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Monday, 12 March 2012

White Room Dining champions local food

My local food challenge for this year, where 80 per cent of what I eat has to come from Leicestershire or Rutland has been going well.

Although the variety of what I've been able to eat hasn't been as wide, the quality of the produce has been good. Kale and leeks from the allotment have been wonderful, but I'm really looking forward to the purple sprouting broccoli getting its ass into gear and actually producing something other than leaves.

Looking ahead I've been sowing lots of tomato seeds, salad leaves and herbs and the potatoes are still chitting away.

Good quality meat is so easy to find in our two counties with lots of really good suppliers and butchers around (more about meat in another post) and of course local butter, milk , cream and cheese are all  available.

The 20 per cent of my diet for other food and drinks is enough for coffee, wine and the odd lemonade plus any odd craving when I'm eating at home.I simply had to have a grapefruit the other week -nothing but the citrusy sharpness of a pink grapefruit would do!

But it's eating out that's the problem.When I'm popping out for a bite of lunch, or going out for a meal, the exact provenance of what I'm eating isn't readily available.

Until last week that is, when I attended Leicester's first pop up restaurant in Stoneygate  - it was called White Room Dining.

The joint brainchild of two friends of mine Lucy Cufflin and Debbie Johnson, it was great....two nights of dining on a really local food menu in what looked like an intimate, beautifully set posh restaurant.

Debbie Johnson runs Powder Blue, an interior design shop on Francis Street.She  also stages sets, props etc for magazine shoots etc and as you can see from the above photo she has a dramatic, creative flair......(she also has an allotment on the same site as me  and need I add that's it's the prettiest, tidiest allotment there!)

Lucy Cufflin is a cordon bleu chef who's worked around the world, owns her own catering company,  has a shop, and has written her own amazing cookbook called Lucy's Food.

The setting for the pop up was an upstairs  store room at Powder Blue...two weeks before it was full of boxes.

 The menu looked like this....

Wine and canapes for the thirty diners were served downstairs in the seemed like a party....some knew each other , others meeting for the first time,...and then we went upstairs for the main meal.

The starter was a pannacotta of hand caught Rutland trout from Rob Waddington ( with fresh horseradish and beetroot.

It looked like this

A creamy pale pink panacotta with the local beetroot mixed with horseradish adding a welcome tangy bite .The accompanying bread was locally made too with ale and honey by Jasmine Sore.

Next course up was a terrine of duck with vine fruits seved with Lucy's own muscat jelly and melba toast.The duck terrine came from just over the Nottinghamshire border -well textured and tasty with a generous proportion of brandy...and I can't forget the tingle of the intense flavour of the accompanying muscat jelly . I want more - and soon!

Individual puddings of venison with panch puren and local Everards Tiger Ale were then served. I've been to Bouverie Lodge where the organic locally reared venison comes from before  ..and I suspect many who were there at the pop up will be beating a path there to to buy some. I saw men falling on those puddings with glee, and quite frankly the gasps of pleasure from some of them  as they devoured the puddings were positively pornographic....

For the finale, Lucy's apple tart with walnut pastry with local Brucianni's ice cream.You can't buy the ice cream for home consumption and it's a shame. I'm sure it would be a profitable venture -with  people like me who want to buy local produce banging the door down in a bid to buy some.

But the whole pop up restaurant experience  isn't just  about the's about the ambience, the collective experience of everyone who's there. And that's where this pop up scored highly - the decibel level of the oohs and aahs as each course came out, the busy  happy sound of people enjoying their food and talking about it. Most tables were booked by friends, but for those of on mixed tables, meeting new and interesting people was great and especially on my table the conversation flowed as freely as the food and wine.

You can hear more about what happened at what was billed as Leicester's first Pop up restaurant by clicking this link below - and do the diners thinks there's a  good market for this type of thing?

And if you're running a local supper club, especially one using local food, then please let me know.....
In the meantime, the beautiful photos here in this post were not taken by me, but by Joanne Withers  at

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