Ladies who lunch

Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa Warwickshire

If visiting a fine dining restaurant is a little daunting, or you want to make sure that you will enjoy the experience before splashing out, then I’d recommend trying the lunch menu first.

Nearly all restaurants offer a fixed price lunch menu, with fewer choices than the evening a la carte menu, to get to grips with a chef’s style of cooking.

This was the view of my mum, who hadn’t eaten at Restaurant 23 before, when she joined me for lunch there on Saturday 25 March.

Bread and marmite butter at Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa

While we were reviewing the menu, a platter of freshly made bread with plain and Marmite butter arrived. This is the first indication that Head Chef Curtis likes to play with favours.

With three choices of starters, mains and desserts it was quick and easy to choose what we wanted to eat. From Rabbit (with peanut, gherkin and carrot, Mushroom (with pasta, balsamic and parmesan) and Salmon (with avocado, dill, buttermilk) I went for the veggie option.

Mushroom starter at Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa

The sweet beads of Balsamic vinegar were almost like berries, cutting through the earthy mushrooms. Then followed an amuse bouche of sweet tomatoes and knobs of mozerrella, which Maitre D Eduardo Nesto poured water into our bowls to make a refreshing, clear broth and imaginative change from sorbet as a palette cleanser.

For mains our options were Chicken (with swede, maple, and kiev) Pollock (with baby gem loveage seaweed) and Egg Yolk (with celeriac, burnt onion and watercress).
Restaurant 23 Leamingon Spa chicken swede maple kiev

Traditional roasted chicken melted in the mouth, the Kiev ball was deep fried to crisp perfection and the sweet maple syrup and swede alongside creamy mash were a winning combination as far as my mum was concerned.

Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa pollock loveage and seaweed

Eduardo was back to pour jus over mum’s chicken and a (I think) a lemon sauce over my pollock which made the loveage and seaweed crackle into life.

Restaurant 23 Leamington Spa raspberry dessert

Always leaving room for dessert, Mum was straight onto the Raspberry meringue, sorbet and panna  cotta without giving the Egg custard (with nutmeg and Yuzu) or Chocolate (with biscuit, clementine and fennel) a second look.

Facing competition from numerous branded chains as well as independent venues, Restaurant 23 is offering an exceptionally good value two course lunch for £19.95 or three courses for £24.95. On Sundays the prices are higher for lunch, at £37 for two courses and £45 for three courses.

I must make a special mention for Eduardo, who deserves a medal for the tact, diplomacy and charm in dealing with a non-eating toddler and a couple who wanted to order from the (unavailable) evening tasting menu for lunch. What a star!

I’d sum Restaurant 23 up as elegant without being intimidating and creative but not scary cooking making it a must visit eaterie.

Curtis Stewart chef

Find out more about Head Chef Curtis Stewart  here in the latest Meet the Chef article.

All change at Restaurant 23

peter-knibb-chef-owner-restaurant-23-leamington

I am sad to hear that one of my favourite local chefs is on the move.  After ten years as Chef Proprietor of Restaurant 23, Peter Knibb will be leaving the Leamington Spa restaurant and handing over the kitchen to new Executive Chef Curtis Stewart.

Peter has not yet said what he is going to do next, but commented  “Since founding the business in 2006 the team and I have worked extremely hard to establish our reputation for offering the highest quality food, refreshment and relaxation. I am immensely grateful for our customers’ loyal support and I am confident that you will continue to be delighted as I hand over to Curtis.”

curtis-stewart

Curtis hales from Bury in Manchester, and has spent the bulk of his career in award-winning kitchens at The Vineyard, Whatley Manor, Cowarth Park, The Feathered Nest, The Painswick Hotel and most recently at Quill.  His vision is to produce modern, innovative food that tests and delights the senses.

Curtis said: “After spending time in and around Warwickshire ahead of my start, I know just how special Restaurant 23 is to our clients.  We have always strived to deliver excellence and innovation and it is in this tradition that we will continue. I very much look forward to leading Restaurant 23 through its next chapter of development and would like to thank Peter and Richard Steeves for this incredible opportunity.”

restaurant-23-leamington-spa

The Georgian townhouse at 34 Hamilton Terrace is home to a dining room, two private rooms, Morgan’s cocktail bar and patio terrace. Restaurant 23 is open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch, afternoon tea, pre-theatre supper and a la carte dinner.

If you haven’t already tried this three AA rosette restaurant add it to your list now!

Things to do in May

May events

May sees Birmingham welcoming three new food and drink events to the city’s Eastside – Street Banquet, the En Place pop-up and English Wine Festival. Foodies are bound to give these exciting events a warm welcome.

As the weather gets more clement the smell of charcoal fills in the air, with BBQs being fired up at both The Highfield in Birmingham and Aubrey Allen in Leamington Spa.

All good  food needs a refreshing cold drink and there are opportunities for mixologists to learn new skills and savour classic cocktails at Leamington’s Restaurant 23.

Grape lovers will be spoilt for choice at the New Zealand wine tastings in Warwick and the English Wine Tasting with the Birmingham Wine School at The Old Joint Stock.

As an early Fathers Day present,  the Beer & Butchery course at Becketts Farm or the Chase Distillery Dinner at Turners Restaurant may fit the bill.

Check the Events May 2015 page for all the details and get the dates in your diaries as they are bound to sell out quickly!

 

August food and drink events

Restaurant 23 BBQ Party

Looking ahead to August, details of Restaurant 23’s Summer BBQ in Leamington, the Warwick Food & Film Festival, The Victoria’s summer cocktail club pop-up, an Emiliana wine dinner at Hotel du Vin and English wine tasting dinners at Loves are waiting for you on the events page.

July Events

afternoon tea

A dainty afternoon tea, following a tour of the Alscot Estate gardens, is the first calendar date for July on the Events page.

At Restaurant 23 you can meet the producer David Tompkins from Lighthorne Lamb. Stratford upon Avon diners can enjoy ‘the food of love’ menu at No 9 Church Street.

Over in Birmingham the city is hosting both the Colmore Business District Food Festival and Chilli Festival.

Beer fans can sup at the Warwick Beer Festival and Birmingham Beer Bash, while whisky connoisseurs can toast Independence Day at The Church Inn.

Leamington eating and drinking guide

Leamington Spa town centre

With a farmers market and annual food festival, Leamington Spa is quite rightly showing off its great local produce, chefs and restaurants. I hope that my guide, on the Destinations page, helps you navigate eating and drinking at some of my favourite venues in this compact spa town.

Coming Soon

Restaurant 23 menu

I am currently working on some new features for the blog, including a review of Restaurant 23 in Leamington, a guide to eating out in Leamington, a round up of local Farmers Markets and a competition with Gastro Card. Keep checking next week for the latest updates.

 

 

 

Review of 2012

As this is my last post for 2012, I thought I’d look back on some of the highlights of the food and restaurant scene in Birmingham and Warwickshire.

Scooping awards and accolades – The Malt Shovel in Barstoncelebrated being named Warwickshire Dining Pub of the Year in the 2013 Good Pub Guide.  Pub Restaurant Chef of the Year was Rob Hartwell from Rose & Crown in Warwick. The Bluebell Henley in Arden won Good Food Guide Readers’ Restaurant of the year for the Midlands. Blue Bistro in Coventry was awarded Best Newcomer in the Warwickshire Life Food and Drink Award and Peel’s in Hampton Manor were awarded Best Restaurant of the Year. Restaurant Bosquet in Kenilworth (with chef Bernard Linier pictured below) impressed Birmingham Post’s Richard McComb to pick up a McComb Award for Dining (MAD).

Bernard Lingier

 

 

 

 

 

Birmingham’s reputation as a fine dining city continued with Purnell’s named the BMW Squaremeal Best UK Restaurant. Lasan and Simpsons were included in the Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants of the Year, as voted by Harden’s readers. In Restaurant magazine’s Top 100 Restaurants in the UK Loves featured. Purnell’s, Simpsons and Turners all retained their Michelin stars.

Purnell's

 

 

 

 

 

 

The region’s hotels saw significant investment and heavyweight chefs drafted in to support new openings. Marcus Wearing consulted on the menu for Hotel La Tour’s Aalto restaurant, where I became a fan of their afternoon tea.  Hogarth’s completed a £4m make-over and chef Martin Blunos was appointed as Culinary Director.

Hotel La Tour scones and afternoon fancies

 

 

 

 

 

 

The popularity of single ingredient restaurants spread from London to the Midlands. High quality steak and chicken cooked well won new customers for the New Inn in Harborne and The Flat Chicken in Stratford. Barbecuing meats was the hottest cooking trend of the year, with the openings of Argentinian Fiesta del Asadoon the Hagley Road and Brazillian Rodizio Rico in The Mailbox.

The competition for the most glamorous makeover was a tie between The Warwickin Hockley Heath and The Star & Garter in Leamington, which was given a £500K make-over by the Peach Pub Co.

The Warwick

 

 

 

 

In the culinary Olympics it was a cook-off between the French and Italians. Funky brasserie Le Truc Café and Purnell’s Bistro opened to give Brummies a Gallic twist to their dining. While the award-winning San Carlo Group launched Fumo in Waterloo Street. The cocktail bar, restaurant and late lounge serves small dishes of Venetian tapas known as Cicchetti (pronounced chi-KET-tee).

Fumo appetisers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chefs on the move included Solihull chef Mathew Ebdon joining The Beeches in Hampton in Arden and it was all change at Edmunds in Brindleyplace, who welcomed Dider Philipot to head up the French fine dining restaurant as Andy Waters left to run the restaurant at The Queens at Belbroughton Worcester.

Didier Philipot Edmunds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sunglasses and crowds came out for food festivals. Kenilworth followed the successful Stratford and Leamington food festivals by launching their first Foodie Fortnight promoting local restaurants and food producers. I went to the Chilli Festival in Brindley Place for the first time and admired how the contestants kept their cool, as the torture of hotter and hotter chillies were administered. The Colmore Row Food Festival returned for a second year and filled Victoria Square with tasters from local restaurants including Saffron and Opus.

Birmingham Chilli Festival stall

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Leamington Spa Restaurant 23 moved to bigger premises in Holly Walk and the bar/ restaurant / club Altoria opened its three floors to diners. High Pavement in Warwick and The Lazy Cow in Stratford were welcome additions to the towns’ dining offers.

High Pavement Warwick

 

 

 

 

 

Going to events meant that I was able to meet lots of local producers. I met the Mini Jar Company and Napton Water Buffalo Company at the BBC Good Food Show Winter, Tan Rosie and cheesemaker David Jowett at the Stratford Food Festival and  Jabberwocky at the Leamington Food Festival.

David Jowett

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artisan food producers saw the benefits of collaboration in Kings Heath Birmingham. Lucky13 Bakehouse, Change Kitchen, Cuffufle Chutney, Wanton & Furious and Capeling & Co joined forces to form B14 collective. Delish Deli in Rugby moved to bigger premises and Summersaults opened their new deli next to their vegetarian restaurant.

Summersaults deli counter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our regional food sector is thriving and I hope that my blog has highlighted how easy it is to shop local, eat local and support Warwickshire’s food heroes.