Central Railway, the UK’s only double-track heritage railway.

    Guests will enjoy in-carriage fine-dining, festive Burleighs Gin cocktails, live entertainment and a jazz band. These will be set against the backdrop of some of Leicestershire’s most picturesque scenery.

    Buy tickets here.


    Full itinerary

    6.30pm: Arrive at Loughborough’s Great Central Railway for a complimentary arrival cocktail and canapés, soundtracked by a live jazz band.

    7.00pm: All aboard for departure. Sit back with your complimentary Burleighs Gin & Tonic while the Grand Burleighs Express ventures full steam ahead towards its first stop, Swithland. Upon arrival, the scenic views of Swithland Reservoir will provide the backdrop for a three-course festive dining experience, expertly paired with wine selected by 45 St Martin’s Vintners.

    8.30pm: The adventure continues. Enjoy a performance from a magician and live jazz as you head toward a second stop, Rothley Station. Step back in time as the train rolls into the station and enjoy a Burleighs Gin cocktail on the beautifully restored 19th century platform.

    9.30pm: Board the train and head back to the final destination of Loughborough. Relax with an end-of-line coffee and mint.

    10.15pm: Disembark at Loughborough’s Great Central Railway.

  • Nottingham’s Cheese Shop: one of the city’s favourite food independents

    Set up by brothers Rob and Webb Freckingham 16 years ago, Nottingham’s Cheese Shop, Deli and Cafe – located on Flying Horse Walk in the centre of town – has become one of the city’s favourite food independents.

    Today, as well as selling directly to the public from their outstanding little deli-cafe, they supply Nottinghamshire favourites Langar Hall, Sat Bains and Alchemilla.

    Rob and Webb tell us that they are collecting their cheeses straight from the farm gate more and more these days. That means fresher cheese and a better relationship with the producers.

    The brothers recently scooped bronze in the World Cheese Awards for their stunning cheese counter!

  • The Wheel at Branston in Leicestershire – a rustic, family-run pub

    Great Food Club ate at The Wheel Inn in Branston, Leicestershire, last weekend. It’s a down-to-earth, rustic, friendly and welcoming village pub. It also serves good food (including excellent pies) and well-kept local ales, although service was a little on the slow side during our visit.

    The pie we enjoyed at The Wheel

    Landlord and head chef Matt Marsden told us that The Wheel has recently changed its approach and is now completely family run. Matt is head chef, his dad Phil handles the admin, mum Lynne is on flowers & gardening duty, and Tristan (far left) handles front of house.

    Well worth a visit! Expect dogs and muddy boots… plus great pies!

    The Wheel also runs an offer for Great Food Club members – 10% off the entire bill, Monday to Saturday, lunch and evening. Offer not valid in addition to other offers. Please mention that you are a Great Food Club member when booking on 01476 870376 and show your membership card when paying.