Tag Archive: Featured

  • 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.

  • Leicester’s Gelato Village does it again!

    Leicester’s Gelato Village has done it again! Their ‘Bee Happy’ gelato has won the first heat at the Gelato Festival World Masters competition in Hereford at Carpigiani‘s HQ.

    Bee Happy is made with Leicestershire honey produced by David ‘The Bee Farmer’ McDowell of Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire milk from Vine Farm Dairy of Great Dalby, plus lemon zest and sage.

    Gelato Village uses milk from Vine Farm Dairy of Great Dalby, Leicestershire

    “Bee Happy has a special place in our hearts,” said Maestro Gelatiere Antonio de Vecchi, co-founder of Gelato Village. “It showcases some of the excellent produce that comes from Leicestershire, such as The Bee Farmer’s incredible honey. It’s a joy to have the quality of these ingredients and the passion that we put into our recipe development recognised by the judges.”

    Local ingredients, Italian inspiration!

  • Where to stock up with food, drink and pressies this Christmas (brilliant local independents only)

    Avoiding supermarkets can be tricky in the run-up to Christmas. But stocking up on festive food, drink and gifts at small local independents is well worth the effort: not only do you support the producers and entrepreneurs who make our culinary world so exciting, you also get your hands on the really good stuff – victuals that actually make Christmas more memorable, fun and delicious.

    Here is a guide on where to stock up on Christmas food, drink and foodie gifts in the East Midlands – Great Food Club’s heartland. Spend some of your budget with the guys featured below and you won’t be disappointed…


    Harker’s Farm Shop (Clipston on the Wolds, Nottinghamshire)

    Where better to stock up this Christmas than Great Food Club’s Farm Shop of the Year 2018/19? The Harker family have been selling produce directly to the public from here for more than 50 years. Situated at the end of a country lane, surrounded by pastureland, it’s a friendly and fantastic farm shop, which also has its own petting farm and play area to keep the kids entertained. The fruit and veg section is well stocked, mostly sourced from just three miles away.

    Samuel Harker on the family farm with their turkeys

    The high quality and reasonably priced beef, pork and lamb are produced by the Harker family on the farm, along with the farm-fresh turkeys.

    Christmas orders are now being taken – click here for more information.


    Tori & Ben’s Farm Butchery (Kings Newton, Melbourne, Derbyshire)

    Tori & Ben’s Farm Butchery was recently named one of the Best 20 Farm Shops in Britain by The Telegraph. Longhorn beef sustainably raised on farmland near Melbourne and Diseworth is their speciality, closely followed by their prize-winning Jacob lamb. You can also order other meat in the shop, including Packington Free Range pork, chicken, turkey and more. The values behind this unique family business are simple: passion, provenance and responsible farming. Married couple Tori and Ben take incredible pride in their livestock and have won countless prizes.

    Tori & Ben’s Farm are now offering three types of butchery course, too – ‘Beef Steak Night’, ‘Nose To Tail Pork’ and ‘Whole Lamb Carcass’. A gift voucher for one of these would make the perfect Christmas present for the meat lover in your life!


    The Pickled Shop (Bulwick in Northamptonshire and online shop)


    Based at Bulwick Village Shop in Northamptonshire (Great Food Club Deli of the Year 2017/18 and a Finalist in our 2018/19 Awards), The Pickled Shop is a website where you can order all sorts of glorious hampers and pickles. It was set up by Camille Ortega McLean, founder of The Pickled Village range of preserves, which have been sold in Fortnums, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.

    Ideal for festive meals and snacks, The Pickled Village’s creative, exciting jars include ‘The Christmas Spirit’– a plum & apricot chutney with brandy; and ‘The Christmas Cracker’ – a feisty festive chutney with a chilli kick. Then there’s the likes of ‘The Proper Piccalilli’ – a classic crunchy mustard pickle; and ‘The Boozy Dark Breakfast’ – an orange & lemon marmalade with treacle, spices & whisky.

    Pickled Shop hampers include such pickles alongside crackers, membrillo and biscuits from The Fine Cheese Company (Bath), cheese from the Snowdonia Cheese Company (Wales), chocolate from Beeches Chocolates (Preston, Lancs), Southridge fizz (West Sussex), gins from Warner Edwards (Northamptonshire), vodka and gin from Blackdown Spirits (West Sussex) as well as Pukka Teas (Bristol).

    Order your Pickled Shop Christmas hampers before November 30 and you’ll get 15% off with the code ‘WRAPPEDUP’. Order here.


    Bat & Bottle (Oakham in Rutland and online shop)

    If you want special wines with provenance sourced from small Italian vineyards this Christmas, speak to Ben and Emma Robson at Bat & Bottle in Oakham. They have two festive tastings coming up where you can try some real belters – at Oakham Castle on Friday November 30 (6.30pm – 8.30pm – £10 on the door), and at Lloyds Club, 42 Crutched Friars, London, EC3N 2AP on Thursday November 29 (5.30pm – 8.45pm – £10 on the door). They also hold tastings at their Oakham Enterprise Park outlet on the third Saturday of each month (so November 17 and December 15 – shop open 9.30am to 5pm).

    The wines you’ll find at Bat & Bottle are not run of the mill. Expect rarities with a sense of terroir, and bottles that are unlikely to have been tasted outside their home country.

    Bat & Bottle’s Wine Club was recently named national runner-up in the Wine Club of the Year competition, narrowly losing out to the mighty Wine Society – an amazing achievement.


    Waterloo Cottage Farm Shop (one mile south of Market Harborough in Northamptonshire)

    Waterloo Cottage Farm nurtures its own animals in high-welfare, eco-friendly conditions. The resulting meat has provenance and is of excellent quality. Meat in the shop not raised on Waterloo Cottage Farm is from other equally vigilant producers.

    On sale in the build-up to Christmas, you’ll find delicious turkeys and poultry from Fosse Meadows Farm (shortlisted in our 2018/19 Awards); Waterloo Cottage bread sauce and pasture-fed gravy; Waterloo Cottage charcuterie, duck paté, game paté, ham hock terrine and traditional corned beef. Also available are fruit, vegetables and salad; milk, cream, bread, cakes and mince pies; eco-friendly cleaning products made with organic essential oils; plus door wreaths; local wines, gins and vodkas.

    Waterloo Cottage Farm’s annual Open House Christmas Fair takes place on November 16 & 17, 9am-5pm. Alongside the farm shop’s excellent food and drink selection, you’ll find some brilliant gifts such as  No. 34 Boutique clothing, cards, jewellery, handbags and gifts for men. In fact, you could potentially wrap up all your Christmas shopping in one go at this event!

    For more information on Christmas at Waterloo Cottage Farm, click here.


    Everards (Leicester and online shop)

    Why not enjoy your favourite Everards beers at home this Christmas? Available to order are Beacon Hill, Sunchaser, Tiger and Old Original – so there is something to delight the ale lover in your life’s taste buds. Everards’ handy five-litre minikegs, which hold 8.8 pints, are perfect to give, share or savour every drop yourself. The beer will stay fresh for 30 days once opened. Simply chill, pour and enjoy for just £19.50 plus postage and packing, or pick one up from the pop-up Burleighs shop at Fosse Park, Leicester (located in the food court).

    You can order a case of Everards beers online or why not personalise a bottle as a gift for that someone special? It makes a wonderful alternative to a Christmas card and a great stocking filler or secret Santa gift! (case of ale £14.50, personalised gift £9.95).


    Farndon Fields Farm Shop (Market Harborough in Leicestershire)

     

    Shortlisted in the Great Food Club Awards 2018/19, our judge said of Farndon Fields Farm Shop: “Spectacular! A real celebration of locally grown fare with a great deal produced on the farm and a high-end feel to the whole store.” It’s a great place, therefore, to do your Christmas shopping! Alongside the own-farm produce, this shop offers lots of great quality locally sourced produce.

    The recently refitted butchery and deli sections in particular present shoppers with a feast of choice – everything you could possible need for a luxurious, locally sourced Christmas, from dry-aged steaks to local free range turkeys to farmhouse cheeses and tempting charcuterie.

    Farndon Fields’ special Christmas Shopping Evening takes place on Wednesday November 28, 5-8pm.


    Spring Lane Farm Shop (Mapperley, Nottinghamshire)


    Spring Lane Farm Shop is a spacious, traditional farm shop, owned by the Spencer family since 1939. Bread is baked on-site daily – including their award-winning “Dinky” rolls. The shop also has a butchery offering a great selection of beef, lamb, pork and game, plus a huge variety of hand-made sausages and home-cured meats. The well-stocked cheese and deli counters feature a host of local cheeses, included three varieties of Stilton, three types of pork pie and a range of cooked meats.

    This shop is all about quality, with an excellent selection of produce in a bright and airy setting. It is easily accessible and has plenty of parking, and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable.

    Christmas orders are being taken from now until December 9.


    Gonalston Farm Shop (near Lowdham, Nottinghamshire)


    Gonalston Farm Shop has recently had a major refit. The shop now stocks a large convenience range, although 80% of the mainly locally sourced pre-refit range remains. The butchery counter has not changed at all, offering high-provenance Gonalston Farm-produced meat, plus cuts from local farms. The fresh fruit and vegetable section is as strong as ever, with plenty of locally sourced produce. Bread from Hambleton Bakery is still available, too.

    Gonalston Farm Shop is now taking Christmas orders. You can stock up with the likes of Gonalston Farm’s own 21-day-aged chateaubriand, six bird roasts, apple-fed cockerel, venison and Argyll Smokery salmon. A nicely produced Christmas brochure is available here.


    Burleighs Gin (Nanpantan in Leicestershire, Leicester and online)

     

    Every household needs at least one bottle of gin in the booze cabinet during Yuletide. Distilled in Leicestershire with 11 botanicals – including silver birch, dandelion, burdock and elderberries – Burleighs is a great local option. Available to order online or from one of many stockists, including the pop-up Burleighs shop at Fosse Park in Leicester (located in the food court), a bottle of Burleighs also makes a great gift – especially the Leicester Tigers, Leicester City or Pink varieties.

    Another brilliant Burleighs Gin pressie is a gift voucher for either one of their regular distillery tours or for their brilliant 45 Gin School Experience.

      

     

     

     

    Bottles of Burleighs are also available to purchase directly from the distillery and they have a variety of Christmas hampers available, too!


    Important information: This is a promoted feature and contains some advertisements. However, as always, every business we feature has been vetted by Great Food Club’s writing team. We only feature businesses we recommend. For more information, click here

  • Where to eat out in the Midlands this Christmas

    From cosseting country pubs with roaring log fires to sophisticated urban restaurants, here’s Great Food Club’s guide to eating out this Christmas. Each pub or restaurant featured has been visited by Great Food Club and won our seal of approval. Our policy is to recommend independents only and ignore big chains…

    The Jackson Stops, Stretton, Rutland


    It’s hard to imagine a more chocolate box country pub than The Jackson Stops in Stretton, which dates back to the early 18th-century. Thatched and achingly pretty, with roaring log fires, it has four separate dining rooms, making it ideal for a festive celebration. Experienced chef-patron Robert Knowles runs a skilled kitchen and has secured Michelin Guide listings for The Jackson Stops for three consecutive years. The pub also has two AA rosettes.

    The Jackson Stops’ Christmas Lunch Menu, served from November 29, is extremely well priced at £16.95 for two courses or £20.95 for three courses. Stand-out dishes include kiln-roast Peterhead salmon & mackerel saladette with honey mustard dressing (starter); beef & venison pie simmered with port & red wine, hand-cut chips and creamed peas (main); stuffed belly of Grasmere pork, sausage, bubble & squeak mash, red wine jus (main); roast local Tilton turkey with wild sage, red onion & apricot seasoning and Grasmere chipolata (main); and matured Victorian recipe Christmas pudding with mincemeat compote, cognac & vanilla sauce.

    Click here for more details on celebrating Christmas at The Jackson Stops. Or call Rob and team on 01780 410237 to book.

    Jackson Stops GFC member offer:
    10% off all food (excluding other promotional offers), from Monday to Friday. A maximum of four diners per membership card. Please mention Great Food member when booking on 01780 410237 and show your card when paying.


    The Queen’s Head at Belton, Leicestershire

    This village dining pub (with five bedrooms) in Belton near Loughborough has been beautifully revamped, giving spacious, relaxed dining areas. The cooking is perfect for a cosy country pub: expect stylish, modern examples of classic dishes. This, combined with a perfect balance of friendliness and professionalism from the front-of-house team, produces a hugely satisfying pub dining experience.

    At Christmas, The Queen’s Head is great for snuggling up by the fire with a glass of mulled wine. You can indulge in a lavish three-course festive feast with the family, or join them for one of their party nights.

    Throughout December, The Queen’s Head will be serving a special set Christmas menu, with festive fare made from seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy two courses for £24.95 or three courses for £29.95.

    Starters include leek & potato soup with goats’ cheese & sage fritters (gluten-free on request) and smoked mackerel paté with soda bread, caper & herb salad (also gluten-free on request). Two main course examples are tournedos of turkey breast with pork & chestnut stuffing, pigs in blankets, duck fat roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts with red onion & balsamic and turkey gravy; and roast fillet of cod with caramelised cauliflower puree, salsify, kale & clams, brown butter sauce (gluten-free).

    For large get-togethers, the private dining room at The Queen’s Head seats 30 (with five bedrooms potentially available for overnight guests).

    Click here for more details on celebrating Christmas at The Queen’s Head. Or call 01530 222 359 to book.

    The Queen’s Head GFC member offer:
    A free bottle of house wine for tables of four having a minimum of two courses. Please mention you are a member when booking on 01530 222 359 and show your card.


    Hart’s of Nottingham


    A contemporary urban alternative to rural sister venue Hambleton Hall of Rutland, Hart’s is located in the upmarket Park Estate of Nottingham and has won all manner of plaudits over its 20-year lifespan.

    Hart’s aims to provide a professional blend of skilled service and modern British cooking in a stylish environment. Head chef Dan Burridge uses top quality ingredients, often locally sourced, in simple, striking combinations. Expect a blend of skilled service and top-class food in a modern and comfortable setting.

    A warm welcome awaits Hart’s guests during the festive season, whether you’re popping in for a glass of mulled wine and mince pie in the Park Bar, looking for an indulgent festive lunch, or booking a larger Christmas party at ‘Hart’s Upstairs. Expect the likes of gin & tonic cured salmon with pickled cucumber and dill crème fraiche; local free-range roast turkey with traditional accompaniments; and Christmas pudding soufflé with brandy ice cream.

    The two-AA-rosette restaurant will be serving a festive a la carte menu during December, as well as party menus from £32 per person. Alternatively, if you are looking for something a little different, Hart’s Festive Afternoon Tea is a great way to savour Christmas classics during December.

    Click here for more details on celebrating Christmas at Hart’s, or call 0115 988 1900 to book.

    Hart’s GFC member offer:
    10% discount Monday to Friday (both lunch and dinner). Not valid on set menus or with any other offer. A maximum of four diners per Great Food Club card. Please mention you are a member when booking on 0115 9881900 and show your card if required.


    The Rose & Crown, Yardley Hastings, Northamptonshire

    The Rose & Crown is a classic village pub that serves excellent food at good prices, alongside great real ales and carefully selected wines. The team, overseen by owners and sisters Claire and Tara, pride themselves on the quality of their food, offering a regularly changing menu and real attention to detail.

    A former Food Pub of the Year in the Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards, you can also expect top-notch service.

    The Rose & Crown Festive Menu is available from Monday November 26 and features the likes of local Brixworth pâté with toasted bloomer bread, fig and caramelised onion chutney (starter); seared pigeon breast on a salad of bacon lardons, pine nuts & a blackberry dressing (starter); mixed seasonal game stew & dumplings with root vegetables (main); shortcrust leek, mushroom & spinach pie served with creamy mash, buttered kale & a white wine sauce (main); and spiced apple & plum crumble with custard (desert).

    Click here for more details on celebrating Christmas at The Rose & Crown, or call 01604 696276 to book.

    The Rose & Crown’s GFC member offer:
    15% off food at evening dinner from Sunday to Thursday and at lunchtime from Tuesday to Friday. Up to four people per Great Food Club card. Please mention you are a member when booking on 01604 696276 and show your membership card when paying.


    The Knight & Garter, Leicester

    A brilliant option if you want to celebrate Christmas in Leicester city centre, The Knight & Garter offers independent flair and a dedication to quality.

    County Winner in the National Pub & Bar Awards 2018, the interior is reminiscent of a sophisticated New York bar, or possibly a smart London steakhouse – not opulent or flashy, but full of smart, contemporary style. It offers a stunning restaurant and a wide range of carefully thought out drinks, not to mention a classy steakhouse/brasserie menu. Its basement Gallery Venue & Bar is idea for a Christmas gathering.

    Immense care has been taken in both the design of the pub and in sourcing ingredients for the menu. The hard work has paid off. You can read more about The Knight & Garter here.

    For more details on celebrating Christmas at The Knight & Garter, call 0116 303 3310.

    The Knight & Garter’s GFC member offer:
    Complimentary starter or dessert with all main courses, Sunday to Thursday. Please mention you’re a member when booking on 0116 303 3310 and show your membership card.


    The Wheel at Branston, Leicestershire

    The Wheel is a down-to-earth, rustic, friendly and welcoming family-run village pub. It hasn’t forgotten how to be an honest hostelry, but is also passionate about good food, high quality beer and making customers feel loved.

    Charming and compact with a lovely open fire, this freehouse serves impressive, locally sourced food, often via dishes you wouldn’t expect from a village pub. Walkers are welcome (so are dogs – in the bar) and you won’t be made to feel naughty for treading mud into the quarry tiles and wooden floorboards. The decor is simple, as is the furniture. Expect a warm, friendly and bucolic atmosphere and dishes such as local pan-fried pigeon, celeriac, pickled mushrooms & game chips (starter); and fillet of hake with lemon new potatoes, green beans and artichoke velouté.

    The Wheel team, from left: Tristan Crane (front of house manager); Matt Marsden (proprietor & head chef); Phil Marsden (administration); and Lynne Marsden (flowers & gardening)

    To book your Christmas party or meal at The Wheel (festive party menu will be served from December 1), call Matt or Tristan on 01476 870376.

    The Wheel’s GFC member offer:
    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.


    The Four Bells Inn, Woodborough, Nottinghamshire

    The Four Bells Inn is a lovely rural pub and restaurant in the pretty village of Woodborough, just a few miles from Nottingham. Surrounded by excellent walks, this pub is family- and dog-friendly. Located in a quirky Tudor-style building, the pub also has a fabulous garden with lots of facilities for the kids.

    Owners Craig and Gaynor have placed the emphasis on creating a vibrant, seasonal and varied menu, emphasising ‘Best of British’ food with ingredients sourced locally wherever possible, including fruit, vegetables and herbs fresh from the pub’s own allotment.


    The Four Bells’ Christmas menu will be served from Monday November 26 until Saturday December 29. There’s a set menu for £18.95 for two dishes or £23.95 for three. Dishes include wild local goose terrine with cranberries & pistachios, fruit chutney, deli rye & caraway toasts (starter); shin of beef stew with butter beans and crusted onion dumplings (main); and panettone tiramisu with orange & lemon mascarpone and caramelised hazelnuts (desert).

    The Four Bells’ menu stands out as just that bit different from your usual pub fare and, combined with friendly service and a good selection of ales and wines, it is an excellent reward after a long walk in the Nottinghamshire countryside.

    Click here to find out more about celebrating Christmas at The Four Bells, or call 0115 965 6670.


    The Crown, Stamford, Lincolnshire

    A Christmas meal at any venue that’s part of the Stamford-based Knead Pubs collective tends to be an enjoyable, buzzy experience. The Crown is no exception. This vibrant pub, restaurant, lounge and 28-room hotel in the heart of Stamford is a great place to be throughout the festive period.

    The Crown comprises a bustling bar, fabulous courtyard, characterful lounge, plus informal restaurant and function rooms. Each area has its own character.

    The Crown’s Festive Party Menu offers the likes of Norfolk Black Barn turkey served with pigs in blankets, duck fat roast potatoes, sage & onion stuffing & Brussels sprout gratin, followed by traditional Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. Expect hearty, traditional, well-cooked food.

    This is an ideal place for an informal celebratory meal, especially with the convivial atmosphere and surroundings, which are packed with character.

    Click here for more details on Christmas dining at The Crown, or call 01780 763136.

    The Crown’s GFC member offer:
    10% off the food menu at any time, with a maximum of four people per Great Food Club card. Please mention you are a Great Food Club member when booking on 01780 763136 or when ordering your food, and show your membership card.


    The Kedleston Country House, Kedleston, Derbyshire


    Run by Derby Brewing Company, The Kedleston Country House is a restaurant, bar and hotel that was refurbished in 2015 after a £1.3m investment. Situated a few minutes’ drive from Derby city centre, it’s a beautiful Georgian building that comes with lots of history. Despite its aristocratic air, you don’t need to wait for a grand occasion to eat here. Snackers, casual diners, and visitors eager to breathe in the historic surroundings with a glass or two are welcome too.

    The Festive Menu will be served throughout December, and there are plenty of Christmassy events planned too. As well as the traditional turkey option, festive dishes include duck liver parfait with cranberry chutney, chestnut and green bean salad (starter); and ox cheek bourguignon with parsley, bacon and mushrooms.

    If you haven’t visited The Kedleston before, we recommend you pay it a visit. It’s a beautiful, historic place that’s been lovingly restored. The well-cooked food and welcoming atmosphere are the icing on the cake.

    Click here for more details on Christmas dining at The Kedleston, or call 01332 477222.

    The Kedleston’s GFC member offer:
    Stay overnight and dine at The Kedleston and receive either a complimentary bottle of house wine with your meal, or two racks of ale. Please mention you’re a member when booking on 01332 477222 and show your membership card on arrival.


    The Red Lion at Bradley, Staffordshire

    Located five miles south-west of Stafford, The Red Lion sits in the village of Bradley, next to the picturesque 13th century church. Dating back to the 17th century, the pub gained new owners in 2015 who have refurbished it beautifully. The interior is traditional but with all the comfortable, modern touches you’d expect.

    The Red Lion’s Christmas Fayre Menu will be available throughout December (excluding Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve when only the Main Menu will be served). Starters include game and pistachio terrine with toasted sourdough and apple chutney; and wild cranberry and brie tart with pickled walnut salad. Mains include roast crown of turkey, sage, onion with cranberry fritter and roasted roots; and slow-cooked beef bourguignon with whipped potatoes and buttered cabbage. Desserts include Christmas pudding chocolate brownie with orange curd ice cream; and cappuccino profiteroles in caramel sauce.

    Click here for more details on celebrating Christmas at The Red Lion, or call 01785 780 297 to book.


    Important information: This is a promoted feature and contains some advertisements. However, as always, every business we feature has been vetted by Great Food Club’s writing team. We only feature businesses we recommend. For more information, click here

  • The Great Food Club Awards 2018/19: Final Results

    Judging the finalists in the Great Food Club Awards 2018/19 has been as rewarding as it has been fascinating and enjoyable. Our judges have eaten – anonymously – at every pub, cafe and restaurant on the shortlist. We’ve also chatted to each of the producers and shop owners, trying our hardest to get under the skins of their businesses. And we’ve absolutely loved hearing their stories. Everyone on the shortlist – without exception – has been on an incredible journey. These entrepreneurs, chefs and passionate food lovers have all taken a courageous path – to run their own independent food and drink business and to do it with pride. We congratulate each one. They should all be immensely proud.

    However, there can only be one winner in each category. Our judges were editor-at-large Philip Seaman, experienced restaurant critic and GFC Leicestershire editor Tim Burke, GFC founder Matt Wright, and butchery & charcuterie expert (and School of Artisan Food tutor) Rich Summers. Each judge was assigned a category or in some cases more than one category. We then visited every business and used a carefully constructed scoring system (a different one for each category) to choose the winners.

    We should mention how the shortlist was created. Over the summer of 2018 we asked the public – mainly Great Food Club members – to nominate “one independent food/drink business that has brought them most joy over the past 12 months”. Over 1,300 online votes were cast. The top three vote winners in each category made the shortlist – four where there was a tie between third and fourth. Multiple votes from individuals were discarded.

    Read on to see the winners…


    The Shortlisted Businesses

    Food Producer Category
    Redhill Farm Free Range Pork
    Nene View Dairy
    Fosse Meadows Farm

    Drink Producer Category
    British Cassis
    Rothley Wine
    Wharf Distillery

    Deli / Liquid Deli Category
    Christopher James Deli
    Duncan Murray Wines
    Bulwick Village Shop

    Pub / Casual Dining Category
    Dickies
    The Wheatsheaf at Greetham
    The Olive Branch

    Restaurant / Fine Dining Category
    The Hammer & Pincers
    Hart’s Restaurant
    John’s House
    Lilu

    Café / Tearoom Category
    Kavanagh’s
    Gelato Village
    Petite Chouette 

    Farm Shop Category
    Farndon Fields Farm Shop
    Gonalston Farm Shop
    Harker’s Farm Shop

    Bakery Category
    The Bakehouse
    The Garage Bakehouse
    Hambleton Bakery
    Rutland Cake Co

    Special Community Award Category
    The Platform Kiosk, Toton Tram Stop
    The Good Loaf
    Lodge Trust Cafe & Shop


    The winners…

    Food Producer of the Year
    Redhill Farm Free Range Pork

    Farm Shop of the Year
    Harker’s Farm Shop

    Pub of the Year
    The Olive Branch

    Restaurant of the Year
    John’s House

    Bakery of the Year
    The Garage Bakehouse

    Deli of the Year
    Christopher James Deli

    Cafe/Tearoom of the Year
    Kavanagh’s

    Drink Producer of the Year
    Wharf Distillery

    Special Community Award
    The Good Loaf


    Judges’ comments & scores for winners and shortlisted businesses…


    Food Producer Category

    Redhill Farm Free Range Pork, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire
    The words “integrity” and “food production” are unfortunately seldom put together. Redhill Farm Free Range Pork founders and owners Jane and Terry Tomlinson, however, personify integrity. For the past 20 years they have based their whole ethos around very high levels of animal welfare. And this leads to fabulously good pork products. As anyone visiting Redhill Farm will testify, its fine, sandy Lincolnshire soil next to a woodland edge provides the ideal environment for free-range pigs. Not only that, the farm displays full transparency, which leaves customers in no doubt that they are buying the very highest quality pork.

    Jane and Terry Tomlinson

    At the production facility on the farm, the team produces pork delicacies such as dry-cured bacons and gammons, sausages, hams, regional classics such as Lincolnshire haslet and, of course, their famous pork pies, which are a favourite of Jamie Oliver and James Martin and can be enjoyed at Lord’s Cricket Ground, Wimbledon and Silverstone to name just a few places.

    Not a company to rests on its laurels, Jane and Terry are constantly looking to move the business forward, recently expanding their own beef herd of British Blues and Herefords, along with some fantastic lamb. All their produce is available to buy not only at the farm shop on the farm but online, at the usual farmers’ markets (many of which Jane was instrumental in setting up) and at Redhill Farm’s Lincoln shop near the cathedral – ‘Redhill Farm Shop in the Bail’.

    James Martin at Redhill Farm

    It’s important to mention the reasonable price point of all the produce. This is intended to make high quality food more accessible. It is refreshing to see a producer putting animal welfare, food quality and people before profit.
    Photos: Redhill Farm Facebook page & Great Food Club
    Total score: 64/70

    Fosse Meadows Farm, North Kilworth, Leicestershire
    Fosse Meadows Farm is set in an area known for having some of the best pastureland in the East Midlands. When you visit you can begin to understand how Fosse Meadows are able to produce the most flavoursome, wholesome textured, succulent poultry we have ever eaten. Little wonder Nick & Jacob’s produce is the toast of so many well-respected chefs.

    The approach is simple but rarely seen in these days of mass-produced, factory-farmed poultry. All Nick and Jacob’s birds are specifically sourced from naturally slower-growing breeds. This results in an animal with a much greater protein-to-water ratio in the muscle cell, which in turn delivers a more concentrated flavour. This flavour is further improved by nurturing the chickens to 81 days old before taking them to the abattoir (a full 11 days longer than the next best free-range chicken on the market).

    The attention to detail of breed selection is particularly impressive, with traditional French varieties chosen for their slow-growing properties and fantastic flavour. These birds are nothing like the commercial breeds seen all over the country. They are more elegant, slightly taller, rangier and with a more elongated breast.

    Jacob Sykes (left) and Nick Ball, founders and owners of Fosse Meadows Farm

    All the poultry reared here benefits from a locally sourced, additive-free corn-based diet alongside the wonderful array of natural herbs and flora in the lush meadows near North Kilworth. They are housed overnight in roomy, mobile sheds that are accessible throughout the day.

    Fosse Meadows chicken is unlike any chicken we have tasted. It has an intense chicken flavour – delicate, mildly gamey – combined with a fillet steak-like softness and succulent moisture. Mind blowing! The taste of that one product alone justified Fosse Meadows being shortlisted for Producer of the Year – but Nick & Jacob also produce duck, goose, turkey, a range of patés, rillettes, pies, sauces, gravies, stuffings, pies and goose fat. It’s not hard to see why Fosse Meadows is going from strength to strength.
    Photos: Fosse Meadows Facebook page
    Total score: 62/70

    Neneview Dairy, Stanwick, Northamptonshire
    On arriving at this small dairy farm in the lovely Nene Valley, the first thing we noticed were very happy goats. Upon closer inspection it was clear they were in fabulous condition: a great first indicator of high-quality produce. The Neneview Dairy yard is immaculate and the fitness of the goats superb. Happy animals produce great healthy products. The goats here not only benefit from high quality, additive free, locally sourced feed but also from the farm’s own natural water supply. This results in the finest quality goats’ milk.

    In the parlour after milking, the milk is pH tested before being pasturised on site and sent to the cheese vats for the separation of the curds. It is then placed into moulds and transferred to the temperature- and humidity-controlled maturation room until the cheeses are ready to be cut and packed.

    We were impressed by the attention to detail of every element of the production process, which results in a consistent, professionally produced product that still retains its artisan values. The care taken to develop each of the 15 varieties of goats’ cheese (some have taken Gold in the World Cheese Awards) is testament to the passion and hard work put in over the past eight years by owners Christine and Geoff Twell and the whole team.

    During our cheese tasting session, the subtle flavour combinations of each variety was a revelation. Different flavours hit in small waves and the texture was perfect. No Neneview cheese we tried had that overpowering goaty flavour associated with inferior goats’ cheeses. Our favourite? Phipps Firkin – made with real ale. The beer is not just used to wash the rind but worked into the curds during the making.
    Photos: Newview Dairy Facebook page & Great Food Club
    Total score: 63/70


    Farm Shop Category

    Harker’s Farm Shop, Clipston on the Wolds, Nottinghamshire
    The Harker family have been selling produce directly to the public for more than 50 years. Situated at the end of a country lane, surrounded by pastureland, there can be no mistake that you are at a proper farm shop. Inside we found a friendly atmosphere and a well stocked fruit and veg section, most sourced from just three miles away. The reasonably priced beef, pork and lamb in the expertly displayed butcher’s counter is produced by the Harker family on the farm. Impressively, the lamb travels 1.5 miles to the local abattoir to be slaughtered. All Harker’s livestock is fed on grass and forage produced on the farm or by neighbouring farms – one of the reasons the cattle we visited on the farm looked in such great condition.

    There is an impressive cheese and deli section, along with breads and pastries baked three miles away. You can also buy locally produced craft beers, ciders, chutneys and preserves. The freezer section showcases pies, ready-meals and speciality sausages, bolstered by local game and venison, not to mentioned Harker’s home-reared Christmas turkeys.


    Without passing trade, it is important that a remote rural shop like this becomes a destination. The addition of a small petting farm and play area helps to attract young families, while the coffee machine provides an extra pull. With a planned expansion to include a modest on-site café, it’s great to see the continuing success of Harker’s Farm Shop.
    Photos: Great Food Club.
    Total score: 61/70

    Farndon Fields Farm Shop, Market Harborough, Leicestershire
    Many people will be familiar with Farndon Fields Farm Shop. It offers lots of great quality own-farm and locally sourced produce. It also uses plenty of own-farm produce and locally sourced ingredients for dishes prepared in the restaurant kitchen and for its own savoury pies, pastries and cooked meats. The same is true for Farndon Fields’ sweet treats, cakes and pastries.

    We visited a week after a refit of the butchery and deli sections. The former is a state-of-the-art counter with a stunning-looking dry-ageing unit designed to mature meat to perfection. The meat section is immaculate, with the feel of a high-end London butcher. It displays a fantastic array of provenance-rich, locally sourced livestock, plus lots of pre-packaged items perfect for shoppers with little time or more familiar with supermarkets.

    The fruit and vegetable section has always been strong at Farndon Fields, which is not surprising as this is the farm’s major business. It is spectacular and a real celebration of locally grown fare, with a large majority produced on the farm. The bread and baked section is also thoughtfully displayed and, again, sourced from very high quality local bakers.

    Farndon Fields Farm Shop has a high-end feel to the whole store, but with a price point to suit most shoppers.
    Photos: Farndon Fields’ Facebook page.
    Total score: 54/70

    Gonalston Farm Shop
    We visited Gonalston a few days after a major refit, which has given it a completely new layout, along with a new business relationship with the supermarket chain Budgens. The sprawling deli and cheese counters have gone in favour of a more compact, efficient display, servery and fish counter. The fresh fruit and vegetable section is as strong as ever, with plenty of locally sourced produce – but the addition of a large frozen section with state-of-the art self-service freezers means there is now a superb choice of frozen fruit and veg. This makes the new format Gonalston Farm Shop more of a one-stop shop, giving customers a better reason to ignore the less ethical supermarkets and support local.

    Regular customers will be glad to hear they can still enjoy the high-provenance, great quality Gonalston Farm-produced and locally sourced meat from the butchery section, with the addition of some innovative new products packed on site. These include convenience meals designed for customers with less time, meaning they can enjoy locally-sourced food combined with supermarket style convenience.

    Bread from Hambleton Bakery is still available alongside major label breads, echoing the introduction of a more affordable range of products throughout the store. These include tinned goods, groceries, and kitchen-cupboard staples, plus washing-up liquid, washing powder, toilet rolls, etc.

    Combine all this with longer opening hours and Gonalston Farm Shop is now a place where you do a full week’s shop without having to visit the likes of Tesco or Asda.
    Photos: Gonalston Farm Shop
    Total score: 54/70


    Restaurant Category

    Hart’s Restaurant, Nottingham
    This stylish Nottingham restaurant – now 20 years old – continues to please with dishes of quality in modern surroundings.

    On our judging lunch, we chose from the daily set menu, priced at two courses for £22 and three for £28. To start we had a ham hock ballotine followed by ribeye pork with colcannon and creamed cabbage, plus roast cod with mushrooms, shallot purée and pickled onions, followed by a desert of poached plums with amaretto ice cream. All the dishes were well cooked and beautifully presented, making the most of the simple, striking combinations. The service was professional and skilful.

    Hart’s has become a Nottingham institution – as reliable as it is enjoyable – and our visit showed exactly why. Here’s to the next 20 years!
    Photos: Great Food Club & Hart’s
    Overall score: 86/110

    Lilu, Leicester
    This enthusiastic team are engaged in bringing an Indian fine dining experience to one of the UK’s Curry Capitals. On our visit we pre-booked a thali meal – something Lilu trialled earlier in the year. The idea of the dish is to present a variety of flavours such as sweet, bitter, sour and spicy all on one plate.

    Each component is prepared individually and served on a traditional round metal platter. I think ours had 10 different items. Our favourite dish was the little lamb biryani made with extra long 1121 basmati rice, studded with pomegranate and served with a naan lid.

    The staff at Lilu are full of enthusiasm and knowledgeable about the food they serve, which makes for a pleasurable experience.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Overall score: 76/110

    The Hammer & Pincers, Wymeswold, Leicestershire
    At the Hammer & Pincers we enjoyed a memorable early supper and were very impressed with the cooking, particularly the use of local ingredients. These were listed in the restaurant as “Our Local Food Heroes” and ranged from local allotment holders to nearby Brooksby Estate for pigeon, rabbit, mallard and muntjac.

    The goats’ cheese soufflé was excellent but the star was the roast pigeon breast with brown butter, roast celeriac and lovage puree, accompanied by a superb side dish of garlic sauteed girolles mushrooms and summer bean cassoulet.

    There is an awful lot to like here and the prices represent real value for money considering the standard of cooking and quality of the ingredients.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Overall score: 94/110

    John’s House, Mountsorrel, Leicestershire
    This is a very special place! Located on the owner’s family farm, Stonehurst Farm, we love the farm-to-fork concept. This is augmented by foraged ingredients such as Hen of the Wood mushrooms and Meadowsweet (a herb). We went for lunch and had three courses for £30, which represents a steal in a Michelin Star restaurant.

    To start we enjoyed heritage tomatoes with almond gazpacho; plus lightly smoked salmon with oyster and horseradish. Our mains consisted of pork belly with sweetcorn, Hen of the Wood and gremolata, alongside hake, wasabi, crispy chicken skin, brassicas and brown crab.

    We finished with poached peaches, meringue, raspberry and anise hyssop; plus cherries, meadowsweet, liquorice and almond and sweet cheese. Every so often, one experiences an outstanding meal that sticks in the memory. Our experience at John’s House will surely be one of those!
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Overall score: 104/110


    Pub/Casual Dining Category

    Dickies Farm Dining, Plungar, Leicestershire
    Dickies Farm Dining is a great example of farmers thinking outside the box to make their enterprise work and to live out their values. Committed to getting great local produce directly to consumers, Dickies started off by installing an artisan butchery on their farm in 2016, selling the best of their own and other local meats. The success of that led to the idea of a restaurant. After spending one summer serving up highly regarded brunches to growing crowds under canvas, they built a shed which could host indoor dining all year round.

    Inside Dickies’ Cow Shed

    Now ‘The Cowshed’ offers weekend brunches and evening events including Thursday tapas nights and a Friday steak club when you can pick your own 42-day aged steak from the butchery and get it cooked just how you want. On Saturdays, Farm Dining nights offer a three-choice menu of creative meat, fish and vegetable dishes. Sunday roasts are also on offer. Steaks and meats are the big draw here and the quality is exceptional.

    The Cowshed itself – apparently put up in just six weeks from scavenged materials – is cosy, rustic and characterful. It may not yet have the slickness of a well-established restaurant, but Dickies has a great concept and provides a superb way to celebrate fine produce.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Overall score: 76/110

    The Olive Branch, Clipsham, Rutland
    The Olive Branch is a dreamy country pub that combines appealing informality with high standards and excellent attention to detail. It has consistently been one of the best dining pubs in the region and the kitchen is able to provide a comprehensive offering throughout the day, from simple pub classics to afternoon tea to more extravagant restaurant dishes. The menu is produced daily and is highly seasonal and local where possible – many of their nearby suppliers are highlighted on the menu.

    On our autumn visit, game featured strongly, including an outstanding game sausage roll with crab apple relish and lightly soused vegetables. Presentation is perfect – the dishes are made to look appealing without straining for effect. There is an outstanding wine list – especially at the higher end – and plenty of interesting beers, both draft and by the bottle.

    Although this is very much a dining pub, there is space for drinkers too. There’s also a delightful outside space – great in warm weather but blankets are supplied for chillier days. The Olive Branch even has its own Pub Shop, which sells wines, beers, local preserves, crafts and more.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Overall score: 85/110

    The Wheatsheaf, Greetham, Rutland
    Carol Craddock is one of a number of East Midlands-raised chefs who, having garnered an excellent reputation at the sharp end of the culinary world in London, returned home to open a cracking little pub. The Wheatsheaf is pretty without being chocolate boxy or having cutting-edge design. Service is skilled but friendly, warm and relaxed. It’s an honest, working pub where the food happens to be excellent. Like the building, the food is not flashy or fashionable – it’s just generous and stylish: modern British cooking performed by a chef on top of the job. If it came in swanky surroundings you would call it fine dining – here you just think it is great food cooked with great technique.

    We particularly enjoyed a beautiful creamy white onion and cider soup – every bit the equal of the classic French onion version. Main courses were generous, beautifully cooked hunks of meat – lamb rump from Launde in Leicestershire with a layer of crisp, seared fat.

    A duck breast was paired – brilliantly – with a roasted, lightly pickled peach. In short, it’s the kind of place where you can relax and order with confidence – whatever you choose, you know it’s going to be done well.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Overall score: 82/110


    Drink Producer Category

    Wharf Distillery & Deli, Potterspury, Northamptonshire
    Set off the beaten track near Towcester in rural south Northamptonshire, Wharf Distillery & Deli is not only rammed to the gunnels with artisanal booze and locally produced foodie delights, it’s also a factory of exciting distillery experimentations.

    Laurence Conisbee, a former military cartographer, distils high quality apple brandies, coffee liqueurs, single malts, spectacular gins and more on site, including Northamptonshire’s first ever whisky, ‘Cattle Creep’. Laurence first got into producing drinks as a hobbyist cider maker before going full-time. Soon he diversified, producing apple brandies, single malts, apple juice and mead. In 2014 he started to make even more drinks, including gin. He hasn’t looked back and now produces a large range of Wharf Distillery spirits, as well as contract distilling for others.

    Wharf Distillery & Deli is a working distillery and shop combined which, as far as we know, is unique. It will soon become a gin school, too. Its Tasting Table is full of treats to sample and the shelves are laden with enticing spirits, handpicked wines from Trelawney Wines, local beers, preserves from the likes of Friars Farm, artisan breads, cheeses, charcuterie and cookware from Shropshire’s Netherton Foundry.

    A range of regular tasting events and markets/street food in the courtyard provide even more reasons to visit. “Artisan producer” is probably the most overused phrase in food & drink but entirely accurate for Wharf Distillery!
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 65/70

    Rothley Wine Estate, Rothley, Leicestershire
    Setting up an award-winning vineyard in Leicestershire is no mean feat. Liz Robson’s Rothley Wine Estate in north Leicestershire started out as a hobby but has evolved – in her retirement – into a business. Liz was inspired to set up her vineyard and winery in 2009 after several visits to Giffords Hall Vineyard in Suffolk. One of her first wines – Learning Curve, a medium dry white – won Highly Commended in the Mercian Vineyards Association annual awards.

    When she bagged the Small Producer Trophy in 2013 she decided to grab the bull by the horns and take a more commercial approach. Today Liz tends around 900 vines on a two-acre south-facing slope, producing several grape varieties including Rondo, Regent, Siegerrebe, Solaris, Orion and Madeleine Angevine.

    Using as few chemicals as possible, Liz puts every ounce of her intense passion for wine into nurturing the vines and producing her wines. Volunteers and friends help gather in the harvest. The results are excellent, especially Rothley Wine Estate’s elegant sparkling rosés – Noble Purpose and Spirit of Freedom – and its sophisticated, mineral-dry white, King Richard.

    Building and maintaining Rothley Wine Estate is a Herculean task and an outstanding achievement.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 60/70

    British Cassis
    British Cassis is made by White Heron Drinks in Herefordshire. Each year founder Jo Hilditch and her team turn British blackcurrants grown over 150 acres of their 700-acre farm into a rich, dark liqueur called British Cassis. The sole ingredients of this beautiful drink are Herefordshire blackcurrants, Champagne yeast, sugar and time.

    British Cassis was born in 2005 when an especially good harvest meant Jo had 100 tonnes of blackcurrants left over after growing her usual quota for Ribena. She fell on the idea of cassis because of its long shelf life. Today, 25 tonnes of blackcurrants harvested each year in July and August – comprising eight different varieties – are used to make British Cassis. After pressing the berries near Ledbury, they spend between four and six months fermenting in vats on the farm.

    The resulting 15%ABV drink is rich and full bodied, with a well-balanced sweetness. It makes a delicious aperitif or a super complement to Champagne, Prosecco, cocktails and desserts. Nowhere near as sweet as creme de cassis, British Cassis is unique. It contains 200mg of sugar per 100ml while its traditional French counterpart contains at least 400mg per 100ml.

    Blackcurrants growing on the farm

    British Cassis is not only delicious, but a fantastic example of farm diversification combined with brilliant branding and marketing.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 62/70


    Deli/Liquid Deli Category

    Christopher James Deli, Leicester
    Small. Tiny. But so very, very brilliant. Christopher James Deli makes use of every available inch of space to create a special and unique deli. Walk in and you’ll be amazed not only by the food range but also by the feel of this friendly neighbourhood deli. It’s hard to put your finger on it but you can’t help but fall in love with the place. It’s not sleek or at all modern – it has an old fashioned feel, in fact – but you wouldn’t want it any other way.

    The array of European delights on offer such as the Greek koubes, Polish sausages and huge wheels of Swedish knäckebröd hanging from hooks above the counter all add up to create something special.

    The range of lunchtime sandwiches are delicious and creative. The cannoli – made by local brand Just So Italian – are delightful. The cheese range is spectacular. Ask owner Simon to order you something in and he’ll be only too happy to help.

    There’s a great vegan range, too. This deli is a genuine local food hero.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 46/50

    Bulwick Village Shop, Bulwick, Northamptonshire
    Bulwick Village Shop (also the base for its sister online business, The Pickled Shop) is a beautiful deli, shop and cafe in Bulwick, east Northamptonshire. Set in an ancient stone cottage not far from the village church, this pretty, independent business must surely increase local house prices.

    Run by Camille Ortega McLean and family, it’s quirky, friendly and welcoming, offering a range of locally sourced delights including Camille’s own (extremely creative) Pickled Village preserves (now made off-site), plus store-cupboard basics, chocolates and homemade cakes and bakes. There’s a good wine and spirits selection, too.

    The on-site cafe/bistro serves excellent breakfasts, sandwiches, coffees and top-notch tapas (we can heartily recommend Camille’s stunning empanadas). The outdoor terrace is gorgeous when weather allows. Bulwick residents are very lucky people.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 44/50

    Duncan Murray Wines, Market Harborough, Leicestershire
    If there’s a more fun, fruity and energetic independent wine shop in the UK than Duncan Murray Wines in Market Harborough, we haven’t found it. We don’t think we will, either. Duncan and wife Megan have built up a brilliant business with wines categorised under names such as ‘Darth Vader in Slippers’ and ‘Obelix in Kitten Heels’.

    Despite the humour, the team seriously know their stuff, specialising in Southern European wines, including a stunning Greek selection. It is also packed with carefully chosen craft beers, high quality Madeiras and spirits you can try before you buy. Duncan runs a pop-up bar in the shop Wednesday to Friday, 4-9pm, where all-comers can try loads of “quirky weird stuff”.

    There’s also a free Saturday lunchtime tasting every weekend and plenty of regular evening events. People talk about indies needing to stand out to compete with the chains. Duncan Murray is a super example of how to do it!
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 44/50


    Bakery Category

    Hambleton Bakery, Exton, Rutland
    Ten years ago, Julian Carter (head baker and co-owner) and Tim Hart (co-owner) set up Hambleton Bakery in response to the terrible quality of supermarket bread in the UK. They wanted to bake wholesome loaves using traditional ingredients and methods. Back in 2008 they had three staff. Today they have 98!

    Julian Carter, head baker and co-founder at Hambleton Bakery

    But the quality of Hambleton Bakery products remains just as high as when they first launched, and the team are just as passionate about what they do. They work every day and night of the year (except Christmas Day) to bake wonderful breads, cakes and more, and deliver them to their six shops and to many other businesses in the East Midlands. Slow fermentations and high quality stoneground flours with resistant starches are at the heart of the business. Local sourcing is also important.

    Inside the Exton shop

    Behind the scenes at Hambleton Bakery

    They use flour from Whissendine Windmill, beer barm from Oakham’s Grainstore Brewery, eggs from a farm near Melton Mowbray, milk from the Vale of Belvoir, and their ovens are fired by wood sustainably grown in Rutland. Their aim now is to get their wholesome breads into schools and hospitals. Creating an independent bakery that produces amazing artisan breads is one thing; creating a commercially successful bakery that keeps the artisan quality high (while also producing and delivering brilliant breads like clockwork) is quite another.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 54/60

    The Garage Bakehouse, Market Harborough, Leicestershire
    Dan Cadoo set up The Garage Bakehouse in 2014 when he turned his grandfather’s old garage in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, into a bakery. What an outstanding job he has done! Today this diminutive, thriving, friendly bakery not only sells sourdough loaves, cakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, coffees, sausage rolls and much more to a constant stream of hungry Harborians, it also looks and feels incredibly cool. It’s a real asset to the town.

    Everything the team produces is delicious and carefully prepared using the best ingredients, including their biggest seller – their famous Cheese & Marmite Swirls! The Garage Bakehouse have worked exceptionally hard to deliver exactly what customers want rather than just slavishly stick to their own plans.

    Founder and baker, Dan Cadoo

    Originally Dan wanted to just bake and sell his superb breads but he’s listened hard to his customers, which has enabled him to build up a large and loyal following. Now he is set to double the size of The Garage Bakehouse by taking the unit next door and knocking through. What a wonderful local success story!
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 57/60

    The Bakehouse, Nottingham
    A thriving cafe and wholesale bakery on Mansfield Road in Sherwood, Nottingham, The Bakehouse has deservedly bagged many prestigious awards, including Cafe of the Year in the Nottingham Food & Drink Awards 2018 and Gold at the World Bread Awards for its garlic & herb sourdough. It began as a weekend pop-up bakery at the Doctor’s Orders pub, also on Mansfield Road.

    Founders Craig and Rosea Poynter then decided to set up a permanent venue and The Bakehouse was born in November 2016. The couple and their 15-strong team have created a wonderful venue that straddles the boundaries between cafe, bakery, deli, bar (live music nights happen regularly) and tapas joint. The atmosphere is laid-back, the menus are mouthwatering, it offers a superb craft beer list and it’s simply a brilliant place to kick back and enjoy great food, before walking out with some of the best bread you’ll find anywhere.

    Is it a cafe? Is it a bakery? Is it a bar? The multipurpose nature of The Bakehouse – underpinned by its outstanding baking credentials – is behind much of its appeal.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 54/60

    The Rutland Cake Co., Oakham, Rutland
    Naomi Morgan, founder and owner of Oakham’s Rutland Cake Co., makes incredibly stylish and original bespoke cakes. Each is crafted into something that’s special and personal to the client, whether it’s a fruit cake laced with a favourite single malt or a birthday cake displaying a three-dimensional replica of a famous statue (both real examples).

    Naomi uses high quality ingredients and her talent for elegant perfectionism is clear to see. She creates wonders that her clients will never forget. Naomi used to run a cafe in conjunction with her cake business but has recently closed it so she can devote all her attention to her stunning cakes.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 52/60


    Cafe / Tea Room Category

    Kavanagh’s Tea Room, Oakham
    Kavanagh’s in Oakham is a haven of loose-leaf teas, light lunches, afternoon teas and cosy sophistication. Owners Clare and Martyn have created a beautiful and stylish environment in a Grade II listed building tucked away down a quaint passageway near Oakham church.

    Passionate about what they do, the pair are also masters of hospitality, putting guests at ease and making them feel as if nothing is too much trouble. The food and drink is of the utmost quality, with Clare and Martyn baking everything from the gluten-free bread to the glorious Victoria sponge cakes.

    Kavanagh’s offers one of the best afternoon tea experiences it’s possible to have.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 75/80

    Gelato Village, Leicester
    Leicester’s Gelato Village has carved out an enviable reputation as one of the city’s best food experiences. The reason is simple: stunning, silky gelato served in a genuine gelateria that wouldn’t feel out of place in Milan.

    The range of flavours is outstanding and the quality of product is second to none. Made with local milk and cream from rare-breed Leicestershire cattle, the gelato here is produced to traditional Italian techniques. It’s churned slowly, not whipped, and served at a higher temperature than ice cream for that trademark smooth texture.

    On our judging visit, the delicate rosewater note and divine texture of the Richard III gelato had us straight back to the counter for more. Gelato Village was founded in August 2014 by Antonio De Vecchi and Daniele Taverna from Turin. Their dream of bringing a true Italian food experience to Leicester has most certainly come to fruition.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 72/80

    Petite Chouette, Hinckley, Leicestershire
    Petite Chouette Cafe Bar in Hinckley brings a little bit of France to this west Leicestershire market town. Family run, friendly, laid-back and welcoming, it offers simple French classics prepared well with good quality ingredients, plus great coffee and patisserie.

    It also runs plenty of cheese-and-wine tasting evenings (they source their cheese from La Fromagerie of London) and bistro nights. Launched in February 2018 by Ali and Paul Lancaster, Petite Chouette, which means ‘little owl’ in French, is a super addition to Hinckley.

    It’s charming, down to earth and you can tell straight away that its founders love what they are doing.
    Photos: Great Food Club
    Total score: 70/80


    Community Award

    The Good Loaf, Northampton
    Northampton’s Good Loaf is a lottery-funded social enterprise that supports women going through tough times. On the surface it’s a coffee shop and bakery selling good coffee, artisan bread and beautiful homemade cakes, but behind the scenes there’s much more going on.

    Started by CEO Suzy Van Rooyen in 2015, The Good Loaf runs six-week courses for women who have been in prison, are on probation or in long-term unemployment. It also provides employment opportunities and work placements.

    The aim is to give these women the confidence and skills to integrate into society, build new relationships and find work. A working bakery (including a wholesale operation supplying many local independents) and cafe provides a perfect backdrop for rehabilitation because the Good Loaf team can interact with the general public, learn how a hospitality business works and pick up new skills.

    Toton Tram Stop Food Kiosk, Toton, Nottingham
    Nottinghamshire stillbirth charity Forever Stars runs Toton Tram Stop Food & Drink Kiosk. Forever Stars was set up in 2014 by Richard and Michelle Daniels following the stillbirth of their daughter, Emily. Since then the charity has opened ‘Serenity Suites’ at both Queen’s Medical Centre (2016) and Nottingham City Hospital (2017) to provide a supportive space for bereaved families.

    Anne Sanders, who runs the food kiosk for Forever Stars

    In 2016-17 Forever Stars supported 142 families who had lost their babies. In 2017-18 they supported 181 families. Forever Stars has also funded over 200 hours of midwife training and are in the process of building a Remembrance Garden via their #ForeverinBloom appeal.

    When you buy a bacon roll or a coffee from Toton Lane Tram Stop you are supporting this amazing charity!

    Lodge Trust Cafe, Market Overton, Rutland
    The Lodge Trust is a Christian organisation that supports adults with learning disabilities. It provides accommodation for 30 residents on a 20-acre country park in Market Overton, Rutland.

    The park is open to the public and Lodge Trust Cafe (with kids’ play area nearby) is at the heart of the set-up. Residents not only serve food and drink in the cafe – giving them the chance to learn new skills, have fun, be creative and socialise – they also grow fruit, vegetables and herbs on site, as well as preparing them in the kitchen. This offers the hugely satisfying experience of taking ingredients from field to fork. Lodge Trust Cafe is a wonderful example of how food and drink can be used to improve people’s lives on many levels.


    Congratulations to everyone shortlisted in our 2018/19 Awards, and special congratulations to the winners. Thanks to our judges and to everyone who voted. Our 2019/20 Awards will launch in summer 2019.

  • Next time you’re in London, check out these superb independents

    Small, independent food businesses such as artisan bakeries and family producers are becoming increasingly treasured in our Capital. Nestled in local communities throughout the city, London is peppered with these gems, each offering unique, high-quality food and drink that’s far more appealing than mass market fare. While there are hundreds of food independents in London, Great Food Club has been out in the smoke to find six that are well worth a visit.

    The Deli…
    De Beauvoir Deli

    With chequered tiled floors and porcelain pans hanging from the ceiling, walking into The De Beauvoir Deli is like entering an old friend’s kitchen. The unconventional décor is quirky and characterful, making De Beauvoir truly unique. An eclectic mix of artwork litters the walls between hand-painted shelves and cabinets displaying a range of artisan products from preserves to pestos and nut butters, giving a home-from-home feel. A small seating area at the edge of the space offers seating for those with time for a relaxed lunch, while freshly filled sourdough sandwiches are ready for those on the go. Choose from quiches and scotch eggs, cakes and cookies baked daily – all made in-house using locally sourced ingredients from Hackney and Islington.
    98 Southgate Road,
    London, N1 3JD

    The Bakery…
    E5 Bakehouse, Hackney
    Hidden away under the Hackney train lines, E5 Bakehouse is a trendy bakery-cum-café that has become an arty hub for local students and weekend coffee drinkers. Beyond their counters displaying oven-warm cakes and tray bakes (the upside-down plum cake is a must), your eyes are drawn to the bakery’s bustling kitchen beyond. Still making their sourdough loaves using a traditional 48-hour fermentation, the bakers work in organised chaos among bags of flour and tables of chatty customers, reflecting E5’s transparent, honest ethos. Dog-friendly and with bags of character and warmth, it’s the perfect stop.
    Arch 395, Mentmore Terrace,
    London, E8 3PH

    The Restaurant…
    Korova Restaurant, Tufnell Park
    The name ‘Korova’, meaning ‘cow’ in Russian, refers to the butcher that used to occupy the shop where this family-run neighbourhood restaurant now stands in the heart of Tufnell Park. Head chef and owner Steve Wilmot uses seasonally sourced ingredients to create simple yet delicious modern European food. Featuring both classic and contemporary flavours, the ever-changing menus are rewritten daily on blackboards reflecting Steve’s commitment to seasonality and localism. A café by day, serving up a Mediterranean-style brunch, Korova transforms into a restaurant/cocktail bar by night, where fresh blends of simple locally sourced ingredients remain the stars – from risotto scorzonera and honeyed figs to heirloom tomato and nduja salad with fresh marjoram. Delicious.
    9 Campdale Road,
    London, N7 0EA

    The Pub…
    The Carpenter’s Arms, Hammersmith
    Tucked away in Hammersmith, this cosy gastro pub serves great seasonal food with unaffected charm. The modish, Mediterranean-style menu features untainted British produce from Mersea Island mussels to Berkshire pork, paired with other locally sourced ingredients. With a secluded courtyard at the back and a large selection of wines by the glass, whether you’re eating or just out ‘for one’, this unpretentious pub makes everyone feel like a local.
    91 Black Lion Lane,
    London, W6 9BG

    The Producer…
    Newton & Pott Jam, Hackney
    Having been upgraded from its humble origins in Kylee Newton’s East London flat back in 2012, six years on and Newton & Pott products can now be found on shelves and in pantries all over London. Using fresh, seasonal ingredients, Kylee uses artisanal methods to create novel and sometimes exotic flavours. From pear and lavender jam to za’atar cauliflower and toasted tomato ketchup, she recreates classic British, as well as foreign flavours; so, whether you’re looking for a cake filling or a toast topping, Newton & Pott is worth seeking out.
    Unit 2B, Regent Studios,
    8 Andrews Road,
    London, E8 4QN

    The Street-Food Stall…
    Monty’s Deli, Old Spitalfields Market
    With food markets like Borough and Spitalfields now becoming the weekend destination of choice for foodies and beer-drinkers alike, Londoners are spoilt for choice when it comes to independent street vendors. Featuring everything from macaroni cheese carts to goat meat kebab stands, food markets have become an open arena for producers – both local and international – to experiment and share their creations. One such stand, which can be found amid the bustle of East End’s Old Spitalfields Market, is Monty’s. Serving up their award-winning Jewish Reuben special, consisting of thick layers of salt beef, pastrami and pickles, sandwiched between slices of own-make rye bread, Monty’s has quickly become one of the capital’s favourites. Since being founded in 2012, Monty’s now has a permanent base in Hoxton but can still be found seven days a week at their original stand in Old Spitalfields Market.
    Old Spitafields Market,
    16 Horner Square,
    London, E1 6EW

  • UK winemakers celebrate “harvest of the century”

    Wine producers across the UK are hailing 2018 the harvest of the century following a record-breaking summer and an unusually warm autumn, resulting in excellent quality grapes with high yields.

    David Parkinson, CEO of WineGB, said: “This year’s extraordinary harvest offers the UK wine industry many exciting opportunities. It comes at a time when there is so much uncertainty around Brexit, particularly in the agricultural sector, and is a real boost for the country. With the rise in rural employment that we are likely to see over the next 20 years, the growth in wine tourism that will result from the expansion of wineries across the country and the continuing increase in exports, the future of the UK wine industry looks very bright.”

    Some winemakers started to harvest in September and others are still picking now but all are reporting clean, ripe grapes with concentrated fruit, good sugars and acidity levels, thanks to the ideal growing conditions. Producers across the country are predicting an excellent year for English still wines, particularly reds. The unusually hot, dry summer has resulted in very ripe fruit. The outlook is just as positive for sparkling wine producers on both the quality and quantity front.

    Many producers are reporting at least double the volume they harvested in 2017, which was a particularly challenging year for many due to the early frosts. With last year’s total volume at around six million bottles, the 2018 vintage is likely to be at least twice, if not three times the size. While it is too early to predict actual volumes at this stage, WineGB will be conducting a vineyard survey in the first quarter of 2019.

    With demand for English and Welsh wine continuing to grow both at home and abroad, the extra volumes will be welcomed. As the export market continues to expand, there is also more and more demand for English wines from markets such as the US, Asia, Scandinavia, Japan and Australia, which presents further opportunities for producers.

    Linda Howard, owner of Giffords Hall Vineyard in Suffolk, said: “Here at Giffords Hall, we are 60% up on last year, getting back to longer term averages. It has been a benign year – lovely quality with high volumes, no disease, and exceptionally high sugars and acidity – just about perfect, with the added bonus of a fair-weather harvest.”

    Ian Sargent, owner of Laurel Wines in Yorkshire (and chairman of Mercian Regional Association), added: “This is without doubt our largest harvest and the fruit was in great condition for producing excellent wines. We believe that 2018 will be a great vintage, not only for Yorkshire but for all English and Welsh wine producers.”

    Pictures: WineGB

  • A new chapter at The Olive Branch in Clipsham

    The Olive Branch has appointed Nick Evans executive head chef. Nick arrives from Michelin-starred Northcote near Blackburn in Lancashire, where he was head chef working closely with executive chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen and chef patron Nigel Howarth.

    Ben Jones, co-owner of The Olive Branch, said: “Nick will create his own ‘Olive Branch’ dishes and menus, while understanding and respecting the style of food and establishment we have created over the years.”

    Nick said: “I spent a great two-and-a-half years at Northcote with Nigel, Lisa and Craig Bancroft. It gave me a great insight into running a busy Michelin-starred restaurant but I felt the time was right to run my own kitchen and create the dishes that have been in my head for years.

    “I’m looking forward to working closely with the Olive Branch team to evolve the menus at this wonderful Rutland pub. I want to create dishes with classic flavours – British pub food with a modern twist but which also has an element of nostalgia. With ingredients from The Olive Branch’s own kitchen garden and from around Rutland, I’m starting from a strong place!”

    Sean Hope, co-founder and co-owner at The Olive Branch in Clipsham, has decided to take a less hands-on role in the kitchen after 20 years at the stoves. “I have decided to spend more time with my family and in the near future to focus on other projects and challenges,” said Sean. “It feels like the right time to move in a different direction.”

    Ben Jones will continue to direct The Olive Branch, ably assisted by long-standing general manager Louise Williams running front-of-house operations.

    The Olive Branch

     

    Olive Branch co-founders Sean Hope (left) and Ben Jones

  • Why “no shows” are so damaging to independent pubs and restaurants

    “No shows” is a hot topic at the moment. The number of people booking restaurant tables and not turning up without cancelling is rising.

    I was chatting to Ben Jones, owner of The Olive Branch in Clipsham recently, who told me: “Sadly, we are seeing an increasing number of no shows. Pubs and restaurant like us make around 8% net profit and on average serve 35 to 50 customers each service. If a table of two does not show up, that’s 5% gone; if a table of 4 does not show up, that’s 10% gone (which means we make a loss during that service). I would just ask: please treat restaurants and pubs like you would any other important appointment. Our livelihoods depend upon it.”

    Our lives are busy and sometimes it’s easy to forget, but those stats reveal the implications of this for small independents. Let’s all try to make no shows a thing of the past.

    The Olive Branch

  • Yorkshire – the Northern Powerhouse – as featured in the Good Food Guide 2019

    Waitrose’s eagerly anticipated Good Food Guide 2019 has just been launched, outlining its top restaurants for 2019. The Guide ranks some of the finest dining establishments in the country and also features high-quality eateries in local areas and neighbourhoods.

    The Good Food Guide still uses reader feedback and anonymous inspections to compile its reviews. First published in hardback in 1951, the Guide originally cost five shillings and listed “600 places throughout Britain where you can rely on a good meal at a reasonable price” within its 224 pages.

    Skosh, York

    In total, 70 restaurants, pubs and cafés across Yorkshire have been recommended in the 2019 guide, with 13 in Leeds. The Moorcock Inn in Sowerby Bridge was singled out for ‘Best Use of Ingredients’ and also picked up a special editor’s award as ‘Best New Entry’. Judges commented: “Food in the must-book restaurant marries localism, foraging and fermentation with an enthusiasm for cooking over fire.”

    Masterchef star Liz Cottam’s Home is one of Leeds’ new entries in the Guide this year, as is stylish Japanese restaurant, Issho. Other new Yorkshire entries include Ashoka in Sheffield, Partisan in York and No Name, also in Sheffield.

    Meanwhile, restaurants including Man Behind The Curtain, The Reliance and Friends of Ham all retain their places. As do these places that I have previously reviewed and recommended for Great Food Club:

    Skosh, York
    Mr P’s Curious Tavern, York
    Rascills, Raskelf
    The Rattle Owl, York
    The Hare Inn, Scawton
    The Black Swan, Oldstead
    The Star Inn, Harome

    I have my own copy of the Guide and will be adding my reviews here for Great Food Club as I eat my way through the best places in God’s Own County! Wish me luck!

    The Star at Harome