Following a top weekend away at Sketchley Grange, Hinckley, we ventured back into Leicester in search of some Sunday lunch. For some time I had been hearing great things about a small restaurant on Hinckley Road, famed for its modern British approach to fine dining with a French twist. North Bar and Kitchen.
Now truth be told, we don’t venture into the west end of Leicester very often, but that’s really stupid of us. There are so many top places to eat around the Hinckley Road and Braunstone Gate areas with a lively bar scene in the evenings. North Bar and Kitchen sits just a stone’s throw from Braunstone Gate just opposite another popular restaurant, Curry and Spice.
We were quite surprised when making the approach to North Bar and Kitchen, it’s actually two buildings in one. The first building serves as the entrance complete with modern bar area and seating for a casual drink. A through way to the second building leads you to the rather swish dining room.
The friendly service greeted us and offered us a table by the window. As the weather was nice and hot it was a pleasure to be sat by the open window with a prime view out onto Hinckley Road. Menus were presented and drinks offered – we opted for a couple of mocktails, a trend that began at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, ideal if you’re driving.
Our Passion Fruit Fizz mocktails arrived looking bright and inviting, the flavour isn’t half bad either! No weak, watered-down beverages here. Lovely and sweet with a nice fizz coming from a choice of either lemonade or soda water, we went with one in each. You don’t really miss the alcohol.
The menu consists of tempting yet cryptic choices. ‘Beetroot Variations’ was jumping out at me from the off and my choice was sealed with the approval of the waitress, who also happened to be fan of the dish. Chicken Liver Parfait with Marmalade and Croutons completed the order.
While you’re waiting for the food, why not amuse yourself by watching the chefs making it. A unique and brave move from North Bar and Kitchen is to have the actual kitchen completely open to the view of the diners. We applaud this as it does make for a unique experience.
The product of the chefs hard work landed on our table, both dishes looked absolutely stunning. I see plates of food in the top places sporting Michelin stars that don’t make food this easy on the eye. The beetroot was a work of art. Small fried feta bon bons garnished each end of the half moon consisting of baby beetroot, goats cheese mousse and beetroot sorbet.
This was an absolute joy to eat, I am not a fan of beetroot in general but when paired with flavours and textures that compliment the earthy flavour of this vegetable, you’re onto a winner. Every time I thought that I had the dish figured out, another element revealed itself, beetroot puree and refreshing balls of cucumber and apple being amongst the highlights. A superb dish.
The parfait was unexpectedly dark in appearance but with all the silky flavours of a well-made pate. The roasted fruit on the top, possibly by way of a blowtorch, added a smokey, sweet hit to cut the richness of the terrine, another triumph and very tasty along with the generous croutons.
As the afternoon progressed, more guests began to arrive. The booking system here seems to be in good order as diners filtered in a few minutes apart keeping the service smooth. We had the opportunity to meet the owner of the restaurant who kindly explained the main courses and specials including a gin board of 42 different varieties – we must pencil in a date.
We had both opted for the beef sirloin to accompany our Sunday lunch main. The waitress seemed to suss my weakness for Dauphinoise potatoes so we added a side of that on. The starter may have been fine dining size but the main course made it look like a canape by comparison.
Even though it’s meat and two (or four) veg, the chefs hadn’t neglected their presentation skills. The huge yorkshire pudding sat alongside a perfectly pink slice of beef sirloin. A really amazing addition to the plate was the slow cooked beef sitting alongside the roasted meat, giving you a contrast in texture.
Other inhabitants included creamed potato, roast potato, roasted onions, a roasted parsnip and a cheeky dash of mushroom puree. Slather that lot in gravy, plus the extra they give you on the side, and get stuck in.
We don’t really do Sunday lunch out much, but that might have just changed. This was exceptional. The meat, as in appearance, was juicy and of high quality. The slow cooked beef was epic, possibly my favourite part of the whole plate. Every other element was superbly cooked and even the veg were spot on, the greens especially tossed in lashings of butter, really really good.
Many would quit after that indulgent onslaught but we decided to brave the dessert menu and order another round of Passion Fruit Fizz. I decided to once again hover over to the chefs cryptic side and go for a dessert listed as ‘White Chocolate, Rhubarb, Ginger’ with Meringue and Mango with Berries and Chantilly Cream for Ali.
The white chocolate and rhubarb concoction seemed to mirror the same style as my starter of beetroot. A smart line up of poached rhubarb, white chocolate and vanilla cream, rhubarb puree and home-made honeycomb along with a ball of ginger ice cream looked the business.
Equally so, the meringue. Smart dots of mango coulis and a sweet berry fluid gel sat either side of an island of meringue. The final garnishes included large biscuit pieces, mango sorbet and more of the in-house honeycomb. Yum.
I’ve been racking my brains to come up with a way of serving rhubarb together with ginger. Thanks to North Bar and Kitchen, I no longer have that problem. This dessert was superb and the balance of flavour damn near perfect. The honeycomb contained a slight bitterness but when you’ve got sweet white chocolate and sharp rhubarb, that’s no bad thing.
The meringue was yet another winner. Beautiful in appearance and equally so in flavour. The berry fluid gel was another standout element along with the well-made sorbet and crunchy sugary shell of the meringue. This is food as good as any, if not better, that we’ve ever had in Leicester.
Just before paying the bill and racing back to the car before my parking expired, we got to check out some menus. North Bar and Kitchen have a rather tempting tasting menu on offer Wednesday to Friday in the evening at a cost of £45 ($59.74 US) which is outstanding value for this level of cooking.
In addition to the tasting menu the kitchen team have taken the unusual step of putting together an entirely vegan menu. The tempting five-course feast comes in at just £32.50 ($43.18 US) again, great value. Incredibly brave also for any restaurant to offer this kind of menu but a really clever move with veganism becoming popular as both a lifestyle choice as well as for ethical reasons.
So, did we enjoy it? You bet we did. This place is superb and I can’t heap enough praise onto the whole experience. Friendly staff, excellent food and a lovely setting to enjoy it all in. Prices are very decent, with our Sunday three-course lunch rolling in at £26 ($34.54 US) per head. Total bill came to £77.50 ($102.97 US). Outstanding value. We can’t wait to return for more.
Opening times: Wednesday – Thursday 1200-1400, 1700-2100*
Friday – Saturday 1200-1430, 1730-2100*
*excludes afternoon tea, restaurant only
Nearest Train Station: Leicester