What did foodies learn in 2018?
What are the top tips for the best food & drink?
Welcome to 2019! Here we are in a brand new year, but we would be remiss to move forward without learning a lesson or two from our old friend, 2018! Here is my round up of my top Leicester foodie tips from the last year – and a couple from further afield. These are the best new venues, projects and collaborations that I experienced over the last 12 months and it’s not too late for you to go and share in the magic!
Well here we are again fighting the pressure to cut out booze, dairy and fun in January. Each year my favourite light relief is #Tryanuary. This project encourages you to try new beers and new pubs to help keep this struggling industry going.
We are blessed in this country with so many fantastic breweries, pubs and passionate industry professionals. We get beer of a consistent quality the like of which is not seen so readily elsewhere in the world. But it’s a use it or lose it situation.
We had a lot of fun having our Leicester tweet up last year – trying some fantastic local brews in incredible local pubs. Check #Tryanuary on Twitter or the main website to find events near you.
Duffy’s has long been one of my favourite pubs in the city. No doubt this may be oblique to some. But if you want to try it out, I recommend going when the Duffy’s Sessions are on. Fantastic music and all the craic you can eat. The Duffy’s Orchestra leads the way, but you’ll be pulled in to the singing and dancing as you go.
And the foodie drinkie element? Well, clearly this is the only place you should be drinking Guinness in Leicester. Definitely my pick as the most lively bar in town come St Patrick’s Day in March. And you might even be lucky enough to catch Landlady Jackie Duffy throwing a tune at the sessions.
We all know that Narborough Road is home to cuisines from all over the globe. It’s one of the finest strengths in the Leicester food crown. I went back to the newly refurbished Antalya Turkish Grill and loved it so much that I have returned many times since. Their lunch deal is an absolute bargain, but prices are reasonable all the time. Service is personable, and the restaurant is usually buzzing.
We welcomed the Mash & Press pop-up pub to Anstey last Spring. What a little gem it is. Situated above the Anstey Ale brewery, this bijou boozer features the most local of all the produce! Namely, the beers of Anstey Ale, the ciders of Charnwood Cider, and the wines of the Rothley Wine Estate.
It’s super cosy, it’s dog friendly and it’s run by the nicest people you can imagine. We’ve been treated to two more pop ups since then. Each time the pub has been refined. It becomes more comfortable, more welcoming and more fun each time. Who knows – perhaps one day it will be permanent? Meanwhile, watch their Facebook page for information of the next pop up.
I started my journey becoming trained and accredited in 2018. Determined to take my love of food from passion to profession, I worked through WSET Levels 1, 2 and 3 in 2018. I was also awarded membership of the Guild of Food Writers and the Guild of British Beer Writers, which are both incredible honours.
While my Wine and Spirit Education Trust exams have ended in Distinction at Level 1 & 2, I still eagerly await the outcome of the final Level 3 exam. Hopefully that will arrive within 6 weeks but it is a nervous wait in the interim!
Those wanting a wine experience where my new found knowledge is getting the chance to shine will love the vineyard tours and tastings at Rothley Wine! Incredibly, I have been volunteering for over 3 years at Rothley now. You can come and find out the story of the vineyard, as well as enjoy a guided tasting led by yours truly throughout the year. Just click here to book tickets!
Some familiar faces moved to a new venue this year. The Two Tailed Lion has been popular since opening. This is because of the winning combination – well kept beer, interesting events, and a delightful couple behind the bar. A bar run with expertise and confidence, Matt & Alice were always tipped for success in their chosen field, but I think we were all taken by surprise by the beauty of their pub and the coherence of the offer. An absolute must for beer afficianados and the beginnings of a nice Leicester pub crawl with the endearing Blue Boar just a few doors up the road.
One of my hottest tips, and most searched posts, of 2018, was The Olive on Belvoir Street. This simple take on Greek street food has become a hit with ladies who lunch and office workers alike. This means there can be a bit of a wait on tables and food, but it’s totally worth it. In my various visits, I have worked my way through most of the menu, and I think the spanikopita, halloumi fries and chicken gyros are my highlights.
2018 was the year of the endless summer. So, naturally I had to go to the hottest place to eat in the county. You see what I did there?
Well, you can debate where’s the hottest venue and why, but certainly John’s House is the only Michelin starred restaurant in our little county. If you ask me this is basically an oversight on the inspectors’ part. But I’ll fight the battle of how overlooked food in the Midlands is another day. In the meantime, kick back and enjoy my tale of the beautiful seven course tasting menu in one of our culinary gems.
I wasn’t around for the inaugural Leicester Beer Week, but I heard fantastic things! Of course, I got a little involved with the organisation and this little blog was one of the sponsors. So it definitely deserves a mention in my 2018 highlights in case that helps to get it happening again!
We are a fortunate city when it comes to beer as I have mentioned. Unbelievably, Leicester Beer Festival is just a couple of months away and this gives an excellent chance to put in some practice before the Beer Week rolls around again.
Of course, there is nothing like travel to broaden the mind and the belly. We tripped the light fantastic in Piedmont in September and I brought my musings about the special cuisine of this beautiful northern region of Italy back for you.
If you fancy getting your lips around a taste of this rich and vibrant food heritage for yourself, then I have two recommendations. Head over to Gelato Village to try their Bönet gelato. This is made from all the same ingredients as the typical Piemontese dessert – dark chocolate, hazelnut, rum and amaretti biscuits. It’s one of my favourites.
Also look up Bat & Bottle of Oakham, whose beautiful tasting of Piemontese wines deserves a special mention as it should rightfully have made this list!
I’m quite happy to admit that one of the biggest food surprises of the year was the quality at Queen Victoria Arts Club. Having attended the launch party of this restaurant and private members club, I returned a few months later to dine.
The quality of ingredients and cooking really was spot on, and exceeded my expectations. While I am watching with interest to see how the private members club is taken up, I will be pleased to see the success of the restaurant grow. In particular, the pre-theatre menu offers excellent value for money.
For those wishing to travel a world of flavour through cocktails, the D1 London Spirits Cocktail Exchange is the one for you. Definitely worth a lazy day out in London, 4 amazing bars are paired with colleagues around the globe to produce some stunning cocktails. This is international level bartending and absolutely worthy of your time and consideration.
So those are my top picks. As with any year, there was the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but I’ll let you read back to find out which new places I didn’t like so much!! Have you been to try anywhere that I have written about in the past?
What is your favourite Leicester food?