Meal Planning Monday - the last one of the year!

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After a week of heavy eating and drinking (as I'm sure it has been for you all), this is an important meal planning Monday. Firstly, its the last of 2013 and secondly, its a chance to get back to normality with some healthy meals to boot!

We did a big food shop at Morrison's just before Christmas and are pretty well stocked up apart from some fresh bits and bobs so I've been able to sit down this afternoon and really plan what we'll be eating in the next few days. Here's what I've come up with!


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Onion & Butternut Squash Bhajis

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Happy Christmas and almost New Year everyone!

Can you believe its whizzed by so fast? I'm sure I've ballooned to at least twice my usual size. Tonight we have my Dad, Step-mum, Nanna and various siblings joining us for a buffet and we will toast the end of Christmas celebrations in our family. Over the last week we've had two Christmas days (one per set of parents), roast dinner with the in-laws, a night out with the in-laws and two big nights out with friends. So you can see why after today, I'll be sticking to water and lettuce (well, apart from the small matter of a 4 course Italian meal and plenty of wine on New Years Eve!).

Anyway, whilst I'm still feeling jovial and full of festive spirit, I wanted to share this recipe with you. I made these last week and they were a huge success. Onion and Butternut Squash Bhajis. Perfect buffet food and surprisingly easy to pull together. This recipe is adapted from one in an old copy of Good Food magazine - you can find the original here where it forms part of a bigger meal.

onion and butternut squash bhajis

Amounts make approx 20 bhajis

  • 3 tbsp curry paste (I used garam masala)
  • 200g plain flour 
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 250g butternut squash, peeled and coarsely grated.
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Method:
  •  Mix the curry paste and 250ml cold water and leave aside. Then mix the flour, baking powder and turmeric in a large bowl and add the water mix. Stir into a thick batter.
  • Add the grated squash and sliced onions and gently mix it all together.
  • Heat about 5cm of oil in a big wok or deep pan (its more than you think!). Add a drop of the batter – when it rises to the surface, bubbling and browning, then the oil is hot enough.
  • Add heaped tbsps of the bhaji mixture to the oil, (I did four at a time) and cook for around 5-6 mins, turning occasionally, until evenly browned and crispy. 
  • Lift out onto kitchen paper, and gently dab with another piece on top to help soak up the grease. Then sprinkle with a little salt and keep warm in a low oven while you cook the rest.
  • Serve simply with a raita or mango chutney. These make a great (but naughty) snack for movie night! 
grated butternut squash
turmeric
bhaji batter in process
onion and butternut squash bhaji batter
frying the bhajis

Enjoy! 

onion and butternut squash bhajis
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Its nearly Christmas!

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*ARCHIVE POST* 

I've been rubbish at blogging recently.. works been crazy and its been the first thing to suffer. I'm also painfully aware that whilst all the other bloggers out there are filling their blogs with wonderful festive recipes and Christmas delights, there's been no festive baking, no big hearty roasts nor anything close in my house. And this year, we're off to my Dads so there will be no turkey in my oven for the foreseeable future.

Merry Christmas Banner

Its not all doom and gloom - I broke up from work on Friday and am off until 6 Jan so although I've failed on the festive cooking front so far, I feel that I can start to make up for that now! In the mean time, and in a dismal attempt to join in the festive blogging, I've been digging around in the archives and found some of best posts for this time of year. Enjoy! 

Plan ahead and avoid the stress
Probably the most important of my Christmas blog posts - some helpful tips for avoiding stress and enjoying your Christmas cooking. Good Luck!

Don't let the turkey take over your life!

Turkey Pilaf
Its not turkey curry! A really nice recipe for your left over turkey although it works well with any bird so why not try it with chicken, goose or duck?

Leftover Cheeseboard Pie
If you have any cheese left (and i admit, it's rare in our house), this is a really easy recipe for the odd bits and bobs left over. It works particularly well with blue cheese and it lovely served warm on a lazy afternoon in front of the TV.


So, all that's left to say is HAPPY CHRISTMAS and thank you for reading my blog. I hope to see you back here in 2014! And don't forget...

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Stem Ginger Ice Cream

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Although ice cream isn't really a typical winter dessert, this recipe is so rich and luxurious that I think it suits the season perfectly. In fact, the warmth from the ginger gives it an almost festive taste - hence posting this recipe in the run up to Christmas! I think people don't realise its actually pretty easy to make ice cream without an ice cream maker - you just need an afternoon in!

I used Opies Stem Ginger in Syrup for this recipe, their products are so versatile and perfect for cooking and baking with. The depth of flavour is lovely and the ginger is both sweet and savoury at the same time.

Stem Ginger Ice Cream with Opies

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The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company

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I love to find new and local foodie brands and this one is no exception - they are certainly local, just not to me! So why then am I dedicating a whole blog post to them?

The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company caught my attention at the BBC Good Food Show this year because I loved both their story and their dedication to foraging and working with ingredients from their local area.  Based on the west coast of Wales, they are a relatively new company, starting life in the form of a beach cafe serving foraged produce and fresh seafood. This then grew to include street food, festivals and farmers markets and after winning Best British Street Food Vendor in 2012, the Beach Food Co has gone from strength to strength, launching a new line of retail products which you can buy online. Yum yum.

Beach Co Pepper Dulse Butter

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Slow-cooked beef ragu and a nice glass of red

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I like wine (as you may have noticed) so I was well chuffed when the Midlands Co op told me they were launching a new wine club called We Like Wine.  The website has tips and guides on it and they are also doing weekly offers to showcase their wine selections so its definitely worth signing up.  

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Midlands Co-op and Saffron Acres - growing people out of poverty

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I was contacted recently by my friends at the Midlands Co-op to tell me about their new limited edition range of jams and chutneys which have just gone on sale in over 50 of their Leicestershire stores. The story is truly inspiring and I wanted to share it with you.

Midlands Co-operative have been working with local charity, Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council (SLNC), to produce the range which includes Saffron Acres spiced plum jam and Saffron Acres spiced apple chutney for £1.89 as part of the Locally Sourced range. Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council is a charity based in one of the most deprived areas in the East Midlands. They created the Saffron Acres Project which saw twelve acres of disused land in inner-city Leicester transformed into a thriving food growing project with the aim to ‘grow people out of poverty’. The project now grows anything from every day fruit and vegetables to the more exotic crops found around the world.




The Saffron Acres Project, which has been running since 2006, invites volunteers to help grow and pick food from the site. These volunteers include young people and adults from all backgrounds from the long term unemployed, those who have disabilities, or ex-offenders. In return, they have the opportunity to be involved in the community and gain work experience and life skills. Around 100kgs of plums and 150kgs of apples were picked as part of the Saffron Acres Project to make the delicious jam and chutney. The fruit was converted into jam and chutney by volunteers from Leicester College’s Learning for Living course, a course for adults with learning difficulties. Neil Hodgkin, Head of Development from Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council said: “Our charity has been working with volunteers and Leicester College students for the last few months to get products onto shelves in time for Christmas and we’re thrilled to see our jam and chutney in stores now. “Everyone involved has been so helpful and positive towards getting Saffron Acres jam and chutney to sale. As a result, our charity will benefit from the proceeds received from sales and we’re looking to continuing the relationship in the new year.”

Watch this video to find out more and be warned, it'll warm your cockles and make you proud that there are companies out there who are looking out for their local community and aren't just bothered about their own bottom line.


Saffron Acres Spiced Plum Jam and Saffron Acres Spiced Apple Chutney are available for £1.89 each from selected stores in and around Leicester* for a limited time, with an additional 10p of profits donated to Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council. Find out which stores are selling the jams and chutneys online here.
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Random Recipes # 35 - Dare to Bare!

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As soon as I saw this months random recipes challenge, I knew I had to take part. Set by Dom over at the fabulous Belleau Kitchen, we had to photograph our cupboards and 'dare to bare' the horrors within. I've risen to the challenge and below, are pictures of my two main 'ingredients' cupboards. These are supposedly for spices, seasoning and baking bits but there are also other things which have sneaked in over time.. tins of beans, marmite, rice.. these should strictly be elsewhere!

Dom asked us to tell you what our favourite ingredients are. For me, as you can see, I have lots of spices and herbs as we love curries and warming stews and casseroles in our house, really anything big and bold in flavour. I think currently my favourite item is my pot of Harissa mix. I've used it in sauces, as a rub and even as a marinade for chicken. Its got endless uses and the flavours are so evocative of somewhere warmer and sunnier than damp Leicestershire. Mine is from Spicentice - a local company to me who produce a lot of different spice mixes. I love their stuff and have quite a few in my cupboards!

Finally, as its a Sunday and grim outside, I was inspired to give my cupboards a good clean out. Look at them now!! Place your bets on how long this will last....

Before:
I will only show you one, the other was just TOO bad!

Cupboards pre-clean out!

Midway (gulp!)

Cleaning out the cupboards

After: 

Lovely clean cupboard number 1
Lovely clean cupboard number 2

So, thanks Dom for inspiring me to look into those cupboards and have a good clean out! A job well done.

Over and Out!
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BBC Good Food Show Winter 2013

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This week its the BBC Good Food Show Winter so as part of their Blogger Community, I took the day off work and headed over there to immerse myself in cheese, wine, gin, sausage rolls, oils, spices and everything in between. Oh.. and as usual, Mummy Bites was in tow and this year, with the hilarious (but welcome) addition of a shopping trolley!


So, after spending the day soaking it all up, here is my round up of some of the brands which caught my eye and perhaps, the new ones to watch! There is so much to see and do at the show that I would always recommend that you plan in advance to make the most of it all, otherwise you can end up wandering aimlessly for hours. There are several stages now to see - the Supertheatre, Magimix stage, Great British Bake Off and Saturday Kitchen and more.. so if you want to watch demo's, have a look in advance to ensure you know where you need to be and when!

Anyway, With just one day left for this years show, here's my round up of all the great things there. Perhaps I can tempt you to go to the Summer show next year.

Yorkshire Rapeseed Oils
We were drawn to the stand because of all the gorgeous yellow/green bottles lined up and soon got chatting to the guy. Yorkshire Rapeseed Oils  are taste award winners and a family run company. They do a range of flavoured oils and dressings including zingy balsamic and mint which would be perfect with lamb.


Soralina 
All I can say is wow - what amazing sauces - intense and with up to 97% vegetable content, they are well worth investing in. I tried the olive, asparagus and artichoke sauces and all of them were utterly divine. Soralina is a UK based family run business working with small artisan producers in the Abruzzo region of Italy to produce incredible olive oils, pastas and sauces.

Soralina olive sauce
Soralina olive oils

Edwards Cordials 
I was lucky enough to meet Edward and listen to his inspiring story. One of this years food show producers bursary winners, his brand is less than 1 year old and started with just one flavour of cordial made in his own kitchen. Now he has a whole range available and sources all of his ingredients from his local area. The flavours are fresh and unique and include Lavender and Rhubarb, Blackcurrant and Basil and Strawberry and Mint. I have a bottle of the Blackcurrant and Basil and have to admit, since Wednesday, its almost all gone!

Edwards Cordials

Bake at Home 
The stand caught our eye as it was beautiful - lots of vintage chic furniture piled up with artisan baking gift sets and cake mixes for the baker in your life. So on trend and totally cute, the kits would make great gifts for children and adults alike. I particularly liked the flowerpot bread making kits! Definitely ones to watch.

Christmas foodie gifts

Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company
The Beach Food guys have a great back story - they started back in 2010 with a small cafe on the beach serving fresh seafood and locally foraged ingredients. They then went on to become award winning street food heroes, touring the country visiting festivals and markets. They now have a range of products all close to their roots such as lavabread pesto and seaweed flavoured butters. I was totally impressed and have some products here with me at home to try! Blog post to follow :-)


Mrs Kirkhams Lancashire cheese
Cheese tasting
Garlic twist

And finally, I couldn't resist... teehee (sorry mum!)

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Lunch with Aldo Zilli at San Carlo, Leicester

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I love blogging but its not always easy juggling it with a hectic full time job. Sometimes though, something crops up which highlights just how fab blogging can be and makes it all doubly worth while. You could say last Friday was an example of that. An invite to San Carlo in Leicester to try elements of their new menu. Oh... cooked by Aldo Zilli. 

Aldo Zilli and Gingey Bites
Happy Birthday to me! 

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Bloggers Meet & upcoming BBC Good Food Show Winter

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The BBC Good Food Show Winter is less than 2 weeks away now and I'm certainly excited to get back there and pick up some festive treats. The winter show is definitely my favourite - sausages, cheese, wine.. all things yummy and festive! If you've not got your ticket yet, its not too late, plus save 15% with discount code GB15.

Last year I loved looking around the World Cheese Awards and the Producer's Village. Its great to be able to meet the people behind the products. The Bursary Award Winners are also worth checking out - these are small artisan producers who've impressed the judging panel enough to be given some free space at the show. Its a great space to find some up and coming brands and of course, try some yummy products. Don't forget to bring lots of dosh too as there are often some fab offers to be had.

This year I'm particularly excited to go to the new WineTubeMap wine tasting - I was lucky enough to catch up with Nikki from WineTubeMap earlier in the month when she treated myself and fellow GFS bloggers to a sneak preview when we met up  for a pre-show catch up. We met at Fiesta del Asado in Birmingham, a fantastic Argentinian steakhouse part of the wonderful Lasan group headed up by Aktar Islam. I've been before and knew we were in for a real treat. Read my original review here.

BBC Good Food Show bloggers

WineTubeMap is the brain child of Nikki Welch from Convivium Wines and is a fun way to learn about wines playing on the London underground tube map to educate you and help you discover what you do and don't like! She's teamed up with Hatties Wines to provide some cracking vinos to choose from! You can book onto one of three tasting tours at the Good Food Show with tickets costing just £8. Each tasting tour includes 12 wines from around the world so hop on and enjoy the journey! You can book online and find out more here.

WineTubeMap tasting tour ticket

And now, some pictures of the yummy food we enjoyed at Fiesta! My mouth is watering just looking back at these!

Padron Peppers and whitebait - apparently every 10th chilli is a hot one!
Sticky pork ribs
The open kitchen at Fiesta
Now THAT's what you call a mixed grill! 
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Win a luxury 'Gentleman Jack' hamper with Hampergifts!

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Here's a great competition to get you into the festive shopping spirit. As we're now less than 50 days to go, its time to get those thinking caps on and start that Christmas shopping!  If you're like me and like to buy personal gifts for your friends and families, this is a tricky time of year to say the least with shops full of dull gift sets and hot chocolate mugs - these things are not for me! 

Hampergifts have 28 Christmas hampers to choose from - they have the classics you'd expect as well as some you wouldn't! Priced between £20 and £250 there is something for every budget and I particularly like the look of the White Christmas - it has a continental feel to it with Prosecco, dipping crackers with rosemary and apricots in syrup and Monbasillac wine. The Christmas Grande has a more traditional feel with award winning wines, Venison pate, port wine jelly and more. Proper luxury! 

So give you a real treat, I've teamed up with Hampergifts to give away one of their Gentleman Jack hampers worth £90 - a great gift idea for the whiskey lover in your life! I was going to say man but of course, it could be a woman too! 




The classic wicker basket contains a bottle of rare Gentleman Jack Whiskey - from the world famous Jack Daniels Distillery, Its the only whiskey in the world to be charcoal mellowed twice and the result is a silky, warm, distinctively smooth whiskey. Also incluided are award-winning crackers, hand baked savoury biscuits, spiced nuts, a gold medal-winning whisky marmalade, large rich fruit cake and a fiery wholegrain mustard. 

To win, simply enter below and GOOD LUCK! The competition closes in 1 week! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Jamie's 30 Minute Meals To The Test - Asian Style Salmon & Noodle Broth

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I find Jamie Oliver's books and TV shows great for inspiration mainly because his food is always so colorful and tasty! I've often heard people say that his 'quick' meals aren't actually that quick though - so - putting that complaint to the test, I decided to give the '30 minutes' series a run for its money with this Asian style salmon dish. So here we go... did it work?

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Win tickets to the BBC Good Food Show Winter!

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As you know, I'm a big fan of the BBC Good Food Show and I have 5 pairs of tickets to give away for the upcoming Winter Show at the NEC, Birmingham, 27 Nov – 1 December 2013.


You can win a pair of general admission tickets to enjoy a day at the Show and find out what all the fuss is about! To give you an idea, here's my round up from last years show! This year there will be over 50 chefs and experts from across the country on 7 different stages. The nation’s favourite TV programmes will be brought to life with Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry live in The Great British Bake Off, James Martin live in Saturday Kitchen sessions and John Torode and Gregg Wallace live in MasterChef cook offs on the Supertheatre, sponsored by Tesco finest. Visit The Great British Bake Off Village where you will find The Great British Bake Off Stage featuring some of the most popular past contestants and winners including the 2013 winner. The MasterChef Masterclass will host demonstrations from current champion Natalie Coleman (read my interview here) as well as Celebrity MasterChef winner Phil Vickery. Plus Marks & Spencer will be bringing some Christmas sparkle to the Show on the Christmas Theatre. The Producers’ Village will be packed with some of the best artisan producers in the country including our pick in the Good Food Champions area as well as the Bursary Award Winners – perfect for picking up tasty stocking  fillers and unique ingredients for the festive season.

Not a winner? To book tickets and for more information on the BBC Good Food Show Winter please
visit bbcgoodfoodshowwinter.com or call 0844 581 1341 and don't forget to quote GB15 to get 15% off with Gingey Bites.

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


T&Cs:

  • All tickets are general admission excluding Saturday.
  • Tickets are non refundable and non-exchangeable. Ticket terms and conditions apply.
  • Tickets will be mailed out directly to the competition holder by River Street Events. It is the responsibility of the competition holder to forward tickets to the winners. Competition holder to confirm receipt of tickets and subsequent delivery to winners to River Street Events.
  • Tickets do not include a seat in the Supertheatre
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The Smokehouse, Obar Braunstone Gate, Leicester

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The review below is from when The Smokehouse opened as a pop up but it is now opened permanently so no need to worry, they aren't going anywhere! Yippeeee!

On Thursday I headed to the Obar on Braunstone Gate in Leicester for the launch of The Smokehouse. In true pop up style, this authentic southern state American restaurant is open for 4 weeks only so you'd better get in quick!



On a grill imported from the states, chef Liam Watson will be serving smoked meats, ribs and hot wings.. along with the classics of mac and cheese, corn and more. I caught up with him to ask a few questions:

I notice that you’re usually based at The Lansdowne. What would you say is your style of cooking?
Before I started this project I loved French and British cooking. I got a real kick when I could add classic French elements to menus that were usually a pub bistro style. But since I took on the smoke house I've been smoking, BBQs and all things American, it’s become borderline an obsession… what to smoke, what should the dry rub contain, how long to smoke it, how hot to have the smoker, should the BBQ sauce by spicy and sharp or sweeter with a bigger kick of molasses? The variations for everything that comes into the kitchen are limitless and as a chef that’s incredible to work with.

Whose idea was it to bring the grill to The Obar?
It was a combination of two ideas really. The owners of the business had the idea to launch a pop up restaurant in Obar. They knew it had to be something fun and definitely unique to the west end area of Leicester and worth a trip outside of the city centre for. That’s when they approached me to see what was going to be possible. I pitched the idea of the smokehouse to them and we were off and running.

What is your favourite thing to smoke? 
As a bit of a self confessed carnivore I love the ribs. We buy them in their whole racks, marinade them overnight in their dry rub before leaving them in the smoker for at least 7 hours. The final result is truly special and, unique in Leicester. But at the same time I love that through experimenting with the smoker we have found how well vegetables take on the smoky flavour. It’s been a revelation to us. Tomatoes and fennel with their high acidity take on so much flavour. As a chef, it’s fun to find things like this and get them on the menu - bits that people wouldn't necessarily expect when they arrive but leave still thinking about.

How did you come up with the menu? Have you picked things you have eaten yourself or is it more of an experiment?
It’s a combination of all of the above. We've taken a lot of inspiration from amazing restaurants like Pitt Cue in London, their style of serving really good food but not necessarily heavy American - exclusively burgers and ribs, showed that we could have the smoker, serve ribs and pulled pork, but with our own creative edge. Reading reviews, recipe books and everything else we could find on the style really helped get more ideas and assess what people would want to see on the menu. When it came to experimenting, that was the time when we really started to fine tune the menu and get the balance of our style of smoked food with the American classics we knew we wanted from the very beginning.

Are there any plans to roll out the pop up to the other Orange Trees?
Let’s see how this one goes. If the public like the concept and are voting with their feet then there may be a future for it. Right now we are just focused on getting this right, and making sure everyone who comes has an amazing time.

And now.. to the food! 
Firstly, the ambiance and decor was lovely, you couldn't believe you were actually sat in the upstairs of the Obar - usually the space for late night drinking, arts students and musicians supping on cocktails. The tables and chairs were a little small and uncomfortable but you know what? It didn't matter!

smokehouse interior
smokehouse menu and candle

To start we went for mackerel and hot wings, to share! The hot sauce was zingy and a perfect accompaniment, as was the smoky BBQ-esque table sauce. The mackerel was delicious, soft flesh and served with pickled cucumbers and peppers which cut through the rich fishy flavour. 


For mains, we again decided to order a few different bits and share them. We had the 14 hour pulled pork with a side of pulled pork chilli and the Obar pork ribs (St Louis cut) with BBQ glaze. We also had macaroni cheese.

pulled pork, ribs and mac and cheese
mac and cheese and pulled pork

If you have room left for pudding and that's a big if... then I would recommend the Sticky toffee and maple pudding with salted caramel bourbon sauce. I don't need to say anything else other than WOW.

sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel bourbon sauce

We took the waiters recommendations on beers and went for two from the Camden Town Brewery - Hell's Lager and Gentleman's Wit. The Gentleman's Wit is brewed with lemon and bergamot giving it a fruity tang which complimented the rich smoky meat perfectly.

Camden Town Brewery beers

Overall I wasn't sure what to expect - I knew that the theme would be excellent and the food would be nice but I didn't think it was be as excellent as it was. I can't gush enough about it and would urge anyone to get over before the pop up closes on 8 Dec! We loved every mouthful and every minute and will be heading back in the coming weeks with my Dad in tow!

The Smokehouse @ The Obar is open from 6pm to 9.30/10pm Tueadays to Saturdays. For bookings, telephone 0115 255 8223 or email obar@orangetree.co.uk. The Obar is part of the independent Orange Tree Group of pubs and bars in Leicester, which also runs The Orange Tree in High Street, The Lansdowne in London Road, and The Basement in Wellington Street.

*We paid for our meal and my opinions are all my own! Apologies for the rubbish pictures, it was v dark and atmospheric!
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