Leicester’s newest dining destination, in one of the city’s grandest buildings, has finally been able to open.
The launch of Orton’s Brasserie in the city’s cultural quarter was delayed due to the Coronavirus lockdown, but, at last, the new eatery is now welcoming customers.
It aims to offer ‘unpretentious, flavoursome British food’ – the type of food that was apparently adored by the brasserie’s namesake, Leicester playwright Joe Orton.
Having had a glimpse of the stylish interior and experienced a taster of the food with a brunch delivery, I couldn’t wait to pay a visit and sample the full Orton’s experience.
But after months of anticipation, would it prove to be worth the wait?
This place really is a beauty.
The Grade II listed building had already impressed us in its former guise as the Queen Victoria Arts Club, but now, there’s a funkier style and a more welcoming atmosphere to the place, which made us warm to it as soon as we walked in.
The venue is owned by Guy Kersey, who owns and operates the Leicester-based American football club The Falcons.
According to Guy, he is keen to make Orton’s welcoming to all, and this is exemplified by the varied collection of artwork on the walls (which are painted ‘Gorilla Grey’) – from classic botanical art to graffiti art.
The large pieces of graffiti art also cleverly conceal acoustic panels made of foam, to reduce the echo in the room.
You’ll notice plenty of gorillas and roses around the colourful venue.
These are a key part of the Orton’s branding, and are inspired by Joe Orton, who gained notoriety during the infamous trial dubbed ‘The Gorilla and the Rose’, for his work in defacing book covers.
As well as the main dining area, there’s two private dining rooms at Orton’s, and a basement bar which is yet to open. There are plans to use this space for future events, with themes linked to shows on at the Curve theatre opposite.
The entrance, for now, is through the new terrace area to the side of the building – and what a great addition this area is.
Complete with atmospheric fairy lights and the vast Orton’s graffiti-style sign, it’s a real USP for the brasserie and was being enjoyed by plenty of people on the warm Friday evening we visited.
We were greeted with a smile by the host, who led us into the dining area. We were given a choice of tables and opted for one by the window. There are a number of clearly marked tables which are currently out of use, to allow for social distancing.
A bottle of water was swiftly brought over and we took a look at look at the (disposable) menus.
At the helm in the kitchen is former Masterchef:The Professionals contestant Andrew Greasley, who has created a tapas menu and an a la carte menu, both featuring a tantalising selection of dishes.
The tapas menu includes courgette tempura, chorizo sausage roll, Orton’s Scotch egg, Parmesan and truffle arancini and baked Camembert.
Other tapas options include ham hock, rillettes and apple, chicken liver pate, pea and mint hummus with lavash and bravas royal.
The current a la carte menu – from which we decided to dine – is fairly small (with four options for each course) but it has a good variety of dishes which would suit most palates and dietary requirements, with vegetarian and vegan options included.
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Feeling that two courses would be enough for us, we chose to go with a main course and dessert.
The starters did sound good, though – with Caesar salad, pea soup, homemade ham hock terrine and chicken liver parfait available.
The main course selection includes Chef Andy’s chicken (pan fried free range chicken breast served with a tarragon infused mashed potato, wild mushroom fricasse and charred corn) belly and beets (12 hour slow cooked pork belly, carrot and anise purée and pork crackling, served with salt baked beets and cider jus) and Orton’s fish and chips (sustainable British pollack in a delicate but crisp batter, with chunky masala chips, split pea dal, curried mayonnaise and a coriander and lime yoghurt).
There’s also the vegan plasagne (a re-imagined lasagne, with a lentil and mushroom ragu, butternut squash and cashew ‘bechamel’).
Lured by the 12 hour slow cooked pork belly, I quickly chose the belly and beets (which has apparently been the most popular main course so far) while Simon liked the sound of the brasserie’s take on fish and chips. And it was Friday, after all.
The food was soon on our table, looking beautiful. The attention to detail demonstrated by everything from the delicate drops of purée to the carefully stacked chips was delightful.
Not only was the food pleasing to the eye, it was also incredibly pleasing to the palate.
The pork belly was tender, succulent and flavoursome and as a recent convert to pork crackling, this crispy treat was also enjoyed.
The mustard mash was lovely and creamy, and the colourful beetroot, presented in many forms including pickled and puréed, was excellent. The cider jus and carrot and anise purée further enhanced this stunning dish.
Orton’s fish and chips proved to be a superb take on the traditional English takeaway meal. It has been given a Leicester twist by incorporating Indian flavours, including superb masala chips, a warming split pea dal, and a vibrant yellow curried mayonnaise.
The pollack was beautifully white, fresh-tasting and moist, and covered in an excellent light, crispy batter. Simon was delighted by every aspect of the dish.
Onto dessert, and I would have happily ordered any of the four on offer – Eton mess, chocolate fondant, Orton’s cheese board and the wittily titled ‘Oops I Dropped My Tart’.
As it was, I plumped for the indulgent chocolate fondant whilst Simon liked the sound of the latter.
The desserts were beautifully presented just as the mains had been, and their taste was equally impressive.
The chocolate fondant was rich and decadent, with a wonderfully warm gooey chocolate ganache centre which oozed out when I cut into it. The accompanying vanilla ice cream was of a high quality, and the salty and sweet popcorn and the caramel and chocolate tuile were fantastic, playful additions to the plate.
Speaking of playful, the ‘Oops I Dropped My Tart’ was a fun way to enjoy the flavours and textures of a lemon tart, just not in the usual format. There was buttery, crisp pastry, tangy lemon curd and lovely soft meringue, as well as a beautiful berry sorbet and crunchy honeycomb pieces.
In my opinion, the drink selection at Orton’s is worthy of its own section of the review – largely thanks to the impressive array of cocktails. There’s 32 on the menu, including classics such as Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Negroni, Cosmopolitan and Long Island Iced Tea – so you’re sure to find one of your favourites.
There’s also the Tu Tu, created by former Leicester Tigers stars Freddie and Manu Tuilagi, and featuring their new Tuilagi gin.
I began with a refreshing Mojito (£7.50) which was spot on, with a nice little kick from the rum. I then had an Espresso Martini later in the evening and it was easily one of the best Espresso Martinis I’ve had, if not the best.
Deliciously creamy and sweet, just how I like it.
Simon opted for red wine, and enjoyed a glass of the light bodied Cortestrada Sangiovese (£3.70 for 175ml)
There’s a good choice of red, white and rosé wines, as well as ‘bubbles’. The spirits selection includes locally-produced Burleighs and Two Birds gins, and the beer selection includes Rutland Panther and Ten Fifty, from Oakham’s Grainstore Brewery.
We had a wonderful evening, with excellent food and drink and excellent service in stunning surroundings with a warm atmosphere.
Hats off to the chefs, who created joy-inducing plates of perfection offering delicious combinations of flavours and textures which ensured every mouthful was exciting.
The cost was £42.80 for the food alone (£61.50 including the three alcoholic drinks) which, for such an impressive meal, we felt offered good value for money.
Orton’s is a very welcome addition to the cultural quarter and to Leicester – and was certainly worth the wait.
Our rating: 5/5
Food hygiene rating: 5/5