Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

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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A steak lover’s paradise

A time-honoured menu staple of restaurants and pubs across the land, steak comes in many guises despite – or perhaps because – the methods of cooking it are so straightforward….

A time-honoured menu staple of restaurants and pubs across the land, steak comes in many guises despite – or perhaps because – the methods of cooking it are so straightforward.

Unless you’ve done your research, it can be tricky to know which cuts to buy and what to pair them with when you want to cook beef steak at home. Luckily, we’ve tapped into the knowledge of chef and restaurant owner Rich James from Smoke & Rye, so that you can buy and prepare three of the most flavoursome cuts with confidence.

First of all, how do you recognise a good steak when you’re out shopping? Rich’s first tip is to get to know your local butcher.

“Your butcher should be able to recommend you a good steak. He or she should know their stuff about where the animal has come from, how it’s been bred, how long it’s been fed grain, how it’s been looked after. From the lines of the beasts themselves to how they’ve been treated in the abattoir, provenance is really important. And marbling is key – you don’t want it to be plain and boring.”

Thicker steaks are easier to work with as well. Fine-grained fillet tends to be finished in the oven because of its shape, allowing the heat to be distributed evenly.

“It will take a bit more time, but you get more opportunity to cook it how you like it. We don’t deal with anything below 10oz here, apart from fillet because it’s a smaller cut. For sirloins and ribeyes you need to have a thick cut because you need to be able to caramelise the edge, but keep the right cooking temperature in the middle. If it’s too thin, you won’t be able to get it rare or medium; it will be at least medium-rare by the time it’s on the plate.”

Starting with Rich’s personal favourite, the t-bone is a cut from the sirloin but includes a section of tenderloin, also known as fillet.

“You’ve got two very different cuts of meat on there, really,” Rich explains. “One has a lot of marbling – sirloin is a lot more fatty than fillet, which is a lot leaner – but it gives you the chance to have texture and flavour in the same piece of meat. It’s the best of both worlds.”

It makes the cooking process a bit of a challenge, because it can stay a little rare around the bone. Fillet tends to be better cooked rare or medium-rare.

“You’ve got to be careful that the fillet isn’t overcooked, but it’s not a big deal – it’s all in the resting. Caramelise it, let it rest, have a feel, and if it’s underdone bang it back on the grill for a few minutes. The other thing about the t-bone is that you want to over-season the fillet. There’s less flavour in it so you want to add more seasoning to that side than the sirloin side.

“It’s my favourite cut because you also get that bit of marrow from the bone, which is really good for you. I would cook off some bone marrow and run it through clarified butter, just to add some richness. You don’t want to add creamy, heavy, thick sauces, because you’ll lose the flavour of the meat.”

Ribeye steak is, as the name suggests, from the rib section of the beast. Some people are a bit put off by that fact that the ribeye still has the bone in, but it’s a purposeful decision in Rich’s kitchen because it adds so much to the dish.

“The marrow is where all that fantastic umami flavour is,” he says. “Again, caramelisation is key. It’s a bit thicker so there’s a bit more fat in it. To render that down you need a nice hot grill or pan, ideally. Don’t use butter to begin with because it will just burn. You need to be able to get in there with a bit of oil, caramelise it on both sides, rest it in butter and then finish it off in a pan with butter if you like at the end.”

With the ribeye, Rich recommends serving alongside a fresh, acidic garnish that will cut through the fattiness of the steak.

“It’s a big, bold steak – it’s not going to take well to the addition of heavy, fatty cream or anything like that, but the light, spicy, herby and vinegary flavour of the chimichurri works really well.”

The fillet is the leanest and most tender cut, making it great for raw preparations like tartare and carpaccio. As it’s the least fatty, it’s worth paying for the best raised and aged steak you can afford to get the best flavour. Rich prefers his fillet served medium-rare.

“I would pan-fry it to start with in some foaming butter to get it rare, add some blue cheese on the top, put it in the oven for about 5 minutes to get it almost to medium-rare, and then let it rest. Then I’d deglaze the pan with some brandy and some bone marrow gravy to get a really heavy, rich, flavoursome sauce.

“You want those rich flavours with fillet because it’s so lean. You still have flavour in fillet, but nowhere near the same level as in the other two cuts we’ve talked about. You’ve got to add, add, add when it comes to fillet, so plenty of butter, plenty of seasoning and plenty of other umami flavours to make it rich. The texture of it is amazing, though. I serve a little crouton at the bottom to soak up all the juices, a bit like an old Tournedos Rossini.”

Smoke & Rye’s menu is inspired by Rich’s travels and experiences with American food. So how do British steaks compare to those you’ll find over in the States?

“They use a lot of Kobe beef, which we don’t have so much access to here,” he says. “They get a lot of Japanese breeds imported. The Americans are well known for their steaks, but they work with their beasts in a slightly different way to us – they feed them and look after them differently, and of course they’ve got the climate so the animals are much bigger. American steaks and American wagyu are some of the best steaks in the world, and some of the most expensive.”

Another point of difference is the (voluntary) USDA beef grading system, which is based on the maturity of the meat and level of marbling, so that customers can be assured of the quality of the meat they’re buying.

“The system is really useful because it provides a clear, organised way of grading meat,” adds Rich. “At the top end is prime, followed by choice and select. Here, there’s no reliable way to tell whether a product is prime or select – it’s hit and miss, especially in supermarkets. It would be good if we could introduce that kind of system.”

Now that we’re moving towards the colder months of the year, Smoke & Rye’s style of food and cooking is really coming into its own. When it comes to the steaks on the menu, there’ll be a move towards heavier, creamy sauces and red wine or barbecue gravies, often incorporating the delicious juices from the smoker.

“We don’t tend to make things overcomplicated for no reason. Our customers come for amazing quality ingredients and simple but decent cooking. Whether you’re grilling or panfrying your steak, it’s always a high temperature and resting properly that are key. You want that Maillard reaction going on to get as much caramelisation on the steak as possible – it adds texture and it adds flavour.”

Smoke & Rye
19 Stafford Street, Stone, Staffordshire, ST15 8QW

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All the world’s a pub

Theatre reviews might not be obvious subject matter for Sauce, but food and drink and culture are inextricably linked, perhaps nowhere more so – at least in an English context…

Theatre reviews might not be obvious subject matter for Sauce, but food and drink and culture are inextricably linked, perhaps nowhere more so – at least in an English context – than in the pub. So when we were invited to see Two at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle we jumped at the chance.

In terms of hospitality, the theatre is welcoming and homely. Downstairs you’ll find a gin and bottle lounge, open since August 2019, which offers a relaxed environment to gather pre-show. Every gin and beer is sourced from within a 30 mile radius, from the hyperlocal Weal Ales, Titanic and Staffordshire Gin to Papermill Gin and Thornbridge beers from slightly further afield.

The restaurant at the New Vic has played host to themed evenings including a Bavarian night, wine and cheese night and Latin American night. Their recent French night featuring accordion music from Sophia Hatfield went down especially well.

This summer, with the auditorium undergoing a major refurbishment project, the team are keen to let people know that the bar and restaurant are very much open for business with plenty of events in the pipeline. Keep your eyes peeled for more on that in the coming months.

In review: Two

Written by Jim Cartwright, Two is a dark comic drama set in a northern town. For her directorial debut at her home theatre, director Ruth Carney decided that a typical Potteries pub would be a natural setting for the intimate and poignant production.

The audience are drawn into the action from the moment they enter, as the Landlord serves pre-performance tasters of beer from the working bar. Set up with the help of Burslem’s Titanic Brewery, the cast are able to pull (and knock back) real pints of Steerage from the central island.

Designer Lis Evans was inspired by the nearby Hop Inn, The Victoria, The Greyhound, The Marquis of Granby and the Staff of Life in Stoke. Mock Minton tiles, heavily patterned carpet and tired wooden chairs complete the transformation to traditional local boozer.

All the dramas of life are played out in the microcosm of the pub, where the Landlord and Landlady are constantly at each others’ throats whilst warmly welcoming patrons of all ages and circumstances. Originally scripted in 1989, there are times when the play feels slightly dated as well as times when it is difficult to watch, but the language is poetic and the dissection of human relationships is as relevant as ever.

Two actors – Samantha Robinson and Jimmy Fairhurst – play all 14 characters in Two. Their mastery of pace as they dart between costumes and accents, charting the emotional highs and lows of each storyline, is truly impressive. We’re spectators to arguments, affairs, loving friendships and abusive relationships as they veer from comic karaoke to chronic loneliness, and finally to the tragedy that has split the couple’s marriage apart.

The dark joke at the heart of the play is that, while the pub is where punters come to relieve their worries and cares, the Landlady and Landlord at the literal centre of it have lost their ability to talk to each other. The destructiveness of this lack of communication feels important to talk about at a time when the suicide rate in the UK is on the rise and mental health in hospitality is under the spotlight.

Two opened at the New Vic Theatre on Friday 31 January and runs until Saturday 22 February. Tickets are on sale now, priced from £15.50, from the Box Office and can be booked online or by calling 01782 717962.

New Vic Theatre
Etruria Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 0JG

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Get your tickets for the launch of Chocao

An award winning chocolatier, an award winning gin distiller and an award winning food marketer walk into a pub… It might sound like the start of a joke, but in…

An award winning chocolatier, an award winning gin distiller and an award winning food marketer walk into a pub… It might sound like the start of a joke, but in fact it was the start of Chocao.

A cacao gin liqueur designed to be enjoyed neat as an after dinner drink, Chocao is the result of a creative collaboration between three independent Staffordshire businesses: Staffordshire Gin founders Jason Davies and Claire Gibbs, award-winning chocolatier James Walter of Seed Chocolate, and food and drink marketing specialist Daren Bach from Provoke.

To celebrate the launch, there will be tasting events this February at Ten Green Bottles in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stone. Ticket holders will have the chance to meet the distillers and to sample Chocao, along with gin-soaked cacao nibs and delicious Seed Chocolate. Afterwards, there will be specially crafted Chocao cocktails on offer as created by Ten Green Bottles’ in-house mixologist, Ben.

The gin-based liqueur is infused with ultra-premium, single origin Peruvian cacao beans, which are more commonly used to make chocolate. The cacao beans are bought via direct trade from an agricultural collective in northern Peru. Every batch is directly traceable to the community where it was grown, thus ensuring there is no child slavery in the production process.The drink is also suitable for vegans.

Jason and Claire distil each batch of cacao gin at Staffordshire Gin HQ in Silverdale. Their popular Black Violet gin recently won bronze at the World Gin Awards.

The cacao beans are sourced and prepared by James Walter of Seed Chocolate, who has received recognition for his bean-to-bar chocolate from The Academy of Chocolate, The International Chocolate Awards and The Guild of Fine Foods’ Great Taste Awards.

Daren Bach, a food and drink marketing specialist, founder of Provoke Marketing & Design and editor of Sauce magazine, is responsible for the branding, packaging and website design as well as marketing activity for Chocao.

Tickets for the launch events are priced at £5 per person.
Book here for Ten Green Bottles Stone on Thursday 6 February.
Book here for Ten Green Bottles Newcastle-under-Lyme on Thursday 13 February.

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Staffordshire shop named winners in ‘Drink Rioja’ campaign

Indie wine shop Wolseley Wine Loft, which lies between Rugeley and Stafford at Wolseley Bridge, has been named Off-Trade Winners of Wines from Rioja’s ‘Drink Rioja’ campaign. The Loft, as…

Indie wine shop Wolseley Wine Loft, which lies between Rugeley and Stafford at Wolseley Bridge, has been named Off-Trade Winners of Wines from Rioja’s ‘Drink Rioja’ campaign.

The Loft, as it’s affectionately known to regulars, beat stiff competition from independent wine shops across the country in a competition run by Wines from Rioja – the UK marketing arm of The Rioja Regulatory Council or Consejo Regulador de Rioja DOCa.

Shops the length and breadth of the country were challenged to celebrate all things Rioja during the month of October. Wolseley Wine Loft impressed the judges through their sheer enthusiasm for all things Rioja and efforts to spread the word among their customers.

Events run as part of the campaign included a wine tasting and talk from Ruben Quintana of Bodegas Manzanos, with the audience treated to tapas dishes which paired beautifully with the wines. The loft’s Dave Eglington gave a Talk & Tasting session at the 2019 Stone Food & Drink Festival on the topic of ‘A flight through Rioja’; introducing the audience to the huge diversity of wine styles produced in the region – including white and rosé.

The shop’s diverse range of Rioja wines – including organic and vegan wines as well as lesser-known grape varieties like a 100% Graciano grape Rioja – also impressed, with special offers available on Rioja wines sold throughout October 2019.

In addition to being named the winner of the competition, The Loft was invited to attend a ‘Rioja Recognises’ awards evening at the superb Eneko Basque Restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, hosted by Master of Wine Tim Atkin, in recognition its work with Rioja in 2019.

Wolseley Wine Loft
Upper Floor, Willey Barn, Stafford, ST17 0XS

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All the Tryanuary inspiration you need

As your enthusiasm for New Year’s resolutions, post-Christmas diets and Dryanuary slowly begin to fizzle away, it could be time for a new approach to get you through January. We’re…

As your enthusiasm for New Year’s resolutions, post-Christmas diets and Dryanuary slowly begin to fizzle away, it could be time for a new approach to get you through January. We’re not saying cutting back on your alcohol intake is a bad idea, but why not try something new and a bit special if you can, rather than (pardon the pun) going completely cold turkey?

Tryanuary is the perfect time to explore unusual flavours and discover your new favourite tipple. We’ve been chatting to the beer and wine experts of Staffordshire – our trusty independent bottle shop owners – to find out their not-to-be-missed favourites for you to try this January…

Torrside Cascadian Dark AleTorrside Brewery – Late to the Party Cascadian Dark Ale (Black IPA), 5.5%
“In the spirit of Tryanuary, I recommend trying this Cascadian Dark Ale (Black IPA) from Torrside Brewery. This oxymoronic style combines the malt-driven colour and dark, roasty flavours of darker beers, with the aromas and flavours expected in an IPA – in this case, citrus and piney notes from the New Zealand Southern Cross hops. #BIPAComeback.”

Phil at Otter’s Tears
24 Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3EG

A Growers Touch – Durif, 14%
“Your favourite wine must’ve been new to you at some point, but there’s a whole world of wines to try, so let’s get adventurous! How about trying a Durif? A great mix of blackberry, blueberry and mulberry, this wine is rich and powerful – perfect for drinking with a slow cooked lamb or beef pie.”

Dave at Wolseley Wine Loft
Upper Floor, Willey Barn, Stafford, ST17 0XS

Big Drop x Fyne Ales Jam Session raspberry gose

Big Drop Brewing Co. x Fyne Ales – Jam Session Raspberry Gose, 0.5%
“Here at Candid, we’re really enjoying this alcohol-free raspberry sour beer from Big Drop Brewing Co. in collaboration with Fyne Ales. It’s super refreshing, with a nicely balanced earthy tartness, and a mouthfeel that masks its 0.5% ABV. The perfect drop for both Dry January and Tryanuary!”

Mark at Candid Beer
Units 4 & 5, Woodings Yard, Bailey Street, Stafford, ST17 4BG

Saucony Creek – The Bronco Double Dry Hopped NEIPA, 7.8%
“A strong double lactose IPA, The Bronco is brewed by Saucony Creek, based in Kutztown, Pennsylvania – a brewery founded by former X-Games competitor Matt Lindenmuth. Rolled oats and heaps of lactose give this strong IPA a luxuriously smooth mouthfeel and creamy sweetness that balances the Mosaic hops.”

Chris and Robin at Brews of the World
159 Station Street, Burton-on-Trent, DE14 1BN

Midnight Frost Vidal Icewine bottle

Pillitteri Estates Winery – Midnight Frost Vidal Icewine, 11%
“Try this delicious ice wine from one of Canada’s top producers. The grapes are harvested at -8 degrees Celsius, leaving a tiny amount of amazingly sweet juice. Mouthcoating lychee, pineapple and peach are underscored by brilliant freshness. A must-try dessert wine for 2020. Cheers!”

Kieran at Three Pillars
6 High Street, Eccleshall, Staffordshire, ST21 6BZ

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Celebrating Burns Night around Staffordshire

Burns Night is on the horizon, and that means it’s time to dig out the tartan and raise a wee dram to the iconic Scottish poet that was Robert Burns….

Burns Night is on the horizon, and that means it’s time to dig out the tartan and raise a wee dram to the iconic Scottish poet that was Robert Burns.

As The Bard of Ayrshire’s 261st birthday fast approaches, we’ve scouted out the best places to get your fix of haggis, neeps and tatties – as well as plenty more dishes inspired by traditional Scottish fare – across Staffordshire this January. Slàinte Mhath!

Little Seeds, Stone
Thursday 23 January, 18:00-20:30

Little Seeds are offering a delectable five course tasting menu to honour the legendary Bard. Expect dishes such as warming cock-a-leekie broth with Scottish soda bread and whisky cured salmon, pickled cucumber & lemon creme fraiche to get you in the Scottish spirit. And we couldn’t forget the star of the show: the ‘Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race’ (also known as haggis) will also be on the menu!

Priced at £35 per person, £10pp deposit required. Add drinks pairing for £25pp. Booking essential.

Denstone Hall Farm Shop & Cafe, Denstone
Saturday 25 January, 18:30 onwards

You’re in for a real treat at Denstone Hall Farm Shop & Cafe on Burns Night. With four starters, four mains and four desserts on the menu, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting your perfect Burns Supper. We’re especially excited for the starter of Gamekeeper’s bon bons, carrot & cardamom purée and pink peppercorn cream sauce, and of course, haggis, neeps and tatties with whisky cream sauce.

Must book in advance.

Darwin’s Restaurant at The George Hotel, Lichfield
Saturday 25 January, 19:00-23:00

Burns Night is coming to Lichfield! Visit Darwin’s Restaurant at the George Hotel and enjoy a traditional Scottish four course dinner with a tot of whiskey. Expect dishes such as cullen skink to start, Scottish salmon, chateaux neeps & tatties with creamed leeks for the main, and to end the evening, Scottish oat biscuit apple crumble and custard.

Priced at £35 per person. Menu options are required at the time of booking.

No. 26 Bar & Dining at Aston Marina, Stone
Saturday 25 January, 17:00-21:00

No. 26 at Aston Marina are also honouring ol’ Rabbie Burns, serving a mouthwatering three course meal of all our Scottish favourites. To start, Oak smoked Scottish salmon fillet with cucumber jelly, crayfish & capers, followed by Haggis-stuffed chicken breast, oxtail croquette, neeps & tatties and rich Balmoral sauce. And what’s Burns Night without a whiskey-soaked raspberry and Scottish oat cranachan to finish?

Three courses: £25. Three courses with whiskies: £35.

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Where to eat out this Veganuary

Now that we’ve said farewell to mounds of turkey and pigs-in-blankets and the cheese boards have been put away, lots of us are trying to forge habits for 2020 that…

Now that we’ve said farewell to mounds of turkey and pigs-in-blankets and the cheese boards have been put away, lots of us are trying to forge habits for 2020 that will be kinder on the environment and our bodies…

Yes, Veganuary is back, and we’ve been scouring Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire for the most delicious vegan meals to give you the kind of meat-free indulgence you need this January. Hopefully you’ll agree this is proof that vegan food isn’t all about bland salads and nut roast.

There’s a different spot to try for each week in January to keep you motivated – tag #staffordshiresauce on social media to let us know how you get on!

Week 1: The Roebuck, Leek

Now the warm fuzzy feeling of Christmas has disappeared, we’ve been left with a cold January chill. Enjoy some heat with the Spicy Bean Burger at The Roebuck in Leek. Served in a Live Love Loaf bun, the spicy bean burger comes with iceberg lettuce, tomato & red onion and is served with skin on fries and relish. Who knew vegan food could be so flavoursome, eh?

Week 2: An Apple a Day, Stone

If you’re looking for a clean, light lunch, head over to An Apple a Day on Stone High Street. Everything on the menu has vegan alternatives and a selection of breads so you can personalise your perfect sandwich. Our favourite is We’ve Got the Beet!, which features beetroot, carrot, hummus and avocado. And if you want to give your body a little extra lovin’ after all those Christmas choccies, try one of their delicious homemade juices. We’re obsessed with the Russet Reboot – a blend of beetroot, red cabbage, carrot, lime and apple.

Week 3: The Slamwich Club, Hanley

If you’re a fan of pork and are missing the pigs-in-blankets already, you’ll love The Slamwich Club’s Not-So-Porkie-Pig Slamwich. Enjoy BBQ jackfruit, vegan cheese, potato and onion rosti, vegan sausage and rawslaw between two pieces of locally sourced artisan bread. Plus, you can get 3 for 2 on sides! We adore the Rings of Fire (crispy peri-peri battered onion rings), Polenta-ee of Fries (herby polenta bites with truffle mayo) and Caulipower (tempura cauliflower bites served with jalapeño mayo – pictured). Free onion rings, you say?! Yes please.

Week 4: UVC, Lichfield

If you’re looking for a great restaurant which serves only vegan food look no further than Lichfield’s Ultimate Vegan Cafe. We love the Nofish cakes, made with smoked tofu, potatoes and seaweed, carefully wrapped in breadcrumbs and served with salad. If you’re particularly hungry, we would recommend the Ultimate Moving Mountain Burger, served with chips, slaw, salad and topped with onion rings… it’s a beast! Plus they’re offering 10% off all main dishes during January.

Week 5: The Orange Tree, Newcastle-under-Lyme

Craving a curry to get you through thee longest month of the year? Say no more. Head to The Orange Tree and enjoy sweet potato fritters with katsu curry sauce, baby gem & radish salad and steamed coconut rice. The oriental flavours will have you dreaming about warmer days and will definitely have you cruising through the final week of Veganuary.

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Michelin unites local businesses for a good cause

Sauce caught up with Mike Lawton, Head of Global Marketing and Communications – Brand Licensing, at Michelin to find out more about the company’s 2019 charity dinner in aid of…

Sauce caught up with Mike Lawton, Head of Global Marketing and Communications – Brand Licensing, at Michelin to find out more about the company’s 2019 charity dinner in aid of Dougie Mac. Click here to watch our behind-the-scenes video.

The sell-out event took place on Monday 21 October at World of Wedgwood in Barlaston, following on from the success of the first dinner back in October 2018. You can read more about the origins of the Michelin charity dinner in the Autumn 2019 edition of Sauce magazine, but we chatted with Mike to find out more about the success of the most recent event.

Rob Palmer smoked eel dish

Through ticket sales, along with the auction and raffle on the night, the event raised more than £60,000 to support Dougie Mac’s work providing end of life care across Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire. It was made possible by Michelin (whose employees chose Dougie Mac as the Stoke site’s charity of the year and volunteered to provide table service on the evening), World of Wedgwood (who provided the venue), J&J Wines (who supplied the wine pairing), and the two visiting chefs and their teams.

In the kitchen at World of Wedgwood this year were John Williams MBE, executive chef at The Ritz London, and Rob Palmer, head chef of Peel’s Restaurant at Hampton Manor – both Michelin starred chefs.

“It was a fantastic honour to bring such names up to Stoke-on-Trent in support of the charity,” says Mike. “Frankly, the two chefs and their teams were amazing. Of course I was expecting to see Rob Palmer and John Williams when I arrived, but I wasn’t expecting that John would have brought Spencer Metzger along too.”

Chef John Williams MBE

Spencer won the prestigious and highly competitive Roux Scholarship this year. Past winners in the scholarship’s 35 year history have included Andrew Fairlie, Sat Bains and Simon Hulstone, along with many others who have gone on to create starred restaurants in their own right. Also in the kitchen from Peel’s was Monty Stonehewer, a contestant on the current series of MasterChef: The Professionals. As Mike explains, the amazing level of talent working in unison in the kitchen was a key factor contributing to a fantastic evening of food and fundraising.

“I believe Dougie Mac were truly thrilled with the evening,” he expands. “The people that I spoke to said it was one of the best fundraising events they’ve attended and the results would suggest that as well. We’ve not had one single negative comment. There’s nothing more pleasing than seeing lots of happy, smiling faces at the end of the night and having achieved a fantastic objective for the hospice.”

Beef tournedos by John Williams MBE

Having proved such a success last year, this year’s dinner had sold out a month beforehand. The lucky guests enjoyed snacks and canapés, followed by five mouthwatering courses including a lobster, carrot and lemon verbena starter from John and a smoked eel, kohlrabi and sea herb dish by Rob.

“The feedback from the chefs was tremendous,” says Mike. “I’ve had some lovely emails from John, Rob and their teams. Their experience and skills made it a really successful and unique event. World of Wedgwood were delighted to be a part of it too. Their involvement in donating the use of the dining room, kitchen and all the beautiful tabletop items is pivotal in putting on the event. It depends on a lot of factors, but if everything lines up correctly, there’s no reason we couldn’t do it again next year. And yes, I have already been asked about next year!”

Michelin UK employees

Mike’s colleagues at the Michelin Guide have also been delighted with the positive outcome of the event. So delighted, in fact, that the model is set to be shared so it can be rolled out across the world in the 38 countries where the Michelin Guide currently exists.

“It’s hard work because there are 150 people to serve, but the Michelin and World of Wedgwood employees who took part really enjoyed it. It was great to see Craig and the front of house team from Hampton Manor training them and giving them the confidence to deliver the food in such a great way. You’ve only got to look at some of the pictures to see how engaged everyone was.

“Last year we had around 20 volunteers; this year we had 37. That tells you the kind of reputation the event has got after such a short time. We had some employees from World of Wedgwood volunteer to take part too, so it was a great coming-together.”

For Mike, that’s what the event is all about.

“Once again we’ve proved what local businesses coming together can achieve,” he concludes. “The collective activity of Michelin, World of Wedgwood and all of the other businesses that were involved is much, much greater than any of us individually could achieve on our own.

“I’d just like to say thank you to everyone for believing in the concept and for supporting us and Dougie Mac. For them, the fact that almost £60,000 could be raised in a single night is really very meaningful.”

Watch our video for a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the dinner.

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Flavours from around the world

Stoke-on-Trent based chefs Ant Snape and Jon Riviere have known each for seven years, since they met while working at Chester Racecourse. The friends are soon to open what was…

Stoke-on-Trent based chefs Ant Snape and Jon Riviere have known each for seven years, since they met while working at Chester Racecourse.

The friends are soon to open what was formerly Zest on Hanley’s Piccadilly as a casual dining bistro, but their first venture together was Trotting Potter Salts. The unusual name stems from the fact that Ant is originally from Bolton, where football club Bolton Wanderers are referred to locally as ‘the Trotters’, while Jon is a Stoke-on-Trent native.

Jon had been experimenting with flavoured and blended salts for a number of years before meeting Ant. When he mentioned it they found it was a shared hobby – Ant had made similar things to gift to family members.

Since starting Trotting Potter, they’ve found that chefs are sold on the benefits and are receiving great feedback from their customers, while the general public are yet to be fully convinced.

“I think it’s been hammered into us that salt is salt and it’s bad for you,” Ant speculates. “But like anything, it’s good for you in moderation. But as our generation has grown up, salt is what you put on your chips and that’s that.”

“I think it comes down to the food culture,” adds Jon. “For example, in the places where these salts are produced, they’re used locally. If you go to Cyprus everyone will be using the local Cypriot pyramid salt and embracing it, whereas over here the food culture is different.”

Now more of us are starting to enjoy cooking (and preserving) more seriously at home, we are learning and starting to appreciate salt’s uses and its role as a flavouring in its own right.

“We’re not claiming that our salts will make you healthy, but it’s all about making little changes,” says Jon. “If you can get a salt that is less refined, and has got a slightly different flavour, and you sprinkle it on your chicken after you’ve cooked it, you’re going to taste it more and use less.”

Ant and Jon’s extensive range of salts can be split into three categories: single origin salts, flavoured salts, and blended salts.

“Single origin salts, like the Himalayan salt, mined in Pakistan, come from one location,” explains Jon. “We’ve got some that are Hawaiian, one from Peru – that’s a single origin which can be traced back to a single source. The single origin salts each have slightly different colours, tastes and chemical make-ups.”

Black Lava is a Hawaiian sea salt, which is coated with activated charcoal – normally coconut charcoal – to give its characteristic colour. Jon recommends sprinkling it over butter and eating with bread to fully appreciate the flavours.

Red Alaea is also from Hawaii, from the same source as Black Lava, but this fine-grained version is mixed with a red clay that is local to the island, which means you’re getting different minerals as well as the stunning colour.

Persian Blue salt from Iran is speckled with beautiful blue crystals formed when it was compressed by surrounding rocks millions of years ago. Taste-wise, it is Trotting Potter’s least salty salt. Ant recommends it for drinks and cocktails: “If you’re having tequila, try this instead of harsh, bitter table salt.”

The relative saltiness of the various origins is down to their sodium content. The Persian Blue contains less sodium than, say, Atlantic sea salt from Portugal which is their saltiest tasting salt due to its high sodium content.

Inca Sun comes from Peru, near Machu Picchu, and is so named because it is reputedly still processed the same way it would have been by the ancient civilisation. A salt water stream that springs from the mountains is dammed into a series of pools where it dries it out in the sun and is later harvested.

Probably the most popular and widely recognised salt Jon and Ant stock is Himalayan salt. The majority of it is actually white, with deep red and pink veins giving the ground rock salt its recognisable pink hue, but it’s one both chefs keep in their cupboards for everyday use.

Jon and Ant also make their own flavoured salts, including a deep red Merlot salt, infused with red wine and then dehydrated. “It doesn’t really lose its colour, so I like putting it on bread rolls before baking, on roast potatoes or brushed onto the pastry of a beef Wellington,” says Jon.

A pure liquorice compound is used to make their distinctive liquorice flavoured salt, which is great for making salted caramels, sprinkled over popcorn, and with chocolate desserts. Other flavoured salts in the range include raspberry and snowy coconut, perfect with rum cocktails.

The third category, blended salts, feature more added ingredients and include Trotting Potter’s pastis salt, which recently received national recognition from the Guild of Fine Food in the form of a two star Great Taste Award. Following the award announcement, with judges describing it as ‘a masterful blend of spices’, they have had a wave of interest from farm shops and delis wishing to stock their products.

“Our pastis salt is a blend of fennel seed, star anise and citrus zest, among other things, and it’s one of the first salts we actually blended,” Jon tells Sauce. “It works especially well with white fish and shellfish. Because of the crystal size I use the Portuguese sea salt for gravadlax, but if you’re making a ceviche the pastis salt will go very well as the cure.”

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