Sunday, 12 February 2017

Label M Braid Bar at Danique Hairdressing

Having experienced some of the best of Independent Leicester recently, I told you that I would return to Danique Hairdressing to write a little more about their quick fashion fixes. We'd already looked at the Label M Highlighting Toner at our demonstration, and I liked the darkening qualities of the brunette spray, but was of course naturally drawn to the unnatural shades, although I'm a little disappointed that only blue and red are available. 

Image courtesy of IsoElegant Photography
Everyone needs a good green hair spray in their lives, especially as these are much better than older colour sprays, leaving a better texture and being able to be built up, brushed through and dried in for a much more even finish.

Braids are right on trend right now, filtering down to our humble little island after being Label M's smash sensation at last Spring's Coachella festival. Danique offer a range of styles all completed in under a half hour for between £10 and £20 depending on the complexity and level of prep needed.

Image courtesy of IsoElegant

I was booked in with the gorgeous Zara, who is such a great person to have a chat with as well as being a master with braids. She took me through the options for me hair and we settled on a five strand braid which would show off my layered hair colour to the best advantage. And of course, as promised, I was in and out within 30 minutes. Great for a Friday night before a friend's 60th birthday party in town!

Zara's nimble fingers had this braid done in an absolute jiffy and she got some excellent height on top, so I didn't feel like my hair was pulled back too tightly from my face - great adaptation of the style to suit me personally.

I also think she was entirely right about it highlighting all of the depth in my (I know, quite bizarre) hair colour. At least she doesn't have to cope with it now - that was freshly dyed and most of the top colour has now washed out and gone back to blue. And purple. And I seem to have developed a silver grey bit too. It's all good fun though.

Thanks to Danique inviting me along and for giving me another great style! It was a great way to unwind after work and I got loads of compliments that evening on my 'do'!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

New Year, New Menu: Steakout Leicester

You may remember nearly a year ago we visited Steakout on Granby Street and I was blown away by the quality of their food. It really took me by surprise just how much was made on site, and the quality of the meat they sourced. Therefore, when I was invited back to take a squizz at some of their new menu choices, I nearly bit their hand off - but then I realised I should save some space for the delicious food.

As the friendly team settled us in, I started off with the house special mocktail - a slightly sparkling affair with a mixture of mango, passionfruit and pomegranate juices - pretty much all of my favourite fruits! It was refreshing and devilishly moreish. So I had two.

Steakout source their beef from Yorkshire and use it creatively to maximise both the texture and flavour you can enjoy from a variety of different cuts. A great new dish which showcases this is their Brazilian Mixed Grill. As with all of their steaks and mains, you choose your preferred side and sauce to accompany the dish as well as the degree of cooking so you can have it as you like it.

The Mixed Grill comes in a great tower, with a colourful side salad. The meat on the skewer is tender, moist chicken and chunks of beef from different cuts so as you work your way through the dish the texture and flavour alters. We found the rump the most flavourful, but it was all delicious - particularly because of the gorgeous marinade which certainly had a burst of Latino heat! In combination with spicy fries and garlic sauce this was a potent, pungent combination of a dish with quite a kick. Absolutely something I would be delighted to enjoy again.

That garlic mash though

Next up was my pick of the dishes - the chicken and mushroom pie, this time served with garlic mash. I remembered that the garlic mash was absolutely my favourite element from my previous visit and it did not disappoint! Made with fresh garlic it is creamy and really packs in the garlicky taste which for me is phenomenal, although for the more timid it may be a little too much. I like my flavours bold!

Under the crisp puff pastry lid nestled chicken pieces in a creamy sauce with sliced mushrooms and an additional pot of hot, creamy mushroom sauce was served with it. This is absolutely the epitome of winter comfort food, if you are obsessed with creamy dishes like I am. I think I could probably eat it every day until Spring without ever getting bored. And even in Spring I'd have to decide whether I could give it up. Yes, this was definitely my favourite!!

Finally, we tried another new dish (yes, we shared three main courses between two, don't judge us - I think they're labouring under the misapprehension that I need feeding up. Patently not true.) The Butterfly Meal Deal weighs in at £12.95 for the beef sirloin and £10.95 for chicken breast and comes on a sizzling skillet groaning with spicy rice, vegetables, chips and caramelised onions. Everything you could possibly want in a dish, including double carbs! It comes topped with a delicious, thick onion gravy, which oozes down into all the goodies below.

The sirloin we ordered was perfectly melt-in-the-mouth tender. I still can't understand people who would order a beautiful steak like this well done (although you can, if you really want to), served rare it was heart-breakingly soft and full of flavour. I have to say I preferred the spicy rice to the chips, but there is something really rather beautiful about chips and gravy which appeals to my North-West roots. The hefty helping of veg makes you feel a bit better about inhaling such a vast quantity of food and you come away happy.

We really didn't need anything else, but our host was absolutely insistent that we must at least share a dessert. Unable to make a decision through the slight meat coma, we left it to dealer's choice and were presented with this awe-inspiring peanut and salted caramel cake, absolutely smothered in caramel sauce and tiny chunks of fudgy goodness.

When we had finished it, and finish it we did, we were both stuffed beyond belief. I was rolled up Granby Street with visions of moo cows dancing in my head. Thanks to Steakout for inviting us back (always nice to know we are still welcome after the first review somewhere!!) I was genuinely impressed by the friendly, light hearted service, the choice on the menu and the care taken over the in-house preparation of the ingredients. A great place to stack up on your lean protein if you need a post-gym boost and also a fantastic place for an indulgent treat - after all Valentine's Day is coming up!

Steakout uses Halal meat and is alcohol free, but as you can see from this review, it is also perfect for non-Muslim people and tipple-chasers like myself! 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

COMPETITION: Win a bespoke printed canvas

Inspired by our blogger's outing to great Leicester independents, the lovely folk at Matin Prime on Narborough Road are offering a free 12 x 16 canvas printed with the image of your choice to a lucky winner.

Our judge will be IsoElegant Photography, a fantastic wedding photographer, and so the theme for the competition is your interpretation on:

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Let's see what you come up with. Just submit a snap on the Thirst Media facebook page!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Independent Leicester; a blogger's outing

We had a fantastic day on Saturday, visiting some of many fantastic independent businesses in Leicester. It was organised by yours truly, with my Thirst Media hat on because I wanted everyone to shout about our lovely indies just as much as I do! So hopefully you'll see plenty more blog posts about the new things that the lovely bloggy ladies discovered.

We started off the day at 33 Cank Street, Leicester's own speakeasy. Regular readers will know that I spend as much time as I possibly can there, and knowing how much bloggers love their cocktails this was a no-brainer as a jumping off point. It's a great, relaxed environment for a spot of weekend socialising.

The lovely Nancy from Sugar, Darling? won the award for most exciting and Instagrammable cocktail, by managing to pick one which had to be set on fire at the table. We also enjoyed some laid back tunes, comfortable sofas and lazy chat. A great start.

After this it was on to Divine Boutique, who I wrote about at their celebratory opening event a few weeks ago. Everyone was dreaming of being swept off their feet looking at all their beautiful gowns. We've decided that we will all go to the ball, even if we have to organise the darn ball ourselves! I noticed everyone was particularly impressed with the high quality for the pocket-friendly prices, even more so when they realised that alterations come as standard and are included in the ticket price. This is what I love about independent businesses - their attention to detail and fantastic customer service.

We were all feeling a little peckish, and so I swept them off to our own little corner of Italy, here in Leicester city centre, Gelato Village. We were treated to our choice of handcrafted artisan gelato, made on the premises from fresh, seasonal and often local ingredients. At least this stopped the ever-exuberant Carpe Diem Emmie from talking, if only for a moment, while she devoured her cone! I jest, of course.

Sour cherry with meringue and white chocolate with orange. Absolutely beautiful gelato.

I've spent a lot of time at Gelato Village, so it was great being able to explain their commitment to Slow Food principles, their shunning of artificial ingredients and additives and their brilliant relationships with local suppliers like Belvoir Ridge Creamery and Leicester Market to the ladies. And looking at all of the empty cups and hearing the audible smacking of lips, I think the quality spoke for itself!

Image courtesy of IsoElegant

We moseyed along to Lanes Fine Jewellery on Loseby Lane, because everyone loves a bit of sparkle in their life! This was a new business to me and I was surprised to find out that not only are they LCFC's official jewellery partner, but they are one of the finest diamond jewellery stockists in the country. This is due to their bespoke service, not just designing their pieces themselves but hand selecting every single diamond, right down to the smallest, to fit the piece perfectly.

My favourite ring, just propped up nonchalantly on the side there!

They focus mainly on classic pieces, crafted to fit your look, using timeless styles which ooze elegant, but we saw that their skills extended to the more unusual and esoteric as well as more familiar cuts and shapes. There was many an admiring glance at the beautiful cushion cut ring we got up close and personal with - particular from those bloggers who have aspirations of engagement in the not too distant future! For me, this delightfully understated but unique looking diamond band was the highlight of the show. Their dedicated service and clear eye for quality has customers coming to them from all over the country, and you could really see why as we enjoyed the low key opulence of their VIP room.

I told you we had a good day!

After so much luxury, it was time to take things back to a more every day level, and so it was me! Hosting a beer tasting for the blogging ladies was something I'd had aspirations to do for a while because I think it's really great when people get to find out about something new. There is nothing every-day about the West End Brewery, our next venue on Braunstone Gate. Leicester's first brewpub, it is a unique little gem nestled on the outskirts of the city, at the gateway to The Narb.

I took them through a range of beers, talking about the brewing process, aromas and flavours and what makes the different beers different. We concentrated on the West End's own range and I have to say they were all delicious, although the stout and the IPA were definitely the highlights. However, the pale ale and the copper also had a warm welcome from the group and I was pleased to have the expertise of Never Enough Shoes on hand in all her beery glory to back up my assertions about how awesome is the ale!

This was my first blogger beer tasting for Thirst Media, so modesty demands I leave it to the other guests to tell you whether it was any good or not. And we continued on, our merry band, back to Highcross Street - Leicester's original independent heartland of ancient time - to Danique. More about that on a follow up post coming soon, but this is another long term favourite of mine. Of course, they will always be fondly remembered by me as the people who dyed my hair blue. Having ridiculously coloured hair has made the last 8 months of my life deeply satisfying. But let us not forget that Danique and salon director, Queen Ceri are award-winning, fashion industry darlings and all round super fun people. But as I say, more on them soon.

Image courtesy of IsoElegant

At this point we were also joined by another fantastic independent - IsoElegant. She is the most amazing wedding photographer, but also does the odd bit of commission work. Her photos are universally beautiful and in the short time she was with us that day, she did not disappoint! Plus, she wanted to introduce us to another new local company - Matin Prime

Matin Prime are a new printing, framing and design company housed on Narborough Road. They gave us a handy money off voucher and also a block, featuring an IsoElegant photo from our last blogger outing, which we can take in to get a print of our choice. So again, more on that as I have it! Can't write about them until I check it out for myself... They have also offered a swank competition prize for one lucky reader, so keep an eye out on the Thirst Media facebook page for that!

Selfie time! Image courtesy of IsoElegant

And after all of that, naturally it was time for a drink, so we finished at The Globe. Here I found out more about Dizzy Miss James, who I met for the first time that day and who is also an independent businesswoman, newly returned to the city. What a happy co-inky-dink! I loved hearing her story and seeing her super cute homewares as well as finding out more about her motivation to blog. I look forward to getting to know her better!

Image courtesy of IsoElegant

Not bad for an afternoon's work, huh? Thanks to everyone who helped me organise the day (you know who you are), all of the businesses that were so welcoming and giving of their time, expertise and products and thanks to all the bloggers that attended - see you for another one soon?

And there endeth the lesson. More reasons to love Leicester.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

COMPETITION: Advances in vaping technology

I was sent an interesting selection of kit from ecigarettedirect this week to see how vaping technology has changed in recent times and I have to say I've been really impressed in where this sort of kit has developed over the last year or two.

Now vaping is much more widespread, and vapers have identified the sort of experience they are looking for, the humble e-cigarette has evolved in a number of ways. The simple beginners kit from ecigarettedirect is the Halo Tank Kit. For less than £20 (the kit is 20% off at the time of writing) you receive everything you need to give vaping a go.

You receive a high performance battery and clearomiser which can be changed if you wish, and also allows coils to be changed so you will get a longer life out of the kit overall. Of course, a handy USB charger is also included, as well as a free bottle of E-liquid to start you on your way. The Halo E-liquids come in a wide range of flavours, from fruit to sweets! You can also obtain different nicotine strengths or those with no nicotine at all, depending on what sort of experience you are looking for.

I found the kit really easy to use - the tank is easy to fill and the unit was quick to achieve its first full charge.The vaping experience is much improved from what you would expect from a set at this price not too long ago, with good flavour and relatively good clouds obtained. It's a great size and the overall unit has a pleasing sleek look, so this is a great entry level product.

What I hadn't really realised is that since I last did any real research into vaping is that now you can fall into a number of different camps. Some people look to get as much flavour as possible from their E-liquid as possible, whereas others are 'Cloud Chasers' hoping to achieve the biggest cloud they can from their vape. This has led to the development of significantly more sophisticated devices for vaping, allow much more control over the experience and allowing people to follow their own vaping dream.

I was sent a Tesla Nano 60w (£44.99), a handheld battery unit or vape mod which allows you to use a selection of clearomisers on the top. This is definitely a device for more intermediate or advanced vaping as it is a little more complex to use - but this ultimately gives a huge degree of control over the vaping experience. The Tesla Nano has a digital display allowing full control over wattage and temperature, as well as allowing for interchangeable coils, which has automatic detection and gives you the option to sub-ohm - a mod that can support the search for both the perfect cloud or the perfect flavour.

The unit is a little chunky in the hand, but it has a pleasing weight to it because of the quality of the casing and the durable, long life battery that it contains. The oversized firing button is rather pleasing too and overall it is relatively ergonomic even though perhaps my hands are a little smaller than it was designed for! I found the menu selection easy to use - just 5 clicks to lock or unlock and a simple pair of buttons to scroll up and down and access the different settings. It has a mechanical/bypass mode as well as a number of user protections built in - short circuit, low voltage and over puff.

To accompany this I used the Nautilus Mini by Aspire (£19.99), which is a compact and very aesthetically interesting clearomiser. It made me feel like I am living in the future, although I am not. And it is also easy to fill and comfortable to use. The only issue I had was that it has a changeable airflow, but when I was experimenting with that I managed to turn it the wrong way and have to wash E-liquid off myself, but that is probably because I'm an eejit rather than the fault of the Nautilus, which seems very practically designed and relatively robust. The only confusion I have now is how best to carry the kit around with me - it feels as though the regular Tank kit is much more portable than this - as if I would be better off with a case rather than just slinging it in my handbag. I'd be interested to know what other people do - do you separate the clearomiser from the mod and carry them separately, or leave them together?

It took me a little while to play around with the settings and find something that I liked, but all in all I thought this was a really impressive combination which looks good, has a versatile range of functions and really allows you to have some fun with your vaping. If you'd like to try this for yourself, ecigarettedirect are offering one of my readers the opportunity to win vaping kit worth £100. You can't say fairer than that!

Win an e-cigarette kit worth £100 #7

I was sent these items at no charge by ecigarettedirect for purposes of review. The opinions expressed in this post are my genuine and honest perceptions of the products. The giveaway has been created and will be moderated and fulfilled by ecigarettedirect's representatives, not by this blog.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Food is sehr gut at the Rutland & Derby

It's hard to believe that it's 8 years since the Beautiful Pubs collective took over the Rutland & Derby on Millstone Lane. One of Leicester's more innovative pubs, I have had a long tradition of visiting them. From a six month spell with my friends at the top of their quiz league, to one of the finest contributions to my Tapas Trail in 2015, we've enjoyed their laid back atmosphere, delicious and different menus and entertaining events. Their beer garden also ranked extremely highly in my assessment of Best Beer Gardens in the city and The Boy and I can still be found literally running to get a spot on the terrace when the weather is fine. Ah, summer, remember that?

Anyway, I digress. We were invited back to the R&D this week to sample their new menu. This is a fascinating mix of Germanic and Alpine inspired dishes, with a peppering of other flavours from around the world. In this sense, it is a typical pub menu - a little bit of everything so that everyone can find something that appeals - but done in this case with an added dose of precision and panache.

The Germanic inspiration came at the Beautiful Pubs recent birthday celebration, when the kitchen team at the R&D were invited to produce a series of small plates for service at the party, hosted at The Forge in Glenfield. So popular were these dishes, that it was immediately decreed that they should be incorporated into the new menu proposal that they had been working on and this ad hoc creation, allowing the chefs to run free and cook dishes that inspired them really shines through in the quality of the dishes, and the quality of the ingredients used to make them.

When being introduced to the menu, we were told about the high quality sourcing that is the backbone of the R&D's food offer. I wouldn't normally post a picture of raw meat on a restaurant review, but I was absolutely blown away by the quality of this Lincolnshire dry-aged, bone on sirloin. The fact that you can enjoy this, cooked to your liking, with triple cooked wedges, watercress and pub gravy for £15 absolutely blows me away. You will be paying a lot more for a significantly poorer quality of steak elsewhere in the city, I will guarantee you that!

To get a good idea of the Germanic style dishes on the menu, we had the pleasure of sharing a few dishes. They have a broad cross section of offers on the menu - small plates, pizza (from their in-house woodfired pizza oven), sandwiches and wurst, grills and mains and sides. I am a huge fan of sharing small plates, in any cuisine, so I was particularly excited to start with these.

The sliced Bratwurst was rich and meaty with that slight crunch on the skin that you would expect in Germany. The flavour of the lightly spiced meat was complimented beautifully by the home-pickled red cabbage and a selection of flavoured mustards which were light, spicy and added a real depth of authentic flavour to the dish. We were shown the homemade pretzel buns which accompany the burger and wurst dishes if you are looking for something a bit more filling and they were soft and fluffy in the centre with a perfect amount of chewiness on the crust. Divine.

On to the ham and smoked cheddar croquettes - which I adored. Not particularly Germanic in form, but truely Alpine in flavour, these reminded me of a Swiss fondue, all wrapped in a delightfully crispy crumb. The chilli jam, produced in house of course, was just the perfect combination of sweet and spicy which really brought out the best in the delicate ham flavour and of course, the beautiful smokiness from the cheese permeated the whole dish.

Finally, we had a go at the pretzel from the bakery menu. This was served with more of that addictive smoked cheddar, which was softened by the heat of the fresh baked pretzel and had a different selection of mustards, designed to compliment the subtle flavours in the bread. I'd be pretty happy just to order this for £3, enjoy it with a lovely pint of Everard's Sunchaser and think to myself, what a wonderful world.

From the pizza menu, we couldn't ignore the Flammkuchen - a traditional dish seen in the South of Germany as well as Alsace which is rumoured to have been developed as a way of using up extra bread dough and seems to have originated independently of Naples pizza, although the dishes have much in common.

The wood-fired dough holds its flavour, and is given body and depth from truly beautiful paprika roasted onions. These have earthiness and brooding spice, but also a sweet, caramel finish which is just immense. Add to that fat, juicy bacon lardons and a liberal splash of creme fraiche and you have a creamy, salty, spicy, sweet treat that would be an ideal sharing dish if you pop to the R&D for after work drinks with friends.

And how could we leave without trying the Chicken Schnitzel? An absolute classic, and offered as a spiced vegetable schnitzel burger for those of you who are meat averse, there is something deeply satisfying about a freshly made crisp breadcrumb coating in the darkest months of winter. A difficult dish to present in a particularly beautiful way, I was impressed by the job the team had done to tart up what is essentially a very homely dish.

The chicken, hammered into a thin steak, was crisp on the outside but still soft and yielding in the centre - no dryness here! It was served with a rocket salad, salty and pungent grand padano cheese, curled delicately over the top and a flavour-packed combination of lemon aioli and salsa verde which complimented the chicken perfectly, without over-powering it. Add to this triple cooked wedges and you have an almost faultless dish, not least because the R&D nailed the perfect wedges and 'chippies' years ago and have been turning out incredibly fluffy potato products with the right amount of exterior crunch ever since.

Everything we tried absolutely hit the spot. Everything we didn't try on the menu looks mouth watering. I understand on a Friday you can get 4 small plates for £18 and this would be a great opportunity to try their potted beef served with mini Yorkshire puddings and gravy, or the artisan German salami selection with friends. They also have a lunchtime offer running at the moment where you can get one of their sandwiches for £6 - keep an eye on their social media for full details and information about any specials.

The R&D is hardly off the beaten track, but it does still feel like a bit of a hidden gem.If you haven't made the trip down Millstone Lane (which is a bit of an adventure at the moment with the road improvement works taking place there) then I can heartily recommend that you do. Ethically sourced food that is tasty and completely unpretentious. It is everything you would want in a pub menu.

Thanks to the team at the R&D for inviting us along and for providing such an awesome meal!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Organic wine at Aldi?

Those real stalwarts among you, who have been reading this blog for a worryingly long time, may remember that I have reviewed an Aldi product once before. Their £1.99 nail polish, which I was mightily impressed with for the price. Now, nearly four years later, it is time to make good on that review and write about something that was more expensive and was, in fact, wine.

Aldi have teamed up with South Africa's Origin Wines to produce an intriguing little product - an organic wine, served in craft ale style bottles. I'll be quite honest, I forget how much it cost as I bought it a few weeks ago and I've slept since then, but it was around £2.50 for a 500ml bottle. For the wine novices amongst you, that's 2/3 of a bottle of wine or the equivalent of 2 large glasses in a restaurant.

They're clearly on some kind of mission to attract young, 'hip' craft ale drinkers. Or maybe to offer something different to young, 'hip' wine drinkers. Anyone who likes an organic label perhaps.

I guess what I'm saying is I don't really know who this is for, but I was sufficiently intrigued that I bought a bottle, so maybe the system works. The 'Craft & Origin White Wine' was my selection - I'll save the red for another time - and I scrutinised the bottle but could find no clue as to what to expect from the wine, except that I should know it is hand-harvested and hand-crafted and apparently I should find some 'cool friends' to enjoy it with. So perhaps it's aimed more at people who are interested in how the bottle looks than what the contents taste like.

Upon opening, I noted that it has a bit of a yeasty smell, but the wine itself is quite interestingly crisp. Fans of Pinot Grigot will probably like its blunt acidity and for fruit fans there is a soft green apple note and a little bit of lemon on the finish. It poured true and clear, with a light straw colour.

Was it unendingly complex, with a sense of mystery that will haunt my senses across the ages? 
Not really.
Was it so completely undrinkable that I immediately poured it down the drain?
It was not.

This was inoffensive wine, perhaps one could even go so far as to call it 'unassuming plonk' and it was completely drinkable. So I guess the best thing is for you to draw your own conclusions. This is a bottle whose design unapologetically tells you that it is style over substance. And that is what you get. We all know that gimmick wines rarely have much to offer in terms of interesting bouquet, body or finish (remember blue wine?) but hey, if you're stuck you could probably do worse.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Romeo and Juliet at the Y Theatre

We were invited to a wonderful performance at the Y Theatre at the end of last week. Ballet Theatre UK were performing a one-night-only special of Romeo and Juliet. It was rather marvelous being able to tell everyone we were going to the ballet that night, I think we quite took people by surprise.

I must confess the only ballet I've been to before was seeing my friend perform when we were in primary school (she did proper lessons and had a nice performance at the theatre. It was very exciting, but a long, long time ago) and for some reason I have not been back. Therefore, I warrant that I am not the best person to talk in technicalities about the performance.

However, I think that's the secret really. I know nothing about ballet, and yet I was absolutely spellbound. I don't know how to judge the standard, but I thought the choreography was lovely, the dancers' lines were beautiful and of course, with such a wonderful story, the whole thing was quite enchanting. I could not stop staring at their feet up on pointe.

I loved the opportunity to enjoy the performance in the intimate surroundings of the Y too. This is a theatre I tend to visit for purposes of comedy rather than anything more highbrow. But it lent itself very well to this show and the use of clever staging made the space seem much bigger. 

For me, Juliet's mother (that's Mrs Capulet, right?) was the out and out breathtaking performance, although the whole company can absolutely be congratulated on their outstanding talent. And naturally, as is with the way of every performance of Romeo and Juliet I have ever seen, in whatever style or interpretation, Juliet's nurse was a highlight. There is just something about that character, she must be a joy to play.

It was an emotionally charged experience and as the saying goes, there was not a dry eye in the house by the closing scene. The entire audience were enraptured by the whole thing and even The Boy thoroughly enjoyed the show and our dissection of what we had seen afterwards.

So thank you to Leicester's oldest theatre, the Y for being such gracious hosts. Thank you to Cool As Leicester for the invitation and the lovely production shots that I have used in this post. And finally, thank you to Ballet Theatre UK for giving me something new in life to love.

Get yourself a copy of the upcoming programme at the Y. Stick a pin in it and go to see something you haven't experienced before. I can highly recommend it.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

What do pork pies and gin have in common?

Onwards we go with #Tryanuary, and what better thing for me to try than something inspired by our fair city, Leicester? I know classically Tryanuary is about beer, but I've never been one for convention.

Burleigh's have become something of a global phenomenon since I first started writing about them nearly 18 months ago when I attended the 45 Gin School and made my own bottle of 'Housewife's Ruin'. Hot on the heels of the sell-out success of their limited Pink edition gin, with its added emphasis on floral botanicals, Master Distiller Jamie Baxter has now released the Blue version - the world's first Leicester Dry Gin.

At the opposite end of the spectrum to the Pink edition, the Leicester gin focuses on the herbal notes in the botanicals, and the spices. Taking its inspiration from the county's people and its food and drink heritage, you'll immediately smell a very herbaceous bouquet to the gin. It leans towards the smell of woody herbs and a walk in the Nanpantan outwoods in the autumn but still fresh and with a good burst of juniper forthcoming.

Burleigh's Leicester Dry Gin is available at 45 West and 23 Wine & Whiskey

In the mouth it is pure spice - nutmeg, mace perhaps even a hint of coriander. This warming embrace is softened by a refreshing citrus flavour, a mixture of grapefruit and perhaps even a dash of orange peel. It is velvety in the mouth and not overwhelming when sampled neat, although as you can imagine it makes a perfect gin and tonic, where the tonic allows the citrussy sweetness to be drawn out further and gives the palate more time and space to consider the complexity of the spices.

I've heard it said that it matches particularly well with the Fevertree Mediterranean tonic - which brings back that element of floral balance which is otherwise purposefully downplayed in this particular gin. However, it is has enough of a strong enough character to work well in a variety of cocktails, a White Lady being my personal preference.

Quality through and through and another unsurprisingly gifted offering from Burleighs. What a hardship to have some of the finest gin in the country being made mere miles from my home! 

And the pork pie connection? 

Well, I've heard it said that the initial inspiration for a Leicester dry gin came from a pork pie making competition between two Leicestershire-based friends (for any readers living outside Leics, this is a completely normal thing around here, we're all having amiable pie challenges, all of the time), where it was realised that the combination of herbs and spices being used to flavour the meat would also make a perfect base for a gin. But that has the ring of an apocryphal tale to it. One should never create a clickbait blogpost title based on hearsay after all.

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