Pink Mojo Chicken & Harissa Roast Vegetables

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Sometimes its hard to come up with healthy meals without losing flavour. Chicken and vegetables is a safe 'healthy' option and I find that marinades are a good way to combat potential blandness.

I have a bottle of 'Olives Et Al' Pink Mojo in my fridge and until last night, had only used it as salad dressing. It does say on the bottle that it can be used for a marinade though, so I thought I'd give it a go! I marinaded two chicken breasts in a good third of the bottle and left under clingfilm in the fridge for around 2 hours. Pink Mojo is Caribbean inspired with flavours of pink grapefruit, garlic and cumin - it tastes a little like the mild Nando's lime and coriander marinade which is no bad thing!



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Review: Annies Burger Shack and Cocktails in Nottingham

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We were out with friends in Nottingham this weekend to taste what we were promised were THE BEST burgers in Nottingham. Turns out my friends were VERY right!


Head over to The Navigation pub on Wilford Street and don't be put off by the unassuming pub frontage and hairy rockers gathered at the bar because 'Annies Burger Shack' is a brilliant find. Its basic stuff - sauces in sachets etc.. and ordering is simple - you get a burger with chips, curly fries or wedges. All the burgers can be made vegetarian or vegan and the meat is locally sourced. Best of all, the most expensive option is just £8.90.  It took a while to decide what to have, the menu is clever with some really interesting twists on the classic 'burger'. For example, the Kogumaza burger which is topped with homemade satay sauce, onions, coconut and coriander. Or the Thin Lizzy burger - topped with Guinness soaked mushrooms and onions in gravy with swiss cheese.

The pub had a band on so the place was pretty crowded and there was a wait on food but we found a table in the corner and got some drinks in. They told us at the bar that there was a wait so we didn't mind.

I went for a crazy meat feast 'Navigation Blues' which is a burger topped with a grilled sausage patty, chicken breast, bacon and cheddar, lettuce, tomato and mayo on a sesame topped bun. All served with seasoned wedges and garlic mayo. The husband went for the 'Speed Kings Surf & Turf'  which was a burger topped with american style seafood sauce, 4 breaded king prawns, dill, lettuce, tomato and mayo again on a sesame topped bun.

The 'Navigation Blues' burger - £8.90

'Speed Kings surf & turf burger' £8.90
Check out those wedges!!
Having increased our combined body weight considerably, we headed over to Tilt - a small independent cocktail bar on Pelham Street in town. It gets busy and isn't cheap but for a couple of drinks, its a real treat and its so achingly cool that there isn't even a website I can link you to! There's a nice round up here though. I had a Gin Garden - beautiful mix of gin, elderflower, cucumber and a variation on the Bloody Mary which will blow your mind - it was made with gin instead of vodka and included stilton and mint.. honestly!!

Cocktail superstars at Tilt Bar, Nottingham
 Hmm... all this has put me in mind to make some cocktails now.. is that acceptable at 4:30pm on a Monday? 
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Roasted Squash with feta & chorizo

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This is a great autumn recipe using Squash which is just coming into season now.  You can make this with any type of squash or even pumpkin I reckon. I tend to use standard butternut squash but you could experiment with some of the cool varieties around..

Roasted squash with feta mint and chilli
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Review: Chutney Ivy, Leicester

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This weekend we went for dinner with Dave's parents at Chutney Ivy in Leicester -  groupon vouchers clutched tight, we ran in the wind and the rain from the car to the restaurant.. stylish, understated and lit up against the dark, cold night. Its a few years since I've been to the 'cultural quarter' in Leicester and I was pleasantly surprised. Situated next to the Curve theatre and Athena, the restaurant is in a prime position to catch passersby both during the day and at night.

On first appearances, the restaurant looks great. High ceilings and exposed brickwork lift Chutney Ivy from the conventional 'curry house' and the open kitchen fills the room with fantastic aromas. The restaurant is Michelin recommended and this is certainly reflected in the prices - with al a carte £9.95 - £18.00 for mains and between £4.95 - £9.95 for starters or set meals starting at £22.95 per head.



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Review: Purnell's Restaurant, Birmingham

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What lucky people we are - for our wedding present from my mum and step dad, we went to Purnell's for dinner - that is - Glynn Purnell's Michelin Starred restaurant in Birmingham.

Here's my review of that fantastic, memorable night;
Given that we went for a special occasion, it was only right that we went all out and had the '8 Course Purnell's Tour'. We arrived to a contemporary, minimal looking lounge area and were greeted by the Maitre D' who was friendly and welcoming. Shortly after we were sipping ice cold Bollinger and enjoying some parmesan bread puff balls and olives.

We then moved to the dining room, directly behind the bar. Again, the space was minimalist but comfortable. Its not huge, probably around 20 tables so it had a luxuriously intimate feel to it. So, here we go. I won't include the bread and Amuse Bouche or I'll be typing all night! As each course was served, we were told what it was in detail. A great touch which really helped you understand what you were tasting.

Poached egg yolk
Poached egg yolk - smoked haddock milk foam - cornflakes - curry oil
This was quite possibly my favourite course although even now, I can't quite decide! The egg was rich, almost sticky and the curry oil with smoked haddock worked perfectly, like a modern day, Midlands inspired kedgeree. The little smoked haddock popsticks were a delight too.

Emotions of cheese & pineapple on sticks "Soixante-dix"
A very clever dish! Creamy goats cheese with almost crystallised pieces of pineapple in the bottom of the bowl. [At this point I have to interject your culinary tour to tell you what happened next!!  I nipped away from our table to go to the ladies and on my way, bumped into Glynn coming out of the kitchen. We stopped and had a little chat, I'd tweeted him earlier asking if I could take pictures so he knew who I was! I garbled a bit about Gingey Bites, went pink and then went back to my table (forgetting about the ladies!). How exciting!]

Devonshire Crab
Devonshire crab - apple & celeriac purée - smoked paprika honeycomb
This was my mums favourite and a close contender for me too. The crab and apple worked so well together, the sweet and the sour combined.

Carpaccio of Beef
Carpaccio of beef - red wine octopus - home corned beef - salt beef - sour cream
sweet & sour onions 

The overall winner of the evening with hubby and step dad wolfing it down with ahhs and oohs the whole time. This was another very clever dish - the corned beef was seasoned so beautifully it actually made your mouth water. Around the size of an oxo cube, it was all you needed! The sour cream complimented the carpaccio perfectly and even the octopus worked well. Mum wasn't sure about the octopus but I think that's because she ate it on its own rather than mixing with the other flavours.

Monkfish Masala
Monkfish Masala - Indian red lentils - pickled carrots - coconut - coriander
I'd seen this before as Glynn cooked it on Great British Menu a few years back. It didn't dissapoint - the fish was delicious. The carrots almost tasted as though they were confit. An unusual texture and taste, totally unique! The coconut was perfect with the lentils too. A very beautiful dish, if I went back for dinner again, I'd order this as my main course!


Balmoral venison rolled in liquorice charcoal - pear - fennel - roasted confit parsnip
This was probably our combined least favourite. The venison was stunning but some of us weren't overly keen on the liquorice as it was quite strong.  However, if this was the weakest dish, it was still one of the best I've ever eaten! 

[The highlight of this dish was the surprise on my family's face as we turned to the waiter pouring the sauce, only to see that it was Glynn himself! He'd come out to meet my mum as promised in the corridor, despite being mid service.]


"Chocolate"
"Chocolate"
All gorgeous. Melted chocolate with a passion fruit/ mango type thing in the middle. The mix in temperatures was really interesting with the chocolate being warmer than the centre fruit. There were also chocolate lollipops which were fun!


Egg custard surprise & blackberries
Burnt English custard egg surprise – English blackberries - blackberry sorbet - crystalised tarragon  
A total delight - My husband refuses to eat fruit, especially berries. However, it seems that if they're Michelin starred berries, he WILL eat them! We ate to the surprising sound of "Wow, I love these berries". I particularly loved the crystallised tarragon with the berries too. BUT - the winner here had to be the egg creme brulee. Served from an egg basket complete with hay, the delicate egg shells were filled with a perfect vanilla, egg mixture with a sugar crust. We loved the drama of it all!


Petit Fours
After this, we went back to the bar area for coffee and petit fours. I have to admit (and apologise to Purnells if you're reading) that by this point we were a little rowdy having enjoyed a bottle of wine and a couple of extra glasses too. We were very fortunate to again have 5 minutes with Glynn as he got ready to go home. Aside from mum letting him know what she thought of the liquorice, we had a great chat and of course a couple of photos.


To see a Michelin starred chef as well know as Glynn Purnell actually working in his kitchen on a Saturday night is impressive. With this in mind, I just want to say that even after working a saturday night in a full restaurant, and having already been to our table, Glynn then spent time talking with us - what a genuinely lovely guy! The '8 Course Purnells Tour' is £80.00 per person. Whilst this may seem expensive, the effort and skill involved in producing it, as well as the experience of tasting so many different things is worth (in my mind) every penny.

Square Meal
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Afternoon Tea Delight!

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Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon drinking tea, feet up, slippers on, watching Disney films and gossiping with friends. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday!

A friend of mine hosted the day and between three of us we came up trumps with a gorgeous tea set, a fantastic carrot cake and selection of Mauritian teas. Lets face it, if you're going to have a tea party, you've got to have a selection!


I have six boxes of tea which I bought on honeymoon during a trip to a tea plantation. There's Earl Grey, Vanilla, Coconut, Tropical Fruits and Mint and of course.. good old normal tea too. Bois Cheri is an amazing place in Mauritius - a tea plantation set around a beautiful lake in lush green surroundings. We got to see the tea making process in the factory before heading to the panoramic restaurant to try all the different teas. Of course I had to buy some to bring home - and thank goodness I did as they made our tea party complete!


My friend missanniebean is the proud owner of this beautiful tea set. It's made by 'Katie Alice' and is called 'Ditsy Yellow Floral' - its absolutely beautiful, fine bone china and very vintage. In all, right up my street! I am very jealous of her, especially because she has the full set -  2 tier cake stand, teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl and four three piece teacup, saucer and side plate sets.You can get your own online at Creative Tops - what perfect Christmas pressies!

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Marcus Wareing's Beef Hot Pot

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Earlier this week on a rainy cold day, I decided to dig out a recipe which I've not made for a while: Beef hot pot from Marcus Wareing's 2007 book: How to cook the perfect.. It covers really simple and classic dishes but shows you how to excel at them. Helpful tips and advice for if things go wrong are also a great touch. Leek and Potato Soup, Seared Tuna, Pork Chops, Mash and Spiced Aubergines are just a selection of what the book contains. 

So, here we go with his beef hot pot!


Hotpot out the oven

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The Delonghi Icona Vintage - pure kettle joy!

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We went to John Lewis today to start spending some of our wedding vouchers. Dave somehow managed to convince me that we needed a new TV so we're now the proud owners of a HD, LED, 3D BLAH BLAH 42" TV. Its very swanky and the sharpness of the picture is crazy! Every wrinkle and spot shown up close. Can't wait to watch Downton Abbey on it!

Whilst browsing the kitchen section I came across the fantastic Delonghi Icona Vintage range. Kettles and toasters in a range of shades and with such cute vintage styling, they are completely to die for! I went for the kettle in Olive Green and it looks great against the brown and cream tiling in my kitchen. When we have a bit more money, I will definitely be back for the matching toaster!

This is the shade I went for.
Now I just need to wait for them to start making toasty makers, microwaves, coffee machines... etc... so I can kit the whole kitchen out! *sighs...*
My next purchase!
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Olive Magazine '7 meals for £35' to the test!

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Now that we're home from honeymoon and feeling the pinch a little,  I've decided to put Olive Magazine to the test and try out their "7 meals for £35" feature. Having spent some time going through my old copies to find the tastiest selection, I decided to go for the Mar 2011 issue but you can see the current Oct 2012 one here.

Essentially, for those of you who are not familiar with the concept, its so simple - each issue, Olive selects one weeks worth of meals complete with a shopping list split by fresh and store cupboard items.   Being the impatient lady that I am, I couldn't wait until Monday to start this challenge so my 7 days started tonight and will run Friday to Friday!

DAY ONE - Moroccan Baked Eggs

Ingredients:
  • Red onion halved and sliced
  • Olive oil 
  • Chorizo 100g chopped
  • Plum tomatoes x 1 400g tin 
  • Coriander 1/2 small bunch, chopped
  • Eggs x 4 (I love Burford Browns)
  • Wholemeal pitta bread to serve. 
 Method:
  • Cook the onion in a little oil until softened. Add the chorizo and cook for a few mins until starting to crisp up. Tip in the tomatoes and simmer for 10 mins then stir in half the coriander and season.
  • Heat the oven to 180c/fan160c/gas mark 4. Divide the sauce between two ovenproof dishes and make 2 dips in each. Crack the eggs into the dips and put on a baking tray then bake for 15-20 mins until the whites are set and yolks are as you like them. Scatter with coriander and serve with pittas.
The finished thing.
My verdict: Totally delicious and surprisingly filling - whats better than tomatoes and chorizo together? The eggs weren't very runny which was a shame (and my fault for not keeping an eye on them).. I also lightly toasted the pittas but next time might replace them with a couple of cheeky slices of garlic bread. 8/10

DAY TWO - Grilled Teriyaki Salmon with Sesame Rice

Ingredients:
  • Soy Sauce 2 tbsp
  • Mirin 2 tbsp
  • Brown Sugar 1 tbsp
  • Salmon fillets 2, skinless
  • Brown Basmati Rice 
  • Edamame (soy) beans 75g
  • Mangetout 75g, halved length ways
  • Sesame oil 2 tsp
  • Red Chilli shredded
  • Spring onions x4 shredded 
Method:
  • Stir the soy, mirin and brown sugar until the sugar dissolves. Put the salmon in a bowl or freezer bag, add the marinade and leave for 10 minutes. Cook the rice to pack instructions and add mangetout and edamame beans for last 2 minutes.
  • Grill the salmon for 5 minutes, spooning any left over marinade until glazed and just cooked through. Drain the rice and toss with the sesame oil  and a splash of soy sauce and the spring onions and chilli. Serve with the salmon and a dipping sauce. 

My verdict: Really tasty. I think this looks impressive on the plate but is really easy (and quick) to make. Alterations for me - I used white rice as that's what I had in the cupboard and next time I think I'd put just 1 tbsp of sesame oil into the rice. The smokiness is nice but a little over powering. 7/10

DAY THREE - Gnocci with Broccoli & Parmesan Cream Sauce

Ingredients: 
  • Butter
  • Garlic 1 clove, crushed
  • Chilli flakes, a pinch (optional)
  • Vegetable stock 150ml
  • Half-fat Creme Fraiche 4 tbsp
  • Parmesan 50g, finely grated 
  • Tenderstem broccoli 250g, halved lengthways 
  • Gnocci 250g 
Method: 
  • Heat a knob of butter in a small pan then cook the garlic and chilli (if using) for 2 minutes.  Add the stock, bring to the boil then reduce by 3/4. Whisk in the creme fraiche then stir in the parmesan to make a sauce. Keep warm on a low heat.
  • Cook the broccoli in a large pan of boiling salted water until just tender. Scoop out the pan with a slotted spoon or tongs and drain. Add the gnocchi to the same water and cook to instructions on pack. Drain. Toss the gnocchi and broccoli with sauce and serve in warmed bowls. 


My verdict: This was quite rich but great comfort food. I think it would benefit from some smoked bacon or pancetta cubes to jazz it up and in my case, I needed to cook the broccoli for just another minute. 6/10

DAY FOUR - Tex Mex Lentil & Chipotle Soup 

Ingredients: 

  • Onions 2 chopped
  • Carrot, 1 peeled and grated
  • Celery, 1 stalk, finely chopped
  • Green chillies, 2 finely chopped (I used 1 and the soup was pretty spicy!)
  • Olive oil
  • Chipotle paste, 2tsp
  • Ground cumin, 1/2 tsp
  • Red lentils, 75g
  • Chopped tomatoes, 400g tin
  • Soured cream, to serve
  • Tabasco, to serve (optional)
  • Tortilla chips, to serve 
Method:
  • Cook the onion, carrot, celery and chillies over a gentle heat in a splash of olive oil until softened. Add the chipotle paste and cumin and cook for a minute. Tip in the lentils, tomatoes and 400ml water. Simmer for 30 mins or until the lentils are tender. 
  • Whiz half the soup in a blender or or blend briefly with a stick blender then mix everything together. Season, then serve in bowls with a dollop of soured cream, a splash of Tabasco (optional) and a pile of tortilla chips on the side.

My verdict:
I've not cooked with chipotle before, the scent and flavour is fabulous, very smoky and rich. The smell of the soup whilst it was cooking was gorgeous. The soup was filling and moreish but quite spicy so it needed the soured cream. 8.5 /10

DAY FIVE - Mushroom, thyme & mascarpone pizza 

Ingredients:
  • Pizza or Ciabatta bread mix approx 300g 
  • Olive oil
  • Flat or Portobello mushrooms, 250g sliced
  • Garlic, 1/2 clove crushed
  • Thyme - 2 sprigs, leaves stripped
  • Mascarpone 4 tbsp
  • Rocket, a few leaves
  • Parmesan shavings to serve
Method:
  • Make up the base mix according to the packet instructions and leave to rest while you make the topping. Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large non stick frying pan. Add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and cook for two mins until they start to soften. Add the garlic and the thyme and cook for another few minutes turning up the heat to drive off the liquid.
  • Heat the oven to 220c/fan 200c/gas 7. Roll out the dough fairly thinly. Spread the mascarpone over the base then scatter over the mushrooms. Bake for 10 - 15 mins until golden. 
  • Scatter with rocket and parmesan and drizzle over olive oil to serve.
Spot the bit I've eaten!
My verdict:

The hardest dish to make so far this week but looked impressive when done. I think a tomato base would work better than the mascarpone as it was a little dry. The mushrooms were moist and lovely and the thyme very tasty but overall, a bit bland. 4/10


DAY SIX - Italian Chicken & Rosemary Stew

Ingredients:
  • 6 Chicken thigh fillets, skinless & boneless quartered (about 500g) 
  • Olive oil
  • Rosemary needles, from 2 springs chopped finely
  • 2 Onions, sliced
  • Garlic, 2 cloves crushed
  • Balsamic 1 tbsp
  • Chicken stock 500ml 
  • Pealed Spelt 2 tbsp
  • Waxy potatoes such as Charlotte, quartered lengthways and peeled - 250g 
  • Parsley, a small bunch chopped 

Method:
  • Heat the oven to 190c/170fan/gas5. Fry the chicken thighs in a little olive oil until browned and then scoop out the pan. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for a minute. Add the balsamic and cook for a minute then add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a simmer then cover and transfer to the oven for 1 hour. Stir in the parsley and serve with crusty bread if you like.  
My Verdict:
The worst of the meals so far - the flavour was quite bland and the sauce was quite watery. I'm not sure if this was because I used rice instead of pearled spelt (because I couldn't get it) and it didn't expand as much. This isn't something I'll make again sadly. 2/10


DAY SEVEN  - Toad in the hole with caramelised onion gravy

Ingredients: 
  • Eggs 2
  • Plain Flour 150g
  • Milk 300ml
  • Dijon or English Mustard 2tsp
  • Pork Sausages 8
  • Red Onion 1, cut into thin wedges
Caramelised onion gravy
  • Onions 2 halved and sliced
  • Butter
  • Beef Stock 500ml 
Method:
  • To make the gravy, cook the onions in a large knob of butter and a big pinch of salt stirring until they are dark brown and caramelised (this will take about 30 mins so be patient!). Add the stock then simmer for 20 minutes.
  • To make the batter, add the eggs to the flour with a little milk, then whisk until smooth. Add the rest of the milk and whisk in. Stir in the mustard and season. 
  • Heat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6. Put the sausages and red onion into a large ovenproof dish or tin with plenty of room between the sausages and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil. Season then cook for 20-30 mins until the sausages are browned. Pour over the batter then put back in the oven for 30-40 mins until puffed and golden. Serve with gravy. 



My verdict:
The last night! Can't believe it! This was by far the best of the full week, a nice meal to end on. I used Tesco finest pork sausages and Burford Brown eggs in the batter which I'm sure added to the loveliness.  I served with cabbage and carrots. Totally delicious, quite labour intensive but worth the effort. 9/10
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Review: The Star Inn 1744 Restaurant, Thrussington, Leicestershire

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Above photo from The Star Inn's facebook page.



We're easing ourselves back into healthy eating slowly following our honeymoon and so, when my mum suggested a last minute meal at The 1744 Restaurant at The Star Inn last night to celebrate my brothers birthday we both jumped at the chance!

The Star Inn is over 250 years old, a beautiful building full of character and history right in the heart of Thrussington (situated between Melton Mowbray and Loughborough ). Looking out onto a typically picturesque midlands village green, it was already dark when we arrived and all lit up, the pub looked really inviting.


Once inside, this is no old man pub, the space is open, airy and decorated in classic, warm and homely colours. The restaurant area is small but well proportioned, towards the back of the bar and up a couple of steps which gives it a nice 'separate' feel.

The Star has 2 menu options - the 'Classic' with starters priced from around £4 and mains from £9ish and the 'Al a Carte' with prices starting from around £5 for starters and £14 for mains. I opted for Al a Carte for both courses but you can mix and match if you want to.

To start I had smoked haddock risotto balls. They were absolutely delicious, the outer crisp cut open to reveal perfect risotto, seasoned well and really tasty. The puree was really sweet but worked well with the smokiness of the fish. 

Smoked Haddock Risotto Balls with Wild Mushroom & Butternut Squash Puree - £5.25
For my main, I went for my ultimate favourite - Belly Pork. Unusually on this occasion it was served with kind prawns. The crackling was salty and crispy and the pork underneath was slow cooked to perfection. Mum had a real retro dish of liver and onions cooked with bacon and gravy. The liver was incredibly tender, unlike the grey overcooked liver you remember from your childhood. The second piece was a little sinewy but overall she enjoyed the dish. 
Crisp Pork Belly and King Prawns with Mustard Seed Potato, Madeira Sauce – £15.95

Pan Fried Lambs Liver, Crispy Bacon and Onions with Mashed Potato and Gravy - £9.95
The birthday boy went for beef with cabbage and a red wine jus. The blade of slow cooked beef was amazing, really delicious as was the fondant potato. Definitely the tastiest of the four meals. There's no photo I'm afraid but just to let you know, Dave went for his staple Steak - although this time, surf and turf style served with scampi. Everything on the plate was homemade, including the scampi which was gorgeous!

Blade and Fillet Medallions of Beef with Celeriac Puree, Savoy Cabbage and a Red Wine Jus – £16.95
We are all in agreement that the food at The Star Inn was absolutely beautiful, both looking and tasting - truly verging on fine dining. My staple favourite restaurant for a treat is the Manor House in Quorn and to be honest, that boat has been shaken so to speak. Dave & I will definitely be going back to the Star Inn soon.. its a real contender for my favourite local restaurant. The restaurant manager Adam Bacon gets a special star mention, his attention to detail and attentive service was second to none. The waiting staff were efficient and polite too, no doubt testament to his skill as restaurant manager.

Well done Adam and everyone at the Star Inn 1744, you are quite possibly my new favourite place to eat in Leicestershire!  :-)

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