Tuesday 13 May 2014

Paul Leary, The Woodhouse, Woodhouse Eaves, Loughborough

Paul Leary, The Woodhouse
43 Maplewell Road
Woodhouse Eaves


This is one of those restaurants that gets a good write up in some guides, but doesn't appear at all in others.  We were on our way from the M6 to Hambleton Hall in Rutland and happened to read the right guide.  Thank goodness for satnavs though: I don't think we'd have found this restaurant without one, situated as it is up a residential street in a smallish village midway between Loughborough and Leicester.

We hadn't booked, as we had no idea when or indeed if we might be passing, so it was great to be welcomed with a warm "of course we can do lunch for you."  Other customers soon followed.  The decor was a bit, shall we say, 'individual' but none the worst for that: the main thing was good size tables, and comfortable chairs.
There was a really excellent value 3-3-3 lunch menu for £12.95 for two courses, £15.95 for three, which read well, and was certainly popular with most of the other tables that were in for lunch that day.  But as we were passing through and unlikely to return till the next time we were in the area (assuming it was worth returning to), the slightly more involved dishes on the à la carte caught our attention.  The carte is a set price too: £32 for two courses including an amuse; £37.50 for three courses including an amuse and a pre-dessert.

The amuse was a Broccoli velouté with a gratinated garlic foam, which managed to be much better than it both sounded and looked. The gratinated foam was interesting and something new to me.
Broccoli velouté with gratinated garlic foarm

A pig's trotter dish had perhaps refined the trotter a little too far, reducing it to very neat panéd cubes, which were also just a touch dry.  Everything else on the plate worked well though: confit egg yolk, black pudding and gremolata.
Pig's Trotter
The idea of a "Cheeseboard Risotto" is the most intriguing thing I've seen, or even heard of, on a menu in a very long time.  It was no less intriguing on the plate.  Or maybe it wasn't. There were all the frippery elements of a cheeseboard that I'd normally ignore (grapes, celery,  apple, oatcake biscuits and walnuts), with truffled brie, merged into a very good risotto.  It was odd.  It was very nice. It was odd. Very odd. Really interesting combination of flavours and textures, though I found the apple segments a little too large: thinner slices, or a dice would I think be better, as the apple just felt a little bit dominant and separate. Yet despite it being odd, I'm pretty sure I'd order it again if it were on the menu next time I visited.  Did I mention it was a bit odd? And very nice?
Cheeseboard Risotto
A whole boned lemon sole with shrimps, wild garlic dumplings, asparagus and hollandaise was excellent classic cooking, with beautiful, clean, classic flavours. A terrific dish.
Lemon sole with wild garlic, asparagus and hollandaise

While it was tempting to have the cheeseboard risotto again, as a cheese course instead of dessert, there was a less odd, much more normal, and stunningly wobbly lemongrass pannacotta that just about managed to hold itself up.  One of the best pannacottas I've had in a long time, and the gentle lemongrass flavour lifted it into the sublime.
Lemongrass pannacotta

This was a really excellent meal combining some fine cooking and some interesting ideas. Service was excellent throughout.  The wine list is pretty good, with fair prices: we had a 2011 Pinot Blanc from Pfaffenheim in Alsace, which for £22 we couldn't argue with at all.

We'd definitely go again.

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