Thursday, 29 June 2017

Hidden Gem? Big tunes at Duffy's Bar

I have a (relatively) new local in the city centre. My go-to pub, when I just want a drink, a nice sit down and a warm welcome is Duffy's Bar on Pocklington's Walk. It was an excellent spot to visit to watch the LCFC games last season where you could get a table and the mood was jocular. They've got a pretty decent wine selection and fun locals. Prices are good too. It's an all round solid boozer - they just do 'being a pub' properly.

But it's aactually more than just that, I have been a few times in recent months and caught a whole variety of gigs and events. And so I thought it was time to spread the word about this hidden gem, smack bang in the centre of Leicester.

We had a banging afternoon on International Worker's Day, heading back to the bar for a range of fantastic performances, all free, after we had finished our May Day (peaceful) march through the city centre. It was actually the second time we'd caught the Brassick Bears, whose catchy ska-punk, brass led tunes will stick in your head for the rest of the week, as well as enjoying the opportunity to catch up with the seriously underrated Homeless Shakespeare, who as I recall we first came across at the Western Park Secret Beer Club in 2016. He is a joy to watch, but I won't ruin it for you with descriptions - you've just got to be there. Hopefully one day he'll get his own TV channel and then I can just tune in to him whenever I want.

The stage is small but perfectly formed, they have plenty of seating as well as room for dancing - the back room is surprisingly spacious when it comes to gigs. We have enjoyed a range of genres there, from Metal to the Masses heats to delicate acoustic flowers (like Jackie Duffy). So put it on your 'to do' list. Here's a couple of my recommendations from the forthcoming programme.

July 8th

Free/Pay as you Feel
Produkty/Try Subversion/Mess Yourself/Mark Cooper

Art rock, punk rock, grunge rock, punk poet. Now what's not to like there? That sounds like how a narrator would describe me and my mates at the pub.

Now I'll be honest, I don't believe I've ever seen any of these before, but I can guarantee you that punk is a solid choice at Duffy's. So I am putting my faith in their choice of line up and you should too. After all, it's pay as you feel - what have you got to lose?

July 27th
The Brandy Thieves Festival Warm Up

Yes! This is the one I'm most looking forward to. Multiple stages (including the Homeless Shakespeare as I mentioned earlier). The Brandy Thieves are one of the jewels of our local scene and I cannot describe them better than they describe themselves -

"combining gypsy rhythms and punk energy, ska grooves and folk storytelling, 
the band has created a sound that is uniquely their own, 
a sound that has stolen the hearts of all of whom that have seen them perform. 
‘Raucous’ ‘Infectious’ ‘Enthralling’ ‘Captivating’ and ‘Sweaty’ are just a few of the words 
that have been used to describe the alcohol stealing gypsy punks."

Tickets are already 25% gone, so don't hang around on this one. I'm going to pop by Duffy's for mine tomorrow.

August 4th

Tom Hingley (Inspiral Carpets) acoustic set

Fancy something a bit more chill, a bit more intimate? Then checking out Tom Hingley is bound to hit the spot. We all know the Inspiral Carpet's amazing pedigree, so this is sure to be a night to remember.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

La Campore - wines from Piemonte

I'll be honest, when I met Alessandro from La Campore at the Terra Madre festival in Turin last year, I didn't think for a moment that I'd see him again. However, as it turns out, their vineyard is right next to my friend's mum's village. It's a small world!

And so, on our recent trip to Italy to the Gelato Artigianale Festival in Agugliano, it would have been rude not to make a flying visit to see the vineyard that had been described in so much detail for ourselves.

La Campore is just an incredibly idyllic spot. Like the rest of the northern region of Piedmont, it exists in the embrace of the Alps to the north, which give a reassuring feeling of permanence and presence to the area. The vines are grown under a number of different trellis systems, according to the various needs of each varietal - including espalier, pergola and half-pergola. These systems also are a nod to the wine making traditions of the area.

The natural rolling hillside of the area creates a perfect microclimate for the grapes to grow. As you can see from the photos, an organic approach is preferred and although not all of the wines are certified, you can see the impact that it has on creating a long-term sustainable vineyard which is absolutely bursting with diversity and life. I think I saw more species of wildflower in one short tour than I do over a few months here in the UK and there were plenty of signal species of flora and fauna that demonstrated the overall health of the land.

I think this is a carpenter bee? It was very blue.

Teeny wild strawberries can be very fussy so they are a great indicator of health in the environment

After all that gorgeousness, you'd expect some pretty special wines and you would not be disappointed! We popped into the little cellar to have a look at the red wines taking on some age in the barrels and have an enticing sniff of the vintage yet to come and then it was out on the terrace for a tasting.

Bacchus wanted to know what we were all up to in the dark cellar.

We were looking at wine!

We started with the Erbaluce di Caluso 2016. Erbaluce is a very common grape in this DOP and this was a lovely refreshing wine with a distinctly rounded finish. There were hints of elderflower and even pineapple layered behind the initial crispness. A perfect balance in the heat!

Erbaluce di Caluso Spumante Brut 2012 came next, a formidable sparkling wine with delicate, small bubbles and a crisp flavour, which exhibited a slight sourness and even a tendancy towards biscuit and vanilla notes. In fact, all the characteristics that are highly prized in French sparkling wines, although this was not made with their traditional blend of grapes but just Erbaluce. It definitely puts itself forward as a contender in the sparkling world - not all Italian sparkling is prosecco (happily).


Finally, we tried theCanavese Rosso 2016. This had a fascinating aroma to it, which reminded me absolutely of rose foliage - almost walking through an English country garden. It also had a good body which belied the youth of the wine, with good black fruit notes. It is certainly the benefits of the summer sun and protective microclimate which allows this red to be so full of texture and complex flavours.

Along with this blended wine, they also make the prized Nebbiolo of the region which I did not try on this occasion but have enjoyed in the past.

All in all, this little vineyard is producing some absolutely delicious, incredibly well priced wines. Organic certification is present on some of the younger wines, so there are plenty of people out there who would enjoy getting the opportunity to try something so cost effective on the pocket but with so much flavour.

Sadly, it's a small vineyard and so your chances of finding the wines over here in the UK are minimal. So you'll just have to plan your trip to Piedmont and seek them out for yourselves. There are promises of a stage being built overlooking the vineyard and the incredible view for tastings in the future and I would sign up for that any day of the week. A beautiful place to visit and a rare treat indeed.

Monday, 26 June 2017

The Cank Street Cocktail Compass

33cankstreet, one of Leicester’s premier cocktail bars is celebrating its third birthday with the release of an exciting new cocktail menu.

Taking inspiration from the flavours, colours and rich cultural heritage of the city, the Canksters have carefully crafted a suite of new drinks that are innovative, beautiful and will delight the senses.

The Cank Street Cocktail Compass menu, which launches this week, includes the Earl Grey of DeMontfort, a mixture of Cank gin blend, lavender and white chocolate liqueur with citric & Earl Grey sake and a white chocolate foam. It is garnished with edible clock hands, made by the bar’s neighbours, Cocoa Amore.

Inspired by lazy summer afternoons at Abbey Park, the Park Life cocktail is a clarified milk punch, made with Glenfiddich 15yr infused with lemon and vanilla, silver birch and a cheeky raspberry sorbet on the side. The whole thing is naturally served atop a grassy flip flop.

The creativity doesn’t stop there. The Golden Mile has given rise to Golden Memories, made with a Cank cognac blend, pistachio orgeat, saffron, cardamom and condensed milk – this time topped with 24ct gold leaf.

Along with the high quality ingredients and clever names – Frog Island Iced Tea anyone? - 33cankstreet is taking great leaps towards increasing the sustainability of its offer. They are squeezing every last bit of flavour from ingredients that other bars might throw away, like making their own syrups from citrus rinds.

We will be the first bar in Leicester to stop using disposable straws,” says bar owner Kal Ruparell. “175 billion plastic straws a year are making their way into landfill and our oceans. As well as using a lot of non-renewable resources in their manufacture, they are a danger to wildlife when discarded.” Ruparell is looking at a variety of possibilities to replace the straws, including experimenting with using uncooked pasta tubes as an alternative.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Gelato Artigianale Festival

Well here we are, in Agugliano Italy with our good friends from Gelato Village, Leicester. We are flying the Leicester flag high at a massive gathering not only of some of the finest gelatieri in the world, but also in an epic party in a tiny town in the hills of Central Italy.

The Gelato Artigianale Festival is an annual event now in its eighth year, organised by the people of the town and inspired by the gelateria of the renowned Paolo Brunelli which is situated on the main square. There is a makeshift gelato laboratory in the small cinema, where seats have been removed to allow for the gelato making machinery to be moved in.

Gelatieri in pristine whites take shifts in the lab to make gelato for the hundreds of attendees which wind their way around the towns (sorry, no idea where the apostrophe is on this Italian laptop) narrow streets. You can buy tickets to sample the unique flavours that the Maestro have created that morning as well as enjoying a variety of other entertainments from martial arts displays, to kiddie zumba and everything in between!

Gelato Village have brought Bee Happy gelato to the festival, a combination of Leicestershire honey from the Bee Farmer blended with the subtle flavours of Italian sage and candied lemon peel. It is floral, delicate and complex, ,with a rich creamy base. You can vote for their gelato as the best in festival at the Festival homepage.

Gelato Village were awarded third place for their Bee Happy Gelato.

There is the Aguliano Agrimontana Cup awarded to the best gelato of the festival as well as a special award from the liquor makers Varnelli, where the Maestro Gelatieri are challenged to blend their products with their choice of Varnelli spirit. Gelato Village have worked with their neighbours 33 Cank Street to produce something very special for this competition, but more on that anon.

Anyway, Iàm back off to enjoy the festival. Look out for more posts about our adventures in Italy coming soon! Ciao bella!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Cank Street Compass

A new cocktail menu is coming, and it's taken inspiration from the great city of Leicester. From the majesty of the Golden Mile to humble Frog Island, some of our best known landmarks and attractions have been researched, analysed and then distilled into a beautiful new range of custom drinks.

Leicester, cocktail, new menu, exclusive, 33cankstreet

Using the highest quality ingredients and Cankster craftsmanship, 33CankStreet are nearly ready to launch the #CankStCompass menu later this month. But first, they are giving the public a chance to be the first to try some of the mouthwatering delights on the menu for free!

new menu, leicester, 33CankStreet

These exciting preview events are being held on Thursday 8th June 7-8pm, Friday 9th June 6-7pm, Thursday 15th June 7-8pm and Friday 16th June 6-7pm. Places are strictly limited so call the bar on 0116 251 9994 to reserve your place. Not only will you get to try 2 of the new drinks at these sessions and learn all out how they have been developed, but special offers will be available on the drinks from the outgoing menu so you can say goodbye to some old favourites, like Candyfloss and The Big T.

cocktail, ting, leicester

Look out for the new menu launching in full on 22nd June, but 33CankStreet will also be celebrating their 3rd birthday, so head on down from 7.30pm to wish them many happy returns and to try this creative cocktail creation for yourself!

Friday, 2 June 2017

What do Rocky and Swiss Tony have in common?

They're all burgers at the new Meatcure in Hinckley. I am a big fan of Meatcure in Leicester, so much so it will be my preferred burger joint in a city absolutely saturated by so-called gourmet burgers. So I was pretty made up to be invited to try their new gaff in the Crescent in Hinckley. 

Hinckley, restaurant, meatcure, burger

The purpose built premises has floor to ceiling windows along one side, so it is light and airy, but it retains that slightly hipster, 'rough around the edges' urban look that they have achieved with all their venues. The road hasn't been plain sailing for the small chain recently - their five restaurants have turned into four with the closure of their Leamington Spa branch. What are you doing Leamington? Meatcure rocks.

Once you get past all the chipboard and girders, it is on to the main event, the burgers. They name everything after classic film and TV references - from the Dusk Til Dawn to the Swiss Tony. I have always wanted to try the Rocky Balboa, a special that became so popular it became a permanent menu feature, but it sounded like a bit of a challenge. Having skipped breakfast, and booked a late afternoon table I was ready to move on to the 'bigger' end of the menu. The group is all about quality, well sourced ingredients and this is clear from the burgers. 

chips, burger, steak, wine, beer, Hinckley

Although mine was not served medium as I expected, the meat was flavourful and exceptionally juicy. The Rocky comes in a soft brioche bun, with this well cooked patty is accessorised with lettuce and tomato, absolutely succulent beer soaked pulled chicken, double melted cheese, smokey bacon - delightfully crisp, and a dollop of smoked mayo.

burger, bacon, beer pulled chicken, double cheese, fries, Hinckley

This is a fantastic, flavour filled combination. All elements are in balance, and it is an absolute monster. I attempted to lift it by hand and managed one bite before nearly dropping it all down myself and reverting to knife and fork.

I was also really pleased at how well the flavour combo matched with their house red wine - a juicy and strong willed Cabernet Sauvignon that has the power to hold up to big meaty flavours.

One change Meatcure fans will notice is that fries are no longer included in the price of a burger, so you buy your sides separately. I'm not a big fan of this, because to me burger needs fries to be a meal. However, you would definitely be full without them. I chose the paprika fries which had a lovely kick that complemented the smoky mayonnaise particularly.

In the interests of balance, the Boy ordered the steak - something we haven't tried at Meatcure before. Although he ordered it rare and it was cooked medium, he still complemented the flavour and the relative tenderness of the meat. Again, you need to add your own sides with this, fries, sauce, slaw or salad.

steak, restaurant, fries

You can expect a burger or steak and side to come in between £9 and £13. I think this is pretty on par with their main competitors and for me the quality and care with which the burgers are cooked is currently pretty much unparalleled. We were not quite as impressed with the steak, but it was certainly enjoyable and still represents good value for the calibre of the dish. If you want the Meatcure experience without this kind of price tag, then head over for their lunchtime offer, which is £6 in Hinckley and I think £7.50 in Leicester (darn you Hinckley!) - there are a range of burgers to choose from which are smaller but just as delicious.

Chicken burgers, vegetarian burgers and fish burgers are also available, along with snackers like chicken wings and jalapeno poppers. If you fancy something a bit different, check out their weekend brunch 11-2pm on weekends, something that is firmly on my to do list.

We finished off by sharing an Oreo sundae, which was truly stacked, and perhaps next time we'll head over for cocktails - I'm a big fan of their 241 happy hour 5pm to 7pm where you can pick beers or cocktails - and you will see many many pictures on my Instagram account of their White Russians!

oreo, sundae, meatcure

So while our visit was not 100% perfect, it was erring on the side of very, very good. Meatcure's burgers remain my favourite and I will be back to both Hinckley and Leicester on my own dime. Thanks to them for inviting us along and their friendly team for providing such excellent, friendly and relaxed service.
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