Sunday, 19 November 2017

French Kissing in Millstone Lane

Great Scott! Is it really five years since I last reviewed Le Bistrot Pierre? It's been a busy old time for them, the chain having expanded rapidly and now occupying over 20 locations UK wide after significant investment in 2015. I think there were probably 3 or 4 when the Boy and I first came to Leicester and experienced dining there for the first time.




However, they had a good model and they have stuck with it, which is no doubt the reason they have been invested in and continue to delight diners around the UK. I have always been a fan of their slow cooked meat dishes (as you would hope in a French restaurant) as well as their reasonably priced lunch offering and this still holds true. The only major discernible change is that they have dropped the 'Le' from their name. I presume that's a Brexit thing 😂




Leicester's Bistrot has recently undergone a refurbishment, which has left it somewhat tidier, but still atmospheric and pleasing on the eye. It retains its versatility in that it is bright and airy in the day times for a welcoming lunch but also intimate and cosy in the evening for a more secluded tete-a-tete.

It was noticeably quiet when we arrived - during that magical transition time between the daytime and pre-theatre menus - but for us this wasn't an issue. It was pretty early to go for dinner, but needs must sometimes and I was really quite pleased we could be accommodated. The service was pleasant and our waiter was full of helpful recommendations, which is particularly useful when it comes to The Boy. I think he would die of starvation before settling on a menu choice sometimes.




While we chose our meals, we were brought a bottle of 2016 Les Mougeottes Pinot Noir (I just discovered if you mispell pinot you get pinto... Sure I can do something with that knowledge one day) which we both really enjoyed. Not overly heavy, but enough tannin and structure to please The Boy and plenty of layers of complexity to satisfy my inquistive palette. However, also it had a light enough character to match with a variety of dishes which was all part of my cunning plan.

The meal was well paced, without waits for courses being overlong or feeling rushed and we chatted over our complimentary bread basket while waiting for our starters to be presented. I still get giddily excited with free bread in the UK. I don't get why it's so impossible for other venues to provide, or why they feel charging £3 or more is acceptable. I feel like providing bread with a meal is pretty much the same as providing salt and pepper if required. Maybe that's a Brexit thing too.




The Boy ordered the Terrine Rustique, and I'll be honest this was probably the most disappointing dish of the set. It looked pretty enough, served with sourdough bread and cornichons on a board (yeah, they've fallen in to the boards over plates thing here too, but happily not all the time), however the terrine - purportedly of rabbit, chicken and pork with pistachio - was a bit of a free for all, almost as if the meats had been blended rather than laid and compressed into a terrine as you would expect. The Boy wasn't keen which gave me the chance to have a good taste and it was a little bit like soft tinned meat and the separate meat flavours were not discernible at all. So we'll probably leave that one next time to be honest.

We'd already been back since the refurbishment, hence why I have a photo of the table we were sat at!

It's all uphill from here though dear reader, so stick with me! My starter was the Brioche et Champignons. That's mushrooms on toast for you Leavers. Gosh, I've really got Brexit on the brain today, haven't I? Must be tired. Anyway, this dish wasn't much of a looker - you'd have to get up pretty early in the morning to put a fricasee of mushrooms on a slice of buttery brioche toast and make it look fancy, but who cares? It was delicious - creamy and earthy mushrooms with piquante, salty lardons of Alsace bacon and an underlying richness from both the mushroom sauce and the brioche itself. It was marvellous. I've made myself frightfully hungry just thinking about it.




Romping through to the mains, and The Boy picked the duck dish from the specials menu - a pan fried breast served with cherries, which was pretty much made to match with the cherry notes in the Pinot Noir we had ordered. This was served with green beans, full of colour and perfectly cooked. Sadly I didn't get the opportunity to sample this one and was met with low growls and snarls when I suggested it. So I presume it was good.



Of course, the mains are always served with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Our waiter also insisted we try the mushrooms with our mains too, although I'm not sure why he was positively gushing about them. They were OK, but not particularly garlicky or otherwise of note.




My main was also duck - this time a confit leg served on a bed of Toulouse sausage cassoulet. Unbeknownst to me, there was a big ole hunk of Toulouse sausage hiding under the duck leg which I didn't find until quite a way through the meal, by which time I was quite full. But I soldiered on and managed to eat it. It was a LOT of food though - and I was really pleased with how everything was cooked - crispy duck skin, with the soft yielding beans melting into the cassoulet with the sweetness of tomato and sausage. Ah yes, this is the stuff of pleasant dreams indeed.



We were offered dessert, but politely declined as we would both possibly have exploded had we eaten any more. Overall the standard I expected from Bistrot Pierre was met. Big protein, a generally high standard of cooking and perfectly passable, although not pristine presentation. With starters in the region of £6 and mains coasting around £14 on the a la carte menu, this is a very similar price point to pretty much every major restaurant chain on the high street but I would definitely choose Bistrot Pierre over your Coast to Coast or, heaven forfend, TGI Fridays and their ilk as the food feels more real. Actual meat, vegetables and the like - you know what I mean...

So many thanks to Bistrot Pierre for inviting us along to trial the new look Leicester venue, a thoroughly enjoyable meal was had and we will continue to visit this comfortable restaurant and enjoy the friendly service from your team!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Podcast Review: Soul Music

We're back with the ever-lovely Ginny Copley for another guest podcast review. If you have no idea what this is, why this is or what the goodness gracious a podcast even is, then check back to our first guest post with Ginny's explanation of what podcasts are and how you can listen in!

Take it away Ginny!

Soul Music
What is it? Music can give us goose bumps, make us smile, cry and evoke memories. A single piece of music can be part of many different people’s stories. This podcast explore those stories and emotions.
‘Music with a powerful emotional impact’

Where to start? Something inside so strong (Series 18) is a song that has been taken up by many oppressed groups around the world. This episode tells its story and speaks to people for whom it is deeply meaningful and gives them a sense of hope and dignity. Labi Siffre the song’s writer talks about how he came to write it, the song’s link to Apartheid in South Africa and the discrimination he had experienced growing up as a gay man. I challenge you to listen to this episode and not get a lump in your throat!


And if like that one…. The great thing about this podcast is that there have been many episodes and they include lots of different genres. You can listen to the story of a piece of pop music, classical music or a song from a musical. So pick a song you know and love to learn more about it or pick one you’ve never heard before and 30 minutes later, you’ll be something of an expert. I enjoyed Fairytale of New York (Series 21) and the stories of pride and rebellion connected to The Star-Spangled Banner (Series 23). And there are still so many more to enjoy.
In a nutshell… Music, history, stories, spine tingling songs, humanity
Don’t listen if… Music leaves you cold. Or if you are listening while travelling on public transport and don’t want to start blubbing.

Where to listen? BBC, Stitcher, iTunes

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Bourbon tasting with Drew Mayville, Master Blender at Buffalo Trace

I had an amazing afternoon last month, enjoying the privilege of a tasting led by the Master Blender of Buffalo Trace, Drew Mayville. He had rocked up to our top local cocktail bar here in Leicester, Manhattan34, and was only doing events in Edinburgh and London in the UK during this visit as I understand so it shows you the reputation of this bar and its bartenders if you haven't been before!!




Anyway, Drew was an engaging and entirely compelling speaker and an absolute mine of bourbon knowledge. He gave us some detail about his own career and how he had come to Buffalo Trace, at about the same time as I heard of the brand whilst still at university! He then talked us through an expert tasting session, giving some amazing cues on how to taste, what to look for to understand the impact of the different mash bills and aging that the bourbons had gone through, and all done with a smile and a twinkle in the eye. As I say, a thoroughly enjoyable but also deeply educational afternoon!

In particular I really enjoyed hearing about the development of the distillery and the company, and finding out that the Buffalo Trace is a real thing - the mark the buffalo had left in that area of the Kentucky landscape, moving in their (originally) vast herds.



Drew was talking to a room of industry professionals and so he assumed everyone understood the fundamentals of bourbon production and in the interests of brevity, I will too. However if you're not sure, there is a great resource on the Buffalo Trace website about the process, just click here.




White Dog Mash #1

Made to educate about the range of flavours within the new made bourbon spirit before aging. So it is 125 proof, and gives an incredible pepper kick - this is Buffalo Trace as it is when it goes in to the barrel, the raw distillate. However, it does still have a slight sweetness in the mouth from the corn, balanced by the rye as the small grain. Once that initial hefty kick fades off as the mouth becomes accustomed to it I certainly found it an interesting and rewarding drink to enjoy. But you'll definitely love it or hate it!




Buffalo Trace

The one you're all familiar with - light straw colour and sweet nose of the 8 (plus) year aged bourbon with interesting spice on the tip of the tongue, the dryness of the oak in the centre of the mouth and then hints of vanilla fudge coming through. An incredibly balanced and extremely pleasant drink.

Eagle Rare

This one is 10 years aged, so we were learning about the developing impact of the oak on the dryness and the finish - to me this felt as though it was not as balanced, but it had more complex dimensions on the nose - the spice from the oak is intense and has started to create some notes of dried fruit. Not as much my cup of tea as the straight Buffalo Trace, but it clearly depends on your taste as there were many nods of approval in the room.




Stagg Jnr

Now this is one hell of a boubon. Eight years aged and strong on the nose with apricot notes, this is an explosion of heat and spice in your mouth, but surprisingly smooth. Lovely fruit flavours are layered with black pepper and twiggy notes from the barrels! It has a dry tannic feel but yet leaves a syrupy coating in the mouth. This is the fatty acids in the drink, which has a high proof as a cut version would cloud. It has a joyous, rounded finish with some very light vanilla coming through after you have drank it. Truly a voyage of discovery with every sip!

Sazerac Rye

With 51% rye and corn as the small grain, this cannot be called a bourbon. It was a spritely six years old and has a smooth nose with the spice leaning towards the clove end of the spectrum. It's a delight of smoothness in the mouth, some vanilla but also quite fruity, almost peachy and just the merest hint of spice. I adored it. One of the drinks of the day for me.




Small batch E H Taylor

This has to be 100 proof and was aged for around 7 years. Its beautiful amber colour and large halo were reflected in the very light, delicate nose. It gives an elegant spice hit just on the roof of the mouth, and also an airy fruitiness - no intense oak or tannin here but complex, light and ever so slightly floral. Lip smacking.




Van Winkle Wheated Bourbon

This was the surprise of the day for me. With 51% corn and wheat as the small grain and 12 years of age, we thought we knew what to expect, but the sweet, and almost menthol notes flavours were pretty crazy, especially considering it was barely there on the nose. This menthol note gave a tingle in the mouth, but with some complex sweet and fruit flavours - like sweet as in candy, and some floral stone fruit along with the caramel tone. Beautiful to drink. Difficult to describe! (Plus I'd drank quite a lot of bourbon at this point) Rare as hen's teeth too as far as I can gather, so good luck finding some to enjoy for yourself!

Monday, 6 November 2017

Black Iron: The Refurbishment of Braunstone Hall

After 20 years of being at the mercy of the elements, and generations of vandals with nothing better to do but leave their mark on an historic building, Braunstone Hall has risen from the ashes with a new name and a new restaurant.

Some evidence of the building's dereliction remains. I'm kind of glad they didn't restore too far.

We were invited to the press launch of Black Iron at Winstanley House, named for the family who originally built it in 1775, and the £2m refurbishment has certainly brought back an impressive sense of grandeur to the building - with sympathetic contemporary builds used to connect originally disparate parts of the hall.

I'm not going to give you too many clues as to how it looks - you need to visit!

As well as a hotel with a grand ballroom, you can enjoy an elegant meal in the stately restaurant rooms. As the name suggests, Black Iron is a steakhouse, with limited choice for vegetarians on the main menu, unless you want courgette flan. However, we were given a special set menu choice for the evening and there were good vegetarian options at each course. We settled in to the comfortable dining room, although we were puzzled by a large booth which cut the dining area off from the rest of the space and seemed to be the one unsympathetic feature I saw in the whole restoration - we were off to one side of said booth and it basically cut off our view of one side of the historic room, which was a shame.




To start, I enjoyed the ginger pork cheeks. This was served with pickled fruit and vegetable slices on sourdough bread and was beautifully cooked. Melting, sticky pork with a rich flavour and thick juices soaking into the bread made for a lovely combination of flavours. It was beautifully presented too - they are really going for fine dining presentation which suits the setting, although the prices are not overtly high-end - certainly equal to what you would see in any chain restaurant.


The Boy enjoyed the Earl Grey smoked mackerel, with a nice tea flavour coming through. Again the delicate presentation was noticeable and portion size was excellent, with the delicately piped avocado giving a great colour contrast. Thumbs up all round for the starters.



On to the main event, and of course I had to order the steak. My 280g Rib Eye steak was disappointingly cooked to medium (when I ordered rare) which impacted on the texture and flavour as you would expect, however you could tell that it was a good quality steak and it was still enjoyable. This was one of a couple of simple errors in cooking and service that we noticed on the night, but it was clear that the staff were generally very new and learning the ropes so I can definitely forgive it and not be put off visiting again.




The dripping fries served with the steak were the real deal, with just the right balance of crisp and fluffiness, although I was disappointed that the bone marrow promised on the menu did not materialise. The peppercorn sauce, with its mix of black, green and pink peppercorns was a nice touch though, although the dish the plate was served on was cold, so the steak and the sauce lost their heat almost immediately. Sadly mixed reviews for me then on the main, but as I say it could well be teething problems.




The Boy sampled the pork belly, and it was as crisp as you would hope in nice contrast to the creamy mash. There was not really enough sauce served with it - either the cider jus or the burnt apple puree - both of which were necessary with this big ole' hunk of pork! So individually all the elements were right, but perhaps the jus could have been served in larger quantity on the side.




For pudding, The Boy enjoyed the sticky toffee pudding, and in discussion with other diners that evening this seemed to be a clear favourite of the evening for most guests. I have to confess to being less impressed with my Black Iron Trifle. I don't know if I'm just pickier than everyone else? This didn't have the same sense of luxuriousness in terms of the component ingredients as the other dishes. And I couldn't get over the chocolate balls sprinkled over the top, which are definitely something I would associate with the soft serve from an ice cream van and not a classic dining experience. Maybe I am turning into a food snob....




All in then, it's a beautiful place to visit and a fine dining-like experience at not fine dining prices, which seems to me about fair. The food is presented as delightfully as the building is appointed and set in the middle of Braunstone Park, I look forward to them working on their outdoor terrace for next summer as that is certainly somewhere we'd enjoy sitting out and eating. It is a little out of the city centre - we walked from town and it took in the region of 40 minutes - and for those of you unfamiliar with Braunstone do get your sat nat on because you really have to wend your way through the estate to find it.




However, I'd be happy to drink under the chandeliers in the statesmanlike bar, I'd be very happy to stay in the beautiful hotel rooms under the care of the extremely attentive reception team and I look forward to restaurant growing into its surroundings as the kitchen and waiting teams settle into their new roles. If you're going to spend £30 at N E Other Generic Chain Restaurant for dinner tonight, then do yourself a favour and take a punt on the Black Iron instead. And let me know how they got on.

Many thanks to the Winstanley team for inviting us along to celebrate their launch and for showing us such attentive service.


Thursday, 2 November 2017

Taste of Science at the National Space Centre

Returning for another year this month, the National Space Centre are holding their Taste of Science event, the perfect combination of foodie and geeky, because who doesn't like a food fair with a science bitches twist?



The event is on the 11th November from 7pm until 11pm. Your ticket costs just £10 and includes entry to the Space Centre (a ticket normally costs £14 on its own!), as well as access to tastings, demonstrations, workshops and competitions. You'll also be able to access the indoor food court, and marketplace of foodie stalls. Finally, there will be live music to keep you entertained, so it sounds like a great night out, as well as a good opportunity to indulge in some early Christmas shopping (if you can resist eating all of your goodies before you wrap them!)



Predictably, I'm pretty interested in the Libation Lounge, where Brewklopedia will be hosting a beer tasting, followed on by Charlotte Wood from Manhattan34 giving a cocktail masterclass. I have it on exclusive, and very good authority, that this may well involve a gin which has been to space! Actual space!


The Bee Farmer


The marketplace will see a great variety to stallholders too, including Geology Girl Rocks, who will also hold a science recipe session in the demonstration kitchen,  Ridiculously Rich and their luxury handmade cakes, The Bee Farmer and a whole lot more.

Pretty unmissable stuff for foodies of all shades, if you ask me!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Wine tasting at Veeno

The Boy and I were invited along to Veeno recently, to see what we thought of their wine tasting experience. We were clearly very pleased to oblige, as regular visitors to the St Martin's Square wine bar.


We were treated to the Selezione tasting session - a range of five wines with an antipasto platter, followed by a sharing dessert and accompanying dessert wine.


The hardest thing is resisting the delicious nibbles laid out in front of you when you arrive. The platter is so tempting, but be warned - each element has been carefully picked to match with your wine so you need to keep some of each to enjoy at the opportune moment.


I really loved the Mozzarella di Bufala, matched with the first, driest wine, the Grillo grape in Sicani wine. All of the wines at Veeno come from the family vineyard in Sicily, Caruso & Minini and this tasting demonstrates the impact in the different geographical conditions enjoyed by their land holdings - this wine is grown on the tallest hill to give the best freshness and crisp acidity. It has a slight floral note to it which I found very pleasant and I enjoyed the match.


Next up was the Zibibbo, a big, rounded wine with some interesting spicy notes but an overall fruitiness which gives a delicious texture. This was paired with the pungent Pecorino al grotta - seasoned in the cave, with a earthy rind and strong flavour which cut nicely through the richness of the wine.


Veeno only have one rose, and it is made with Syrah, without the skins, but still holds enough tannin to give it interest over more commercial roses. This was a particularly good pairing, with the smokey speck giving a contrast to the light fruitiness of the wine and really bringing out the best in both.



After this we were on to the reds, and I'll be honest, the pacing was a little slow for me. With 70ml pours and a tempting platter of food that you really needed to avoid eating until the allotted time, we found ourselves growing slightly impatient. However, this did give you the time to digest your food properly and so we found ourselves getting surprisingly full. The Perricone is a wine that I will often order at Veeno and the hint of liquorice on the nose is surprising and mellows into a light earthy flavour in the mouth. Matched with the slightly heavier, savoury flavour of the Bresaola - a preserved beef, this again was a beautifully savoury match that I would return to.



Finally, the Nero d'Avola Riserva gave all of its deep dark fruit and cocoa notes up to a beautiful match with the headiness of the Gorgonzola. The match I had been waiting for all evening, it did not disappoint, particularly as we had been there for several hours and so the gorgonzola had melted beautifully and was at a perfect oozing room temperature.



And finally, it was on to the Tagos and Tiramisu. Well, sort of. They'd run out of Tagos, so we had the end of the bottle, not quite a serve, with a glass of Marsala as a substitute. Which was a shame as the cinnamon notes in the Tagos made it an excellent match with the creamy coffee flavour of the tiramisu and the texture was a better match too. But there you are.



I found it a well thought out evening. All of the pairings are great - the food really brings out the best in the wine and vice versa. Apart from my reservations about the pacing of the evening, I would happily pay to do it again. It would be a great experience to share with friends, or as an intimate evening as a couple. Thank you to Veeno for giving us the chance to experience it.

PS - don't miss the olive oil and balsamic for dipping your bread - they are both fantastic quality.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Days out at Meridian Leicester

We spent a very fun evening out at Meridian Leisure Park last year, so I was pleased to be invited back to see what exciting new things they have to offer Leicester.



We started off at the Harvester with a crash course on how to pull the perfect pint... I'll be honest, I was somewhat dubious when the 'perfect pint' was a Carling, but I guess that's my own snobbery!! We didn't get to hang around for long though, as a 50% off food voucher was doing the rounds and so they were absolutely heaving! Keep an eye on their website so that you are in the know about all of their special offers!



Next off we were up at Nandos, to enjoy some nibbles to start and of course bottomless soda. I really liked the hummus, which had a little texture to it, and comes with a teeny bottle of peri peri sauce which tastes just like liquid chorizo. It's beaut! Not too hot spicy, but very flavourful, it makes a great match to the hummus and really got the tastebuds going. We also had a bowl of plump olives and some spiced mixed nuts which seemed to build and build in heat as you went along. Once our nibbly needs were satiated, it was off to Hollywood Bowl!





Bowling needs no introduction, but most people in the group had to confess that they hadn't been for a long time. I'll admit our scoreboard looked pretty funny with the blog names up there! And it's soooo much better now you can wear your own shoes (just leave the stilettoes at home).



We played a game and to my surprise, I came first out of the bloggers! Which is amazing because I suck at bowling. Sorry guys, but it's true. It must have been the glass of vino I enjoyed with the game that helped me find my level. And I really liked that none of the bloggers were particularly competitive because neither am I! I love a low pressure game where you all just enjoy having a go, it doesn't really matter who wins. Bowling is a really lovely activity that suits all ages and I am now rounding up my mates so that we can go for a game one evening instead of a night in the pub!


After bowling, we were all ready for a bite to eat. I was surprised to discover there is now a Five Guys at Meridian, as I had no idea that had opened there in the last year. The American style burger joint is popular for it's 'choose your own toppings' approach served with an uncomplicated, simple menu. With the range of free extras you can customise the burger to your liking without having to pay any extra so it's great for a mixed group of people who have different preferences.Vegetarian options are available too.



I'll be honest, my burger was nice, but it didn't blow me away - the patties were a little lacking in flavour, but I did get bacon and plastic cheese so I wasn't gonna argue! The best thing for me were definitely the fries - homefry style, dark and crisp and their serving sizes were enormous (if money:food ratio is your thing). They have a range of shakes you can enjoy with your meal too, so yee-haa to that all-American dining experience!

Thanks again to Meridian for inviting me along. The bowling was definitely my favourite part and I think it's worth going out to Hollywood Bowl at Meridian for this as it's not too big, wasn't overly crowded on the night we visited and has plenty of options if you want drinks or something to eat afterwards.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Eating something unpronounceable

The latest new restaurant offering in Leicester is Pho, an eagerly anticipated chain restaurant arrival offering Vietnamese cuisine - the eponymous Pho is a bowl of noodle soup -with other dishes giving you an interesting and helpful insight into the food of Vietnam. I assume anyway, I've never been so I have to guess that their authenticity is on point!!


Pho invited us along to road test their new High Street restaurant, which is well located on the corner opposite The Cookie and Lumbers, some great Leicester institutions. The decor is dark and ambient - lots of stained wood and mood lighting - I really quite liked it. It's cosy but cool at the same time. On to the menu, and they have a selection of Vietnamese inspired cocktails on offer, so I opted for a Rose Apple Bellini, made with Tao Meo liquor. I've not had anything rose apple flavoured before and it was an interesting taste - apple notes, with a slight sourness and more indecipherable herbaceous qualities. I'm glad I've had one, but I would want to try something different next time.



The menu has the original Vietnamese name with an easy to follow English description underneath. I have no idea how to even go about pronouncing all the various accents that the English transliteration has, but its good fun giving it a go! It speaks of my own ignorance more than anything. Our starters came out after a short wait - service is bustling and quick here and of course many dishes are very quick to cook. The Boy opted for the chicken wings, Canh ga (I haven't got time to find all the accents!!) while I enjoyed the fried baby squid - Muc chien gion.



The chicken wings take a little longer to cook than other starters and I was impressed that we were warned about this, but it was still barely a moment before the dish was brought out. Although a little on the small side, the wings were good and crispy with a flavourful sriracha dipping sauce. There is also a choice of sauces and homemade pickles available on the table so you can flavour up each dish as you choose. Don't forget to read the 'key' to these sauces before your menu is whipped away after you have ordered!




I was a little trepidatious about the squid as the batter looked very anaemic, but I think it was the tempura-like nature of the batter itself rather than a problem in the cooking, as it was absolutely perfect in texture - light and crisp with the squid tender and yielding in the centre. Pretty heavenly. My dish came with a little saucer for the dipping sauce, which our server explained contained salt, pepper and chilli with a lime half on the side for me to squeeze in myself. It's nice to put such a simple, fresh dip together yourself and I really enjoyed how the spice level increased as I ate while the chilli marinaded in the lime. It was zingy and lively, but its simplicity meant the flavour of the squid was not overpowered. Pretty top notch stuff.



On to the mains and of course I had to try the Pho. I opted for the Chef's Special, served with brisket, enoki and button mushrooms and an egg yolk in the centre. Each Pho comes with a side plate of assorted herbs to help you to season the dish to your own liking. I enjoyed adding some crunchy beansprouts, thai basil, coriander and even a dash of mint to my dish, although I found the spicing was fine so I didn't go for the chilli. I did find the soup base a little underseasoned though but a little fish sauce from the table soon resolved this.




The customisable element and the fresh ingredients really appeal to me, but I can't help but wonder how much waste of fresh produce this creates. However, the pho is good, all a bit of an experience to eat balancing chopsticks and your little wooden ladle. The brisket was tender and although the enoki mushrooms were a little thin on the ground the overall combination of flavours was enjoyable. With a mass of flat rice noodles nestling in the bottom of the sizable bowl this was really quite a meal! It doesn't leave you uncomfortably full though, which I appreciated.



The Boy chose the rice bowl, topped with a rainbow of veggies and served with the beef in a betel leaf option. All the elements were great, except perhaps surprisingly the beef which tasted a little bit like a mediocre hamburger patty, slightly dry and wrapped in a leaf. The peanut sprinkle over the top added texture and it being a drier dish overall gave him the chance to really go to town on the pickles and sauces on the table, so another relative success here.



To finish I was interested to try the Vietnamese coffee. I have always enjoyed coffee served with condensed milk in Spain so it was exciting to see what the Vietnamese equivalent was like. Served in its own mini percolator is always a good sign as you know your coffee has been made fresh and the layer of condensed milk added a sweet creaminess which I really enjoyed, although perhaps the coffee needed to be a little stronger to stand up to this bold competition.



All in all, I was surprised at how impressed I was. I really enjoyed the food and the pricing is good compared to some of the other chain restaurants in the area. It's a little bit different, there's a little bit of theatre, although the slurping and noodle flicking might not make it an ideal first date restaurant! Definitely a comfortable place for relaxed dining with friends and family. Thanks to Pho for inviting me along and I am already looking forward to coming back to sample more things that I cannot pronounce!
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