12 Pairs of Christmas at 33 Cank Street

I was at a meeting the other day, where some quite significant local figures were discussing the limitations that Leicester currently had on it. Among other infrastructure issues, they bewailed the lack of a Michelin starred restaurant in the city. This made me laugh, as I think any of you that have read this blog before will know, I adore the city’s food scene and believe that we have culinary talent that is well up there with any of the best in this country. And, quite frankly, (sorry chefs) I am pleased that I can get Michelin quality food without having the commensurate price tag!

I was invited to another example of these secret wonder-menus at 33 Cank Street last week. This bar has been a firm favourite for me since it opened, because of their innovative cocktails, fabulous jazz and blues evenings, and of course, that cheeky Pinotage they have as the house red. It was also one of my absolute favourites in 2015’s Tapas Trail with their beautiful Spanish menu.

This Christmas they offered 3 evenings of beautifully crafted menus in conjunction with the incredibly talented chef, Benjamin Martin. Named the 12 Pairs of Christmas, each exquisite course was matched not only to the song, but also to a carefully selected drink or bespoke cocktail. How did you miss it? I don’t know – I totally warned it was coming up in my pick of festive foodie events. It was clever, it was thoughtful and it was absolutely stunningly executed. You can tell I liked it because I think I’m already starting to bubble over and I haven’t even started talking about the food yet.

Who needs the Michelin guide?

Nine Ladies Dancing
Dancing prawns infused with a Marie Rose sauce matched with a White Lady

Immediately I was absolutely floored by the quality of this dish. The sweet, juicy prawn was matched with the passionfruit coulis and delicate Marie Rose sauce, which was complemented by the crisp vegetable and fragrant dill, all tied together with the lovely texture of the rye bread croutons. Perfectly presented.

And of course, with this we had our White Lady. The basis of this (besides gin of course) was the homemade Clement-cello (the Canksters’ take on the classic Italian Limoncello) which complemented those delicate sweet flavours in the dish. The egg white foam gave a lightness of touch which meant that this drink truly danced over the palate – and I cannot emphasise enough just how effective the super-subtle garnish of a kaffir lime leaf was on the top, adding beautiful fragrance each time you lifted the drink to your lips.

Yeah, I liked this one a lot. I would pretty much drink that Clement-cello as my desert-island drink.

Ten Socialites are Slurping
Hog roast slider matched with a Christmas spiced and fortified cider

Then the slider. Oh the slider. I can tell you exciting foodie things, like how the roast ham was gently cooked in cider and roast ham – making it the perfect match for the warming glass of Christmas cheer that was the mulled cider. I can tell you how the accompanying mustard mayonnaise was somehow robust and delicate all at the same time – creamy and warming and amazingly delicious. The light texture of the handmade roll, with its crispy top.

But the fundamental fact remains, this was essentially the best bacon sandwich I have ever had. I know, that’s not strictly true because it wasn’t bacon, but it was thick cut, flavourful ham with a delicious sweet coating, served warm and mouthwatering.

Eleven Pipers Piping
Christmas dinner terrine with fermented potato bread and pickles, paired with Piper Heidsieck champagne

On to our main and I was absolutely fascinated with how this course was put together. I think the best way that I can describe it is that the key elements of a Christmas dinner were deconstructed, and then put back together as a cold Boxing Day lunch. But with subtlety and incredible balance. This knocked yer turkey sandwiches into a cocked hat. I don’t care if you’re having a gourmet ham delivered especially for Boxing Day, this was better.

For me, the soft terrine of turkey and a beautifully aromatic stuffing was just beautiful and having the dense potato bread with its olive oil and salt seasoning really brought out the best in it. This combination of flavours matched the dry refinement of the Piper Heidsieck champagne and of course the bubbles gave the real sense of celebration. What could be more appropriate for Christmas than fizz from one of the oldest Champagne houses in the region?

Obviously I can’t let this one pass by without commenting on the brussels sprouts. Oh the sprouts. Never in all my days have I been served individual leaves of a sprout. I’m sure with a more sensible person, perhaps one who hadn’t enjoyed three drinks at this point, would find this the highlight of haute cuisine. I found it hilarious. Gut wrenchingly hilarious. There you go, I’m not a sensible person. Doesn’t make it wrong though. Or does it?

Twelve Drummers Dramming
Nutmeg and orange blossom creme brulee served with a Christmas pudding infused Rusty Nail cocktail made with Monkey Shoulder whisky

By far the most creative and best determined expression of the 12 Days of Christmas theme for me. Drummers Dramming! Ha!

As you would expect, a perfectly executed creme brulee in every way, from the satisfying crack when you broke through the crisp sugar shell, to the smooth and decadent cream filling with its delicate Christmassy flavouring that was made all the more permeating in combination with the delicious Rusty Nail. The Christmas pudding infusion was clearly in evidence, and using the excellent quality Monkey Shoulder whisky made it all the more delicious.

The accompanying shortbread ‘drumstick’ was crumbly and light. The cocktail had a GIANT icecube in it which kept it at the perfect temperature throughout. The orange peel and rosemary garnish on the side of the glass kept that delightful festive aroma present throughout the course. And the creme brulee was served in a little drum ramekin. Just perfectly. If I was wearing a hat, I would have to take it off to chef Benjamin Martin and Cank Street’s talented mixologist, Kal Ruparell.

So, there were three of these nights, and if you didn’t go then you missed out. Sorry. However, I’m sure this is not the last pop-up collaboration we’ll see between Mssrs Martin and Ruparell. So remember to keep checking in with me and I’ll let you know when it’s happening. In the meantime, if you haven’t set your plans for New Year then I think 33 Cank Street’s Rhythm & Booze extravaganza would be a good shout. It’s a black tie jazz and blues special, with what will undoubtedly be fine canapes and out of this world cocktails. And of course bubbles at midnight. A more refined new year celebration. You can pretend you’re in a New York speakeasy. Fabulous.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

2 thoughts on “12 Pairs of Christmas at 33 Cank Street

  • Apologies if credit has not been given where it is due Oscar – I can only work with the information I have to hand. But I agree – compliments and salutations are due to absolutely everyone involved!

  • Great post as usual!

    However, I cannot help but feel that some recognition has gone amiss to some of the other fantastic minds behind the bar at 33 Cank Street. As a fellow Mixologist that has worked, and drunk with the lovely Mr Jack Chalk, I feel this has not quite done him the justice he deserves.
    So from me…Congratulations to Jack on an incredible sounding drinks menu, and also a big applause for the entire 33 Cank Street team on their execution of service, it seems that it all pulled together in the end!
    The Christmas pudding infusion sounds particularly delightful, and I cannot wait to try it next time I am in Leicester. All the best old pal.

    Peace, Love, and Chartreuse.


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