Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Line Up with Lindsay Huntsman

One of the great things about having your own blog is that you can feature the stuff and the people that you love. One of my favourite people in the whole world, the effervescent Lindsay Huntsman of Glen Ellen Star, has just released her first show about managing restaurants, in conversation with Saul Gropman of Cafe La Haye. Since you all love food, wine and eating out, I thought I'd share it with you. Isn't she fabulous?


Saturday, 25 April 2015

#BeerGardenLeicester: The King's Head

The exploration of Leicester's beer gardens continues at the King's Head on New Walk/Kings Street. Thanks to @coolasleicester and The King's Head themselves for the nomination! The King's Head has been on the up and up in recent years, with an excellent craft beer selection, lovely staff and exciting status as (I think) the only city centre pub where you can take in your own food. We took a Wagamama takeout there once. It tasted better with better drinks.

Size and exclusivity
This beer garden is pretty much bigger than the pub itself, with terraces both downstairs and upstairs. There are plenty of picnic tables and space for a good group of mates to gather. It is getting more popular and therefore busier, but generally this is still a pretty exclusive spot, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting a table.
 
Early Doors
Not a bad spot for after work sun this. The sun does disappear behind the neighboroughing buildings around 6pm but it is a nice open spot with good access to blue skies, should they choose to make an appearance.

Smarts 
Basic and functional really. There is no great glamour here, it's a pub pub and the exterior decoration reflects that. It's who your with though, right?

Wifi
Not really, I couldn't get it to work outside. Has no-one heard of a signal booster box?

British-Summer-Proof
If you stay downstairs there is shelter from the rain. No heaters or cosy blankets though. so bring a coat if you're going down later on.
 
Furniture 
Again, basic and functional picnic tables. Clean, generally in a good state of repair - all basic needs catered for with no bells or whistles.

Miscellaneous
The view has improved slightly since New Walk Centre was demolished earlier this year. And you can bring your own takeout, as I've already mentioned. Fish and chips and a pint of craft beer? Well it'd be rude not to.

Pub Dog 
Not this time!
Well, that's it for now. Only 6 weeks left to nominate your favourite pub garden using the hashtag #beergardenleicester on Twitter. Where should we go next?
 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Food and wine pairing at Chateau Feely, Saussignac

We had an absolutely phenomenal day at Chateau Feely, in Saussignac, so I have to share it with you all.

Great wines, great company, great vineyard.
Check out the chicken tractor! We want one.
We were greeted by Dora, the farm dog, who was completely adorable and totally excited to have new people visiting her and her humans on this biodynamic, organic winery snug on the French hills overlooked by Saussignac castle. We were then met by South African-born Caro Feely, lady of the Chateau and all round awesome dude. It was a real treat to meet someone so passionate about her land, her vines and the concept of terroir.

At the start of the day we toured the vineyard, learning about the Feely family's journey into wine (you can read more about it in Caro's books - my copies are winging their way to me as we speak and one is currently on offer for 99p on Amazon). The area was lush and buzzing with life. Delicate wild orchids were beginning to push up their frail heads - they have only been present for the last five or so years as the effects of the organic and biodynamic methods have led to a balanced enough environment for them to thrive.

Look at my big French wine and cheese belly!
Caro talked all about their farming methods and the comparison between the lush beauty of their land compared to the neighbouring conventional farmer's was stark. I know where I'd prefer to live! The best bit for us was seeing Sean Feely, Caro's husband, weeding the farm by tractor, using a special hoe attachment which raked up the weeds and turned the soil, but very cleverly lifted up to avoid the vines. It took mere seconds to weed a full row, where hours of manual labour were previously necessary. Most ingenious.

After the tour it was time to get down and dangerous and taste a selection of Chateau Feely's wines, discuss their flavours and generally shoot the shit about wine making, tasting and enjoyment.




Sensualité: dry very pale rosé wine from cabernet sauvignon
A really light, almost salty nose - characteristic of the limestone soils on which it is grown - with a very delicate fruit scent - peach, perhaps something more exotic like guava. It is pressed quickly which gives it its distinctive super light colour and gives a zesty then crisp flavour which is light and fresh. With high acidity and medium alcohol it gives a burst of flavour which has a hint of residual sugar, just enough to turn the acidity into very faint notes of crisp green apples and frozen grapes. This is a red wine drinker's rose, should such a thing exist. We both loved it. A winner with a fresh, crisp goat's cheese.
Luminosité: sauvignon blanc sémillon dry white wine blend 
Scents of rosehip from the hedgerow, a dash of apple compote and a very light spice arise from this wine, which has a more traditional pale yellow colour. It is a more rounded flavour than the Sensualité, less dry with lighter acidity but that is not to deny its pleasant astringency. It feels thicker in the mouth, has a more luxurious texture. There is more alcohol and a light barrel age which gives it more richness. As such, it can cope with more powerful flavours, being surprisingly excellent with creme fraiche and smoked trout.
 
The tasting room
Mille Fleurs 2013: pure sémillon dry white wine (orange coloured wine) no sulphites added
The real surprise of the day for us and the most interesting with a variety of food - but complementing especially deep subtle flavours like the nutty notes along with the creaminess of the echourgnac - our first introduction to 'nun cheese' from Périgord. This wine is the colour of honey or a light beer, with just a tinge of pink. It has floral smells - but citrusy, like orange blossom water. It is deeper than that sounds though, like marmalade. In the mouth it is lighter still, but refreshing along with the complexity of a slight spice hint, perhaps cinnamon. It develops really slowly in the mouth, it is a mellow feel, with cidery honey flavours. It has a very long finish and leaves a light salinity on the roof of the mouth, again reflecting the composition of the Feely vineyards. A fascinating wine that can cope with even the strong flavours of a curry, go tarka dal - matched at last.

Considering wine with the goddess - possibly Demeter?
Haut Garrigue merlot: Bergerac AOC
From an earlier incarnation of the winery, this wine has a slight brown to the colour from the age. I didn't really know too much about this before Caro explained it, but have since found this excellent colour chart, which I am quite tempted to buy the poster of because it's rather cool... Anyway, the merlot is earthy, truffly and savoury on the nose, but still hints at something slightly sweet and even autumnal - we likened it to the forest floor. The flavour is smooth, light with a touch of fennel-like vegetal flavours, maybe even liquorice. There is a light tannin hit and as you would imagine the predominate fruit flavours are soft black fruits. This is also good with cheese, from the tangy goat's cheese to a more full and creamy camembert.

 I have to admit that my notes were terrible and for some reason I didn't properly note down the names or years of the wines. But the final hefty red was also amazing - a punchy smell, that was oaky and every so slightly acetony. It was full of body in the mouth, evoking barrel, cocoa and big, savoury tannins.
Fabulous, local food
We also tasted the dessert wine, by which point I decided I had more than enough to write about. And I was right. After the initial tasting and discussion, while we enjoyed a glass of the rose and browsed through the Feely's excellent wine library, Caro prepared lunch for us and gave us the opportunity to taste all the wines again with the foods - testing the matches she had suggested, seeing what suited our palette and seeing if there were any combinations we thought were good that she had not suggested. It was a fascinating experience, but if I wrote in depth about it, we would be here forever. There were endless good and bad combinations - some things we got right on, some flavour profiles just didn't match at all, but once one person had said 'don't have the smoked duck with that wine!' then the other just had to try it, just to see. 


It is always fascinating to see what combines well, and how different foods change the character of the wine you are drinking. It's well worth trying it out for yourself, especially with the expert guidance of someone like Caro Feely. I think it is completely possible that with the right food you would end up loving a wine that you would never drink on its own. 

The final wine, the dessert wine, was in many ways a real revelation for us, as I have never really dared to pair a very sweet wine with blue cheese before, yet it was absolutely excellent and took it really well. Then the dark chocolate gave a while different experience. Amusingly, since we got home, I saw a random old documentary of Heston Blumenthal where he made a dessert with blue cheese melted in to dark chocolate which was served with a sweet wine, so there must be something in it! After that we were treated to a homemade passionfruit sorbet and creme brulee ice cream which were completely to die for. I was totally blown away by the food and the sensory experience. And a little bit tiddly by that point as well.

Once we had finished, Caro took us down to another winery, Chauteau Jaubertie, where we took some more tastings and continued our discussions about flavours, textures and aromas. I had definitely got bored of writing notes by this point and just let myself enjoy the experience, sorry about that. But even wine bloggers have to let themselves go and just live in the moment sometimes, y'know?

So many, many thanks to Terroir Feely. I cannot recommend their wines, their tours and their food and wine pairing lunch enough. It is a truly awesome experience to meet somebody so knowledgeable and so passionate and you cannot help to be infected by that enthusiasm yourself. One of those days that makes you fall in love with wine all over again.

 

Monday, 20 April 2015

Leicester Cultural Quarter App launch!

Camels in the Cultural Quarter - that happened
Following on from the #ThisWeekInTheCQ campaign I covered a few weeks ago, there is more excitement in Leicester's Cultural Quarter as the Cultural Quarter Business Association looks to help the area reach its fullest potential for local residents and businesses. They will be rebranding as the Cultural Quarter Association and launching a new app which will explore the hidden gems of the area.

To celebrate, they will be holding a free CQ App party at LCB Depot this weekend and everyone's invited! Local businesses can head down between 3pm and 6pm on Friday to find out what the CQ App is all about. A family friendly event will be held on Saturday between 12pm and 4pm so everyone can pop along and find out what is happening in our Cultural Quarter. The event coincides with the St George's Day festivities in Orton Square and beyond (which includes a particularly exciting-sounding Dinosaur Hunt) so you can bring the kids along and make a day of it!

Having seen some sneaky peeks of the app, I am really excited about it. I really hope that everyone takes the chance to check out the great stuff happening up this end of town and it continues to grow as an inclusive, playful and vibrant area of the city.

#BeerGardenLeicester : Cosy Club

I've been off on my adventures tasting wine in France, but now I'm back and so we can continue with our exploration of Leicester's best beer gardens. Don't forget to drop me your suggestions and nominations with the hashtag #beergardenleicester at @Morrighani on Twitter. Thanks to @interiorhistory for this suggestion.

Size and exclusivity
This terrace is an excellent size. The Cosy Club is massive, but this is roomy enough to accommodate a large number of people. But having said that, it's still relatively under used as not only have some people not yet visited the Cosy Club (why not? check out my review) but even peple who just visit the bar end may not have even realised it existed. Walk to the far end of the the restaurant and... ta da!
 
Early Doors
Not bad - if you can get here early, early doors, you'll get some sun. Definitely a pleasant place to while away a weekend afternoon. However after about 6pm the sun sadly tips behind the grey gloom of the back of the hotel or casino or whatever the horrible thing is out front.
 
Smarts
Apart from the concrete gloom view that I just mentioned, it looks really good. The chairs and tables are all new and kept nice and clean. They put in bamboo when the Cosy Club opened which I presumed is intended to grow into a slightly more pleasant coverage than the present view in future times. It's a clean, well maintained and welcoming balcony.

Plus I would like to award spurious bonus points for the rainbow on a sunny day which we were treated to when we arrived. I know they can't have arranged it for us, but there you go. My review, my rules.


Wifi
Not really. They have their own wifi which you can easily log in to indoors, but it doesn't really reach to the terrace. I occasionally got some notifications while I was out there so it was definitely in and out, but I couldn't actually check my tweets or anything as the signal was weak and intermittent.

British-Summer-Proof
Excellent proofing against the British summer here. Large umbrella with heaters built in and even a basket of fleecy blankets by the back door to put over your knees if you're feeling chilly!

Furniture
All clean and new and in fab and funky Continental cafe style. Comfy enough and all well maintained.
 
Miscellaneous
Got to be points for rainbows and blankets as I have already mentioned. Cosy by name, Cosy by nature.

Pub Dogs
Sadly not - unless a pigeon flies over, this garden is devoid of wildlife and domesticated animals.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Bienvenue a Beautiful Bergerac

This morning we stepped off the plane after a wonderful week in Aquitaine. We stayed at La Grande Maison, Bergerac which gave us a great opportunity to explore this compact French town in depth and on foot.

Naturally one of the key draws to Bergerac is a visit to wine country. Much more compact than its showier neighbour, Bordeaux, Bergerac has 13 appellations and just as much variety for the spirited wine guzzler. More posts on the wines we tasted to come over the coming weeks!

bergerac, bridge, river, dordogne, blue
The Dordogne river

However, it's not all about the boozin', Bergerac also has a real quaint charm as a town. Nestled in a valley up against the might Dordogne, its old bridge provides a central focal point and hints back to the economic power of the town derived from its aquatic accessibility. Take a ride on a traditional 'garbarres', or barge to get a flavour of the heritage of the port and to take a look at the diverse wildfowl that live on and around the river.

medieval, wood, beams, tiles, bergerac
Tools set against medieval wall
Once you've done that you'll want to know how the gabarres are made, and for that you head to the admittedly quite poorly curated Musee de Ville. It's cute but doesn't have any English interpretation so make sure you take your dictionary. The local museums have a passport, which is 5 Euro so you can visit the 3 instead of paying 4 Euro admission at each, so it's definitely worth doing that. Unfortunately the Conti museum was closed while we were there, it is only open over the summer, but the Tobacco Museum was open, another nod to Bergerac's economic pillars.

The Musee du Tabac has a vast and varied collection from around the world which looks at the social, cultural, artistic and craft history of tobacco. An interesting topic which is covered from a range of perspectives, but again sadly lacking in decent interpretation - there are select and short labels for some objects but not a huge amount of debate about the most interesting aspects of the cultural and medical debates surrounding tobacco. There are also a lot of pipes. Like a lot. It's mainly the pipe museum, with a couple of interesting paintings and occasional alternative miscellania. But definitely still worth a look if you're in the area. Both of these museums were definitely worth visiting for the beautiful medieval buildings which house them, and certainly architecture is one of Bergerac's strongest suits.

A work in progress since the first castle was built in the 11th century, later sadly destroyed by a flood, the town has built up into a patchwork of medieval buildings, set cheek by jowl in the narrow cobbled streets. It is lovely to wander around the old town, but the quaint Continental architecture of the surrounding commercial and residential areas is much later but also has a certain charm, as the continuing themes of decorative rafters and shutters, for example, radiate much further out than just the old town area itself.

dragon, pipe, tobacco, museum
Carved dragon pipe
The crowning architectural glory (in a literal sense) is the great tower of the Notre Dame cathedral, which literally looms large over not only Bergerac, but is also visible for many miles around. We found that this was an excellent point around which to navigate your way about town because it is so visible in most places.

Along with all of these delights, make sure you make time in your schedule to pop along to the miniature harbour, look out for the markets that run throughout the week as well as the covered market for all the comestible delights that the town has to offer. Keep an eye out for the numerous privately run art galleries around the town also. We saw a couple of absolutely first class exhibitions while we were there, with an interesting mix of sculpture and craft on display. However, there are also galleries at absolutely the other end of the spectrum with some of the worst art I have ever seen. So that's good for a giggle too.

Add in to all that a great foodie culture, with duck and foie gras prevelant (you will of course need to say 17 hail mary's to the gods of animal welfare afterwards) and a rich local tradition of cakes, pastries and macarons and you've got yourself a great destination for a short break. We spent a week there and, along with a few day trips, we found plenty to keep us occupied.

And what trip to Bergerac would be complete without passing by one of the statues to the famous Cyrano. Who apparently doesn't have any connection to Bergerac at all, but they still have Le Cyrano cafe, mugs, tea towels and other assorted tat...


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

#BeerGardenLeicester: 33 Cank Street

One of the most fun places we have stopped on our #beergardenleicester adventure so far has been 33 Cank Street. This is a relatively new cocktail bar slap bang in the heart of the city centre. Thanks to @interiorhistory for the nomination.

Size and exclusivity

It's perfectly petite and exclusive. Still not really on many people's radar it seems, the few tables are enough to cater for the clientele at the moment. Small, but perfectly formed.
 
Early Doors

The sun quotient is admittendly not great here as it is placed under a small roof! We asked the bar staff and they told us there was a short window on a sunny day where the sun hits the terrace, but it doesn't last for long. Still, it is pretty, so perhaps that makes up for it.
 
Smarts

This place has all the smarts, from the elegant railings to the cute and comfortable continental style cafe tables. There is even a sweet bureau holding a menu by the door and enough potted plants and trees to make it a very pleasant place to while away an hour.

 

Wifi

Pretty good wifi coverage here. They have their own wifi so check at the bar for the password. It's small enough to get a signal throughout.
 
British-Summer-Proof

Pretty easy to escape the summer rain here! We were actually here through a massive downpour one day and managed to stay totally dry despite the torrential conditions. Definitely one for the hesitant traveller.
 
Furniture

Again, small but perfectly formed, the tables are nice and new and in beautiful condition. Elegant and clean lined, this is an excellently furnished terrace. Bonus points for the bureau too - I want it for my house.
 
Miscellaneous

Points for table service, points for professional, friendly and welcoming staff who deliver the table service and don't take themselves too seriously! Points for cute embossed menu holders, points for good lighting and points for excellent cucumber steeped water being provided immediately to the table. All the points really, it's these little extras that add a touch of luxury to your pub visit.

Pub Dogs 
Again, sadly no dogs. I did see a pigeon though, does that count?
Can I award points for staff photobombs?

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Sunday lunch at the Crown Inn, Anstey

We popped by The Crown Inn last week to check out their beer garden for #beergardenleicester, and while we were there we decided to pick up a spot of Sunday lunch. We've been going to the Crown for a long time and it has changed hands and style several times. Now it is looking pretty sharp, with some nice comfy sofas and bold patterned wallpaper. The staff are as welcoming as ever, but we were interested to see how the menu held up.

The Sunday menu is £11 for one course, and £14 for two. We both went for the same options and couldn't resist sound of the special starter - a bacon and black pudding starter. It was pretty good. The dressing was well balanced and the black pudding was really dense and meaty. It was a bit odd really, because it didn't have that spicy black pudding kick, but was more like a sausage in flavour and texture, but it was still very nice. It would have been a bit more refined with the skin removed from the black pudding and the bacon crisped up a bit more, but it was still very tasty.

For our main we had the roast chicken. The portion was phenomenal, with a delicious slice of homemade, very meaty stuffing, roasties and a large, funky looking yorkshire pudding. There were carrots and swede, parsnips and leeks on the plate and also a cauli/broccoli cheese on the side and the biggest bowl of green beans, peas and broad beans in the known universe.


Everything was nice, it's all just decent home cooking and covered with plenty of gravy, so I was happy with that. Points on for the kitchen staff having Def Leppard playing in the kitchen while we were eating. Points off for talking about how cheap all the veg was from Aldi (and I suspect the chicken too, given the small breast - freedom food it is not).

I felt that overall the meal was fractionally over-priced, as was the wine which was of a moderate quality but probably priced a pound more than it should have been. The whole meal cost us £35 with our drinks, and I think that somewhere under £30 would have been more reasonable for the quality. However, it was very nice and kept us full up for the rest of the day. Worth stopping in if you're passing, probably not worth making a specific journey, if you know what I mean. But not bad, not bad at all.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Leicester Continental Market

Leicester Continental Market is back! But hurry there's only one day left1(2/04/15). Happily the Continental Market is now a relatively regular sight around the clock tower, so I'm sure it won't be long until its back.

I headed down to grab myself a spot of lunch the other day. There is a great variety of stalls this time round, including, somewhat confusingly, a Native American jewellery and art stand. I suppose nobody specified what Continent the market was representing. There is also a Polish pub, which I'll confess I have never visited, despite always meaning too, a particular delicious selection of finest quality cheese purveyors, some excellent cold meat sellers, a beautiful smelling paella stall, the ubiquitous bratwurst stand and also, in the same slightly baffling vein as the Native American stuff, a place for getting some Jamaican food. You can't beat a bit of Caribbean though so I'm not complaining.

I settled on a stall which I believe was called 'The Alternative Option' which did a range of exotic meat burgers, both to eat there and to take away to cook at home. They had kangaroo, wild boar - all kinds of stuff. I was originally intending to get a venison burger, but was talked into the buffalo and chilli by the very friendly stall holder and I'm glad I was. I've never had buffalo before and it was a stonking eat - the burger was a great size, and the meat was succulent, dense and seemed relatively low in fat and free of any gristle or nasties. The chilli taste was subtle, but present through every bite giving a pleasing flavour and slight kick. The slow griddled onions served with the burger were also juicy and sweet. A really good way to spend £3.50.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

#BeerGardenLeicester: The Rutland and Derby

The beer garden testing continues, for your viewing pleasure. Next we went to the Rutland and Derby, as nominated by @coolasleicester and friends on Facebook. We used to go to the free quiz at the R&D every Monday. It is a fine pub, with nice quality wines and very tasty cocktails. I like it muchly, so I was pleased to pop along in the sunshine and see how everything squared up.


Size and exclusivity 
This is another beer garden which is surprisingly well sized. Not only do they have a decent area with picnic tables and a couple of comfy benches, there is also the upstairs terrace, which nearly doubles the size. It gets busy and full on sunny days, but it's usually big enough that you don't have to wait to get a table outside. You may have to fight for the ones in the sun though, and you just have to strike it lucky to get one on the upstairs terrace on the nicest days in the after-work witching hour.
 
Early Doors
This place gets it bang on. Correct orientation, first floor seating to get you away from the sun setting behind the city centre buildings, if you get a seat upstairs you will pretty much enjoy the sun from the time you leave work to the time you are done at the pub. The tables downstairs enjoy a decent amount of sun too, so you should be able to find at least a dash of soleil come 5pm.

Smarts
A beautifully presented beer garden. By far the most robust and solidly built picnic tables, all in pristine condition. Excellent rattan furniture, also kept neat. The whole place is always clean,well swept and neatly presented with nice chalkboards. A bit of a slight waver from me at the plastic plants on the table. Admittedly they stay looking neat with minimal upkeep, but I much prefer the real plants in the raised bed.
    Oh, and like the Soar Point, you'll have to live with the astroturf upstairs. I don't know why it's here - maybe the terrace is metal and would be clangy with everyone walking on it. It's not my favourite though. They do have a spiral staircase though, so I think that might cancel it out.
 
Wifi 
Wifi at the R&D is universally not good. They have a BT hub with the original password and there are tables inside where it doesn't work so don't hold your breath for wifi in the garden. I've very occasionally picked it up on the table nearest the door, but that's it. Has no-one heard of a signal booster in this berg?

British-Summer-Proof
Not too bad - they have decent brolly protection, but nothing else.
 
Furniture
As already mentioned, the picnic tables are lovely and solid, probably my favourite in the city. Everything is pretty much like new as the garden is obviously well cared for, even through the winter. Very impressive. 
 
Miscellaneous
The first beer garden we've visited where there are speakers in the garden which are on, which was lovely. However, I have to take a point off because while we were there, they played a Beautiful South song. That is all kinds of wrong.

Pub Dog
Sadly no. No critters.
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