Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

Category: Reviews

To Infinitii, and beyond British-Indian food

On 11 February, a new restaurant and gin bar opened its doors in the picturesque Staffordshire village of Abbots Bromley. Sauce were invited along to sample the modern Indian cuisine…

On 11 February, a new restaurant and gin bar opened its doors in the picturesque Staffordshire village of Abbots Bromley. Sauce were invited along to sample the modern Indian cuisine and fabulous paired gin cocktails at The Infinitii.

The former Royal Ruchi has been transformed by owner Mustafa Chowdhury and his team into a contemporary restaurant, with teal walls set off by burnished gold metalwork and comfortable furnishings.

With menus that embrace both veganism and the health conscious (the kitchen uses olive oil for cooking and steers clear of deep frying, so poppadoms are out), Infinitii is also committed to reducing its environmental impact by sourcing organic, local ingredients and producing net zero plastic waste.

General manager Jacobo Gonzalez Jaspe and award-winning chef Mamrej Khan are at the helm. In a career already spanning 25 years, Khan has worked in restaurants across the world including the 5 star Taj Hotel in Chennai, The Rose Garden in the Maldives and the Deluxe Palace Hotel in Bahrain. Since coming to the UK, he’s been head chef at the Lasan group in Birmingham and The Mint Room in the southwest, as well as being a mentor to celebrity chef Aktar Islam, of Michelin-starred Opheem.

On arrival we’re presented with some of the cocktails that have been created in partnership with nearby Nelson’s Gin – a Basil Smash made with their London dry, lemon and basil, and a peppercorn and chilli-infused cocktail with Nelson’s Timur gin.

For starters, we’re served the smoky lamb tikka – cinnamon smoked lamb fillet cooked to melt-in-the-mouth perfection in the tandoor, which is available as a starter or main course. The dish is covered with a glass cloche so you can experience those smokey aromas at the table as it’s revealed.

And there’s a modern take on classic Mumbai street food in the form of bhel puri. A mind-blowing combination of textures and tastes, bhel puri pairs tangy tamarind paste with crispy puffed rice and lightly spiced potatoes. This is a dish that would easily be overlooked on the menu, but we highly recommended giving it a try.

Next, chef has prepared South Indian inspired Malabar sea bass – a panfried fillet cooked in coconut milk, tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves and served with spiced sauté spinach. The creaminess of the coconut complements the sea bass, as does the fragrant saffron rice that’s paired with both main courses by the chef.

infinitii food

For the editor, its duck Lucknowi, an Awadhi speciality of seared Barbary dusk breast in a caramelised onion, tomato, yoghurt and cashew nut sauce. We also tuck into a side of daal makhani, made with the black lentils so common in Indian cuisine. These are rarely used elsewhere than India because they are difficult to prepare and cook compared to other varieties. There’s also traditional clay oven baked naan, shot through with smoky Applewood cheese.

We’re also treated to a sample of each of the desserts on offer: from a light chocolate and cinnamon mousse decorated with a beautiful painted chocolate leaf, to traditional carrot halwa, a sweet pudding served with sour apple and strawberry coulis. The gulab jamun, India’s answer to the doughnut, is also served with sour apple and a mango coulis to cut through the sticky sweetness.

The Infinitii is putting an unpretentious and modern twist on authentic Indian food, showcasing regional techniques and placing the tandoor at the heart of the kitchen. We certainly enjoyed our trip beyond the boundaries of ‘British-Indian food’, and we look forward to seeing what they do next.

The Infinitii
Bagot Street, Abbots Bromley, WS15 3DB

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The Littleton Arms

The Littleton Arms is an independent restaurant, pub and 10-bed boutique hotel right in the centre of the busy market town of Penkridge. Food is served from the busy kitchen…

The Littleton Arms is an independent restaurant, pub and 10-bed boutique hotel right in the centre of the busy market town of Penkridge.

Food is served from the busy kitchen seven days a week, from 7:00 on weekdays and 8:00 at weekends, so there’s a menu for every occasion: breakfast, brunch, lunch, bar bites, and dinner.

The imposing whitewashed building dominates the crossroads at the heart of the town. Inside, the rustic character of the 17th century inn has been retained with painted panelling, exposed wooden beams and nods to its heritage, including a wall half-covered in horseshoes. There’s plenty of cosy leather and richly patinaed furniture to create a comfortable haven from the chill of the outdoors.

Sea bass with Thai red curryYou’re invited to take a tall seat in the bar area or wait to be seated in one of the dining spaces. It takes a short while, but the welcome from the staff is warm, and they’re attentive and swift to take our orders once we’ve settled at the table.

Our visit coincides with the release of the new autumn menu, devised by The Littleton Arms’ head chef Will Dean. Many of the dishes show evidence of the close working partnership between the venue and quality local suppliers. So, for example, you can enjoy a 10oz pork tomahawk steak from Perry’s Butchers in Eccleshall, which is served with mustard and spring onion mash, fine beans, bramley apple sauce and melting cheddar with a cider gravy.

Other tempting autumnal dishes on the menu include pheasant breast with streaky bacon, a leg meat and potato croquette, cauliflower cheese purée, honey roasted parsnips, quince jelly and a red wine jus. For hearty appetites there’s also the game mixed grill – a decadent combination of seared venison loin, wild boar sausage, wrapped rabbit loins, seared pigeon breast, creamed savoy cabbage, garlic mash and baby carrot, also with red wine jus.

As it’s lunchtime when we visit, delicious as these dishes sound, we lean towards slightly lighter options. The seared seabass is a generous two fillets rather than the standard single piece of fish, and it sits atop a fragrant coconut and jasmine rice in a mild Thai red curry. The sweet mango salsa with tangy charred lime cuts through the creamy sauce well to produce a satisfying plate of  food.

Goat's cheese and sundried tomato linguineMeanwhile the sundried tomato and vegan mozzarella linguine harks back to the flavours of summer, with a fresh vegan pesto coating the well-cooked pasta. It is one of the vegan options, but is listed on the main menu rather than the separate vegan menu, perhaps to give you the chance to add crispy goat’s cheese, which we gladly do, or crispy calamari. The same goes for the Persian lentil and wholegrain rice risotto with pine nuts, saffron and toasted walnuts, to which you’re invited to add chicken supreme or duck ragù.

Whether you’re drinking or not there’s no shortage of options here, from Iron & Fire coffee and low or non-alcohol beers, to rotating ales on tap. There’s also an extensive cocktail menu and a range of premium spirits behind the bar, including Sun Bear’s naturally flavoured vodka and gin, as well as other local favourites like Hearts Distillery’s London dry gin.

All in all, this is a lovely Staffordshire pub where you can have a happy encounter with some traditional, delicious and filling fare this autumn.

The Littleton Arms
St Michael’s Square, Penkridge, ST19 5AL

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The Meynell Ingram Arms

We traversed the country lanes of rural East Staffordshire to find a friendly welcome in Hoar Cross at The Meynell Ingram. The historic Staffordshire pub had been closed for over…

We traversed the country lanes of rural East Staffordshire to find a friendly welcome in Hoar Cross at The Meynell Ingram.

The historic Staffordshire pub had been closed for over five years, reopening on 10 May. The building has been cleverly reconfigured by Berkeley Inns, who acquired it in November 2018. Now there are a series of distinct spaces around a central courtyard complete with parasols, heaters and a ‘living wall’ of plants.

Main restaurant Meynell IngramThe traditional country pub remains very much at its heart, but beyond that there’s a modern and elegant restaurant dining area, complete with immense bifold doors which let light stream in from the courtyard. There’s space for private dining in the Mirror Room. On the third side of the courtyard, Sam’s Bar is a relaxed space with flatscreens showing sports, a second bar, and a pizza oven. The outdoor space here will really come into its own this summer, with not only the enclosed courtyard to enjoy, but beautifully planted gardens and patios to the side and rear of the pub.

Tom Cross has moved over from The Cow at Dalbury to take up the position of general manager at The Meynell, where he leads a team of professional and personable front of house staff clad in red and black plaid. Behind the scenes in the kitchen, the brigade is headed up by Colin Ansell, who joins the Meynell from a 10 year stint as head chef at Pascal’s at The Old Vicarage.

The bistro-style à la carte menu caters to many different tastes, featuring pub classics with a fine dining twist to Mediterranean inspired dishes. There are nibbles and sharing platters if you’re looking for something lighter, and freshly baked pizza for those long summer evenings.

To start, we opt for the steak tartare made with Staffordshire beef, which holds its own comfortably, and the heritage tomato with goat’s cheese, prosciutto, avocado and sourdough croutons – perfectly balanced in terms of acidity, creaminess and crunch.

Steak tartare

In the spirit of adapting with the seasons, we order the Thai beef salad bowl and ras el hanout spiced chump of lamb for the main course. The salad is packed with fresh veg – bean sprouts, spring onions, shallots, cucumber – and fresh flavours from the basil, mint, coriander, lime and soy-sesame dressing. It’s a thoroughly satisfying dish that’s still light and summery. The tender pink lamb has a delicious spicy crust and the couscous is laced with tiny pieces of sweet apricot and flavoursome herbs. The zingy tzatziki lifts the rich meat with its sourness.

If it’s sumptuous desserts you’re into, you won’t be disappointed here. The raspberry crème brûlée, served with the pastry chef’s beautifully short shortbread, is a delight, but we’re slightly over-faced by the decadent Meynell Mess – a bowl of ice cream, fudge, brownie, seasonal fruit, coulis and marshmallow that is definitely made for sharing!

Berkeley Inns Ltd currently operate four other rural and semi-rural pubs in Derbyshire. This is the group’s first foray into Staffordshire, and if our experience is anything to go by it looks set to be a fantastic success.

The Meynell Ingram Arms
Abbots Bromley Road, Hoar Cross, DE13 8RB

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Pascal at the Old Vicarage

Just south of Burton-upon-Trent, sandwiched between the canal, the railway, the A38 and the River Trent, sits Branston. The village, with its origins in medieval times, is home to Pascal…

Just south of Burton-upon-Trent, sandwiched between the canal, the railway, the A38 and the River Trent, sits Branston. The village, with its origins in medieval times, is home to Pascal at the Old Vicarage.

The Old Vicarage has been on the Staffordshire dining scene since Karen and Pascal Arnoux took ownership in 1999, so we thought it only fitting that we pay a visit. Over the last two decades the restaurant has established a reputation for excellent food and built up a loyal following, so it’s definitely advisable to book your table. To illustrate this point, we decided to pay a visit on a Sunday and the only time available was 3pm.

As we walked into the entrance we were greeted by Pascal himself. He is no stranger to the international restaurant trade, having trained in Dijon and worked both in Paris and Amsterdam. He welcomed us and showed us through to a comfortable seating area, where we could enjoy a drink while perusing the menu.

Having looked through the drinks menu, which has a wide selection including Champagne cocktails and impressive Old and New World wine lists, Karen proceeded to take our refreshment order. The room was full of guests waiting to go through to the dining room or enjoying coffee and petits fours. Our drinks arrived quickly and were accompanied by salmon, dill and mayonnaise canapés and chilli flavoured olives; if these were anything to go by then we thought we must be in for a treat.

Pascal himself attended to us and explained the specials on offer. À la carte is available, but we plumped for the table d’hôte menu which comprises a three course meal for £25.95 per person. On the day we were there the menu choices were excellent, with six starters and seven mains to agonise over. The table d’hôte menu is revised on a monthly basis to keep the food seasonal and interesting for both customers and staff.

Having made our selections, we finished the canapés and Pascal saw us through to our table, which offered lovely views of the beautifully tended garden. Leigh the restaurant manager introduced himself with the wine list and presented us with a good selection of fresh breads.

We didn’t have long to wait for the starters to arrive. I had chosen the confit of duck terrine which came on a bed of oriental vegetables including pak choi and daikon radish with a hoisin and plum dressing. I was intrigued by this dish and it didn’t disappoint; it proved a very grown-up version of duck pancakes. The generous portion of flavourful duck terrine paired beautifully with the vegetables, particularly the daikon radish, which provided a mild, sweet taste. Meanwhile the hoisin held all of these wonderful tastes and textures together.

Our plates were removed by the attentive but unobtrusive staff, a credit to Leigh who, as the Old Vicarage’s website mentions, prides himself on his levels of customer service.

For the main, although the roast sirloin of English beef looked beautiful (the table next to us had all ordered it), I opted for the roast rump of lamb, served pink, with gratin dauphinois and a red wine reduction. The dish was plated beautifully with great attention to detail from Pascal’s chef Colin Ansell. This is a man who clearly takes great pride in his work. Leigh offered us a choice of condiments, including mint sauce which complemented the perfectly cooked lamb.

The dauphinoise potato stack had a good balance of flavours, with the milk and garlic carefully calculated so as not to overpower the delicate lamb. The lamb itself was a beautiful cut with no fat on it at all. Pascal and the team at the Old Vicarage work closely with local producers and you can taste that this is clearly paying off.

At this point my appetite had been sated, but I vowed to battle on to the end of the three course menu. Leigh delivered the dessert menu to the table and again we found a wide selection of seven different dishes, ranging from bread and butter pudding (far too heavy for me at this point) to apple and blackberry crumble to locally made Needwood Ice Cream. Looking for something that was light on the palate I opted for the iced lemon parfait with meringue, raspberries and biscuit crumb. Yet again this was a beautifully presented dish set off to perfection by the use of a black plate.

I was glad that I had convinced myself to have a dessert as this was a lovely way to finish the meal. From the fresh local raspberries to the meringue presented two ways and, of course, the refreshing iced lemon parfait, this was a charming dessert – and this coming from someone who would never describe themselves as a sweet person!

Overall, what Pascal at the Old Vicarage offers is fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere with friendly service. Great care is taken to present immaculately plated, carefully constructed dishes and the pride that the whole team – from Pascal and Karen to Colin and Leigh – so obviously take in their work translates into a wonderful dining experience. They will undoubtedly be seeing more of us.

Pascal at the Old Vicarage
2 Main Street, Branston, Burton-upon-Trent, DE14 3EX
Tel. 01283 533222

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Red Brick Café

Red Brick Café is just the sort of place where you could picture yourself holed up on a blustery afternoon when the leaves are flying around outside, with a cup…

Red Brick Café is just the sort of place where you could picture yourself holed up on a blustery afternoon when the leaves are flying around outside, with a cup of coffee and a beautiful piece of home-baked cake.

The end terrace that houses the café is on a small private road in the centre of Blythe Bridge, and indeed it feels like you might have strayed into someone’s dining room when you settle in. Joe and Anna and their friendly team make you feel right at home, with the kind of atmosphere that makes you feel you could easily strike up a conversation with the next table but also where you’ll be left to your Full English and your own devices if that’s what you want. With around 20 covers, you won’t feel crowded even if the room is full.

Flooded by light from the large front window, the café certainly lives up to its name with a glorious wall of red brick, and artwork celebrating the local area. At least one of the bricks in the café – proudly on display – came from the Five Oaks works, which is recorded as operating in this area as far back as the 1870s. The eponymous red brick is complemented by forest green walls and blackboards spelling out enticing daily specials and offers. Breakfast is served until midday, but at lunchtime a special of chicken and halloumi skewers with couscous and herb salad is tempting, especially at a very reasonable £8.

Red Brick Cafe cakes

However, you can’t go far wrong with a generous and warming bowl of freshly made soup. Pea, mint and watercress was delicious in the summer, but the menu moves with the seasons. It’s accompanied by a doorstop of seeded granary bread from local bakery Bengry’s or a sandwich for an extra £3.

The toasties are an ever popular option; proper ham and Staffordshire Cheese cheddar with caramelised onion chutney goes down a treat and is accompanied by crunchy house coleslaw and salad with a basil oil dressing.

Pride in the area’s heritage and support for other local businesses is not only limited to the food offering. Expect your coffee in a Steelite cup and your meal on blue and white Spode. It’s great to see independent businesses in Staffordshire proving that the traditional and the contemporary can work so well together, feeling clean and modern but rooted in the past of the place.

The cake looked too good to pass up, so we didn’t and were very glad! The dark chocolate Guinness cake is as rich, dense and velvety as you would imagine, with a cream cheese icing to provide the perfect contrast. We also tried a slice of the gluten free vanilla and ginger cake, beautifully decorated with edible flowers, which was excellent as long as you like ginger. Crystallised ginger in syrup sits in the base and the moist cake is complemented by a light, creamy layer of frosting on top.

Takeaway service is also available – cheaper than sitting in – but I certainly don’t think you will regret taking a pew. Red Brick Café is clearly deserving of all the love it gets on TripAdvisor, Facebook and Google Reviews as well as from those lucky locals who are in the know.

Red Brick Café
1 Wesley St, Blythe Bridge, Stoke-on-Trent, ST11 9QB

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Larder: Fine dining in our cathedral city

Chef Ryan Shilton is raising the bar for fine dining in the heart of Lichfield with the opening of his new restaurant, Larder, this week. Sauce were invited along to…

Chef Ryan Shilton is raising the bar for fine dining in the heart of Lichfield with the opening of his new restaurant, Larder, this week.

Sauce were invited along to a preview evening at the freshly renovated premises, which sits next door to Bore Street Bakery. On the ground floor there’s a bar exclusively for restaurant guests where we’re served a biscuity Hattingley Valley sparkling wine from Hampshire alongside two snacks – a goat’s cheese and basil tartlet and venison tartare with pear – which set the tone for the evening’s rich gastronomic offering.

There’s an extensive list of Old and New World wines to choose from, as well as a good selection of beers (including locally brewed Freedom lager), spirits and liqueurs. We order before being shown upstairs, where the intimate dining room takes up the first floor.

With comfortable chairs upholstered in teal and grey, dark wood, plush carpet and gold accented accessories, it feels suitably sumptuous without being over the top. Which is a description you could equally apply to the food – like the bite of pork belly with apple and ginger purée that appears promptly on our table, skewered on chef’s plating tweezers.

We are treated first to monkfish, lettuce and tartare sauce, followed by barbecued wagyu brisket with a smoky black garlic purée and enoki mushrooms. Next up is celeriac three ways – baked, pickled and raw – with oregano and a delicious Lincolnshire Poacher sauce. Everything is served on bespoke handmade ceramics from a potter friend of Ryan’s, and it’s obvious that care and attention has gone into every detail, such as the unusual Portuguese cutlery.

The menu’s crescendo is perfectly pink Creedy Carver duck with onion, peppercorn sauce and a silky mousse that Ryan explains is made from roast potatoes and duck fat. The palate cleansing pre-dessert is probably the most tastebud-challenging – lime curd with the texture of avocado served with bitter curried caramel, meringue and a very hoppy IPA jelly. Dessert would satisfy any sweet tooth, however, consisting of chocolate ganache, hazelnut ice cream and a maple vinegar jam.

Afterwards we head upstairs for a peek at the very calm and collected second floor, where guests will soon be able to enjoy a chef’s table experience sitting in the kitchen itself. The apparently unflappable Ryan recently left his position at the three-rosette Four Seasons at Swinfen Hall Hotel to open Larder, where he has freedom to showcase the best seasonal British produce on his own terms. When it opens later this week, the restaurant will offer lunch Thursday to Saturday, with five and seven course tasting menus on offer during evening service, and a three course Sunday lunch. Choice and vegetarian menus will also be available.

With exceptional food, a relaxed atmosphere and attentive but unobtrusive service, Larder is sure to become a popular fine dining destination for lucky Lichfield locals and no doubt will attract attention from further afield.

17 Bore Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire, WS13 6LZ 

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Stone welcomes BEAR

The latest exciting addition to Stone’s thriving food and drink scene is BEAR’s new branch on the High Street. Sauce was invited to one of the pre-launch events to get…

The latest exciting addition to Stone’s thriving food and drink scene is BEAR’s new branch on the High Street.

Sauce was invited to one of the pre-launch events to get a taste of what’s going to be on offer when the store opens to the public on Thursday 1 November.

The first striking feature when you walk through the heavy, draught-fighting curtain, is the beautiful decor. Craig and Michael, the local duo behind BEAR, have kept the original parquet floor while making the most of the old bank’s fantastic high ceiling by installing a mezzanine with comfortable seating. With huge windows making the most of the natural light on even the grimmest of days, it manages to be light and airy but also cosy, with a palette of deep blues, greens and pinks complemented by modern furniture and lots of greenery.

First and foremost, this is a speciality coffee house. You can choose between the chocolatey house coffee from Myanmar, the current guest – a fruity Ethiopian coffee – and there’s also the option of a citrusy Peruvian decaf. If coffee isn’t your bag, there are plenty of teas and soft drinks to choose from too.

Although great coffee is at BEAR’s core, you can’t miss the fact that it’s also a kitchen and bar. As we went along to the brunch event we were able to sample the delicious food, but even on a Friday it was a bit too early for gin, cocktails or craft beer (served from 10am in case you’re interested). In addition, there’s a retail section where you can buy coffee brewing essentials like Chemix and Aeropress or keep cups if you need to take your drink away.

There is no shortage of knowledgable, friendly staff who are able to talk you confidently through the menu. We went for the smashed avocado toast with eggs and the baked eggs with feta, served with flatbread. You can see right into the kitchen, filled with the smiling faces of the team that will prepare you some fresh, super-tasty food – including perfectly poached eggs.

There’s an ‘All Day’ menu that takes over from breakfast, with some brunch items and a small but thoughtfully formed list of sandwiches, salads and mains. In the evening the food offering switches up with a focus on the social. There’s a selection of small plates and pizzas designed for sharing, with a very Mediterranean feel – you’ll find sampadori olives, caprese salad and chorizo on there, to name just a few.

As far as we can see, the team behind BEAR certainly seem to have found their recipe for success with speciality coffee, fuss-free dining and a relaxed atmosphere. Check it out for yourself from next week and let us know what you think.

BEAR Coffee House, Kitchen & Bar
57 High Street, Stone, ST15 8AH

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Sunday stroll: National Memorial Arboretum

In the autumn/winter edition of Sauce, our Sunday stroll takes us to the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round centre of remembrance at Alrewas. Situated at the heart of the…

In the autumn/winter edition of Sauce, our Sunday stroll takes us to the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round centre of remembrance at Alrewas.

Situated at the heart of the UK in the lush Staffordshire countryside, it represents a growing, living and lasting tribute to those who have served and continue to serve their country. Trees seem a fitting means of remembrance, signifying growth and renewal, changing as they do through the seasons and over the years. 2018 is especially significant at the Arboretum as we mark 100 years since the end of the First World War and 100 years since the founding of the Royal Air Force.

Under, between and around the 30,000 maturing native and specimen trees of the Arboretum there are plaques, benches and wreaths in memory of those who have died in conflict, served their country or have another special reason for being remembered. There are more than 350 memorials to take in as you walk the 150 acres of this humbling and peaceful site, as well as a series of wooden huts providing shelter from the elements and information about the groups and individuals remembered here.

The impressive visitor centre houses a gift shop and exhibition spaces as well as a restaurant, while on the opposite side of the beautiful Heroes’ Square you’ll find a café and the Millennium Chapel, where an open service of remembrance is held every day at 11am. For families with children there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the work and sacrifice of those commemorated here, and play areas to expend some energy.

The restaurant area, flooded with light from the glass wall looking out onto the courtyard, has plenty of seating and operates on a self-serve system. Breakfast is available until 11.30am if you need to fuel up before exploring the grounds, while lunch options change daily and start from £6.95.  The deli serves cold meats, quiche and Staffordshire cheeses accompanied by seasonal salads, and sandwiches are also on offer.

On a chilly Sunday afternoon the roast dinner calls out, with a choice of two meats and a vegetarian dish along with roast and boiled potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, seasonal green and root vegetables and gravy for less than £10.  There are plenty of attractive scones and cakes to choose from if you want to bump this up to two courses, like wildflower honey and lavender or rose and pistachio. Using the best local and seasonal produce available, this is a delicious and hearty meal that will set you up for further exploring.

There’s a dedicated route for dogs and their owners which leads around most of the Arboretum perimeter, through the Royal British Legion Poppy Field and all the way to Watersmeet, where the River Trent and the River Tame intersect. While dogs are not permitted in the restaurant, they are allowed in the café where tea and coffee, sandwiches and cakes are served on local Dudson crockery.

There is a £3 charge to park all day and entrance to the site is free, with a suggested donation of £5. All proceeds go to support the work of the Arboretum.

National Memorial Arboretum
Croxall Rd, Alrewas, Burton-on-Trent DE13 7AR

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New era for The Viceroy

Wednesday 25 July saw the launch of a new menu at The Viceroy Restaurant in Milford, on the edge of Cannock Chase, and Sauce were lucky enough to be invited…

Wednesday 25 July saw the launch of a new menu at The Viceroy Restaurant in Milford, on the edge of Cannock Chase, and Sauce were lucky enough to be invited along.

At this fine dining Indian restaurant near Stafford chef-director Ain Ullah creates imaginative dishes using the finest local produce, with reference to a rich Indian and Bangladeshi culinary heritage.

A six-course taster menu allowed guests to savour the flavours of a number of dishes from the new selection, all cooked to order using seasonal, locally sourced fresh ingredients. Proceeds from the night were generously donated to Katharine House Hospice.

House of Townend, the Yorkshire-based family-owned wine merchants, have hand selected the finest wines from across the world to complement each dish on The Viceroy’s new menu, and there’s also a comprehensive gin menu for pre-dinner drinks.

The launch of the new menu is the first step in an exciting new era for The Viceroy, where the team is hoping to be awarded an AA Rosette and to feature in the 2019 Michelin Guide.

In order to meet the exacting standards of the AA, the management have invested in a new state of the art Unox Oven and new crockery and cutlery, the like of which is found in Michelin starred restaurants across the world, from Schott Zwiesel wine glasses to Fortessa tableware.

There are also plans afoot to build a 20-cover private dining room to the rear of the restaurant. This room, featuring a wall of handpicked wines from around the globe, will allow guests to book a taster menu dinner attended by their own personal butler. As well, The Viceroy plans to hold exclusive cookery demonstrations with chef-director Ullah.

The Viceroy Restaurant
8 Brocton Rd, Milford, Stafford ST17 0UH

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Spout Brew House

Spout Brew House, 70 St Edward St, Leek, ST13 5DL It’s a bright afternoon when we take a stroll down to the bottom of Edward Street in Leek. Looking…

Spout Brew House, 70 St Edward St, Leek, ST13 5DL

It’s a bright afternoon when we take a stroll down to the bottom of Edward Street in Leek. Looking welcoming and cosy, Spout Brew House is nestled between Odeon Antiques and what we can only assume is its namesake, Spout Hall.

With eye-catching signage by traditional canal boat painter Phil Speight and a tungsten glow through the big old windows, this cafe-bar-gallery is certainly not lacking in kerb appeal.

The first thing that draws your attention when you enter is the fantastic array of home-baked cakes under glass on the counter top. Victoria sponge, chocolate pizza slices and blood orange sponge were just a few of the options, all of which come from the upstairs kitchen.

Busy but not rushed

People-watchers will covet the stools in the window and there are some appealing nooks and crannies if you prefer a bit more privacy, but you have to be quick off the mark to catch either, especially of a weekend. Grabbing one of the smaller tables in the hallway, we watched more than a few people come and go for lack of seating. Footfall in this passageway wasn’t a bother, though.

It’s an informal set-up; you order at the counter, where the staff were very busy but always helpful and friendly. We were warned that food orders were taking a little while, and only waited around 20 minutes – not unreasonable at lunchtime on a Saturday.

The cinnamon latte smelled like heaven. Atkinson’s Teas and Has Bean Coffee are also on offer, plus a range of alcoholic drinks including four guest ales on tap. There’s artwork for sale by local artists and a wall dedicated to craft beer and spirit sales, known as The Bottle Lab.

Satisfy your palate and pocket

Although tempted by the beetroot falafel Buddha bowl special, we went for the avocado toast. Mashed with white beans and basil, the Spout take was tastier than the plain avocado you find elsewhere. Topped with a perfectly poached, golden yolked egg and a slice of halloumi for an extra pound and a hint of saltiness, the Skandi rye bread toast was delicious. A sprinkle of sesame seeds and sunflower hearts added some texture and a nice finishing touch. While the beetroot in the side salad was a little dry, the grated carrot dusted with poppy seeds was simple and really satisfying.

Spout’s eclectic decor features a modern palette of dark grey and aqua blue with bright, quirky accessories and mismatched furniture. The scheme stays sympathetic to the lovely old building, with the original black and white tiles, quarry tiles and stained glass window in the toilet upstairs.

Overall, this friendly cafe provides great value for money, wholesome freshly cooked food and a welcoming spot to relax in a thriving market town.

Coffee and cake from £3.50
Lunch from £3.95-£6.95
Dog friendly
Garden seating area

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