Category Archives: North

Fischers Restaurant – Baslow, Derbyshire

Its my birthday, but friends know that I am easy to buy presents for. Just take me out somewhere nice to eat. It doesn’t have to be expensive as long as the food is memorable.

I’ve been to Fischers several times. It is the ‘go to’ restaurant for a celebratory meal for the smart set of Sheffield. The service is very reverential, hushed and gracious. Rich calls it ‘Uriah Heepish’ but I think he’s being a bit mean.

It was an unusually (for this year) warm day so we had an aperitif in the wonderful, manicured gardens that surround the house. Spiced nuts and drinks were brought to us along with a choice of the three menus that were available. There is not an a la carte offering at lunch time. The promotional 2012 menu that they were offering was a pretty good deal with 2 courses for £20.12 but as it was a birthday we went for the Best of British menu which offered 7 courses with paired wines for £90 (without wine £50).

After the drinks we were taken into the main restaurant which is spacious and airy with the feel of a country manor drawing room. The atmosphere definitely is hushed though and wouldn’t appeal to everybody.

OK, down to the food. This is definitely refined cooking and the type of edgy and beautifully presented food you would expect from a Michelin starred establishment. Experimental combinations of food are attempted and in the most part are successful. Presentation is not done just for effect but compliment and show the food of in its best light, there are no traditional meals with a ‘twist’ thankfully. The menu is intelligently thought out and put together.

We started with a Mozzarella Panna Cotta with Tomato Consommé, a spoon size portion of wobbly. creamy  Pannacotta in an intensely flavoured but visually contradicting clear tomato essence. Only the paired wine let it down slightly. A rather acidic Chardonnay fought and won the battle with the Consommé. Following this was Tempura of Quail Breast with miring aspic, toasted seeds and grains and pine nut puree. This was excellent. The tubes of tempura quail breast were expertly constructed and the miring aspic added a focused umami punch. The seeds added crunch and texture. Only the pine nut puree was slightly lost, though its mild flavour addition was quite welcome. This was served with a lovely fruity Viognier which complemented the delicate flavours well.

Next up, Wye Valley Asparagus with goats curd and blood orange. Absolutely heavenly. A welcome final chance to eat English asparagus, both green and white and a lovely, rich goats curd and fizzy blood orange. The accompanying Pinot Gris was light and crisp though perhaps a little too dry. Almost immediately after finishing this we received our Crab and Bloody Mary Cannelloni with Lime and Lemongrass snow. Bloody mary jelly strips encased a generously meaty crab filling topped with a shaved ice sorbet of lime and lemongrass. Intelligently thought out and clever cooking. Quite unforgettable. This came with a complex 2010 Sancerre which we wanted to linger over so slowed service down at this point.

Shoulder of Derbyshire Lamb Slow Cooked Over Coals with Goats cheese potato puree and Gold Rush apples. Served with a 2010 Pinot Noir. Generous portion of lamb, of course, perfectly cooked sat on the goats cheese potato puree, richly sauced and accompanied by garden vegetables picked literally minutes ago from the kitchen garden. Wildly successful. Rich and fruity Pinot Noir was a great foil for the lamb.

Our pre dessert was Cardamom, Coconut and Carrot. This was rather strange but quite delicious. Obviously Indian inspired, Coconut ‘snow’ was served with a cardamom sorbet and carrot puree with a ‘sail’ of carrot toffee. A 2009 Gewürztraminer gently edged us in a sweet direction.

Finally, Chocolate Tree Trunk was a pretty  ‘bark’ or chocolate planted in chocolate ‘soil’ with vibrant accompanying orange and chocolate mouse and lime and dark chocolate sorbet. Washed down with a Maury red dessert wine from the Roussillon region of France it made an excellent finale to a flawless lunch.

A final stroll around the manicured gardens we headed home well fed, well watered and inspired.

Superb.

Score 10/10

Fischers at Baslow Hall

Calver Road  Baslow, Derbyshire DE45 1RR
01246 583259

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Harts – Nottingham

Perfect slice of cow

Perfect slice of cow

A bright Sunday morning in Nottingham and after half an hour trying to find a parking space near Nottingham Castle we strolled back 1/2 a mile to make it to new restaurant and hotel Harts. Harts has had incredible write ups in the London press including a glowing report from hard to please Times critic A A Gill. Harts is owned by Tim Hart who also owns Hambleton Hall in Rutland. His famous sons Sam and Eddie also run Quo Vadis in London as well as the super tapas emporium, Fino.

We came for Sunday dinner and were quickly lead to a nice table replete with crisp white linen which overlooked the rest of the room. Service is charming and discreet leaving you to enjoy the food and conversation. Rich had a tomato soup to start which was perfectly executed and came with good bread. I had smoked salmon which came with a quenelle of horseradish cream and beetroot puree, it was delicious. We selected a rascally Malbec to accompany our roast sirloin of beed with horseradish hollandaise. It was astounding. The meat was perfectly cooked nestling in a crispy yorkshire pudding. For dessert we had a thoughtfully selected cheeseboard and finished the rest of the wine. A faultless Sunday lunch and we will definitely be back to sample the a la carte menu in the evening.

Score: 9/10

Hart’s Nottingham, Standard Hill, Park Row, Nottingham, NG1 6GN.
info@hartsnottingham.co.uk 0115 988 1900

Entropy – At last, fine dining in Leicester!

Seafood Soup and Pig Cheeks

Seafood Soup and Pig Cheeks

I shouldn’t say ‘at last really as Entropy has been around for at least 10 years on Hinckley Road in a rather salubrious area of the city which happens to be on my doorstep! I’ve never eaten there but did try their venture on Dover Street near the Little Theatre in the city centre which sadly failed and was closed down. From what I remember, the food was pretty good but the room was absolutely empty and made the eating experience sombre and rather disappointing.

Fancying a neighbourhood nibble the other week me and Rich met up at Entropy which was surprisingly busy for a midweek seven o’clock sitting. The staff are wonderful and explained that one of the chefs was not in that evening so service may be a little less speedy. In the end it was fine and allowed for chatting. Great bread that was baked onsite was brought to us and we ordered. I had pigs cheeks as a starter and Rich had seafood soup. We both had steak and oyster pie for main course. My cheeks were absolutely delicious and unctuous and came with a sauce gribiche and small salad. Rich’s soup was beautiful, rich seafood broth with a small pile of seafood in the centre. Interestingly, the soup was half served and the rest came in a small jug so you can dilute as you wish.

The pie was absolutely heavenly and certainly the best pie I have eaten in recent memory. Packed with beef and oysters with a rich buttery flaky topping. Small servings of carrots, french beans and mashed potato were served alongside but they were dead on as the pie was so filling. It was all just fabulous.

There was no debate on dessert as there was absolutely no room for it. Urbanspoon rocks.

Masterful Steak and Oyster Pie

Masterful Steak and Oyster Pie

I really can’t wait to find an excuse to go back as the food is just amazing and I’m excited about what the chef has up his sleeve.

Score 9/10 Would I go back? Hell Yes!

Entropy

42 Hinckley Road
Leicester LE3 0RB

1573 – Leicester

IMG_1014

1573 Bar and Grill

I’ve been looking forward to 1573 opening for some time. It is owned by the same people who own the Colourworks canalside restaurant whose food is above average for the city. The rumour was that 1573 was going to be a Fish Restaurant and I was quite excited by this but sadly they seemed to have chickened out and opened as a grill or more to the point a steak restaurant. I was overdue taking my friend Carl out for his 43rd birthday so we decided to give it ago. The restaurant is locared in the Old Free Grammar School is a Grade II listed building built originally in 1573 thus the name. Its been nicely done out, rough stone walls are well lit giving a cosy atmosphere. We were seated downstairs and given the menu.The waitress mumbled ‘Creamy Vegetable’ to me and I presumed that this must be soup of the day.

Starters choice was a bit odd. Nothing really tempting: dough balls, soup etc. We both went for salmon teriyaki which came with a salad. Bit odd as a starter, more like a childs portion main course but we went for it anyway.

Worryingly, the couple seated next to us were grumbling about their food, it seemed to be incorrect and then the steak came out and it was overcooked so had to go back. Service was slow, we waited for about 15 minutes for starters and the place was close to empty.

The salmon was ok. It was as described, though nothing special. Was cooked well and the teriyaki sauce was not overpowering which was good.

The steaks took ages. About 30 minutes after the starter was finished the steaks came out. They were served with chips and a salad. We both had the ribeye, it looked a bit overcooked to me after prodding. Chips tasted ok. I dipped a couple into the ordered bearnaise sauce but it tasted more like peppercorn sauce. I called the waitress over and she declared that they ‘weren’t our meals’ and took them away. Depressingly after a short pause at the pass she took the plates to the correct owners even though we had added seasoning, prodded the steaks and ate some of the chips/salad.

This is not on, we probably should have complained but were starving by then.

IMG_1015

2 Ribeye Steaks

Eventually our steaks came out and appeared to be as cooked. Mine seemed medium rare and she seemed pleased that I gave her the thumbs up, however the thicker parts of the steak were quite undercooked and were easily described as rare, however I prefer under than over so I ate it all. Steak was clearly from a good source as it was tender and had the nice nugget of fat that you get in the centre of all rib eye steaks. Chips were OK, they appeared to be pre-seasoned with black pepper which might not appeal to everyone. Bearnaise was very good. Salad was alright,  nice little halved cherry tomatoes. It would have been nice to order sides of portobello mushroom though and they might be missing a trick in not encouraging side orders.

We skipped dessert and coffee and got the bill. I slyly slipped a buy one get one free voucher in so it was extremely good value.

I think I would leave it 6 months before I go back so that they have time to get things together. Certainly taking already started plates of food to another customer is not on and I hope that this was an ‘off’ night for them.

Score 6/10

1573 Bar & Grill
Unit R12
The Old Grammar School
Freeschool Lane
Leicester
LE1 4PB
0116 2516879

Firenze – Leicester

I can’t hide my bias. I have a passion for Firenze. It was my first revelation as to how good italian food can taste and it has spoiled me. Every trip I take to Italy it ruins perfectly good meals by whispering in my ear. ‘It was good, but Firenze would have done it better!’ In some ways, maddeningly, I want them to occasionally fail so I am hyper critical when I go. I took Rich  there for his birthday on a slow Tuesday night. Perhaps tonight will be the night.

I’m not sure its fair to say that Firenze is in Leicester. It is close to Market Harborough, an up and coming commuter town about 12 miles south of Leicester City. Any trip to Firenze takes planning and normally expensive taxi rides if you want to enjoy their superb wines.

It is run by Sarah and Lino Poli.

Sarah manages to be effervescent, empassioned and professional without any pomp or condescension. She works the room as if all the diners are her friends and I think most end up being her friends. The staff are jolly and rightly look proud of the food they serve. The room is quaint and low ceilinged but decorated in a contemporary way so manages to feel cosy without feeling wedged in.

There are lots of ways of dining in Firenze, on weekdays there is normally a Menu Mercato, fixed price menu which offers lots of choice at a great price:

£17.50 per person for two courses
£22.50 per person for three courses
£27.50 per person for four courses

There is also a tasting menu but as it was a birthday treat we decided to go big bang and go for the four courses. Its normally a challenge for me to eat both antipasti and pasta before the main but at Firenze it is worryingly a breeze.

We started with a couple of deliciously biscuity glasses of prosecco and plotted our dining for the evening.

Foie gras terrine

Foie gras terrine

I started with the San Danielle ham with figs, Rich had a foie gras terrine. For pasta, I had the black truffle risotto and Rich had the crab risotto with avocado salsa.

For mains, Rich had the monkfish in saffron cream with mussels and samphire and I had the saddle of rabbit. For dessert, I had the chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream and Rich had the coconut jelly with their famous heavenly chocolate sorbet.

Black truffle risotto

Black truffle risotto

It was all wonderful, the foie gras terrine was an absolute work of art. And the truffle risotto had a generous amount of that pungent tuber tumbled over a soothing perfectly made risotto.

Please, if you are anywhere near Firenze, make an attempt to get a table. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
Score 10/10

Firenze
9 Station St
Kibworth, Leicester, LE8 0LN
0116 279 6260

Artistas Restaurant – Kirkcudbright

Its pronounced Kir-cood-bree as I learnt at the tourist information office. We took a detour on the way back from Edinburgh, a long detour as it happens and booked in at the Selkirk Arms hotel which boasted a fine dining restaurant called Artistas. Presumably it got this name as Kirkcudbright is known as the artists town.

We were served amiably by the owner of the hotel and though we were seated next to a huge family party the kids were well behaved and everything was fine.

We started with a glass of prosecco while we looked at the menu.

Scallop Starter

Scallop Starter

I wanted to eat as locally as possible so started with the local smoked salmon which was beautifully rich without being too oily. My friend had the local scallops which although sans roe were perfectly perky due to being judiciously cooked.

Rose Veal

Rose Veal

For mains, I had the Local Loin of Rose Veal topped with a rich tomato & olive compote and gremolata, drizzled with balsamic reduction and my friend had Pan Fried Medallions of Galloway Beef Fillet served on wilted spinach leaf with gratin dauphinoise and a wild mushroom jus.

Wonderful, just wonderful. The meat was perfectly cooked and the plate was put together extremely well with seasonal vegetables and flavourful reductions.

Chocolate Gingerbread pudding

Chocolate Gingerbread pudding

For desert we had the sticky banana pudding and the chocolate gingerbread pudding. They were both top notch, thank god we just had to roll upstairs to the room.

The owners are right to feel proud, this is excellent seasonal cooking in an unlikely location. Pity the breakfast the next day gave me indigestion for 2 days but hey-ho. Forgetting that it has to score highly.

Score 9/10

Petit Paris – Edinburgh

Went to Edinburgh for the Tattoo and had a wonderful stay. High on my agenda was to revisit the authentic bistro in the Grassmarket area called Petit Paris. It is an unpretentious cafe style French eatery with great service and wonderful food. It was sunny and warmish so we sat outside and ordered.

Chicken or beef?

Chicken or beef?

I had the ribeye steak again which seems to be my default position these days. My dining companion had the supreme of chicken. Both came with roast potatoes and seasonal veg. Both tasted great and were exactly what we were looking for, honest hearty food.

Frilly Cheese

Frilly Cheese

For dessert we shared the cheeseboard which featured a frilly cheese which presumably is made by dragging a knife across the block and all three tasted great. Quick turnaround then off to the Tattoo.

Quick march!

Score 8.5/10

Numero – Manchester

It had been a rainy day in Manchester and I was recovering from the blow of finding that my favourite restaurant in Manchester had closed. I wandered up and down Dean Street looking for the side road that led to Simply Heathcotes restaurant, a reliable Modern English establishment that has branches across the Northwest. It had completely disappeared. I mean, completely. The building I think that housed it had become and insurance company or something but it looked like they had completely remodelled the doorway.

Gloomy News.

We headed to the Manchester Hilton and queued for the lift to the cocktail bar halfway up. Half and hour later after suffering fancy dress pub crawlers trying to push in and failing and registered guests trying to push in and succeeding we ascended and ordered overpriced cocktails looking out at the grey clouds that swaddled the building.

You couldnt see a thing.

Out with the iPhone and attempts were made to book Harvey Nichols. No luck. We ended up using http://www.toptable.com to find anything half decent. It pointed us to Numero near to the where we had parked the car. I wish it had kept its nose out.

Numero is in the Manchester235 complex in the Great Eastern building off of Dean Street. On entering it reminded me of an airport hotel, spacious, well designed with plenty off staff.

Good start.

Then things went downhill. For an Italian restaurant it seemed to lack actual Italian food especially in the mains.

Venison Ravioli

Venison Ravioli

I started with venison ravioli in a cream sauce (looking at this written down god knows why as it sounds vile), it was not good.

The pasta was undercooked and had that awful uncooked flour taste that made it inedible. The sauce had solidified over the pasta and I suspect that it sat under the hot lamp for quite some time. Yes, I should have complained but the waitress had pretty poor english so to explain what was wrong could have taken a while so I just left it.

Lamb Steak

Lamb Steak

The main courses was much better but again, not italian. A lamb steak on a bed of mashed potato with gravy is nice enough comfort food but why serve it here.

Ribeye Steak

Ribeye Steak

My friend had a rib eye with chips, which was well prepared but not italian fayre. These items were typical of the a la carte menu so I’m not sure whether the chef was just uncomfortable with italian food.

I finished with the italian cheeseboard and it was pretty grim. Granted, it was huge but it was filled with cheese you didnt want to eat. A smoked baby bel type cheese, an unidentifiable blue cheese and a cheese that was like solidified skimmed milk which had been heavily salted. Quite vile. It went back mostly untroubled.

It was a bad end to a gloomy day. Sometimes a meal can lift an ordinary day into something quite memorable. In this case the memory left a bad taste in my mouth.

Numero 4/10

Fine Food and Wines Sheffield

Fine Food and Wines

Fine Food and Wines

Went to Fine Food and Wines for lunch on Saturday. I really like this place, its a real Oasis of middle class foodieness on Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. They are just in the process of converting the next door shop into a bistro and I’m really looking forward to being a regular there. I have been twice before, once for lunch where I had a masterful Salad Nicoise where the tuna was barely seared and and the eggs were beautifully soft boiled.

The next I visited with friends was for one of their tasting evenings. Our evening was themed on pairing wines with spicy foods. Its rather social, you all sit on a long table and have about 8 dishes with wine pairings, the food was good but became a little samey by the end and it was frustrating to have just small portions of some of the dishes. The wine tasting seemed a little perfunctory, I would liked to have learned more. However it was great fun and everyone got on really well and we had some great conversations.

Homemade Salmon Fishcakes

Homemade Salmon Fishcakes

On Saturday the lunch menu was great and I would have happily had anything on there but we had a glass each of the house white and the home made salmon fish cakes with a poached egg and a curry mayonnaise with a sauteed potato. It was really marvelous. Initially I was disappointed that the poached egg wasnt oozing but the curried mayonnaise was preventing the dish being at all dry so it worked out well.

Its very interesting to eves drop on conversations in FF&W as everyone is so obviously obsessive about food. Behind us was a big communal table where you can sit and share the conversation which is generally about fantastic restaurants that people have visited or food that they have prepared.

It is a little ‘cliquey’ but cliquey in a good way, cliquey in the way that you would like to be part of the clique! A table across from us was offered a ‘secret’ dish of belly pork which we would like to have been offered but in a way it added to the ‘mystique’ of the place. The owner is a ‘bon viveur’ and circulates and mingles with newbies and regulars alike and the staff join in the conversations also, even the chef. It has a real buzz about the place.

We will definately come back for lunch and we are looking forward to sampling the bistro when it opens, go and give it a try it is a really special place which Sheffield should treasure.

Score 8.5/10

Rafters Restaurant Sheffield

I don’t think the people of Sheffield would mind me saying that there seems to be a dearth of good restaurants in Sheffield. Reliable chains such as Strada, Loch Fyne and Cafe Rouge are present and correct but more interesting choices are few and far between. On Friday we took some friends out for a birthday celebration to Rafters Restaurant in Ranmoor. Rafters has been there since 1994, and was taken over by Chefs Marcus Lane and Michael Sabin in 2001. The food is Modern European with a subtle french influence. When I arrived the room was filling up quickly with other diners which is always encouraging to see. The menu we were offered was:

Starters

Fritter of soft shell crab with a crab claw & avocado salad, ponzu mayonnaise.
Ploughman’s: warm goats cheese, ham hock, onion marmalade, piccalilli with sage focaccia.
Steamed new season English asparagus with lemon hollandaise, baby brioche & parmesan shavings.
Poached sea trout with confit of Jersey Royals, pickled cauliflower egg & caper dressing.
Home smoked duck breast with a salad of baby kos leaves, smoked feta and a raspberry & walnut dressing.

Main Courses
Roast rump of Derbyshire lamb with a broad bean puree, English asparagus and an almond & parsley sauce.
Fillet of pork wrapped in pancetta with a baby flan of peas and artichokes and a sauce of puy lentils.
Grilled fillet of sea bass on a bed of vine tomatoes & basil with a clam vinegrette.
Chargrilled fillet of Angus beef with a pressed pate of salt beef & green peppercorns, roast shallot and truffle puree with a Shiraz wine reduction.
(£3.00 supplement)
Tart of summer vegetables glazed with mustard & herbs on whipped potatoes.

Desserts
Summer pudding with Pimms’ jelly & clotted cream sauce.
Strawberry parfait, strawberry sabayon, strawberry frappe.
Valrhona dark chocolate cone filled with milk chocolate mousse, served with orange sorbet.
Blueberry curd and mascarpone cheesecake with baby waffles and vanilla syrup.
Locally sourced cheeses:
Hunters House (cows milk Brie)Hawes Dairy (Blue Wensleydale) Lancashire creamy farmhouse
Served with an olive, celery, apple and walnut salad.
Coffee
(Filter, latte, cappuccino and espresso)
And petit fours
£3.50

£36.00
Three Courses

We were giving an interesting amuse bouche of smoked haddock with cream cheese in a parmesan basket with what looked like a tempura caper berry. It was very nice indeed. Bread was very interesting, warm rolls stuffed with interesting combinations. I had the rather gross sounding tomato and curry stuffed roll but it was absolutely delicious. I was only sorry that they didn’t come round again!

Smoked Trout

Smoked Trout

I had the poached sea trout to start, with the beef to follow. The sea trout sounded rather hearty as a dish and I was slightly worried about being too full for the main but I was a relieved when it arrived as an elegant tower of sea trout supported by a wonderful, slightly tart potato and cauliflower salad. Great start. My companions had the asparagus which looked verdant and fresh and the soft shelled crab which looked fresh and crisp and was portioned perfectly.

Fillet Steak

Fillet Steak

The mains of beef were pretty good. The meat felt a little tough for fillet. I thought that the provided steak knife for fillet steak would be overkill but it was actually required to easily cut the meat. It was cooked medium rare as I asked but somehow seemed less than tender. The accompaniment of a pate of salt beef was interesting but in my opinion overbalanced the dish on the meat side. The small (for 4) portion of side vegetables didnt help this matter. The sauce was well flavoured though a bit clarty (good Yorkshire word!) probably a bit of over eagerness with the cornflour. It wasn’t bad though and it was quite nice as a whole.

Dessert was excellent. Again, a well constructed tower of bread, summer berries, clotted cream and a Pimms jelly riding atop. I have to admit, I couldn’t taste the Pimms in the jelly but it was a great idea.

Service was excellent and unhurried, we asked for a digestive interval after the main course and without hovering they seemed to instinctively know when we were ready for dessert.

Rafters is deservedly a favourite amongst discerning diners in Sheffield and its good to see that it has not been swayed by the constant obsession with adding ‘twists’ to classic recipes and instead produces top quality, jolly interesting food.

Score 8/10