Eating together is the most natural way in the world to enjoy good company, especially in surroundings that are warm, cosy and convivial, especially when it’s cold, dark and miserable outside. This section of the magazine features a range of great places to share a meal or a few drinks this winter, both before and after Christmas.
Leicester’s Bistrot Pierre capitalises on one of the best cuisines in the world by offering an authentic French eating experience for all ages, while 7H Spices in Hinckley provides wonderful Indian meals, including lunches, healthy choices and chef demonstrations at the table.
My visit to this charmingly rustic setting in the countryside near Lutterworth was a truly exceptional eating experience, a gourmet treat for the eyes and nose as much as for the taste buds and the appetite.
Chef Patron Rory McClean honed his skills at a variety of one and two star Michelin Star restaurants in London before taking over the White Swan in 2012. He learned while working alongside some of the best in the British hospitality industry including celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay’s protégé Angela Hartnett at the Connaught and Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley.
At the White Swan he now presides over a team of his own immensely talented chefs. Together they treat their guests to fine dining which results in a distinctive menu of innovative, cross-European dishes which blend amazing ingredients to stunning effect. This welcoming village pub is now itself commended in the Michelin Guide as offering dishes which are modern and sophisticated. TripAdvisor rates it ‘excellent’, with many guest reviewers choosing it for family celebrations and giving compliments like: “Food incredible, service excellent, setting beautiful.”
My own experience was immediately favourable when I saw the restaurant, which has been refurbished with great attention to detail. It looks very chic, smart and rustic, a wonderful place in which to relax and enjoy a special meal, especially with sophisticated wine choices to complement the menu.
My starter of raclette cheese soufflé served with flavoursome cep mushrooms, field fresh leeks and the tastiest of pancetta Italian bacon was truly delectable, a light, lovely taste sensation which looked simply exquisite on the plate.
For the main course my companion chose sea bass with spiced tomato fondue, saffron tagliatelle and plump Exmouth mussels. With the showpiece fish at its heart he pronounced the dish both ‘remarkable’ and ‘cooked to perfection’.
My main was lamb saddle with a Niçoise terrine of black olives, anchovies, tomato and garlic, fennel salad and oh, so moreish Golden Cross goat’s cheese. Honestly, I have never eaten anything nicer. It was as though those ingredients were brought together by magic.
By the perfection of the food and the whole ambience of the encounter the White Swan takes a comfortable first place as our Fine Dining Experience of the Month and the best of 2018 so far. It is a gem of a find, one of the best in the Midlands.
People who love eating out in relaxing surroundings can now enjoy a family of Leicester venues offering the same excellent standards and cosy, comfortable surroundings, The Dovecote, The Copt Oak and the Lime Tree.
This trio of family owned pub restaurants share the characteristics of being spacious, tastefully decorated buildings full or character and with versatile layouts perfect for anyone from couples to large groups and private celebrations, making them ideal for all those upcoming Christmas parties and company socials.
Welcoming to everybody, including children, they each have large gardens, a fantastic array of drinks and beverages and extensive menus. They cater for snacks, coffees, light bites and dinners spanning both pub classics and unusual fare from around the world, all freshly cooked on the premises by skilled chefs and served by friendly, efficient staff. Their Sunday carveries are hugely popular and so are their good value lunchtime meal deals.
The pubs are within a five minute drive of each other and within easy reach of the shopping, sport and attractions of Leicester city centre, easy to find and able to cater for individual preferences and special dietary needs. The idea is that whatever you feel like eating you will find it on offer in truly delicious form at The Dovecote, the Copt Oak and the Lime Tree, whether your preference is for stoking up on high energy filling fare, delightful desserts or tasty healthy options.
“We emphasise homemade food, well cooked from fresh ingredients and made to order,” says owner Michael Thomas. “Our family of pubs all provide a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, whether they want to just relax over a few drinks or enjoy an excellent five course meal. We have a special Christmas menu available now and can cater for groups of up to 50 people.”
Perfect pies are just one of the attractions to look forward to at the Lime Kilns, a cosy, canalside country pub in Hinckley, Leicestershire which now wins the Living in the Shires magazine Award of Excellence for Freshly Prepared Food, our Pie Tasting Experience of the Year.
Locals and visitors including boaters from far afield love the well kept real ales and craft ciders that have made the Lime Kilns a regular entry in the CAMRA Good Pub Guide. This free house run by landlord Gary Buswell and his wife, Jill, has maintained a great name among the drinking public for many years.
But more and more people are discovering it for the excellent pub grub on offer every lunchtime and evening except Sunday evening, including the array of traditional and unusual pies hand baked by Jill. They include popular varieties like beef and ale and chicken and mushroom, novelty offerings like fish and chip pie and seasonal variations like lamb and blackberry.
Unlike other, inferior pies, Lime Kilns pies always have pastry all round, top and bottom.
The Lime Kilns has a rich history dating back to the 1700s when the Ashby Canal was being created to cross under the A5 Watling Street which runs alongside, close to the Hinckley/Nuneaton border. At that time it was called The Plough and included stabling for horses. The main bar and food area of the pub is on the first floor but that ground floor area, formerly known as the Boaters’ Bar, has been reinvented as The Stable Room, a dog friendly area with disabled access where people can sit when they have muddy boots or it is too wet to sit in the garden.