Saturday, 5 September 2015

Fine Dine on a Diet at the White Peacock, Leicester

I was stoked to receive an invitation to a very special event this week. The White Peacock has been open in Leicester for quite some time now and to my shame I have not been in yet, even though every time we pass I tell The Boy that I really want to go! However, this was my opportunity to sample one of Leicester's most well regarded fine dining venues, so I wasn't going to miss out! Having looked in more depth at their website while researching this article I have now also noticed that Great Food Club membership gets you a great discount, so I will definitely be back.

The event was Fine Dine on a Diet, an initiative created by Niche Magazine's excellent local networking offer in combination with Performance and Change Specialist Joe Hanney's U Fit Studio to take the guilt out of dining out. Incredibly, despite being healthy, fresh and nutritious we were still treated to a seven course tasting menu! Seven courses is not something I'd associate with dining out on a diet, but they reckoned that the entire menu only came to 700 calories! Given that I had a massive organic chicken breast with some skin on for the main that must have been between about 150 and 200 calories at least I have my doubts - but I think I can still happily call the whole thing guilt free!

To start, guests were treated to a lavender gin fizz. Lavender is well known for its cleansing and blood circulation benefits and the delicate floral note was absolutely delicious and a great way to start the evening.

The staff of the White Peacock were in full silver service mode, efficient, friendly and polite. Their professionalism really added to the evening, making you feel like you were experiencing the height of luxury. After some time for mingling, the diners were seated and it was to an atmosphere of excited anticipation that the starter was served.



This 'Trio of Bloody Mary' was based around a beetroot carpaccio which was deliciously sweet. The sweetness and crunch of the pine nuts was cut through by a creamy quinelle of goats cheese which was perfectly light and had just the right level of sharpness to balance the other flavours. The small Bloody Mary and bloody mary sorbet added the final level with the cool savouriness bringing the whole dish together. I really enjoyed that the beetroot, both carpaccio and jelly were not too overpoweringly earthy, but that the sweetness of the vegetable was able to shine through.


Following this came a roasted breast of wood pigeon - probably the dish I was looking forward to most on the menu, and I was not disappointed! The pigeon was perfectly cooked being beautifully blush in the centre, with just enough bite and gamey flavour to set up a powerful backdrop for the oriental flavours of the coriander and sesame on the spinach, which was then rounded off with the blueberry dressing's fruitiness. You can already see just how many superfoods there were on that course alone, but it was really the quality of the cooking that made it so good, as the flavours were so nicely balanced to create a coherent whole. And I chuffing love pigeon, so I was always going to like it.



The courses kept coming and everyone was enjoying the opportunity to have a good chat and find out more about their neighbour. I was pleased to meet Emma Hallam, founder of the charity Alex's Wish, who was enjoying a guilt-free pea-cocktail on a rare night off from driving! Emma is a truly inspirational woman who has raised an incredible amount of money to try to find new treatments or a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - the condition that her son, Alex, has. She is passionate and positive and made wonderful company for dinner. If you're interested in supporting this local charity, then I would recommend you check out the Alex's Wish Mad Hatter's Tea Party at the end of October which will be a lovely afternoon tea with fabulous food, a glass or two of bubbles and even a Mad-Hat-Off! Definitely sounds like a lot of fun in support of a good cause!



Next up was a surprise hit for me. Perhaps one of the safer combinations of flavours that we're all familiar with, again it was the quality of the execution that made the seared king prawns with a mango and chilli salsa so successful. I really like how the health benefits of the ingredients for each course was described to us, although in this case it was a little unsuccessful as the chilli flavour really didn't come through in the mango salsa. However, the prawns had an awesome seared flavour and their sweetness complemented that of the mango perfectly so this was still a jaw-droppingly excellent dish.



We were treated to a palate cleanser next, in the form of an avocado, lime and grapefruit sorbet, which was an amazing combination of sweetness, sharpness and of course that smooth, creamy avocado. I'll admit that it's never occured to me to put a slice of avocado as a garnish on a sorbet before, but it went together really well and definitely helped to reset ready to the next taste extravaganza. To be fair, I can't say that I would really bother with a palate cleanser at home, it's just not that kind of household.



Then we were on to the main event, an organic, free range chicken breast which was moist and full of flavour. This was served with a really heavily Thai-spiced crispy polenta cake - the source of much needed stodge at this point. I'm a bit of a carb fan so, healthy menu or not, I was pleased to get a little bit of comfort there. This came on a bed of sweet carrot puree which went really well with the sweet heat in the polenta. By this point, as you can imagine, we were all starting to feel pretty stuffed, but I soldiered on and managed to finish the dish. You can't leave chicken of such great quality, it's an insult to the chicken, the chef and yourself.



And then we were on to the final course - a bit of a mountain to climb for me at that point, low calorie or no. This was yet another lime sorbet (I think I was getting a bit sorbeted out at this point) in a delicate tuile basket, served with a coconut and lemongrass pannacotta and compressed cherries. The lemongrass was included for its many and varied health benefits as well as the delicate flavour it imparted - I was amazed that it was not overpowering. The compressed cherries were billed 'like no cherries you've ever tasted before' and have apparently undergone a convoluted process to make them extra special - however I found them only to be a little on the diluted side and definitely not delivering the incredible cherry hit that I was expected. I think fresh cherries would have been far better - but what do I know about these complex chefy processes? 

The pannacotta had just the right amount of wobble and a superb melting texture, but I have to admit it defeated me. Perhaps a six course tasting menu is my limit. Considering it was such a healthy menu though I was absolutely amazed by the flavours, colours and textures. It was an absolute delight from start to finish and I did not at any point get 'dining out guilt'. I can only thank Niche Magazine, U Fit Studio and the White Peacock for inviting me along to such a special evening and to say a big thank you to my fellow guests at the table for being such excellent and amusing company. 


If you want to get involved, keep an eye on Niche Magazine's eventbrite page. This is the third Dine on a Diet event they've had and I'm sure there will be loads more to come. As well as providing an incredible dining experience they are a great opportunity to meet new people and generally have an all round lovely time. Keep an eye on faiiint.com as well for the blogger's perspective on the vegetarian menu that was on offer at The White Peacock, which looked extremely well thought out and delicious, with not a stuffed courgette in site!

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