Tag Archive: Latest

  • Recipe: Spiced Pear & Blue Cheese Soup by Paul Watters

    As we move into the colder months, a bowl of hot soup is the perfect lunch or supper. This recipe combines the sweetness of pear with the delicious tanginess of blue cheese. Paul Watters has more than 30 years’ experience in the culinary industry and has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in the world.

    75g blue Stilton (rind removed) 
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 x 415g tinned pears
    3 potatoes, peeled, rinsed and cubed
    1 onion, diced
    1 carrot, diced
    1 stalk celery, chopped
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1 litre vegetable/chicken stock
    1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
    1/8 teaspoon cumin
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    1/8 teaspoon dried coriander
    Salt and white pepper to taste
    1/4 cup double cream

    1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan.
    2. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic.
    3. Add the potatoes and spices. Mix well until evenly coated and warmed through.
    4. Take one tin of pears and chop the contents. Add to the pan with the juice. Stir.
    5. Add in stock and cook on a simmer for approx 30 minutes.
    6. Blend with a hand blender until smooth, add cream then season with salt and pepper.
    7. Open the other tin of pears, add the juice to the soup and slice the remaining pears for garnish.
    8. Crumble in the blue cheese and whisk through until it is dissolved.
    9. Transfer soup to heated bowls and place sliced pears on top. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and a drizzle of cream if required.
    10. Serve with warmed bread or croutons.

  • Why are you always so damn positive about places?

    It’s a good question, so we thought we’d try to answer it. Here goes…

    When we have a negative experience at a pub, restaurant or food shop (and we quite often do) we don’t mention it publicly. Instead, we ignore it, move on and do not add it to our recommended network.

    We don’t write about negative experiences for two reasons: first, we don’t want to damage businesses, no matter how disappointing we find them. Second, our time is limited, so we want to spend it writing about the many excellent independent businesses that are out there.

    GFC’s lack of negative reviews does not equate to a lack of critical judgement, or to financial agreements where a business pays us to write nice stuff. Instead, it’s a conscious decision to be positive. And to be clear, no business pays us to receive a positive review. You can’t buy a Great Food Club recommendation – they’re simply not for sale.

    Our criteria are as follows: We only write about businesses that are:

    1) Independent.

    2) Somewhere we’d recommend to a friend.

    3) In the East Midlands.

    We also occasionally remove places from our network if they fall outside our criteria.

    You can find who we recommend here.

  • Great Food Club Awards 2021/22 – The Winners

    The Champions

    Restaurant of the Year – full details
    The Factory Kitchen, Ilkeston, Derbyshire

    Producer of the Year – full details
    Mill Farm, Manthorpe, Lincolnshire

    Shop of the Yearfull details
    The Tiny Bakery, Leicester

    Café of the Yearfull details
    Six Hills Café, Bakery & Pizzeria, Six Hills, Leicestershire

    Street Food Producer of the Year – full details
    Chez Sebastien Artisan Pizza, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

    Food Hero of the Yearfull details
    JB Kitchen, Thurcaston, Leicestershire

    Caterer of the Yearfull details
    Stanley Street, Barnwell, Northamptonshire

    Important information

    How the winners were selected
    We asked GFC’s members and readers to nominate “one independent food/drink business that has brought you most joy over the past 12 months”. Over 5,500 online votes were cast between July 1 and July 31, 2021. The top four vote winners in each category made the shortlist. Multiple votes from individuals were discarded. You can see all shortlisted businesses at the ‘full details’ links under each category listed above.

    Once the shortlist had been created by analysing the public vote, our judges selected the winners.

    The judging process
    To make their decisions, our judges visited or tried the food & drink of every shortlisted business. They ate – anonymously where possible – at all the pubs, cafés and restaurants.

    Ineligible businesses
    Businesses that won GFC awards last year were not eligible to be shortlisted this year. Our aim is to showcase a broad range of independents and by not allowing a single business to win an award two years in a row, we go some way to achieving this aim.

    Click here to see the 2020/21 winners.

  • Chef Q&A: Jacob Robinson, Head Chef at The Factory Kitchen, Ilkeston

    Jacob Robinson has worked with some of the best chefs in the business and his favourite ingredient is a rather surprising one. We managed to catch him for a quick chat…

    Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a chef?
    “I studied Professional Cookery NVQ levels 1 and 2 at Derby College after I’d left school. During the second year at college, I started working part-time at the weekends at the Dovecote Restaurant at Morley Hayes as a Commis Chef. At the end of my second year at college, I began to work full-time at the Dovecote. Around six months later, I completed my level 3 apprenticeship. A further six months later, I was promoted to Chef de Partie.

    A year or so later, I accepted a job offer to join the team at Marcus Wareing’s restaurant in London before heading to Corrigan’s in Mayfair. Then it was back to the Dovecote as Sous Chef for three years, before starting as Head Chef at The Factory Kitchen in October 2019.”

    What is your earliest childhood food memory?
    “My earliest memories are of Christmas and all the food associated with it. That real palpable energy and tension coming from the kitchen really resonated with me. My family started the day with bacon and sausage cobs, then the main event would always be prawn cocktail starter, or a tin of game soup for me and my twin brother, Thomas. I wouldn’t dream of eating that now!

    Then it was, of course, turkey with all the trimmings, then finally a flambéed Christmas pudding. Mum was always mega stressed – there was never enough room on the table. I remember the smell of the crackers being pulled, the posh dinner rolls we only had once a year, and everyone dressed in their new clothes.”

    What is your favourite dish to cook for friends and family?
    “My girlfriend bought me a pizza oven last year for my birthday. Lockdown proved to be the perfect opportunity to get to grips with it. I love the theatre and suspense of cooking pizzas outside, and trying to get the perfect pizza is something I’m enjoying doing. Pizza always goes down well with crowds of people and it’s always a talking point.”

    Who influenced your cooking most?
    “My former head chef and friend Nigel Stuart. He taught me that ultimately, food is to be eaten and enjoyed. Sounds obvious – but I think a lot of chefs these days try too hard and don’t think enough about what the customer actually wants. Nigel constantly reminded me of that and it’s something I always think about now.”

    Is there a chef you admire most?
    “There’s three! Richard Corrigan – he’s an absolutely fantastic man to work for and I loved my time there. He just loves food and hospitality and it’s so infectious. James Cross – chef and owner of Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside. One of the very few restaurants my girlfriend and I constantly return to. He’s a stellar cook, businessman and leader, and having witnessed this first hand having done a stage there a few years ago, my admiration for him is unwavering. Sabrina Ghayour – I have all her cookbooks and can’t get enough of them, the food is simple and utterly delicious.”

    What is your favourite ingredient and why?
    “Difficult question so I’m just going to have to go with what has come in to my head first, and that would have to be preserved lemon. The depth of flavour, acidity and savoury saltiness they give to all manner of dishes including desserts are hard to replicate.” 

    Do you have a favourite cuisine?
    “Persian/Iranian. Simple, honest, balanced, interesting and utterly delicious.” 

    Do you have a favourite restaurant?
    “Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside.”

    Jacob’s dishes are always beautifully presented

    Food on a Plate or Slate?
    “Easy – plate. Slates look great for canapés and things like that, but using a knife and fork on a slate goes right through me.”

    Marmite, love or hate?
    “Again, easy. I hate it – incredibly salty.”

    What would your last meal be?
    “If we’re talking from a purely gastronomic perspective, I’d have to go for turbot, roasted on the bone over fire, with baby artichokes, daft amounts of black truffle, and a sauce I learned to make when I was at Corrigan’s – with Jerusalem artichokes and Sauternes wine. But to be brutally honest, for my last meal I’d swap any food on the planet for a roast dinner with my family. A meal is so much more than just the food.”

  • Chef Q&A: Marcel Acostoaie, Private Chef

    Experienced chef Marcel Acostoaie believes in a farm-to-table approach and likes to keep things simple. We caught up with him for a quick chat…

    What is your earliest childhood food memory?
    “Trying not to burn the house down cooking a seven-egg omelette when I was about five!”

    What is your favourite dish to cook for friends and family?
    “A Tom Yum soup with nice fat juicy king prawns.”

    Who influenced your cooking most?
    “I was raised in a family where home cooking was a big thing. Everyone in my family is a great cook so I guess it’s in the blood. I really look up to my uncle; he was a head chef at a mountain resort reserved for top military officers in Romania.”

    Is there a chef you admire most?
    “It would be a mistake not to admire more than one. There are a plethora of great chefs out there and I am trying to pay attention and learn a little from as many as I can.”

    What is your favourite ingredient and why?
    “Salt and pepper – or in a word, seasoning! As a chef, that’s probably the first two ingredients you learn how to use properly and, how important they are in almost every single dish or cooking process. Try cooking without either of the two and the dish, no matter how good looking or expensive it is, will definitely be incomplete. We even add salt or pepper to some desserts as it acts as a flavour enhancer and adds aromatics. These are the “cannot do without” ingredients in every chef’s life. Humble but versatile.”

    Fresh pasta in the making

    Do you have a favourite cuisine?
    “I am more and more attracted by Asian cuisine and its freshness at the moment. Since I started my private chef business I have seen a huge demand for Asian-themed menus from my customers.”

    Do you have a favourite restaurant?
    “Every restaurant that I can learn something from, by trying their food, is my favourite restaurant. I love the hidden little gems; those places that you find on your holiday somewhere and remember for the rest of your life.”

    Food on a Plate or Slate?

    Marmite, love or hate?
    “I love it occasionally but won’t use it in cooking.”

    What would your last meal be?
    “A proper Greek salad! I am easy to please. Organic tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and onion, barrel-aged feta, Kalamata olives, extra virgin olive oil, plenty of oregano – and preferably served on a Mediterranean beach.”

  • Belvoir Castle’s Engine Yard launches farm shop and brasserie

    A long, long time ago there was a very hungry lady. You might even say she was hangry. One day she visited her friend, the fifth Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle near Grantham, and complained that the gap between lunch and dinner was almost unbearable.

    It was the mid-1840s and the lady was Anna Maria Stanhope, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, and this moment was the birth of afternoon tea as the quintessential English activity we now know it to be. We’re not sure how often she visited these friends but she must have made Belvoir Castle an even more popular destination for the nobility – for the scones as much as for the company.

    Today, you don’t need a title to enjoy Belvoir’s delicious treats. The Engine Yard was established in 2018 and is now home to a new farm shop and fine-dining restaurant, further bolstering the estate’s position as a foodie paradise.

    Belvoir Farm Shop joins existing fine food shops The Country Victualler, Jorge Delicatessen and chocolatier Cocoa Amore. The new shop will showcase fresh and organic fruit, vegetables and groceries from the Castle’s own estate and other local producers. This will be run in partnership with Wild Jacks, a local company that has its roots in farming and champions Lincolnshire brands with a heritage in sustainability.

    Emma Manners, the 11th Duchess of Rutland and driving force behind The Engine Yard, said: “We have an abundance of wonderful produce on this estate and with the opening of our new farm shop, it is the perfect opportunity to create a farm to fork offer of locally sourced food and drink. Wild Jacks bring that unique element to help us develop an extra special, premium offering, with their experience in championing local produce.

    “We are always looking to provide more reasons for people to spend a day at The Engine Yard and Castle, and I am delighted that the farm shop will offer options that are not readily available anywhere else in the Vale and further strengthen the food offering across the whole retail village for both the local community and the day visitor.”

    In addition, the upper floor of the Fuel Tank cafe (pictured above) has been transformed into a high-end brasserie. The menu will also feature local and seasonal produce including a selection of Lincolnshire Red steaks. Look out for regular game evenings in the season featuring venison, pheasant, duck and partridge with wine pairings. It’s set to be a place where special occasions are celebrated and wonderful memories created.

    Oh, and by the way, the castle does a pretty good afternoon tea in the Regency-style tearoom and there’s set to be a new outpost in the Engine Yard called ‘The Duchess Parlour’ offering Champagne, oysters and high tea. The seventh Duchess of Bedford might have been a bit of a diva but we doubt even she would find too much to complain about…

    For further information visit www.engineyardbelvoir.com

  • Cambridgeshire Member Offers

    Below is a list of places in Cambridgeshire where GFC members can claim special offers by showing their digital or hard-copy membership card. You get a digital and hard-copy membership card when you join Great Food Club here.

    The Three Hills
    Dean Road, Bartlow, Cambridgeshire, CB21 4PW
    Midweek dinner, bed and breakfast for two (three courses from the a la carte menu and bottle of house wine) for £175. Friday or Saturday: £195. Quote ‘Great Food Club’ when booking and show your membership card.

    T & S Thomas Family Butchers
    17 Old Court Hall, Godmanchester, PE29 2HT
    10% off in the shop. Please show your membership card at the till.

    Upper Deck, Charters, Town Bridge, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE1 1FP
    15% off call-and-collect takeaway orders Monday to Thursday. Please mention Great Food Club when ordering and show your membership card.

    36 Cowgate, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE1 1NA
    10% off food only during lunchtimes, Tuesday to Sunday. Please show your membership card.

    La Pergola at The Wheatsheaf
    Cambridge Road, Harlton, Cambridgeshire, CB23 1HA
    15% off Tuesday to Friday lunch or dinner. Please mention you are a GFC member when booking and show your membership card.

    Moor Farm Shop
    Moor Farm, Decoy Road, Newborough, Cambridgeshire, PE6 7QD
    5 x 454g (1lb) packs of Red Tractor produced stewing beef or mince for only £15. Please show your membership card in the shop.

    Tilbrook Grange Farm
    Tilbrook Grange, Station Road, Tilbrook, Huntingdon, Cambs, PE28 0JZ
    Spend over £50 and get 10% off. Please show your membership card

  • Chef Q&A: Daniel Cain, head chef at The Palfrey in Derby

    Daniel Cain is head chef at The Palfrey in Derby. We recently enjoyed a brilliant lunch and exceptional service at this city-centre restaurant tucked away in Blacksmith’s Yard, just off Sadler Gate. Daniel brings real passion and skill to his role. We put some quick-fire questions to him…

    What is your earliest childhood food memory?
    “Going round my mamas in the winter for stew, the smell to this day brings my back to being a child.”

    What is your favourite dish to cook for friends and family?
    “Probably a roast – can’t go wrong with a good roast! Prep it all in the morning and have a few drinks while it’s all cooking away.”

    Who influenced your cooking most?
    “I was the first chef in my family, so it would have to be my mama who would make crumbles and obviously the stew!”

    Is there a chef you admire most?
    “Gordon Ramsey was the chef I admired growing up but the chef I admire now is Paul Ainsworth. His food is very simple – just a few ingredients and let them speak for themselves.”

    What is your favourite ingredient and why?
    “That would have to be wild mushrooms because they are so versatile and can be used in so many ways.”

    Do you have a favourite cuisine?
    “Not really. Modern British maybe because there is so much great produce in this country that’s often overlooked.”

    Do you have a favourite restaurant?
    “Paul Ainsworth at No. 6 in Padstow.”

    Food on a plate or slate?

    Marmite, Love or hate?

    What would your last meal be?
    “Probably fish and chips from the coast!”

    Steak at The Palfrey – photo taken during our recent visit.

  • Stamford licks its lips as Orbis comes to town

    Jonathan Spencer is a busy man – he is the owner of both the popular Hoppi Dorri Asian-fusion restaurant in Stamford, south Lincolnshire, and Orbis in Oakham, Rutland. And this month he will open a third venue because Orbis is set to replicate its winning formula in Stamford. We’d seen a buzz building on Facebook and Instagram and managed to catch Jonathan for a quick chat to see what diners can expect from this new restaurant.

    Delicious cocktails await diners at Orbis in Stamford

    Orbis in Oakham opened two months before the first lockdown of 2020 and yet, despite that, it didn’t just survive, it positively thrived and was a finalist in our World Cuisine Restaurant of the Year title. Its focus is simple – international cuisine in the form of small plates, sharing dishes and cocktails, all beautifully presented. It’s also attracted an enthusiastic fan base among the gluten-free community because everything on the menu is gluten-free.

    “Gluten-free isn’t a fad – it affects over one million people in the UK so that’s a huge chunk of the population,” says Jonathan, “for those people, eating anywhere with the risk of cross-contamination is off-limits. I asked the chef which of our ingredients had gluten in and made the decision to replace each one. The coeliac community has a strong connection with each other and they’ve loved what we are doing – it’s been like word of mouth on steroids!”

    Cornflake chicken – yes, it’s a thing!

    As you might expect, bookings for Orbis in Stamford (which is located above Hoppi Dorri) are filling up ahead of the opening and in addition to lunch, dinner and brunch – a bottomless brunch will be available in the future, revealed Jonathan, adding that it’s “one of the most requested things”.

    Diners can take a gourmet trip around the globe from their table – the Taste the World menu includes Moroccan Spiced Duck Breast, Caribbean Jerk Chicken, Kentucky Fried Cauliflower (vegan), Maple Syrup Belly Pork (Jonathan’s personal favourite – “delicious with a melting middle”) and… Cornflake Chicken with Sticky Peanut Butter Mayonnaise. The latter was inspired by a YouTube video Jonathan saw and the mayo accompaniment is so popular in the Oakham restaurant that people often request it to dip their chips in.

    Dessert in a pot or dessert in a glass? So many choices await

    Perfectly crafted cocktails are the proverbial cherry on the top at Orbis – Drumstick Lolly (Grey Goose vodka, creme de cassis, strawberry and vanilla syrup), Tennessee Tornado (Jack Daniels whiskey, ginger beer and lime juice) plus mocktails such as Lincolnshire Countryside (rosemary, lemon, apple and cranberry).

    In Stamford, both Orbis and Hoppi Dorri will continue to operate as two separate restaurants although diners from Hoppi Dorri can enjoy cocktails upstairs at Orbis after 8pm. And while Hoppi Dorri will remain a one-restaurant offering with the introduction of a Chef’s Table with a Tasting Menu, there are already ambitious plans to open further Orbis restaurants.

    Does Jonathan get any sleep? “I don’t need sleep, coffee or Red Bull”, he laughs, “it’s pure passion that’s driving me.”

    Find out more about Orbis in Stamford at: https://www.facebook.com/OrbisStamford

  • Chef Q&A: Jordan Brady, head chef & founder, JB Kitchen Thurcaston

    Jordan Brady is head chef and owner of JB Kitchen Thurcaston in Leicestershire. His cooking skills (not to mention his entrepreneurial get-up-and-go) have wowed many of us during lockdown. He specialises in delivering fresh, restaurant-quality food to your door.

    In the first in a new series of chef Q&As, we put some quick-fire questions to Jordan…

    What’s your earliest childhood food memory?
    “That would be being obsessed by my Nan’s ‘Handesh’ – a Bangladeshi sweet. I always wanted to eat it whether it was cold or hot! I loved it! Either that or learning how to make coleslaw with her – not the actual making of it but her teaching me how to hold a knife, etc.”

    What is your favourite dish to cook for friends and family?
    “I like really spicy food but it doesn’t go down well with my family – they’re all wusses! But I like making a good curry and playing around with how to bring flavours into mild dishes. My go-to is probably my banana curry.”

    Who influenced your cooking most?
    “Heston Blumenthal, Sat Bains and my Nanna Rosa.”

    Is there a chef you admire most?
    “Sat Bains – I like his ethos on food and the way he thinks about food, how flavours work with each other, the way he runs his restaurant (e.g. the treatment of his team with four-day working weeks, etc.) and the way he just concentrates on what he and his team are doing, not about what everyone around him is doing.”

    What is your favourite ingredient and why?
    “Maldon Sea Salt, for sure! There is no comparison. Seasoning is key and this is the best.”

    Do you have a favourite cuisine?
    “This is a hard one. It would probably have to be Turkish and West Indian food.”

    Do you have a favourite restaurant?
    “Yes – my fiancée and I found our favourite restaurant in Seville – Sal Gorda (the Fat Salt). Their food is amazing! They take traditional tapas and put a twist on it. Their menu and service are always impeccable and their food is incredible but decently priced.”

    Food on a plate or slate?
    “On a plate. I do like a board though.”

    Marmite, love or hate?

    What would your last meal be?
    “Curried mutton with rice n peas, dumpling, coleslaw and a can of Ting.”

  • Why we feel upbeat about the future of pubs

    Mark and Becca Churchill run The Greendale Oak in Cuckney near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. Like all British publicans, they’ve had one of the toughest 12 months in living memory. But what stands out when talking to the couple is their positivity about the future. The other thing that’s impossible to miss is their determination to build a business that’s even better than the one they had pre-Covid.

    Mark says: “The lockdowns have been tough, especially the second. We’ve had some low moments, particularly in November and December when everything was so uncertain. But we now feel upbeat and energised about the future. We know there’ll be challenges but we’re ready for them.”

    We’ll find out where their positivity comes from shortly.

    The Greendale Oak is a village pub on the Welbeck Estate in north Nottinghamshire. Mark and Becca have run it for six years and are rightly proud of its food. However, they are also proud to run a ‘proper’ pub – a community hub that welcomes everyone, drinkers and diners. “We love being a village pub and having the relaxed atmosphere that only a pub has. But we also love to give our customers something special – excellent food, drink and service,” says Mark.

    At every turn during this pandemic, The Greendale Oak team have remained positive and tried to deliver a special experience. They began by offering takeaways immediately after the first forced closure in March 2020. “Takeaways helped cashflow and meant we could resist payment breaks,” says Mark. “We wanted to carry on paying outgoings rather than kicking the can down the road and building up debt.”

    They waited six weeks after the permitted summer reopening date before welcoming customers back, spending that time honing the customer experience. “We spoke with fellow Everards business owners and planned everything in detail. And when we finally reopened, customers loved it. Taking the extra prep time was worth it.”

    As autumn arrived and winter started knocking, they hired a clear-top marquee with astroturf floor. They also installed dining pods. Overall, they invested £10,000.

    But not long after setting those up, the tier system arrived, swiftly followed by the bombshell of Lockdown Two. “Suddenly, we realised we weren’t going to be open for Christmas. We employ 68 people across two sites [Mark and Becca also run The Millhouse in Worksop]. Telling our staff that we were closing again was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. We had no idea what the future held. It was bleak.”

    Despite that pain and the other low moments that followed, Mark and Becca have always looked for positives. Mark says: “During this pandemic, we feel that the public have developed a new empathy for hospitality. Previously, our sector was generally regarded negatively. Media stories about pubs were usually bad. But the past year has flagged up how much everyone loves and needs pubs and restaurants. We all miss the pub, its atmosphere and the interaction it brings.”

    And that’s one of the reasons why Mark and Becca are looking forward to reopening and driving the business forward. The enforced closure has allowed them to reassess why they do what they do, highlighting the joy of pubs and hospitality. It’s given them plenty of pain for sure, but also an exciting, powerful new motivation.

    “The time away has given us space to think,” says Mark. “When we were busy, we were on the treadmill, so we didn’t have any bandwidth. But now we’ve had a chance to plan. We are refreshing our operation to give customers even more reasons to visit. People will want to see something a little different when they come back, so we’re going to offer new drinks styles, exciting new dishes, better service. We can’t wait to get going.”

    Mark continues: “A big reason why we are able to feel positive is down to our business partners, Everards. Their approach to all this is how they approach everything: constantly in contact, always transparent, interested in you and your mental health, and more than fair financially. They did not defer rent payments but cancelled them during the beginning of the pandemic and have been very fair with all rent payments thereafter. That was a massive weight off our shoulders. Everyone is going to reopen with debt, but if we had rent debt too, that would be crushing. Above all that, they care.”

    Thanks to strong support and a positive mindset, Mark and Becca are raring to go. The past 12 months may have delivered many painful moments, but as this duo will attest, you often learn more from the downs than you do from the ups. And because of that, motivation today has never been higher. 

  • How to use our East Midlands alfresco dining & beer garden map

    All being well, outdoor dining spaces will open on April 12. So you may want to use our alfresco and beer garden map of GFC-recommended independents in the East Midlands. Here’s how to use it…

    1) Go to the Guide Page.
    2) Scroll down slightly to find the search form.
    3) Enter your location or postcode into the search box.
    4) Select ‘Alfresco dining or drinking area’ in the ‘All Business Types’ box.

    5) Click ‘Submit’.
    6) Dining and beer gardens at places we recommend near you will appear in order of proximity to your location.

    Our map includes pubs with beautiful outdoor spaces, cafes with Continental-style pavement seating, restaurants with terraces and more.

    You can also our website search function to discover other brilliant East Midlands independents, many of which remain open. Browse our main map here, using the search function.

  • Leicester keeps cooking up plans despite lockdown

    By Leicester editor, Tim Burke

    It’s extraordinary how despite everything, the food and drink industry continues to show its indomitable spirit.  Look, for example, at Leicester’s Clarendon Park which is building its reputation as a foodie destination with several new openings during lockdown.

    Prominent among them is The Verandah, an Anglo-Indian cafe bar, specialising in cocktails featuring spirits and flavours from the sub-continent such as a Hot Toddy made with Amrut Whisky, honey, cinnamon and lemon. Early items on the food menu include Mumbai Melt, a toasted cheese sandwich featuring masala-spiced potato and their own house chutney, and Railway Mutton Curry served tiffin-style. Obviously it’s takeaway only during lockdown but will feature an all-day changing drinks and food menu once we’re all back and running. 

    A few doors up the road in the premises formerly housing Jones’ Bistro is Port & Nata, a  stylish Portuguese cafe opened by siblings Miteche and Grichma Trambaclal. It will feature, naturally enough, port and pasteis de nata, but much more.  Its current takeaway offering includes Portuguese street-food boxes, and when fully open dishes will include bacalhau and the soup caldo verde.

    In the city centre too there are signs that even among the sad raft of closures, people are still positioning themselves for when the punters can come back. There’s great news that the old Anglo Irish Bank building on the edge of St Martins, former home of the much-missed Delilah’s, is to have a new occupant. The people behind Birmingham’s Lasan and Fiesta del Asado restaurants are to open Son Risa, featuring small-plate Argentine food and “high-spirited fun”. Group founder Jabbar Khan said they were attracted by the handsome old  building in a heritage area of the city: “There’s the right mix of people and in that particular area. It doesn’t feel like it’s in the UK at times – it’s just beautiful,” he told the local newspaper. At time of writing a spring opening is still planned.

    Also in St Martin’s, the popular independent Kai, famous for its pancakes and brunches, has plans to open a pizza venue.

  • How to use our East Midlands takeaway & delivery map

    It’s lockdown again. So you may want to use our food & drink delivery & takeaway map of the East Midlands. Here’s how to use it…

    1) Go to the Guide Page.
    2) Scroll down slightly to find the search form.
    3) Enter your location or postcode into the search box.
    4) Select ‘Delivery service’ in the ‘All Business Types’ box.

    5) Click ‘Submit’.
    6) Hey presto, Delivery & Takeaway Services near you will appear in order of proximity to your location.

    Our map includes farm shops providing fresh fruit, meat and vegetables, plus butchers, fishmongers, cheesemongers, producers, wine shops, restaurants and pubs.

    You can also our website search function to discover other brilliant East Midlands independents, many of which remain open. Browse our main map here, using the search function.

  • Stamford’s ‘Whyte Wytch’ to open creamery in Sacrewell’s Artisan Courtyard

    A cheesemaker is to open a creamery at Sacrewell Farm’s new Artisan Courtyard near Wansford in Cambridgeshire. Alison Williamson from Stamford launched Whyte Wytch in 2020 after retiring from her role in IT.

    The white cheese takes six-weeks to mature and there are 100 rounds per batch. A cross between camembert and brie, it can be eaten cold or heated in the oven and has a creamy, nutty texture without being overpowering.

    Alison hopes the first batch will be available from mid-February. She’ll make a new batch every week. The project has been part-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

    She said: “The cheesemaking process is quite complex and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with visitors to Sacrewell.

    “We think it will be the only artisan cheese currently made in Cambridgeshire, which is really exciting. The milk for the cheese is sourced from a farm in Bassingthorpe, so it’s a culmination of local and rural diversification.”

    Alison will join Nene Valley Spirits, Stamford Heavenly Chocolates, Dave the Blacksmith, Nene Coppicing & Crafts, and woodcarver Glyn Mould who already have premises within the Artisan Courtyard. The courtyard is open for visitors to come and browse without paying entry to the farm. Gin and chocolate can be bought directly from the retailers on site.

    Once it has matured, the cheese will be available from Sacrewell’s shop or online via Alison’s website.

    Alison added: “Once we have settled into the site, we are going to look at doing cheesemaking and tasting workshops which will complement the workshops already available on-site at Nene Valley Spirits, Stamford Heavenly Chocolates and Sacrewell’s own blacksmithing courses.”

    Lee Scowen, general manager at Sacrewell, said: “We’re really excited to have Whyte Wytch opening at Sacrewell in the new year. With so many wonderful new start-ups and businesses already on site, the courtyard is fast becoming the rural food and craft hub that we envisioned it to be.”

  • The Olive Branch in Clipsham is UK Pub of the Year, says Good Pub Guide 2021

    Team celebrates ‘brilliant news’ but rues plight of UK pubs and ‘illogical, pub-killing’ restrictions

    The Good Pub Guide 2021 today names The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland, as overall UK Pub of the Year. 

    The Guide says: “In this most difficult of years, we are delighted to award Pub of the Year 2021 to The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland. To compete in the Pub of the Year category a pub has to have unanimous enthusiasm from all readers on all aspects of its business – it has to be top of its game and The Olive Branch is most definitely that. It’s a really special place for a drink, a meal or an overnight stay. It’s a perennially successful inn which attracts a deservedly loyal following from both near and far, and will celebrate its 21st anniversary on December 12.”

    The Olive Branch is a small village pub in England’s smallest county. Three friends bought it in 1999 and, with the help of family and villagers, rescued what was then a closed pub from an uncertain fate. Since then, The Olive Branch has achieved many accolades, including the same Pub of the Year title in 2014.

    Co-founder and MD of The Olive Branch Ben Jones said: “What brilliant news to receive on our 21st anniversary at the end of this incredibly challenging year. We first opened on December 12, 1999, with a village Christmas party. Sadly, this year — due to the government’s illogical, pub-killing restrictions — we will not be able to celebrate safely with locals and villagers.”

    He continued: “A pub is about the whole experience – the beer, the wine, the food and, above all, the atmosphere. Right now, due to Covid and these restrictions, we aren’t really a pub. We aren’t able to welcome all; we aren’t able to enjoy a drink and some local gossip at the bar. However, this award means so much to us because it rewards the whole team at the end of an unbelievably tough year. Every single one of them has played their part in this success.”

    The garden gazebos

    Indeed, The Olive Branch has had to work harder than ever to create the buzz for which it’s known and entertain guests from a distance. 

    Faced with such challenges, The Olive Branch has done its utmost to forge a whole new pub experience. The aim has been to not only meet the regulations but do so in a way that makes customers feel they have enjoyed something unique and memorable. Christened the ‘New Special’ by the team, The Olive Branch experience in 2020 includes luxurious, beautifully dressed, heated garden gazebos, more space, and a choice of service styles and seating areas to give customers control. 

    Each gazebo is individually dressed

    Ben said: “It’s not been easy and each member of the team has had to work longer and harder to cover the extra space, to make customers feel safe and to complete all the appropriate cleaning.”

    An Olive Branch Dish: Lightly cured mackerel, cucumber, oyster, sea buckthorn, crispy rice

    Assessing where the pub industry finds itself at the end of 2020, The Olive Branch MD said: “We’ve been lucky. We are in a rural location near open fields. We have space to socially distance, we have an amazing team and wonderfully loyal and supportive customers. We were nearly full throughout the summer, yet 2020 has still been a battle for survival for us and December will be our worst in 21 years. Many others less fortunate than us will not make it. More help is needed. The £1,000 for wet-led pubs is pitiful and the government must find more support for our industry. Without it, the Good Pub Guide may well be half its size next year and the true local will be extinct.”

    Some of the Olive Branch team

    The Olive Branch Timeline
    December 12, 1999 – Ben Jones, Sean Hope and Marcus Welford open The Olive Branch for the first time. Their idea is to combine top quality food and a relaxed pub setting.
    2002 – The Olive Branch becomes one of the first pubs in the UK to win a Michelin Star.
    2005 – The team buy Beech House – a private dwelling opposite The Olive Branch – and convert it into six luxurious bedrooms, opening it in 2006.
    2012 – Beech House wins a prestigious Good Hotel Guide César Award.
    2014 – The Olive Branch is named UK Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide.
    2016 – The Olive Branch opens its allotment and polytunnel, which supply ingredients for the kitchen.
    December, 2020 – The Olive Branch celebrates its 21st birthday and is named UK Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide for the second time.

  • The Lighthouse and Boboli in south Leicestershire launch takeaway menus

    The Lighthouse in Kibworth Beauchamp and Boboli in Kibworth Harcourt have launched takeaway menus. You can view The Lighthouse’s takeout menu here and Boboli’s takeout menu here.  

    The restaurants, both owned by Sara and Lino Poli, are recommended by Great Food Club and also offer GFC card-holders 10% off the total bill (exclusions apply, subject to a minimum food spend of £30).

    The Lighthouse offers hot food takeaway Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm-8.30pm.

    Boboli runs its takeout service – both hot food and ‘heat to eat’ – seven days a week.

    To order from The Lighthouse, call 0116 2796260.

    To order from Boboli, call 0116 2793303.

    Boboli’s ‘Heat to Eat’ range can also be ordered online here. Heat to Eat collections are Monday to Saturday 2pm-5pm and 12pm-3pm on Sundays.

    Hot food collections are Monday to Saturday 5pm-8.30pm and Sunday 12pm-3pm.

  • Great Food Club Awards 2020/21 – The Winners

    The Champions

    Fine-Dining Restaurant of the Year – full details & pictures
    Alchemilla, Nottingham
    Last year’s winner: The Hammer & Pincers, Wymeswold, Leics
    2018/19 winner: John’s House, Mountsorrel, Leics

    Casual-Dining Restaurant of the Year – full details & pictures
    Hitchen’s Barn, Oakham, Rutland
    Last year’s winner: House of Feasts, Eye Green, Peterborough, Cambs

    Dining Pub of the Year full details & pictures
    The Stag & Hounds, Burrough on the Hill, Leicestershire
    Last year’s winner: The Wheatsheaf, Greetham, Rutland
    2018/19 winner: The Olive Branch, Clipsham

    World Cuisine Restaurant of the Year full details & pictures
    Kushi-ya, Nottingham
    Last year’s winner: Sanctua, Oadby, Leics

    Classic Pub of the Year full details & pictures
    The Marquis of Granby, Granby, Nottinghamshire
    Last year’s winner: The Black Horse, Aylestone, Leics

    Café of the Year – full details & pictures
    All Mine Cakes by the Lake, Maythorne near Southwell, Nottinghamshire
    Last year’s winner: The Larder, Oakham, Rutland
    2018/19 winner: Kavanagh’s, Oakham

    Food Shop of the Year – full details & pictures
    Welbeck Farm Shop, Welbeck, Nottinghamshire
    Last year’s winner: The Melton Cheeseboard, Melton Mowbray, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Christopher James Deli, Leicester

    Deli of the Year – full details & pictures
    Thrussington’s Village Shop, Thrussington, Leicestershire
    Last year’s winner: The Melton Cheeseboard, Melton Mowbray, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Christopher James Deli, Leicester

    Food Producer of the Year full details & pictures
    Manor Farm Yogurt, Thrussington, Leicestershire
    Last year’s winner: Elms Farm, Costock, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Redhill Farm Free Range Pork, Gainsborough, Lincs

    Drink Producer of the Year – full details & pictures
    Braybrooke Beer Co., Braybrooke, Market Harborough, Northamptonshire
    Last year’s winner: Round Corner Brewing, Melton Mowbray, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Wharf Distillery, Potterspury, Northants

    Farm Shop of the Year – full details & pictures
    Tori & Ben’s Farm Shop, Kings Newton, Derbyshire
    Last year’s winner: Farndon Fields Farm Shop, Market Harborough, Leics
    2018/19 winner: Harker’s Farm Shop, Clipston-on-the-Wolds, Notts

    Bakery of the Year 
    The Bakehouse, Nottingham – full details & pictures
    Last year’s winners: Small Food Bakery, Nottingham (best sourdough) & Hambleton Bakery, Rutland (best cakes)
    2018/19 winner: The Garage Bakehouse, Market Harborough

    Butcher of the Year – full details & pictures
    Best High-Street Butcher: Robin Maycocks, Holloway, Derbyshire
    Best Catering Butcher: Owen Taylors, Alfreton, Derbyshire
    Last year’s winners: The Snobby Butcher, Nottingham (high-street butcher) & Price & Fretwell (catering butcher)

    Private Chef of the Year (new category) – full details & pictures
    Craig Floate, Nottingham

    Street Food Producer of the Year (new category) – full details & pictures
    Smoqued, Swadlincote, Derbyshire

    Food Hero of the Year (new category) – full details & pictures
    March House Farm Shop, Great Dalby, Leicestershire
    Last year’s winner: Pratik Master at Wigston News & Deli in Leicestershire

    Important information

    The judging process
    Our judges visited every shortlisted business where it was possible and deemed necessary. They ate – anonymously where possible – at all the pubs, cafés and restaurants.

    How the shortlist was compiled
    We asked our members and readers to nominate “one independent food/drink business that has brought you most joy over the past 12 months”. Over 6,000 online votes were cast between July 1 and July 31, 2020. The top four vote winners in each category made the shortlist. Multiple votes from individuals were discarded. You can see all shortlisted businesses at the ‘full details’ links under each category above.

    Ineligible businesses
    Businesses that won GFC awards last year were not eligible to be shortlisted this year. Our aim is to showcase a broad range of independents and by not allowing a single business to win an award two years in a row, we go some way to achieving this aim.

    Click here to see the 2019/20 winners.

  • Toffee Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce – and Cidentro Cider

    A sponsored recipe from Cidentro Cider

    Happy autumn! It’s apple-harvest season and cider-makers are busy at work in their orchards. Inspired by all the apples being gathered in, here’s a delicious autumnal recipe for Toffee Apple Cake.

    Try it with Cidentro Cider, which recently won Silver and Bronze Medals at the International Cider Challenge 2020.

    Toffee Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce


    Toffee Apple Cake:
    1 x 500g bag Wright’s Toffee Cake mix
    200ml water 
    4 tblsp veg oil
    1-2 heaped tbsp chopped stem ginger in syrup
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    3 small apples, peeled and cored (kept whole)

    Salted caramel sauce:
    175g light soft brown sugar
    50g butter
    300ml double cream
    Sea salt to taste 
    50ml Calvados (optional but the alcohol will evaporate during cooking)


    1. Heat oven to 180C and line a 2lb loaf tin.
    2. Combine the water and oil in a mixing bowl, add the cake mix and whisk for a couple of minutes.
    3. Add the ginger and cinnamon.
    4. Pour some batter into your loaf tin, then add the apples. Pour the remaining batter over the top of the apples to cover them.
    5. Bake for 60-70 minutes, check it’s done by inserting a skewer into the centre – it’s done when it comes out clean.
    6. Combine the salted caramel ingredients in a saucepan and cook until the butter has melted, then allow to bubble for about a minute.

    To serve:

    Turn out the cake and slice your servings – it’s like a secret apple cake! Serve either warm or cold with a drizzle of the salted caramel sauce over the top. Wash down with a glass of Cidentro Cider.

    Cidentro Cider can be bought from their web-shop

    Recipe by Hazel Paterson on BBC Radio Leicester’s Ben Jackson show.

  • The story behind Leicestershire’s new pop-up tipi pub

    Words, pictures and video by Bobby Twidale

    James Ball, head chef and director of Zest Catering & Events, and Emma Tilley, owner of Bridge House Barn at Kibworth Harcourt, would normally have been booked solid with weddings and events for the entire spring-summer season in 2020. The combination of James’ cuisine and a magical tipi-village in an unspoilt rural setting next to the Grand Union Canal has made their collaboration a top choice for anyone hoping to make their special day truly memorable.

    But with more than 90% of their bookings postponed until 2021, Bobby Twidale chatted with James to find out how they’ve managed to not just survive but actually thrive during the pandemic.

    How did you get into event catering?

    JB – I used to have the Langton Arms in Church Langton where I was the landlord for five years and head chef previous to that for ten years. I used to do a few outside events from the pub, and it was something I enjoyed.

    So it was a natural progression for you?

    JB – Yes. The biggest draw for me was that you are potentially doing something different every week. Anything from weddings to funerals, birthday parties, private dinner parties where we work with the client to create their own menu, barbeques, hog roasts, street food menus, corporate stuff. For me, the whole thing with this trade has been seeing the satisfaction from the customer; people enjoying the food that you’re doing for them.

    What are your values as a business?

    JB – We offer high-end, quality food for a not high-end price. I want everyone to be treated how I would want to be treated. I wouldn’t send something out that I wouldn’t eat myself.

    So business is booming?

    JB – I do a lot of weddings here. Emma and I have built up a good working relationship.

    At least that was the way it was going. We’ve had maybe more than 90% of the weddings wiped out. Luckily, apart from one, every wedding has moved from this year to next… plus everyone else who’s planning to get married next year as well.

    So things are looking good for the future. You didn’t want to just sit back and wait for that to happen, though. You’ve been doing something really interesting here at Bridge House Barn this summer. Tell me a bit about the pop-up pub you and Emma have been running?

    JB – It’s been amazing. We started off doing Sunday lunch. It was July 23 we did the first one. We’ve been full every weekend! We started doing some alternative nights as well. We did a steak night last week, we did a fish and chip night, curry nights, we’re doing paella next week, there’s a special Halloween hog roast. Normally, the tipis go up in April and have to come down by October as they are a temporary structure. Because of the pandemic, the council have said Emma can keep them up until next October. We are looking to do Christmas here as well. Christmas is a new thing for everyone and things [restrictions] might have changed again by then but we’ve put a menu out there and we’re taking tables of six. Let’s carry on and see what happens!

    So has your main focus been here at Bridge House Barn, or has Zest Catering been able to continue to provide for its client-base in any other way?

    JB – When lockdown was first announced, all the pubs jumped on the takeaway bandwagon. I just thought, ‘There are that many people doing it that are better equipped to do it, I’m not going to bother’. Obviously, I didn’t know it was going to be quite as long as it was! After about a month, we decided to do a pie and mash delivery service; focus on one element at a good price. That really took off. Then we started doing a couple of specials that became four specials and three puddings. I did some picnic hampers for Lamport Hall open-air concerts in their gardens. We were delivering afternoon teas through the summer. We’ve had so much positive feedback; lots and lots of people have messaged me.

    And, with such a busy summer, have you been able to plan for the next few months?

    JB – We’re going to relaunch the pies. At the moment we deliver everything fresh. We spend all day Thursday making everything and then we deliver on Friday. That clashes with everything else [if we are not locked down]. We’re either going to change the delivery day or do everything frozen. Last Christmas, I saw a company that were doing prepared Christmas Day dinners and thought, ‘What a good idea’. What better thing than not having to work on Christmas Day? I’m going to get 2 or 3 different menus with deliveries Christmas Eve so on Christmas Day you’ve got nothing to do. I’m working on that this week. I just hope we can cope with it all! You just have to try and diversify a bit!

    With a massive portion of can-do attitude, a dollop of resourcefulness and a dash of luck, James and Emma have shown flexibility during challenging circumstances, adapted and prospered. Hats off to them! James’ food is good, tasty and great value for money, and Bridge House Barn is an idyllic setting that also offers luxury on-site dinner, bed and breakfast accommodation all in a relaxing, Covid-safe environment.

    Find out more here.

  • Price & Fretwell’s ‘NHS Hamper’ raises £525 for Nottinghamshire hospital

    Award-winning catering butcher Price & Fretwell has donated £525 to Kings Mill Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield. The money was raised through sales of its ‘Supporting the NHS Hamper’.

    Co-founder Darren Price (pictured above with two nurses from Kings Mill Hospital) said: “We donated the money to Ward 22 of the hospital where my grandmother Elizabeth Fretwell recently passed away after several weeks of amazing care. Elizabeth was a former nurse.”

    Price & Fretwell continues to deliver NHS Hampers to the public from Monday to Saturday to raise more funds.

    To order one, call 01773 591 212 or visit our Price & Fretwell’s Facebook page

  • Burleighs Gin crowdfunding campaign hits £100k target in first week

    But there’s still time to invest…

    Burleighs Gin of Leicestershire has hit its initial crowd-funding target of £100,000 in a single week. However, the distillery is still calling on food and drink lovers to invest after extending the campaign to October 7.

    Burleighs is currently valued at £2.3 million and has so far received more than 120 investments via its Seedrs crowdfunding page, varying from £10 to £50,000+.

    Burleighs plans to diversify its portfolio with the invested funds. Development plans include introducing a non-alcoholic gin and a ready-to-drink gin & tonic.

    Commercial director Sam Watson is delighted by the success of the campaign. He said: “Despite the impact of Covid, 2020 has been a year of great progression for Burleighs Gin. The success of our crowdfunding campaign with Seedrs will now allow us to further drive our growth.”

    Distilled in rural Leicestershire, Burleighs has successfully established itself in the competitive gin market over the last five years with a unique collaborative strategy. Current partners include Leicester City FC, Leicester Tigers RFC and the Marilyn Monroe estate.

    Its latest collaboration is with the Royal British Legion, resulting in the official Poppy Gin. A limited number of bottles can be bought here.

    Burleighs crowdfunding campaign can be viewed here.

  • Crystal Clear Compliance helps food & drink businesses get Covid-secure

    Sponsored post

    Crystal Clear Compliance of Great Easton near Market Harborough works with pubs, restaurants and food shops to help them survive and thrive. Founder Lucy Walsh and her team help independent businesses deal with new post-Covid health & safety and environmental regulations.

    The government requires every business to complete a Covid risk assessment. Crystal Clear Compliance guides you through the process while offering help in other areas.

    Lucy Walsh

    Lucy will help businesses put other health & safety documentation in place and perform risk assessments, too.

    She says: “As people return to work, their roles may have changed, or layouts may have altered. This means risk assessments should be reviewed and updated. We will help them prepare for life in this ‘new normal’.”

    To get in touch with Crystal Clear Compliance, call 07748 860076 or 01536 770249, or email lwalsh@crystalclearcompliance.co.uk.

  • Have you tried Cocoa Amore’s stunning Noir range?

    Sponsored post

    Since the beginning of lockdown, Leicestershire’s Cocoa Amore have been rolling out their brand new ‘Noir’ range in sleek black cardboard packaging. The range features a fantastic spectrum of chocolatey treats, from boxes of chocolates, to tins of fondant truffles, to exciting new filled bars.

    For the first time, Cocoa Amore have made their range available for other retailers to sell (so you may have seen them around in your local shops!). To make it easier for you to find Cocoa Amore chocolate, they have added a ‘stockists’ page on their website. Keep an eye out for new ones online and posts through their social media channels


    If you’re yet to discover Cocoa Amore’s NEW Noir Range, take a look…


  • Melton Mowbray’s Round Corner wins three golds at World Beer Awards

    Round Corner Brewing of Melton Mowbray – just two years old and Great Food Club’s current Drink Producer of the Year – has bagged three gold medals at the prestigious 2020 World Beer Awards. The winning performance means it is once again one of the UK’s most accoladed breweries at the awards. Expert panellists awarded the medals after a blind-judging process involving more than 2,200 beers from over 50 countries.

    Hopping Spree, Round Corner’s signature West Coast IPA (6.6% ABV), was one of the winners. The beer also won gold at last year’s European Beer Challenge. Hopping Spree is inspired by the legendary rabble-rousing adventures of the Marquis of Waterford – originator of the phrase “paint the town red” after a big night out in Melton Mowbray!

    Society for the Encouragement of Virtue, Round Corner’s 9.6% ABV rum-barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout, was recognised as the UK’s best Imperial Stout. This beer gains its unmistakable profile from the plantation rum barrels in which it is aged. Society for the Encouragement of Virtue also won Best Label Design.

    Brewer Scott Sharp-Heward said: “These wins make us so proud – decades of brewing knowledge went into crafting these amazing beers.”

    Co-founder Combie Cryan said: “We want to weave as much of the amazing feeling and history of Melton Mowbray and its surrounds as we can into our beers. We’re proud that it’s being noticed.”

    Head brewer & co-founder Colin Paige commented: “Round Corner is a philosophy. It’s about innovation but rooted in a deep belief that real craft beer is about the relentless pursuit of perfection, not jumping on the fad bandwagon.”

    Colin Paige (left) and Combie Cryan, founders of Round Corner Brewing

    About Round Corner Brewery

    Round Corner Brewing is based at a bespoke brewery in the heart of Melton Mowbray’s 1,000-year-old agricultural market. It aims to brew outstanding beers in keeping with the celebrated gastronomy of the region, which is famous for its Stilton and Melton Mowbray pork pies.

  • Melton Mowbray’s Cidentro Cider House stars on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch

    Melton Mowbray cider-maker Cidentro appeared on live TV on August 30 on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.

    From a live video link in Devon, cider expert Gabe Cook – known as The Ciderologist – chose three ciders.

    He talked about each – Wild Disco by Nightingale Cider, Table Cider by Little Pomona and Rosé Cider by Cidentro. About Cidentro he said: “This is Cidentro’s rosé-style cider from Leicestershire. Again, not necessarily a classic cider-making area but showcasing how there is this real diversity.”

    Gabe told viewers about the new campaign #DiscoverCider which aims to highlight the diversity in cider styles and show that there’s a cider for everyone.

    Tasting in the Sunday Brunch studio were presenters Tim and Simon, together with their guest star Joel Dommett.

    Hiranthi Cook, founder of Cidentro, said: “Thanks to Gabe, Tim and Simon for having us on the show, it was tremendous fun and we were truly honoured.”

    Cidentro’s Rosé is a dry, lightly sparkling, 8.0% ABV rosé cider created from a unique blend of English cider and English pinot noir wine. It’s ideal as an aperitif and pairs beautifully with food. A 75cl bottle costs £9.50. You can order here.

  • The School of Artisan Food at Welbeck reopens to students

    It’s back to school to celebrate Sourdough September!

    The School of Artisan Food at the heart of Nottinghamshire’s Welbeck Estate has reopened and welcomed back students for the first time since lockdown.

    A new programme of culinary and baking courses has been launched, as well as activities to celebrate Sourdough September.

    “We are delighted to welcome people back to The School of Artisan Food,” said director Simon Pittman. “During the last few months we have hosted various online courses but we are thrilled to see people back in our building here in Welbeck.

    The School of Artisan Food has very spacious teaching areas

    “One thing we’re not short of here is space. As we’re based in a huge building we’re able to host courses in a safe environment where people can feel comfortable. Our training rooms are large, plus we’re able to open up our doors and spill out into our spacious courtyard.”

    Over the summer the team worked behind the scenes to ensure it was ready for the reopening and received Visit England’s ‘Good to Go’ accreditation.

    During that time, they were able to devise a new programme of courses, including events to coincide with this year’s national Sourdough September festival. The School of Artisan Food will be hosting a Sourdough Demonstration evening and a two-day Introduction to Sourdough course from a renowned international baker.

    Sourdough September was originally launched by the Real Bread Campaign to encourage more people to buy genuine sourdough from independent bakeries and to have a go at making their own.

    The School’s expert baker, David Carter, will be sharing his expertise during a Sourdough Demonstration evening on September 15. There will be the chance to taste some freshly baked sourdough bread and take away a portion of sourdough starter to practice bread baking at home.

    David said: “I look forward to welcoming everyone to the School and sharing our passion for real bread. As a process, a lot of mystique has a grown up around sourdough. While there is advice online, there is no substitute for a step-by-step myth-busting practical session.”

    During the event he will go through the entire sourdough process. The evening takes place at the School in Lower Motor Yard within Welbeck from 6pm until 8.30pm. Tickets, £20, can be booked here.

    For those looking to extend their practical sourdough skills, there will be a two-day hands-on ‘Introduction to Sourdough’ course led by the internationally renowned baker and author, Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. Taking place over the weekend of September 19-20, the course offers the chance to learn all about sourdough baking from fermentation and mixing to proving and baking from one of the very best. More details can be found here.

    Other courses coming up range from baking, pizza-making, and beer and cheese tasting to foraging, how to prepare and cook fish, and preparing venison and game.

  • Leicestershire pub walk: Peatling Magna to Claybrooke Parva via The Crab & Cow at Leire – a great walk made even better!

    By Bobby Twidale

    Late in July, with lockdown restrictions sufficiently lifted, we set off to walk from Peatling Magna to Claybrooke Parva, along the footpaths that make up this section of the Leicestershire Round footpath.

    Having already completed the Rutland Round in early June and now a good way through the Leicestershire Round, this particular section was auspicious in that it would be only the second occasion that we were assured of being able to sit down for lunch in the 150 or so miles we had thus-far covered; levels of anticipation were naturally high.

    A basic map of the Leicestershire Round

    Covering a total of around nine miles, we would be stopping off at the Crab & Cow in Leire, a couple of miles before our final stop for the day. We were a team of three, one of whom was a well-mannered Labrador, Buzz, who was welcome to join us for lunch, sitting in the outside dining area.

    Buzz the Labrador

    Typical of the previous stages of the Leicestershire Round, our walk took us through some beautiful rural countryside and was for the most part well-organised and clearly signposted. However, also typical was a varying quality in the accessibility of some stretches of the path with a mix of hand-gates, kissing gates, stiles with dog gates and those without. When walking with a 34-kilo dog who needs lifting over a series of high stiles, you certainly earn your lunch! Although we always keep an Ordnance Survey map in the bottom of our rucksack as a back-up, we were using the Leicestershire Footpath Association’s guide to the route and found it helpful and informative. Many of the fields also contained livestock. Buzz lives on a farm and so is uninterested in a field of sheep but nonetheless, we always follow the countryside code, keeping him under close control. The only caveat to this is that cows with calves can be extremely protective of their young; if we are chased, we follow National Farmers’ Union advice and release the dog as he is much faster than us and can get himself out of trouble.

    Our route took us across open fields out of Peatling Magna and on to a hedged track, heading for Willoughby Waterleys. We then headed downhill and over a stream before climbing up towards the village, passing the lovely Norman church onto the main street. There are several impressive houses in the village that are worth a pause and an inn (The General Elliott) named after George Augustus Eliott (1717-1790), former Governor of Gibraltar.

    The next stage took us for a short while along the main Ashby-Willoughby road which had less traffic than we expected before turning through the Holy Farm Fishery with its two non-dog-friendly stiles. The lakes were busy with fishing enthusiasts enjoying the opportunity to be angling again, post lockdown. From here, you head towards the M1. You hear it long before you see it, something that always prompts a discussion about how often noise pollution sadly impacts the countryside we walk through. After crossing over the motorway, we were glad to head away from the noise and across the fields to Dunton Bassett. We passed young cattle on the way but happily they were merely curious!

    Out of Dunton Bassett, we took the bridleway past Stemborough Mill, en route to Frolesworth. The path passes alongside a stream and fishponds. The brambles were alive with butterflies and we bumped into two little boys heading with their fishing nets and grandma for the ponds where they told us they had caught crayfish the week before. The route into the village follows a well-trodden path with a series of stiles, all happily with dog-gates. In Frolesworth, we paused to admire the alms-houses before heading out of the village in the direction of Leire and lunch.

    The Crab & Cow is a modern and relaxed pub-restaurant, with a lovely chilled ambience, open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Friday and all day at the weekend. It consistently rates highly for food, service and value and serves a range of dishes from lunchtime sandwiches, through a good steak menu to a nice range of seafood. Tuesday night is pie night, Wednesday Italian night and Thursday steak night, with Sunday lunch served between 12 and 5pm. My walking partner and I have different palates; she definitely has a sweet tooth and always saves room for dessert. I have a fairly small appetite and so we both opted to have a starter-sized meal. The service was attentive and friendly but laid-back enough to not be overwhelming and Buzz was made very welcome. The Covid-related formalities were carried out efficiently but without spoiling our enjoyment of the experience.

    I chose spiced beetroot arancini with whipped goats’ cheese and grilled artichokes and Gillian went for the fish finger sandwich. We were most impressed. The arancini were delicately spiced and the goats’ cheese mild and light – a really nice balance. I thoroughly enjoyed the dish. Gillian’s meal was more substantial, and she couldn’t finish all of the chips, even though they were excellent (Buzz was very happy about that). The fish fingers were hand-made with the perfect balance of crispy breadcrumb coating and light, soft fish. Very nice. The waitress who served us was also patient about Gillian’s lengthy explanation of which dressing she would like and how it should be served. Ticks all round for this course.

    After a lengthy deliberation, Gillian opted for an iced coffee parfait, served with caramelised bananas and sable biscuits for dessert. Although delicious, the parfait was not coffee flavoured. This was quickly improved by the coffee sauce chef sent out shortly afterwards. A quick internet search at home revealed that this week’s menu has iced honey parfait on the dessert menu, and I suspect this is what Gillian was served. An easy mistake to make and either way, she had polished it off so quickly I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the untouched dish. No harm done then.

    Lunch finished, we set off for the final stop of our walk, Claybrooke Parva. It is at this point that I usually congratulate Gillian, chief navigator, on her good planning by positioning lunch not too far from our final destination and today was no exception. The last section of the walk was very pretty and included some beautiful scenery, a rather magnificent sweet chestnut tree with a twisted trunk and coffee from a flask on the extensive green lawns in front of the church at Claybrooke Parva, but a little sleep would have been rather nice!

    A very nice walk and a lunch that was definitely worth the lockdown wait.

  • The Engine Yard at Belvoir is back open for breakfasts, gin, pizza, ice creams and more!

    A sponsored post from The Engine Yard

    The Fuel Tank café/restaurant and Balloon Bar at Belvoir Castle’s Engine Yard are back open – and so are all the other independent shops that make up this rural food & shopping hub.

    The Fuel Tank is now serving breakfasts from Friday to Sunday, 10am-11.30am. If you’re after a Full English or a breakfast roll look no further!

    The breakfast menu

    There’s also a tempting lunch menu, including a range of delicious Belvoir Woodfired Pizzas.

    Next door to The Fuel Tank, you’ll find The Balloon Bar, which is now open Friday to Sunday, with alfresco Balloon Bar gigs back on each Friday from 7pm.

    While there, you might want to try a Belvoir gin & tonic! Belvoir Gin is a unique new creation, offering flavours of dry, piney juniper, woody nuttiness, zesty orange, floral chamomile and subtle sweet vanilla.

    There’s much more going on at The Engine Yard too. For example, Cocoa Amore serves its incredible ice creams from Friday to Sunday – choose your flavours, toppings and sauces.

    A Cocoa Amore ice cream

    So, whether you want to browse its range of independent shops, grab a coffee & cake or spend the afternoon relaxing over a delicious lunch, The Engine Yard – with plenty of outdoor seating – is the perfect place to unwind and catch up with friends.

    Business opportunity: The Engine Yard is seeking a bakery and a farm shop to add to its unique mix of independent artisan operators. To find out more, email rachel@silverpearcommunications.co.uk

  • Happy 40th birthday, Hambleton Hall! We propose a toast!

    But which of the 10,000 bottles in its wine cellar should you choose?

    A 40th birthday demands a celebration, but the pandemic has scuppered party plans for many of us this year, including Hambleton Hall near Oakham. Special events might be on ice but guests can still enjoy the Michelin-starred restaurant, the boutique rooms and the magnificent surroundings overlooking Rutland Water.

    You’re assured a superb view at Hambleton Hall!

    The current situation has challenged many restaurants and hotels  – Hambleton Hall has risen to the challenge and prospered. The kitchens produced takeaway meals during lockdown, but is now open for business, with the expected changes to allow social distancing. When we visited in July, the restaurant was fully booked for every service for the next three months and there were no signs of that slowing. But why would it? After 40 years in the business, they are experts in hospitality.

    The Michelin star is the longest retained single star in the UK because the food and wine are exceptional. The rooms are highly sought after because the location on the Hambleton peninsula, surrounded by Rutland Water, is stunning. But the hotel offers more than a meal fit for a gourmand and a room fit for royalty. It is run by a team of highly professional, approachable and passionate experts who love what they do, and that is what adds the magic. The core team have 125 years of service to Hambleton between them, including restaurant director Graeme (36 years), chef Aaron (28 years), sommelier Dominique Baduel (21 years), general manager Chris Hurst (17 years), marketing manager Carolyn Turner (17 years) and housekeeper Ewa Biolonos (six years), so they know what they are doing!

    Sommelier Dominique Baduel (left)

    Much has been written about the food and the setting of Hambleton Hall, but on our visit we were particularly interested in the wine.

    Compiling a restaurant wine list requires a number of skills. Your wine knowledge and palate must be exceptional, that much is obvious. But you must also be a fortune teller – knowing what is going to be in demand in future years, so you can buy young wines and mature them in the cellar to ensure availability. Your organisation skills must be exemplary, to manage the stock levels, rotations and maturation dates. You need a capacious memory, not only for the contents of the cellar and the whereabouts of the individual wines but also for each wine on the list (and each vintage of each wine) which needs to be described and matched with an array of ever-changing dishes. And you must be a mind reader and detective, able to translate the unspoken word into a wine choice that perfectly matches the customers’ taste and budget.

    The gardens – with Rutland Water behind the trees

    At Hambleton Hall, sommelier Dominique Baduel and owner Tim Hart manage everything vinous, sharing the wine buying between them but with Dominique leading the way in the restaurant. He has an exceptional knowledge of, and passion for, wine  – which guests are advised to tap into if they want to get the most out of the extensive wine list.

    Tim Hart, founder of Hambleton Hall & Hambleton Bakery, and a man who knows his wine!

    There are recognised wine names on the list, but Tim and Dominique seek out smaller, less well-known producers, so many will be unfamiliar. That can make it tempting to stick to what you know – but you will be missing out. Our advice is to ask Dominique for recommendations, whatever your own level of knowledge, because no-one knows the wines like him.

    The dining room

    We diners can be reticent about asking for the sommelier’s help, fearful that we will be pushed to spend more than we want, or sneered at if we choose one of the lower-cost wines. While sommeliers in the grand restaurants in France are often on commission and so will steer diners to more expensive wines, Dominique is not. His only interest is to provide the most appropriate wine for each diner and for them to love what they drink.

    He is happy to find wines at a specific price point – and he assured us that specifying your budget is both acceptable and helpful. But if you don’t want to share that information in front of your guests, he can work out what is suitable for you. Or you can use the coded language they share on the website – “we usually drink Beaujolais” or “I was thinking of something along these lines” while pointing firmly to the right-hand column!

    Although the cellar is carefully curated and managed with a long-term view now, that wasn’t how it began. Tim Hart inherited his father’s wine cellar and the contents became the inaugural Hambleton Hall wine list on the opening day in 1980. It makes fascinating reading. Unsurprisingly Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone dominated the list. Everything was sold by the bottle, and the list started with House red, House white burgundy and  “Our other House White from St. Pourcain” – all at around £6 a bottle. If you were celebrating a 40th birthday on the opening night in July 1980, you might have splashed out on a 1975 Bollinger for £21, followed by 1949 Lafite Rothschild at £100 and rounded the meal off with a bottle (!) of 1945 Constantino or 1963 Fonseca. These wines are now long gone, but the list has developed and grown over the years and today there are over 300 wines listed and 10,000 bottles in the cellars, from 1st Growth Bordeaux to English White.

    Head chef Aaron Patterson started at Hambleton Hall in 1984

    Dominique leads the list with ‘Wines of the Moment’, a selection of wines which are currently drinking well and worthy of diners’ attention. The use of a Coravin (which extracts a glass of wine and replaces it with argon gas to prevent any change to the maturation process) allows Dominique to offer a number of wines by the glass, giving diners the opportunity to try exceptional wines without being tied to a whole bottle.

    The list is categorised by price, so is easy to navigate within your budget, but the sheer number and diversity of wines means Dominique’s expert opinion is highly recommended for most people.

    On our visit he served a 2012 Rheingau Riesling from August Kesseler – not a wine we would have naturally chosen, but a perfect accompaniment to the dishes we ate.

    Hambleton Hall is a very special place, used to hosting celebrations on behalf of its guests. This year it reached its own 40th birthday and deserves a party of its own. While it may not be possible at the moment, we have no doubt that it will see many more birthdays. Until then, we raise our glass to Hambleton Hall… and could Dominique please recommend something appropriate to fill it?

    One of the many beautiful dishes served at Hambleton Hall