Every month, we invite a different food blogger to take us on a whistle-stop tour of their hometown, telling us about the best places to eat out. This month, Holly from Recipes From A Normal Mum takes us on a foodie tour of Leicester.
over to holly…
The city of Leicester is awash with eateries, admittedly many of them chains. If you’re looking to support independent restaurants in the city then book a seat at one of these.
My favourite tandoori restaurant
Vishal is one of those curry houses you’d miss if you weren’t local or obsessed with sniffing out the perfect, succulent tandoori chicken leg. We have 3 kids so mostly we sweet talk the owners into delivered slightly outside their zone, but we have also eaten in and my, was it worth it. Ignore the dodgy Bargain Booze across the road, hell, sit with your back to the window if you must, and just order pretty much anything. I love their breads, rice, veggie sides, especially their tandoori chicken and perhaps controversially, their pineapple ice cream served in scooped out baby pineapples. Attentive service. Good food served by nice people.
Best place to induce meat sweats
As a girl who spent most of her twenties on the Atkins diet (well, apart from the copious vats of carby wine) you could say I like a meat platter or two. Saray Mangal is a Turkish barbecue restaurant that’s back to basics. No table cloths, brisk service, no card payments and a simple menu. But go! Do go. And don’t make the rookie error of over ordering. Oh actually, do. The Family Mixed Meze to start followed by the Saray Family Mix. Wear an elasticated waistband and ask for leftovers to go. (FYI: This is a no booze restaurant.)
Best fish restaurant
Okay, strictly Casa Romana isn’t a fish restaurant, it’s an Italian. A rather wonderful, slightly chaotic and noisy Italian, often with live music. But everyone knows that you simply have to order fish here. For starter and main. It’s the law. And you must drunkenly finish the iceberg lettuce based side salad and salty chips. If you’re a regular then Francesco will ply you with Limoncello before you leave. Part theatre, part restaurant, I love it. Oh and it has no signage. So make sure you study the map before you set off.
Best posh Italian
Oggi (pronounced Odge-eeeee) is a restaurant you’d be forgiven for having overlooked. It’s at the Victoria Park end of London Road, small, not in any way ostentatious and frankly not somewhere I’d considered until we had our third son. It’s where we took him for his first meal out at 10 days old. There’s old school service, lots of cutlery and wine glasses, plus copious amounts of butter. Their specials are always spot on.
My favourite veggie curry venue
Shivalli serves honest vegetarian food that although you may find yourself gorging on, makes you feel curiously cleansed. Order dosa, chitranna rice (spiked with cashews, lentils and mustard seeds) or just try a thali if you can’t be bothered to decide. They do a great value buffet at lunch times that attracts a lot of local office workers.
Most zen like lunchtime café
The World Peace Café is run by Buddhist volunteers, meaning the service is eclectic but smiley. Everything served is vegetarian but lovingly, thoughtfully and simply prepared. I like their vegan ciabatta of roasted mushroom, avocado, vine tomatoes and olive tapenade. Very child and baby friendly and unfortunately closed on a Monday. I could really do with a side order of meditation with my lunch after the weekend…
I need to be brutally honest about The Emerald Thai. The ambience sucks. The room is too bright, the location is a bit grubby, the chairs retro in a bad way, the acoustics don’t work. In spite of all this I keep going back. The food is good, the service sweet (though stretched). Their sticky coconut rice is other worldly. Their Thai salads as hot and sour and crunchy as you’d want them to be. Portion sizes not huge but oddly I’ve never left hungry. Can collect takeaway too.
Server of the largest, best value bowls of pasta
La Dolce Vita is a tiny Italian on Narborough Road, quite a studenty end of town. It serves great value Italian grub. You can keep it cheap with pasta or push the boat out with lamb shank, but it’s hard to spend more than £25 per head. Try their tiramisu before you order a cab. Cash only but a few banks about.
Best non fried breakfast
Piero’s Café is on Loseby Lane, part of the imaginatively named ‘Lanes’ of Leicester. It’s a basic café that houses a wonderful secret. Of course it does the usual fry up, but you’d be mad not to order their Marakesh breakfast complete with eggs in spicy sauce, cheese casadiya, mudamas and minty Marakesh tea. All for just £4.90. Open early at the weekends so perfect for foodies with babies who do not respect the sanctity of the weekend lie in.
My favourite super speedy noodle bar
Years ago when I worked sweat shop hours in a London ad agency, the mere mention of a certain Japanese inspired noodle chain would strike fear into my heart. It meant the client wasn’t happy so dinner was at my desk. Thank goodness time is a great healer. These days I love a noodle lunch or supper, especially from Little Tokyo where a whole bowl of Teppan Yaki Udon is just £6.95.
Holly is a mum of three boys, a cookbook writer and also a finalist on the 2011 Great British Bake Off. She decided to record the recipes she uses, partly to save them somewhere and partly in case someone else might like to use them. Leicester is her hometown, of which she says: “The place most people claim to have driven past or through but never to have stopped. We have a market, we have lots of great curry houses, we have red Leicester cheese. What more do you want? Come on down.”