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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are three of our favourite recipes to use up leftovers. Enjoy!
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.
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
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
Farmacy Kitchen, Notting Hill
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.
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
Leiths School of Food & Wine, Shepherd’s Bush
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.
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
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.
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
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
“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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Bakery of the Year
The Garage Bakehouse
Deli of the Year
Christopher James Deli
Cafe/Tearoom of the Year
Drink Producer of the Year
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.
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’.
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.
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
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
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.
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 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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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:
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 historic White Lion at Knighton was on the verge of being redeveloped before it was bought by Julian and Helen Jackson in early 2016. Ever since they’ve been on a journey working with local food suppliers, Tanners Wines and the likes of Forrest Gin to curate a venue that celebrates the Great British Pub and the land and culture of Staffordshire & Great Britain.
During the past two-and-a-half years, The White Lion at Knighton has been awarded Taste of Staffordshire accreditation, OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice Award, entry into The AA’s Good Pub Guide as well as to The Great Dining Club’s annual publication. With 20-30 pubs closing each week in Britain, The ‘Lion’s story is one of hard work, determination and fabulous customer and community support breeding success.
Julian previously worked as a consultant in the legal and IT sectors. Working mainly in London but hailing from and living in rural Staffordshire, Julian’s love for The ‘Lion harks back to the 1980’s when he used to visit with his family. In fact, his first “wage” was 20p for washing glasses during an England vs Wales rugby match being aired at the pub! Developing a passion for cooking and food during his teens, Julian experimented with Italian, Indian and Mediterranean cuisines before falling in love with modern British food interpreted by the likes of Glyn Purnell, Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein, Nathan Outlaw and not least, Jamie Oliver, whose passion for simple food done brilliantly, for team work and for community resonates through The ‘Lion.
Helen, previously head of marketing for an IT company, met Julian through work in 2011 and shares with him a passion for food and hospitality. Her enthusiasm for ethical food production is stamped on the business, and in 2018 Helen is leading the pub’s efforts to work with Food Made Good and The Sustainable Restaurant Association. On a completely different note, her love of music and laughter sets the atmosphere at The ‘Lion, and her focus on customer service and experience ensures every visit is memorable.
The pub’s menu changes seasonally, with a focus on British produce and simple, beautiful, flavourful cooking by head chef Dan Bishop, who cut his teeth in AA Rosette kitchens across the North West of England. Dan’s passion for food began as a teenager when he took his first job as kitchen porter in his busy local pub, where he learned his first recipe – haddock fish cakes! An avid collector of recipe books and food journalism, Dan’s repertoire has grown significantly since then – immersing himself in cuisines from around the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and North Africa, Dan has developed his own laid-back, informal style of cooking using excellent British, seasonal ingredients, presented beautifully and pulled together with exquisite sauces!
Julian says of The White Lion’s culinary offering: “Our food is a reflection of the land and culture of our Great Britain, and this is delivered by working with some of the best food suppliers in the country.”
Great food relies first and foremost on great ingredients which is why The White Lion works with the following producers and suppliers:
Perrys of Eccleshall
Suppliers of Staffordshire beef, lamb, pork, chicken and game to The White Lion. Winners of the Countryside Alliance Champion Butcher of Great Britain, Perrys has a nose-to-tail approach to butchery and Master Butcher Steve Hill works closely with the pub’s chefs. Perrys’ heritage is deeply rooted in farming and the provenance of its products is paramount – as a result all are sourced from within five miles of the butcher.
Wild Harbour Fish Company
Suppliers of fish & seafood to The White Lion, as well as many of the best restaurants and hotels nationwide, Wild Harbor takes delivery of its fish daily and directly from the fisherman of Hayle, Cornwall. Its focus on responsible fishing as well as on supreme quality is what sets Wild Harbour apart. It also means that The White Lion’s daily delivery of fresh seafood is second to none. Furthermore, if you want to know how your John Dory or your Haddock was hooked, Julian can tell you right down to the Skipper and the crew!
Bearstone Fruit Farm
Seasonal fruit and veg grown on site and within 500 yards of the pub.
Seasonal fruit and veg grown on site and within two miles of the pub.
Free-range eggs from Chickens roaming a field within two miles of the pub.
The only Caviar Farm in the UK and they’re ethos is simple: to produce outstanding caviar
Harvey & Brockless
Suppliers of some of the best British cheeses, charcuterie and condiments available.
The White Lion also provides excellent drinks options. It is a country pub that delivers brilliant food, not a restaurant that used to be a pub, so drink is at the core of its offering. It offers 10-15 cask beers a month, most brewed within 30 miles of the pub and all brewed to the highest standard! Salopian, Hobson’s, Woods, Lymestone and Slaters breweries all regularly feature. The Coach House Brewing Company – Cheshire’s oldest cask ale producer, is supplier of The White Lion’s “House Ale” – Coach House Farriers.
The White Lion has been saved from redevelopment thanks to the hard work and philosophy of its owners. What an excellent job they are doing!
Photos: Rick Barrett of Ambitious Creative Co.
This weighty tome stretches to 416 pages – surely making it one of the biggest cookery books of recent times.
It contains recipes and pictures of stunning dishes – many of which look almost impossible to duplicate. They show the evolution of the restaurant and Daniel’s drive to deliver extraordinary dishes of the highest order.
The thing that really sets this book apart, however, is Daniel’s honest critique of himself and his personal journey – which is inseparably linked with Cambridge’s two-Michelin-starred Midsummer House.
Chronicling his 25 years in the hospitality industry – through battles with staff, floods and failed relationships – this book lays bare the industry. But more than that, it provides a window into one man’s obsession to reach the top.
There are no easy paths in life but that is the fun of it all. It’s the trials and tribulations that make us what we are – and which makes success when it finally comes all the sweeter!
Out of my Tree by Daniel Clifford is published by Meze Publishing. You can order it here.
If you are a foodie and love great food and drink, the Tamworth Food Gusto Festival on September 8 and 9 is the place to be!
Food Gusto have lined up over 70 of the region’s best food & drink producers, all hand picked to set your taste buds on fire. All producers are passionate about what they do – creating exciting products made with care and provenance.
The two-day event returns to Tamworth Castle Grounds, with gates open 10am-5pm both days. Entry costs £2, with children under 10 going free. Tantalising treats on offer include hog roast, bison and venison burgers, wood-fired pizza baked before your eyes, plus traditional Indian, Caribbean, Thai, Indonesian, Mexican, Indian, vegan and vegetarian dishes, as well as good old English favourites.
Cheese lovers can sample a wide range of flavours such as oak-smoked, cheddar with port, chilli, garlic and, for the brave, fiery dragon. For those with a sweet tooth, there are handmade chocolates and fudge.
All these can be washed down with locally brewed beer, real ale, cocktails, English wines, organic wines, prosecco and barista coffees.
International professional chef Simon Smith will be running the demonstration area. You will be able to get up close and enjoy the live cooking demos in the show kitchen. On Saturday Mat Gothard will demonstrate his butchery skills by holding two demonstrations: how to make sausages and how to cut and prepare a side of beef.
In addition to the sights, smells and tastes of fine food there will be a full live music line up – easy listening with a glass of wine or beer! On Saturday you can dance and sing along to music from the 1940s and ‘50s with a Cilla Black tribute and mother and daughter duo, Sincerely Yours. On Sunday there will be a group of bands led by talented local artist Rob Lea. Full details can be found on the website.
Strykers will be offering free outdoor bowling for all children (subject to weather) and there will be kids’ rides, face painting and other activities.
The event is held in the Castle Pleasure Grounds with easy access from the A5 and surrounding region. There are nine car parks around town with a map available on the Food Gusto website.
The event gives visitors the chance to find out more about the fantastic businesses they have on their doorstep and to sample some of their exciting creations.
Food Gusto festivals aren’t just about food – they are about having a good time. The team has worked hard to make sure it includes a range of fun activities for the whole family to enjoy.
What better way to spend a sunny Sunday in July than cooking up some wonderful Italian dishes at the fabulous School of Artisan Food in north Nottinghamshire? Can’t think of many. The School of Artisan Food is a favourite of Great Food Club, located in the former fire stables of the Welbeck Estate in the heart of Sherwood Forest.
With its outstanding reputation for training, it attracts skilled artisan producers and practitioners from across Europe. The School offers courses in traditional techniques such as baking, cheesemaking, charcuterie, brewing, butchery and preserving. It also provides courses on how to start your own food business and puts on fascinating lectures on food culture and the history of food.
I was delighted to be invited to attend an “Italian Summer” hosted by Valentina Harris, an acknowledged expert on Italian food with over 30 books published. We were a small group, enabling everyone to get to know each other and allowing time for Valentina to regale us with anecdotes of her time growing up in Italy, as well as clearly explaining the recipes and origins of the dishes we were preparing.
Our menu for the day included panzenella, a traditional salad with bread, a spaghetti with Trapanese pesto with almonds, a traditional Sicilian baked aubergine dish with tomato and mozzarella, and a superb sea bass baked in a salt crust. We also made both fruit and chocolate semi-freddo. All the recipes were delicious and easily replicated at home.
Valentina is an engaging and enthusiastic tutor who can happily work with both experienced cooks and those who need a bit more support. She encouraged us to work together in pairs and as a group (never sliced and fried so many aubergines in my life!) and had time to talk to everyone, taste their efforts and offer advice.
I always comment on the quality of the in-house catering at the School, which is never less than superb. Today we were provided with a simple but delicious feast of home-made breads, local cheeses and salads to keep the wolf from the door, before we concluded our day feasting on dishes we had produced throughout the course.
Valentina’s “Italian Summer” is great fun and informative, and on sunny day on the Welbeck Estate we were transported to Italy with the smells and ingredients of Naples and Sicily. If you fancy trying your hand at Italian cooking, I would highly recommend this course, which currently costs £185 and includes all your ingredients and a homemade lunch. You can also enjoy some of Valentina’s hand-picked Italian artisan products from her online store, Valentina’s Selection.
Harker’s Farm Shop’s impressive refurbishment gives foodies even more reasons to visit this Nottinghamshire gem
Harker’s Farm Shop in Clipston-on-the-Wolds, Nottinghamshire, has never looked better. A summer refurbishment has resulted in a gleaming new butchery counter packed with Harker’s biggest draw –fresh home-reared meat. There’s also a new maturing fridge and a new deli counter full of local cheeses, patés and cooked meats.
These improvements are underpinned by new floors and wall cladding, an improved water system, upgraded electrics and a new production room. The shop feels fresher, brighter and more modern than ever. No wonder its many loyal fans are impressed, and no wonder people who discover Harker’s for the first time feel like they’ve found a precious gem in the Nottinghamshire countryside.
Sitting at the heart of a 100-acre working family farm, a large part of Harker’s Farm Shop’s appeal comes from the impressive provenance of its food and drink. A great deal of the meat sold in the shop has been raised in fields nearby – including outstanding aged Hereford and Aberdeen Angus beef, wonderful Texel-cross lamb and superb free-range poultry. Most of the rest of the produce on its shelves – from the bread to the beer – is locally sourced.
The rest of the shop’s appeal comes from its setting and friendly feel. It has a viewing area where children can look at donkeys, cattle, alpacas, goats, lambs, rabbits and ducks, plus a small park where they can zoom about on toy tractors. This shop is a small, family business with a personal, welcoming approach – although the 14-strong team are always efficient and professional too.
Apart from its beef and lamb, Harker’s Farm Shop is probably most famous for its sausages. The butchers hand-make an amazing 250 varieties on site using top quality Nottinghamshire pork. Many customers come in for their favourite bangers each week – the likes of Pork, Cider & Apple, Venison & Red Wine, Wild Boar & Orange and Classic Toulouse. Harker’s also delivers its meat and sausages to many local businesses including Langar Hall, Perkins Restaurant in Plumtree, Escabeche in West Bridgford and Edin’s in Nottingham. In fact, Edin’s has commissioned Harker’s to make its own special Italian sausage, which uses pork meat ground courser than normal and then combined with rosemary, garlic and parsley.
At a time when many UK retailers are cutting back, Harker’s Farm Shop is on the up. There’s been a shop on the farm in Clipston since 1954 when Tom ‘Dos’ Harker and his wife Margaret opened their farm gates to the public to sell eggs and poultry. Today, Tom’s son Rupert runs the farm and the shop with his wife Tracy and son Samuel. It is now a three-generation business. By investing to refurbish Harker’s Farm Shop so beautifully, it has every chance of becoming a fourth-generation business… and beyond.
To mark its 20th anniversary year, Hart’s of Nottingham has so far showcased two tasting menus in 2018. This September it is launching a third, coinciding with the announcement that it has just won two AA rosettes for culinary excellence.
For September’s tasting menu, the team will present six courses paired with wines carefully selected by owner by Tim Hart. “This tasting menu is a fun way to experience the best from head chef Dan Burridge, with a twist from Michelin Star chef Aaron Patterson from our sister restaurant at Hambleton Hall,” said Hart’s marketing manager Claire Jolliff. “With them running the show, you can expect the food to be divine.”
The full menu includes six taster-sized courses followed by coffee and petit fours. Here’s the full list, with comments by head chef Dan Burridge:
Girolle mushroom & smoked bacon, smoked Burrata cheese
“Discover the exquisite taste and fruity aroma of fresh girolles, bright yellow in colour with a hint of apricot. Perfectly paired with the smokiness of the bacon and soft cream cheese, which is smoked in-house.”
Terrine of Mediterranean vegetables, saffron dressing
“This is a fantastic way to showcase Mediterranean vegetables that are at their best in September. The vegetables are cooked separately and layered in a terrine. A dish packed with of colour and flavour.”
Chicken liver parfait, kumquats
“This smooth, rich parfait is one of our classic dishes.”
Monkfish, Thai broth, pickled vegetables, lemongrass, ginger, coconut, coriander
“As chefs we always try to balance our menus, so we have introduced a light dish after the rich parfait, which is refreshing yet full of vibrant flavour.”
Roast grouse, butternut squash, pickled elderberries
“Roast grouse is such a treat and we love to have it on the menu when it is in season. Its flavour is delicious and unique, and we have given it a modern twist with adding sharp pickled elderberries with seasonal butternut squash.”
Caramelised peach melba
“Another classic dish, which is fantastic with our own twist.”
Hart’s caters for any food allergies or specific requirements – please let them know in advance. The tasting menu is only available to the whole table and please allow 2.5 hours to fully enjoy the experience. The tasting menu is available for dinner on Sunday to Friday throughout September, priced at £65 per person. Wine pairing will be available for an additional £55 per person. An overnight Gourmet Package is also available from £279 for two people during September. Book on 0115 988 1900.
Quick Q&A with Hart’s head chef, Dan Burridge
How would you describe your style of cooking?
“Seasonal, elegant, classical with a modern twist.”
You’ve been head chef at Hart’s Restaurant for eight years. How do you continue to keep the menu fresh and exciting?
“Our menu is always changing to reflect the best of the ingredients available, which always keeps everything fresh and exciting. I also work closely with Aaron Patterson, Michelin Star Chef from Hambleton Hall. He inspires me to experiment with new dishes and ingredients. We are passionate about great food and continually want to innovate with new dishes.”
How big is your team at Hart’s?
“We have 10 in our team. They are a very skilled team who love to work with exceptional ingredients.”
What are your favourite ingredients to work with?
“My favourite ingredients change with the seasons – that is what makes working in our kitchen so enjoyable. With our ever-changing menus, we can show the best of what local seasonal ingredients are on offer at that time – like Starkey’s strawberries from Southwell, which are perfectly sweet and delicious.”
What do you enjoy most about showcasing a tasting menu?
“I do love feeding people things that they may not have chosen for themselves from an a la carte menu. We’re opening up people’s minds and taste buds to new ingredients and flavours.”
Driving through the scorched Lincolnshire Fens in late July, we find Fen Farm Venison down a battered farm track. Peter and Jane Wesley, along with Peter’s mother Janet, are in the prep kitchen, where the three-strong team (which becomes four when Janet’s husband Brian gets involved, which he does often) are busy getting their venison ready to sell at farmers’ markets: Market Harborough, Oakham, Stamford, Sleaford, Creake Abbey, Grantham, Ely, Lincoln Bailgate and Sandringham.
“It’s hard work but we love it, and it’s great to do it together as a family,” says Peter, whose father introduced the first deer to the previously all-dairy farm in 1994. “At markets when people buy a venison burger or a bit of steak, they don’t see the graft that goes in here on the farm. And it can be frustrating when other traders sell things like supermarket sausages and attract big queues. But that said we have wonderful, loyal customers who appreciate and enjoy our farm venison, and that makes all the work worthwhile. We’re very proud of our venison and love producing it ourselves.”
We jump into Peter’s John Deere Gator and take a tour of the 200-acre farm, which sits on Crown Estate land. Basking in the Lincolnshire sunshine are 400 red deer, a variety native to the UK. Peter explains: “I shoot the deer between the ages of 12 and 27 months on the farm and then they go to the abattoir. Because they are killed in familiar surroundings while in a relaxed state, they undergo no stress, which means the meat is adrenaline-free and high welfare.”
The farm stopped dairy production entirely in 2000 but did not become a 100% venison operation. The Wesleys also grow wheat, barley and peas. Some of this crop is fed to the red deer.
And therein lies the biggest attraction of Fen Farm Venison meat: the deer are free range, well cared for and fed on Fenland grass plus a little homegrown barley. They are slaughtered humanely, and the venison is carefully prepared by a family that’s proud of their produce. You can’t ask for anything more of your meat.
45 West Distillers, makers of Burleighs Gin, have teamed up with Leicester Tigers to create an exciting new collaboration bottle inspired by the club’s famous red, white and green stripes.
Burleighs Gin is made with silver birch, dandelion, burdock and elderberry – inspired by the Leicestershire woodland in which the distillery is housed.
You can pre-order the special-edition bottle here. Customers who purchase the first batch of pre-orders will receive an invitation to collect their gin in person at an exclusive launch event on Saturday September 8, after Tigers’ first home fixture of the season against Newcastle Falcons (3pm). On this date, Leicester Tigers will take over Burleighs’ city centre venues: 45 West, 45 St. Martins and the Distiller’s Kitchen. Accompanied by members of the Tigers squad, this will be the first opportunity to try the new collaboration gin, which will be available at Tigers 25,689-capacity home ground as well as Burleighs associated bars.
The 10-times English rugby union champions will also host events at Welford Road stadium throughout the season, inviting fans to sample products from 45 West Distillery.
In addition, Tigers will host a special ‘Meet the New Guys’ cocktail evening on September 25 at Welford Road. Burleighs mixologists will be on hand with demonstrations and lessons for all to get involved. There will be a Q&A with Tigers newest signings, too. Tickets can be purchased here.
Leicester Tigers Gin will be priced at £35 and joins Burleighs signature collection: London Dry Gin, Export Strength, Distillers Cut Gin, Pink Edition and Leicester Dry Gin.
Andrea Pinchen, commercial director at Leicester Tigers, said: “Gin has risen in popularity in recent years so it’s hugely exciting to be able to work with a successful local distiller in Burleighs to create our own Leicester Tigers bottle. Having worked closely with Matt Payne and his team, we’re proud to support the Leicestershire business and, with a huge mix of fans around the world, our gin-lovers won’t be disappointed.”
Matt Payne, Burleighs managing director, added: “It’s a huge honour to partner one of world’s elite sporting teams. 45 West has long been an advocate of supporting local businesses. Teaming up with Leicester Tigers is something for the county to be very proud of.”
Leicester Tigers and Burleighs will offer exclusive competitions and gin experiences to season-ticket holders and fans throughout the season.
Hops & Chops opened in March 2018 in the village of St Crispins on the outskirts of Northampton. It describes itself as a ‘modern chophouse’. Chophouses were popular in the 1600s, and brothers James and Matt Ingram have brought this one right into the 21st century.
As soon as you walk in you are faced with a display fridge containing the most amazing large cuts of marbled meats. The décor can only be described as ‘butcher chic’. The walls are adorned with pictures of cows and butchery equipment.
We chose the ‘Honey Heat Tomapork’ – bourbon-glazed pork belly and pork popcorn – plus the Steak Frites. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and the portion sizes are generous, so make sure you are hungry when you arrive. Vegetarian options are available.
As well as the fantastic food menu, there is an extensive drinks list with a large selection of craft beers, plus a gin selection that spans two pages.
Hops & Chops is open Monday to Thursday 12pm-2.30pm and 6pm–10pm, Friday and Saturday 12pm-10pm and Sunday 11am-9pm. Booking is essential in the evenings as this place can get quite busy, especially at weekends.
When I were a lad, cafés were places to get a full English. Some were bad, some were good. Nowadays they are more likely to involve avocados and chia seeds – but again, some are just following a trend, others are a real treat. Newly opened Cue is definitely in the latter camp.
It fits in well to the upmarket surroundings of Leicester’s Stoneygate with a simple, pared-down style. The food offering is pure 2018 – shaksuka, eggs florentine, quinoa and buckwheat granola – but on each visit we’ve seen real care and intelligence put into every dish. Sliced avocado on toasted sourdough soared above hipster cliché, being paired with salty crumbled feta, a spiky chilli and lime dressing and perfectly poached eggs. A lunch dish saw delicate Korean-smoked brisket piled into an excellent brioche bun with a very tasty sesame-rich Asian ‘slaw. It came with “home fries” – in this instance, good and crunchy sautéd new potatoes.
For old-school café lovers there’s even a fried breakfast – though note this being a halal business there’s beef sausages and beef bacon. There’s a good range of of teas and coffees and the cakes are suitably indulgent – think Eton Mess tiffin or white chocolate and raspberry torte.
With super-friendly and helpful staff creating a laid-back atmosphere, this is the kind of place every every local shopping street needs.
The Church is a staple of the Northampton restaurant scene. It has been open since 2005 and is a unique and beautiful venue. Previously St John’s Church, it’s now the oldest secular building in Northampton, dating back to the 12th century.
The Church’s owners have done a brilliant job of using the Grade I-listed building’s original features to create a stunning modern restaurant. This makes for a wonderfully atmospheric venue – perfect for a celebration meal. Fittingly, it’s available for weddings.
The food lives up to the amazing surroundings. The menu is short but well balanced, and the cooking is accomplished. On our most recent lunch visit we shared the charcuterie board to start, followed by the gnocchi and the lamb koftas. The lamb is sourced from Red Barn Farm in the nearby village of Old. For dessert, the charcoal macaroons with chocolate ganache were delicious. There’s an award-winning vegan menu, which is pre-order only.
The Church is open Tuesday to Saturday from midday until late. There isn’t any parking at the restaurant itself but if you arrive for a dinner reservation after 6pm you can leave your car in the adjacent British Heart Foundation shop car park.
The White Lion describes its ethos as “excellent as a minimum, local where we can, ethically produced and delivered with passion”. That’s an accurate picture of what you’ll find at this pub, set in the Staffordshire countryside near to its borders with Shropshire and Cheshire.
Julian and Helen took over the rundown pub and have quickly worked wonders, hitting that sweet spot between traditional country pub and high-quality dining.
Besides the original characterful 17th century bar and cosy snug, there’s a dining room with conservatory area, plus gardens where you can watch the pub’s chickens and Tamworth pigs doing their thing.
On the menu you’ll find a great range of small plates, starters and platters – look out for the British cured meats sharing starter with such delights as Cornish coppa and Suffolk chorizo. Mains include pub classics with a twist: fish and chips come with seaweed tartar sauce and charred lemon, the burger with smoked pancetta and caramelised onions. Steaks are dry-aged for up to 35 days and there’s some sensational optional accompaniments such as bone marrow or garlic & truffle butter.
The White Lion excels at modern British cooking and dishes we’ve enjoyed include chicken stuffed with nduja & goats’ cheese and pork faggots with braised lettuce. Seafood fans will love the spanking fresh specials featuring line-caught seabass, turbot, hand-dived scallops and the like. We were wowed by their grilled Cornish lobster with crab mayo and tempura samphire.
Lamplight restaurant has been around for around 30 years. Located in Victoria Square, Ashbourne, just off the cobbled market place, the 15th century former coaching inn has retained all its character. It’s a wood-beamed jewel, cosy and atmospheric yet minimalist. It’s run by proprietors, chefs and sisters Pat and Linda, and was formerly managed by their parents.
My partner and I chose a Saturday evening visit and booked a table in advance (recommended). Friendly waiting staff greeted us as we entered up a small flight of stairs to the first floor. We were shown to our table in one of two rooms separated by a spiral staircase, one overlooking the market place, the other neighbouring the soulful kitchen.
The menu is seasonal. We chose a three-course option for £23 (£21 Wednesday to Friday). Our starters –asparagus & Parma ham accompanied by a perfect soft-poached egg and balsamic glaze – and poached pear, blue cheese & walnut salad – were faultless. For mains we chose chicken breast in mushroom, leek and tarragon cream sauce, and Mediterranean vegetable & halloumi tagliatelle. Both were excellent and delicious. Although sated, we ordered desserts, which were heavenly: chocolate & raspberry brownie, and peach melba Eton mess, both served with whipped cream.
Conversations overheard in the kitchen were friendly with lots of laughter. Overall, a lovely dining experience and great value for money. We’ll be visiting Lamplight again.