Orton’s Brasserie: A lockdown fairy tale

The story of Orton’s Brasserie is the story of the little restaurant that could. A lesson in perserverance. They took over their venue at 1 Orton Square and launched a brunch delivery service at the beginning of June. Then they planned new opening, after new opening, after new opening. Never quite getting there thanks to the seemingly endless strictures of Leicester’s lockdown. Yes, we are still locked down, although happily some easing has taken place. Now, thanks to restaurants being able to open with proper social distancing, we threw Bam Bam in the pram. She went on her first bus journey and we all finally got to see the beautiful refurbishment of this gorgeous new venue for ourselves.

Now we visited on a Thursday, which some of you may be aware is the day after Wednesday. Right now, in August 2020, Wednesdays are potential madness for eateries because of the Eat Out To Help Out Scheme, giving people up to £10 off their meals. We hadn’t planned for this, and Orton’s hadn’t quite been prepared for how popular it would be. Their a la carte menu was totally sold out. They needed to do a whole week’s worth of new prep to serve it – as were many of the wines and other elements.

Now, I’m not going to criticize somewhere for being a victim of their own success, especially after having their opening pushed back for over three months due to a global pandemic. And I can’t say being ‘forced’ to order from the British Tapas menu was a desperate hardship. Although I admit I was quite looking forward to trying Chef Andy’s Chicken and the tasty sounding dessert menu. Next time!

Time for Wine

The Sauvignon Blanc I had was still very delicious, even though there was no Cloud Factory available. It was a punchy acidic number with lots of citrus fruit, green apple and a hint of kiwi. It worked really well with the varied flavours of the tapas menu. Powerful enough to cope with the range of flavours and quite a few of the dishes were fried, so it cut through that fat well. They also have a Bon Courage Gewurztraminer on the list available by the bottle. I think this would be a good choice to pair with the tapas menu too. The fruit flavours and light, sweet spice will be great, and we all need to be supporting the South African wine industry right now.

Al Fresco Dining

We were fortunate to visit on a beautiful August day. We were able to avail ourselves of the softly dappled sunlight in the new garden. With a sheltered but good view of Orton Square and the Curve it is a nice people watching spot. The outdoor lighting and Orton’s art makes the space feel contemporary but comfortable. Arriving for lunch, we were not the only people dropping by for drinks and snacks. Although not overly full I was impressed at how many groups did stop in during our visit. Clearly word is spreading!

The new look is relaxed but very comfortable. It feels high end without being snobbish or intimidating. I would be pleased to stop by for after work drinks, dinner or lunch – it’s a very flexible venue now. I popped down to take a look at the basement too which also feels more inviting now.

Our orders got a little bit mixed up, but I think there were issues with the till. No doubt these were teething problems after such a busy day the day before. As our waitress was extremely pleasant and gracious we didn’t mind at all waiting a little extra time for an errant dish of arancini to come along!

Tapas Menu

On to the food and we tried a little bit of most things. The tempura courgette was a lot thicker than I expected, so there was sort of a un-cooked bit of batter around the vegetables. This wasn’t what I expected, but it was quite nice! I couldn’t figure out how the punchy aioli it was served with was different from the garlic mayonnaise that other plates were served with. I suspect they aren’t different. But punch aioli is a very good description of how it tasted. Lots of garlic and lemon. Delicious.

The chorizo sausage roll had very tasty flaky pastry and a lovely little warming kick from the chorizo. I would 100% recommend ordering it. However, I would also recommend 100% avoiding the rhubarb and beetroot ketchup it is served with. I have no idea what that flavour combination is supposed to bring to an already flavourful sausage roll but it did not float my boat. Takes me back to the days of the great Olive Branch grapefruit sorbet debacle. And earns its place on the list of ‘not great things I have eaten’ I’m afraid.

We were, unsurprisingly, on much firmer ground with the black pudding scotch egg. Beautifully crisp breadcrumb, flavourful meat and a runny yolk. You can’t ask for anything more. But then they put it on a bed of celeriac remoulade which was so tasty and creamy and paired incredibly well! A relatively avant garde pairing, but I loved it. 10 out of 10.

Vegan Dishes

We also enjoyed a couple of the vegan friendly tapas dishes. A pea and mint hummus with Lavash crisp breads was truly delicious and so fresh in the sunshine. It had some soft heritage carrot and asparagus crudites which were delicious, but very well cooked and covered in oil so not the best finger food (unless like The Boy and I you aren’t really that bothered about getting stuck in with your hands!!) Also there was a take on Patatas Bravas – Bravas Royal – with a cashew pesto and smoked pepper sauce. This latter dish was pleasant, but I thought a little on the bland side compared to the rest of the menu. However the standard was so high that this is barely a criticism at all.

And finally along came our Parmesan and Truffle Arancini. I didn’t really taste the truffle, but I still loved them, with the punchy garlic mayo. Perfectly fried little balls of starchy deliciousness. I have no idea why arancini are ‘British’ tapas, any more than homemade hummus or patatas, but who cares? What a way to end a perfect lunch in the sunshine with my perfect little social bubble.

We were invited to Orton’s for the purpose of review and our meal was complimentary, but my thoughts remain firmly my own.


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

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