Last Saturday (Nov 26) marked the final service at Le Cochon Aveugle in York. It was no surprise. Owners Josh and Victoria Overington had announced the closure date in the summer, saying it was “time to start a fresh adventure”.

Adventurous summed up the restaurant, whose French name translates appropriately as ‘The Blind Pig’. Guests ordered a six or eight course tasting menu and that, wine pairings aside, was the last choice they had to make. Only when it arrived would they discover what they were eating.

Rab Adams worked there for Josh. Each trained at Cordon Bleu school – Rab in London, his mentor in Paris. After the thirtysomething Scot branched out (via Roops, a Bramley sourdough bakery named after his dog) to open his own restaurant, Hern, fellow chefs’ support was there for the tiny bistro on Stainbeck Corner, two miles north of Leeds city centre.

Josh guest-cheffed as did, more recently, Al Brooke-Taylor of the mighty Moorcock at Norland, itself about to shut for good in January. Quite an accolade – Al has rarely cooked outside his own moorland kitchen. So what were they coming into? Not much more than 20 covers in a white-walled, spartan space behind a plain shop front. Just the quality restaurant cookbooks on a shelf giving away the ambitions of the man in the cramped kitchen out back. From the likes of Relae, The Sportsman, Pierre Koffman and zero waste crusaders Silo. Rab’s personal cv includes Hedone and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

On the evening I visit his own project two blackboards provide their own reading material, which proclaim ‘no choice’. Which is why I’m here on the back of a similar ethos at an old favourite, the Michelin-starred White Swan, Fence, now offering a five course set menu.

Co-owner Gareth Ostick defended the decision to discard the several-choice a la carte of yore. Their five course tasting menu has been a success with punters beyond the obvious cutting down of possible food waste. It has also re-energised chef Tom Parker, giving him the opportunity to roll with what’s fresh on the market as the menu subtly transmutes week by week. 

Location, location. The White Swan is relatively remote, so that Michelin star is a welcome magnet. In contrast Hern is in the prime foodie territory of well-heeled Chapel Allerton, surrounded by places to eat out. The real giveaway, though, is the cluster of high class food and drink shops – notably Tarbett’s Fish, George & Joseph Cheesemongers and Wayward Wines. I’ve shopped at them all on recent trips to Leeds but somehow Hern had passed me by. My loss. Everything about the four courses for £40 appeals. 

Bread and snacks such as gossamer light panisse and delicate cod’s roe (oddly with crisps) are followed by a sublime assembly of smoked eel, beetroot, celeriac and some bracingly bitter radicchio. 

I resist the £10 cheese supplement but do cough up the same sum for an extra fish special, which arrives next and is my favourite dish of a solo evening when I am spared the tyranny of jousting with a ‘lovely review companion’ over who eats what. 

The wild sea bass is all mine and I’m wild about it in its whey sauce, laced with bottarga, stems of bitter puntarelle peeping out. Once again it’s a case of that’s amaro and I’m not complaining.

Then onto pleasingly pink duck breast in a pumpkin puree, the bite here from chunks of pickled pear and further uncompromising greens. With it I can’t resist a glass of tonight’s red special, an under the radar Grolleau from the Loire, where my modest bottle for the evening also originated – a La Pente de Chavigny Sauvignon Blanc from the talented Mikael Bouges. 

Baked cream with apple and oats completed the evening’s entertainment with a sense of little wasted, with everything to gain. Rab in the kitchen with one young assistant and Ben,  knowledgeable front of house, who has served his time in London. Less is definitely more at Hern.

Hern, Stainbeck Corner, 5, Leeds LS7 3PG. 0113 262 5809. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 6.30pm. Also open Saturday lunchtime with a small a la carte menu to road test new dishes.

Seven years separate your latest book, Healthy Vegan Street Food, from Vegan Street Food (and amazingly it’s over a decade since your statement breakthrough on MasterChef). How has the profile of plant-based cuisine changed in that time?

The landscape has changed so much I hardly recognise it any more!  Plant-based food has become incredibly politicised through the growth in veganism. Which has been both a good and bad thing. On the one hand, there exists quite a hard and sometimes judgemental line about a strict vegan lifestyle but also the increase in the number of people, all people but especially omnivores, eating plant-based food. With the wide availability of products, it’s such a big shift in how people eat. I think people (esp. the younger generations) have embraced this more flexitarian approach to eating and it’s definitely a good thing for them and the planet. Like anything in life there also appears to be a polar opposite response too, that’s quite hardline from dedicated carnivores. As a former sociologist I find all that quite interesting.

How important to the growth of veganism is the kind of South Asian food you promote?

I think we should all be incredibly grateful to the cuisines across Asia because there’s so much more function, health and respect in their cooking overall. South Asian food is more evolved from accessibility and seasonality, rather than relying on Dutch hot houses or globally shipped foods. And, of course, it has many ancient cultural and religious practices that have informed and shaped how people eat. We have so much to learn from Asian cultures in terms of plant-based food. Vegan mock meat was essentially invented in China by the Han dynasty over 500 years ago. 

The new book is no rehash. Hardly a duplicate recipe in there. Even the travel element is updated. The emphasis is on that word healthy, all aspects of which you explore. Is that growing awareness the main difference?

I think the book reflects both my own journey and also what’s going on around us – that people are more interested in wellness and health now. Although I grew up in a family that was always quite healthy, I think we just know so much more now. Having the opportunity to travel has taught me a lot from other countries approaches to health and wellness. Functional medicine is huge in the US. Sadly it’s quite hard to access that kind of healthcare here in UK. And even those who do have access pay a high price for that.

But I’ve always been interested in wellbeing and health. I worked for the NHS as a researcher in evidence-based practice for 18 years before MasterChef. After I became unwell due to an autoimmune disease I began studying nutrition and developing my expertise in creating healthier food (that’s still amazing to eat).

What are your major healthy eating tips?

Mostly plant-based whole food most of the time. The whole food part is important. If you’re eating vegan ready made crap from the supermarket then you’re going to feel like crap. 

My main tips are firstly making some time for prep. Having real food prepped makes it a lot easier to eat healthier while leading busy lives. Number one for me is batch cooking. You can also prepare one meal while prepping some things for other meals. So I always make at least one sauce (such as a simmered tomato sauce) that I can use in two or three dishes. I usually make this while making another meal such as batch cooking a stew, soup or dal. Something that’s protein-packed, with mushrooms or tofu/tempeh plus lots of fresh veggies. I always have cooked rice in the fridge, as cooled, cooked rice has a much lower glucose curve – and is the easiest thing to stir-fry with fresh veggies. Make it black or red rice and you’ve seriously raised the antioxidant and fibre game! Black rice is also higher in protein and rich in anthocyanin – the same thing that makes blueberries so blue (and good for us).

I always take prepped food when I’m on the go as well because we tend to eat more rubbish when we’re caught out hungry out of the house. I don’t eat gluten, so instead of grabbing a sandwich I’ll have homemade energy bars in my bag – there’s a fab recipe or two in Healthy Vegan Street Food. Or I often post recipes on my Instagram for healthy snacks and treats.

I also try to eat seasonally and locally where possible – apart from my spice emporium at home. Now I’m living in Italy it’s easier to eat like this as it’s simply how their markets and produce are run. Imported goods are super expensive.

How big a part has your own auto-immune problem played in this?

It’s played a big part really. I was always pretty healthy until my 40s. Being a former researcher I became laser focused on finding answers. But what I’ve learned, like any good researcher, is I have a lot more questions. Social media would have us believe we can cure ourselves of all kinds of diseases but I think this is unfair at best and dangerous at its worst.  It can make you feel like you’ve failed if you don’t get better. But the truth is, you can only make the best of your own situation. There are no cure all easy answers sadly. We can keep ourselves in the best shape possible, so we are in the best place to handle whatever comes at us, physically or mentally. That’s all we can do.

What are your feeling about the rash of vegan ready meals?

It worries me a lot. On the one hand, as I mentioned before, it’s drawn more people into eating plant-based. And to be fair, if they’re choosing a ready made vegan lasagne over a readymade meat lasagne, then at least it’s a small change. But we have to compare like with like, and ready made food is not great for us and should not be the main part of our diet. We need to eat whole foods, mostly plants, fresh and raw foods, fermented foods, healthy proteins and fats, this is true whatever our dietary choices and even more so as we age.

This is what I wanted Healthy Vegan Street Food to be about – healthy real food that’s more balanced and considered when it comes to nutrition. It’s a focus on making sure someone whose diet is primarily plant-based, would be getting most of the nutrients they need. If someone is solely vegan then you will always need to supplement a little. But to eat well for most of the time, the food has to be delicious and that’s what I wanted to create. So it’s possible to have treats and snacks as well as gourmet banquets, that are flavour-packed but also satisfying. 

How important is a plant-based cuisine in the fight against global warming?

We know that the commercial production of food impacts climate change in quite drastic ways. Obviously capitalism is, well capitalising, on the whole plant-based market. As it is too with the wellness industry. But we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to take better care of the planet and ourselves. And while it’s just a small thing, I feel that creating exciting, healthy and delicious things to eat made of plants is a pretty good place to start. 

Tell us about your current location in Italy – a far remove both from Chorlton, where you lived, and your Far East adventures.

We moved to Italy just before Brexit. Then the pandemic hit, which slowed our project plans down immensely – as it did for everyone. We moved here to Liguria to create a business that was more aligned to a healthier way of life. We have been building a retreat in the coastal mountains. Nothing complicated or any nutri-nonsense. Just simple principles of Move Well, Breath Well and Eat Well. Looking at the evidence base, these simple principles can give us the longer, healthier and happier life we all hope for. So yoga and hiking, cold water swimming and biodynamic breathwork (think Wim Hof) and together with delicious food and plant forward cookery lessons.

Your ‘Winter Reset’ programme is about to launch. Tell me about the aims of your Wellness Italy project.

This is our first opening for the retreat, so it’s a bit of a soft launch before next year. Our aim is to test the programme before we open the glamping site in the spring. This Winter Reset retreat is focused on yoga and breathwork, with accommodation in the village rather than camping on this occasion. 

We have some incredible teachers coming to support our guests. I actually met one person at a retreat in Thailand and have done some work with her since. I knew I wanted her to be part of the programme as a teacher. We hope next year that we can offer affordable retreat places for people who really need the opportunity. 

I’m well aware that it can be an elitist type of holiday. But we’re aiming to make it something more accessible. Everyone deserves to feel healthier and happier, not just those who can afford it. So we hope to start a Pay It Forward scheme eventually to create a place for someone in need to come for free. I’m also very excited about finally getting to cook for people again. And with small intimate groups too, more like a healthy supper club. And if I get the chance, sneak into the yoga class at the back before I have to get back in the kitchen!

Healthy Vegan Street Food: Sustainable & healthy plant-based recipes from India to Indonesia by Jackie Kearney (Ryland Peters & Small, £20) Photography by Clare Winfield © Ryland Peters & Small. She has published four previous books with them and the BLOG on her ‘Hungry Gecko’ website is an essential background read. 

Don’t miss Jackie’s showstopping recipe for Nasi Campur featured on my website.

‘Winter Reset’ runs from December 8-12 at Jackie’s Italian base of Pieve di Teco, high in the Ligurian mountains.  To find out more email .

Back in the day most folk’s first encounter with Indonesian food was probably via a Rijstaffel in Amsterdam or any Dutch city, an all-you-can eat buffet, at heart a colonial legacy. At its centre would be mounds of cooked rice – the Nasi of Nasi Goreng fame, that now ubiquitous fried rice dish, often featuring chicken or prawns.

Indonesia is the world’s third largest producer of rice and farmer must make offerings of the sacred grain at harvest time to Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice and fertility. This can involve eve trekking to the top of a volcano, of which there are many.

In her fascinating new book, Healthy Vegan Street Food (Ryland Peters & Small, £20) Jackie Kearney makes rice the centrepiece of her own Indonesian/Malaysian-influenced showstopper, but it consists of just three or four plant-based elements and the rice is the more nutritious black variety. 

Healthy eating is at the core of the Masterchef legend’s fresh batch of recipes – without sacrificing flavour. As proof let me introduce you, in this exclusive extract, to her recipe for Simple Nasi Campur: Tempeh brittle, purple potato curry and coconut kale stir-fry.

“Indonesia’s answer to India’s thali. This selection plate means ‘mixed rice’, simply a plate of rice with three or four different dishes. It’s a generic term used across Indonesia and Malaysia. Nasi padang is a type of nasi campur, originating from the city of Padang in West Sumatra, where the mixed rice plate was served as a huge banquet alongside multiple curries made with meat, fish and vegetables, plus spicy sambals, peanuts and eggs.

“The Dutch colonialists adored this Minangkabau banqueting, which they called ‘rijstaffel’ or ‘rice-table’. Rijstaffel restaurants are incredibly popular throughout the Netherlands, and a closer foodie experience for most Europeans. Go hungry and be prepared for 15–20 dishes to be laid around the table.

“This recipe is a simplified little taste of nasi campur to make at home. The moreish tempeh brittle recipe uses a significant amount of (unrefined) sugars, so the portion should be a very small part of the whole platter, or give this a miss if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake and simply fry some soy-marinated tempeh instead. The kale stir-fry and simple curry are super-quick to prepare. You could also add other Indonesian elements like loaded cassava fries, manadu ‘woku’ curry or Indonesian corn ‘ribs’, if you want to create a larger rijstaffel.”


250g tempeh; 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp culinary coconut oil, or use good-quality vegetable oil; 1-cm/½ -in thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons), or use 1 tsp ginger paste;  2 tbsp coconut sugar; 1 tbsp date syrup, or use pure maple syrup or unrefined coconut sugar; 3 tbsp soy sauce; large pinch of salt. Baking sheet, lined with parchment. Serves 6.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5. Cut the tempeh into 6 mm/¼ in thick slices, then slice into 1 cm/½ in wide small pieces (the length will be the width of your tempeh block).

Place a wide frying pan over high heat with 1 tbsp of the oil. When the oil is very hot, add the tempeh pieces. Fry for 8–10 minutes until crispy and brown on all sides. Remove and place on paper towels to drain.

In the same pan, add another teaspoon of oil and add the ginger. Turn down heat to low and cook gently for 2 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients (except the tempeh). Bring the mixture to a low simmer until a thick syrup starts to form, then add the tempeh pieces. Mix well to coat all the pieces and fry gently until the liquid is reduced and sticky.

Lay the pieces onto the lined baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes until crispy and nicely browned. Remove and set aside to cool. The pieces will then become more brittle and crunchy.


1 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil, or use culinary coconut oil or good-quality vegetable oil; 7–8 curry leaves; 1 large brown onion, thinly sliced; 3 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced; ½ tsp ground turmeric; 7.5-10-cm/3-4-in cinnamon stick; 250–300g bunch or 200g bag of kale, thick stems removed and thinly sliced; 75g desiccated unsweetened shredded coconut, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes; 2 green chillies, chopped; ½-1 tsp salt, to taste; freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime (about ½ tbsp). Serves 6.

Place a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add the oil and then add the curry leaves, frying for 20–30 seconds. Now add the onion, garlic, turmeric and cinnamon. Turn down the heat to medium–low, and gently stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until the onions are softened and the garlic is golden brown.

Add the kale and turn up the heat to medium–high. Stir-fry for 8-10 minutes until the kale starts to soften, depending on how crunchy you prefer your kale. Drain the desiccated unsweetened shredded coconut and squeeze out any excess water. Add the coconut and chillies to the pan, mix well and cook for 1 minute more.

Season with salt and remove from the heat. Add the lime juice and mix well. Serve immediately.


½ tbsp culinary coconut oil, or use good-quality vegetable oil; 1 large brown onion, finely chopped; 2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped, or use 2 tsp garlic paste; 4-8 small red chillies, to taste; ¼ tsp chilli powder; 1 tsp ground cumin; 1 tbsp ground coriander; 400g can plum tomatoes; 250 g purple potatoes, peeled and cubed, or use new potatoes; 

250g firm tofu, cubed (and lightly baked if you prefer); ½-1 tsp salt, to taste. Serves 6.

Place a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add the chillies and ground spices. Add the tomatoes (and juices) plus 3½ tbsp water, then squash the tomatoes to a pulp. Simmer for a few minutes, then remove from the heat.

Using a stick blender, blitz until smooth. Return the pan to high heat and add the potatoes. Place a lid on the pan, turn the heat down to low and simmer the potatoes for 20-25 minutes until soft but not falling apart. Add the tofu pieces. Season with salt and add a little more water if needed. This curry can be reheated when needed.


Cooked black rice; 3–4 tbsp sambal balado; 3-4 tbsp red-skinned peanuts, lightly toasted, or use cashew nuts; freshly chopped coriander; rice crackers.

To serve the nasi campur individually, place some cooked black rice in the centre of a plate (or on a banana leaf if you like). Add a large spoonful of each of the dishes around the outside, plus a spoonful of sambal balado (or hot chilli sambal) and a spoonful of toasted red skinned peanuts. Sprinkle the potato curry with a little fresh coriander and add a few rice crackers, if you like. Indonesian rice crackers are fried, so I prefer to serve with baked Vietnamese-style crackers for a healthier option.

SAMBAL BALADO:  This Indonesian chilli and tomato condiment is a cornerstone of Indonesian food. Buy in or follow this recipe, which will make 250ml. 10-12 large dried red chillies, to taste, soaked in boiling water for 15-20 minutes; 2-6 Thai chillies (optional); 1 small red onion, roughly chopped; 3 fat garlic cloves; 1 large tomato, halved and deseeded; ¼ tbsp culinary/unflavoured coconut oil; 2-3 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves (optional); ½ tsp date syrup (or maple syrup/unrefined coconut sugar); ½-1 tsp salt,, to taste; freshly squeezed juice of one lime;. 

Drain the soaked chillies and add to a blender or food processor along with fresh chillies (if using), onion, garlic and tomato. Blitz to a rough pulp, then add to a small pan with the coconut oil. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the lime leaves, date syrup and salt, and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes until the liquid reduces. Add the lime juice, mix well and taste. Adjust the seasoning, adding more date syrup or salt, if needed. Store in a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Healthy Vegan Street Food: Sustainable & healthy plant-based recipes from India to Indonesia by Jackie Kearney (Ryland Peters & Small, £20) Photography by Clare Winfield © Ryland Peters & Small. She has published four previous books with them and the BLOG on her ‘Hungry Gecko’ website is an essential background read. 

Check out my recent interview with Jackie.

Grandes Pagos de Espana is a prestige association of single estate Spanish wineries. A broad church indeed as I discovered at a recent public tasting at Manchester’s hub of all things Iberian, the Instituto Cervantes. The seven bottles we sampled ranged from a new wave richer-style Txakoli white from the Basque Country to a minimal intervention Mencia-led old vines field blend from Leon. I particularly liked the 100 per cent Garnacha Secastilla from the Somontano region.

Unsurprisingly though it was a trio of reds from a different but very familar grape that finished proceedings, culminating in the Pago Negralada from Abadia Retuerta. 

Wines from this estate are regularly supplied to winemaking schools as benchmark examples of Tempranillo, Spain’s most widely planted premium varietal. That information came from Miguel Gavita, who had guided through the Pagos tasting. No false modesty here – Miguel works for Abadia – but he can be forgiven. I know first hand, in situ, how good their wines can be. Perhaps the wonderful setting influenced my judgement when I stayed there one glorious late spring. It’s all coming back.

My planned visit to this luxury hotel with its own winery two hours north of Madrid had been nipped in the bud when a journalists’ press trip was cancelled. Then I ran into the Abadia head honcho at a Relais & Chateaux bash in Cheshire and he said: go on, we’ll host you solo. Le Domaine lodging project was still a work in progress when I arrived

Heavenly Retreat Among Spain’s Great Vineyards

Storks and cranes, the skyline of an abbey fortress surrounded by vineyard. The storks are nesting busily in the 12th century belltower; the cranes, the giant mechanical sort, are at rest. This is a Spanish bank holiday and work will resume tomorrow on turning former monks’ dwellings and stables into eight new guest rooms and the Sanctuario spa/pool complex. To complete the transformation into one of Spain’s finest hotels. 

Welcome to Abadia Retuerta, westernmost of the wineries producing some of Spain’s greatest reds along the River Duero’s Golden Mile. Le Domaine, is the place to stay around here with just 22 rooms and a cuisine curated by one of the country’s Michelin-starred greats.

I’ve only just arrived and barely settled in my room, pausing open to fling open the shuttered windows for an eyeful of vines before I am out among them for a pre-prandial stroll. The view back is equally enchanting – pale, honeyed stone cunningly renovated, harmonising Romanesque and Baroque.

Such evenings of mellow sun and blue skies have been rare this spring. At 800m above sea-level here they expect nights to be cold, but it has been uncommonly wet, too, bad for the grapes planted across 700 hectares upon which Abadia’s fortunes are built.

In 2005 their flagship wine, the Seleccion Especial conquered all at the International Wine Challenge, capping a remarkable fast track rise for an operation only begun in 1995 on land previously part of the legendary Vega Sicilia estate. 

The winning  wine was from the 2001 vintage. I never expected to be served a bottle from that year with my dinner in the Refectorio, but there it was, still vigorous yet elegant, the quintessence of Tempranillo (with the support of some Cabernet Sauvignon).

The Refectorio was where the monks ate (and occasionally kept their livestock). Now these soaring white stone vaults are home to Le Domaine’s fine dining restaurant. For the holy men’s simple gruel, root veg and pond fish substitute sauteed cuttlefish with a reduction of its own juice, cod cheeks whitened with gelatine with a honey emulsion, market fish with seasonal ragout and its toasted bone juice, then crispy baby lamb with quinoa.

(Abadia owners Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis originally enlisted Andoni Luis Aduriz of Michelin-starred Mugaritz to launch the kitchen operation. It retains a star to this day plus one of those sustainability-savvy green stars. Similarly, the winery was designed by Bordeaux legend Pascal Delbeck, the man who revived Chateau Ausone.)

The estate is actually just outside the borders of the official Ribera del Duero wine denominacion, meaning the wines bear the name of the nearest town, Sardon del Duero.

This actually gives the winery more flexibility in the vines it plants and a portal for innovation. Alongside, Abadia Retuerta really feels like the cradle of winemaking in the region.

The Santa Maria de Retuerta abbey was originally founded in 1145, by Doña Mayor, wealthy daughter of Count Ansúrez, Lord of Valladolid – one of many fortified religious houses built during the Christian “Re- conquest” of Castile from the Moors. The Ansurez family left “terras et vineas” (land and vines) to the French-based order of St Norbert, which was the beginning of the estate’s long history of producing wine. 

The abbey, though, after splendid additional building work during the Baroque era, fell into a steep decline until the current sensitive renovation that marries light-filled chic interiors (lots of marble, linen and luxury fittings) in the bedrooms in the Baroque half with the miraculously preserved original church and sacristy. 

Off the utterly calm cloisters you’ll find an even calmer yoga room, hi-tech meeting rooms and the Vinoteca casual dining space new and old stone all seamlessly joined… while high above the resident stork family keep a beady eye on guests.

Most of these come with wine in mind, sampling first at the Abadia Retuerta’s own tasting room in the winery and then visiting rival establishments along the route to “wine capital” Penafiel. Le Domaine offers a unique personal butler service that can sort out all arrangements for you. Hot air balloon trip, helicopter tour or, closer to the soil a horseback ride? Just ask.

My butler Juan ferried me east to Penafiel to see the remarkable, elongated white castle on the hill and the Richard Rogers-designed Protos winery. It’s a workaday place, as wine towns often are, but with lots of attractive tapas haunts and an astonishing enclosed medieval square called the Plaza del Coso. Folk hire the balconies of its private houses when bullfights are held there. On our visit the shutters were closed, a couple of cats snoozed and it shimmered in the sun like the epitome of Old Castile.

Delightful, too, my last walk before departure at Le Domaine – along a raised path between the Duero Canal and the river proper. The birdlife is abundant and the spring flowers are glorious. The estate pays the same meticulous attention to stewarding the environment as it does to producing proper wine and pampering luxury guests. 

Mummy stork suddenly takes wing and flaps across the vineyards under a cloudless sky. A final glass of Seleccion Especial awaits me in my cool room. I think I’ve gone to heaven.

Abadia Retuerta, Carretera Nacional, 47340 Sardon de Duero, Spain. 

My modest home town of Todmorden boasts four butchers. Which is remarkable these days. Three in the Market Hall (voted Britain’s best small market in 2018) and another around the corner. There’s one I go to especially for good value game birds; another is the place for rose veal, Dexter beef and free range chickens, while Bracewell’s regularly buys in whole Pitlochry venison carcasses and salt marsh lamb from Cumbria. And stocks trip, too, if that’s your bag.

An extra bonus on Saturdays is the outside stall run by Long Causeway Trading. Run by Alison Eason and Sharon Akerboom, once of Levenhulme’s legendary That Cafe, it offers a home-made cornucopia from imaginative savoury and sweet tarts to addictive Seville orange and Jura whisky marmalade. But the real draw for me is the lucky dip line-up of cool boxes containing all manner of meats, frozen and fresh, from their farm. 

A recent Saturday serendipity was offal driven. I lifted up one lid to discover lamb hearts. I had to buy. Just an hour before over my breakfast coffee I’d had a ‘nose to tail’ flashback (I know it sounds painful) as I read Giles Coren’s Times review of the unlikely, belated arrival, in Marylebone of all places, of a third St John restaurant. Hearts, kidneys, trotters, roast bone marrow. As with so many folk, they all formed part of our Fergus Henderson epiphany at the original restaurant near Smithfield market. Alas, rolled pig’s spleen, say, was a step too far.

With his revelatory elevation of cheap cuts Fergus is arguably the most influential chef/restaurateur of the past three decades. When in New York I couldn’t resist the allure of April Bloomfield’s The Spotted Pig in the West Village. This uncompromising gastropub, which closed in 2020, used to hold an annual Fergus-Stock event with its culinary hero in attendance – “known for his kooky demeanour and round, large eyeglasses” wrote one starstruck critic. 

All of which is a roundabout way to those 60p a shot lamb hearts… and what did I do with them? I followed Fergus, of course. Not the recipe in 1999’s Nose To Tail Eating, which entailed (sic) elaborate stuffing, stock and red wine. Instead I went for the fresher treatment given in The Book of St John (2019) – Grilled Lamb’s Hearts, Peas and Mint. It was quite a treat for me and the dogs enjoyed the fatty carapace I cut off the grilled hearts.

Here’s the recipe (to serve 6, or 3 as a main course, 1 good-sized lamb’s heart will suffice as a starter, 2 each as a main course)… I had  to substitute frozen peas.

Ingredients 6 lamb’s hearts, marinated overnight in balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, thyme, parsley stalks, sliced garlic; 8 spring onions, trimmed and cleaned; 3 heads of little gem lettuce, washed and separated; 2 large handfuls of freshly podded peas; a handful of pea shoots per person; large handful of extra fine capers,

thoroughly drained. 

For the mint dressing: 1 large bunch of mint, picked and stalks retained; 80g demerara sugar; 200ml malt or red wine vinegar; 100ml extra virgin olive oil; sea salt and black pepper.

Method First make the mint dressing. Bash the mint stalks with the back of a knife and place in a small pan with the demerara sugar and vinegar. Bring to a simmer for just long enough to melt the sugar, then set aside to cool thoroughly and infuse. Once ready, finely chop the mint and strain the cold vinegar over the leaves. Whisk in the olive oil, seasoning to taste.

To cook the lamb’s hearts you will need a cast-iron griddle or barbecue. Your hearts should be room temperature, not fridge cold, and the grill should be ferociously hot. Season boldly and place the hearts on the grill, cook for a minute and a half each side, then set aside to rest. A rare heart is a challenge, so aim instead for a blushing medium within. Now season and grill the spring onions in much the same way, charring with intent.

To serve, slice the hearts into slivers about half the width of your little finger, being careful to retain the delicious juices that are exuded in the resting. Place the little gems, peas, pea shoots and capers in a large bowl, then introduce the heart, resting juices, spring onions and mint dressing. Serve with chilled red wine.

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press, £28) 

It’s three years since an abandoned 200-year-old boozer off Cutting Room Square, Ancoats, was exhumed. Another reminder of my own imminent decrepitude – I’d propped up the bar at the Edinburgh Castle as a national hack working out of the nearby Express Building in the 1980s. Not the friendliest of street corner locals then; today’s stylishly restored version is infinitely preferable, even if some question if it recreates a true pubby vibe. But do any of us yearn for sticky carpets, nicotine-stained ceilings, neolithic toilets? The new model was doing something right, though, since it won Pub of the Year in the 2021 Manchester Food and Drink Awards

Inevitably it has been the upstairs gastropub element that catches the attention in a neighbourhood feted as a foodie destination. Cosy and candlelit, the 36-cover restaurant has had aspirations from the start, either side of the lockdowns, but culinary continuity has been lacking.

Two chefs who have headed up the EC kitchen I count as friends. Kiwi Julian Pizer launched with his signature bee’s wax aged beef but moved on and remains a real contender, running Another Hand in Deansgate Mews. Similar acclaim greeted Iain Thomas at The Alan Hotel before his recent departure to run private dining/pop-up operation Our Place. A year ago when he was head chef at the Edinburgh Castle he hosted a quietly daring ‘Trust The Chef’ blind tasting game dinner featuring venison, woodcock and partridge.

The baton has now been passed to Shaun Moffat, still in his mid-thirties but with a wealth of experience, in the South West and then London, latterly at Manteca in Shoreditch (No.11 in the National Restaurant Awards). His new exec chef remit covers not jus the Edinburgh Castle but also sister bar/restaurants Cottonopolis and Libertine, which I welcomed recently – Cooking on Sizzlng Hot Coals.

Live fire cooking features heavily in his CV at London’s John Salt and the trail-blazing Middle Eastern grill house, Berber & Q. So is he going to set Manchester on fire? I caught up with him after cooked an exquisite ‘soft launch’ dinner at the Castle (mussels, chicken parfait, slip sole, Tamworth pork chop, treacle tart – he may become my friend, too) and quizzed him on his culinary philosophy and plans for the group…

Tell us about your journey to Manchester (and I’m not talking Avanti West Coast) I spent time working in small independent restaurants in the South West, Bath mainly. For Jamie Oliver, too. Moving to London I worked for Mark Hix at both his Soho site and the original Oyster & Chop house. I spent two years at The Conduit (private member’s club), Nest in Hackney and at Berber & Q. I finished my tenure in the city with Chris Leach and David Carter at Manteca.

Where did you originally call home? I am originally from South Africa, living there until I was 13 and relocating to the UK with my mother. Both my parents are British citizens and in turn so am I. I am now bordering on the age of 35. My wife Natalie is from Manchester and since we’ve had our child a few years ago the move out of London for a better quality of life was always on the agenda.

Are you an admirer of the city’ food and dink scene? Name names! Definitely. I’ve followed what’s been going on here for a long time. There’s a real clear drive from the industry here. I’m a massive fan of the team and offering at Erst, I have frequented it a lot in the past. The team at Suppher have been doing some great work as well. Everything the Flawd team are putting out looks amazing and also just a lovely bunch of individuals there. With the scene being a smaller pool than I’m used to there is a real sense of support and involvement from everyone. 

Who/what are your culinary inspirations in your career? A tough one to answer, I’ve taken inspiration from basically everyone I’ve worked with and had conversations. There’s an abundance of really talented people in this industry and it would be an injustice to only name a few. Personally my aspirations are to cook food that I want to eat and that people want to eat. I get excited by great produce and producers who generally care about what they’re growing, farming, harvesting or rearing in sustainable ways. Moving forward as community, I feel there is a real need for this connection between people and produce.

You are in overall charge of the three very different kitchens up here. What changes will you make? In particular at Cottonopolis with its Asian-inspired menus? Cottonopolis will be altered to align with the ethos of the other sites. The menu and offering will be more concise and sustainable and using British sourced ingredients

from fish to soy sauces and misos, using preservations for its dashis and XOs. But there will be obviously some produce from abroad as we’re not trying to change the DNA of Cotton. There’s a lot of character there. 

Who are your prime suppliers? I’ve been luckily enough to secure supply from some amazing places. Our bread comes from Pollen, who arguably are putting out the best bread in the city. We are using Wildfarmed flour for all of our flour work here at the Castle and at Libertine. It’s Henderson’s Seafood for our dayboat fish. They have a massive focus on sustainability and not over fishing the waters. We are sourcing chalk stream trout through them as well. And we’ll be using Keltic Seafare in Dingwall for a Scottish shellfish supply .

Fruit and vegetables come from Cinderwood market garden and we are also utilising the British produce on offer from Organic North. Relying on their seasonal lists helps steer the direction of the menu. Meatwise we source from Swaledale in Skipton, who are working with some really incredible farmers based in the Dales. And we get our mushrooms from Polyspore in Altrincham. 

We loved the simplicity of the slip sole and Tamworth off the new menu. Is that a key to your cooking style? I appreciate that, To a point I think simplicity is crucial a lot of the time. I dislike busy, crowded plates filled with a list of items. I feel nothing gets a chance to shine. The way I cook concentrates on the flavours that are already there, only elevating and accentuating with items that tie into the main product naturally.  I feel that food should be sourced well, seasoned well, cooked well and served well. 

You have a history of cooking with fire. What does this bring to the party? It seems an important part of the Libertine. It’s one of my favourite ways to cook. We have a small Konro (Japenese grill) at Edinburgh Castle as well. The majority of the menu at Libertine is either cooked over the coals or through the wood-fired oven. I generally find it very a natural and organic means of cooking, there’s just so much that can be done and offered.

Edinburgh Castle, 19 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester M4 5EP; Cottonopolis Food & Liquor, Newton Street, Manchester, M1 2AE; Libertine, 437 Wilmslow Rd, Withington, Manchester M20 4AN.

Main shot of Shaun Moffat by @lateefphotography. Pork chop and parfait images by Olivia Morgan

I’m on a puff pastry roll at the moment. So to speak. No sooner had I hymned the praises of the vol au vent than I was grappling with another traditional French pie. Thanks to the arrival of a remarkable debut cookbook called simply Butter (Headline, £26). Spread the word (sic). Its author Olivia  Potts, The Spectator magazine’s ‘Vintage Chef’ and ‘Table Talk’ podcaster, is a bright new star in the cookery writer firmament. Already I’ve followed her book’ advice to make my own cultured butter, recycling the buttermilk created into a soda bread loaf; funkier till, twice I’ve filled hasselback potatoes with her signature kimchi and blue cheese butter.

With a glut of mushrooms on my hand what better next than her fungi-filled pithivier recipe? A big welcome to Wild Mushroom, Tarragon and Crème Fraîche Pithivier, which ticks so many of my boxes.

Originating in the eponymous town south of Paris that is twinned with Ashby-de-la-Zouch, the pithivier can accommodate savoury or sweet fillings under its distinctive fluted pastry dome. My own rather tasty effort (main picture) didn’t quite attain the classic round shape (see Olivia’s version below) thanks to my clumsy cutting of bought-in puff pastry. Olivia, though, is no stickler over the necessity to make your own. 

Indeed she offers a cautionary tale in the book. Volunteering to work in a Crisis at Christmas kitchen, she arrived to realise that she was in charge and no ready-made puff was in the walk-in fridge for the pies she had promised – just the separate ingredients. For a former criminal barrister this was judgement day! She rose to the occasion, making 6kg of pastry by hand, but admits: “I just about had RSI by the end but have rarely been prouder.”

If you must follow her lead, albeit on a smaller scale, Butter offers various versions, from decidedly flaky ‘rough’ to the smoothly laminated classic recipe and, finally ‘inverse’, which swaps the method. Rather than the base dough being wrapped around  butter block, and then folded to distribute even layers of the butter, the butter is wrapped around a dough block and then folded similarly.

As I said, I bought in mine, pure butter, of course, but with the proviso from an organic supplier, dorset pastry, which has no truck with the controversial and possibly harmful commercial additive, L-Cysteine (E920) (a dough relaxant derived from animal hair and feathers), which legally need not be disclosed on a pastry or bread label. It’s commonly used in the Chorleywood bread-making process. Think white pap. Say no more.

For something genuinely worth eating let’s visit Olivia’s recipe for Wild Mushroom, Tarragon and Crème Fraîche Pithivier (serves four) …

“Pithiviers are round puff pastry pies, with filling sandwiched between them. I think the word ‘pie’ in any context immediately summons up the idea of something heavy, something sturdy.While sturdiness is no bad thing, that is not what we’re dealing with here: pithiviers are the spiderwebs of pies, light, fragile, a feat of architecture. Pithiviers tend to be intricately decorated with knife marks, radiating or zig-zagging out from the centre, like fractals.

“As a pie, you can fill it with anything that takes your fancy… but for the best results, I use a filling that you can chill firm, so that when you shape the pastry round it and bake it, it will retain its beautiful domed shape. I use inverse puff pastry here, because the pithivier is such a handsome, proud dish that it makes the most of my hard laminating work, but you can use any puff you have – shop-bought is, of course, completely fine.”


20g dried porcini mushrooms; 150g oyster mushrooms; 250g chestnut mushrooms; 15g butter; 1tbsp cider or white wine vinegar; 3tbsp crème fraiche; 1 tbsp shredded fresh tarragon; ½tsp fine salt; freshly ground black pepper; 300g puff or inverse puff pastry; 1 egg yolk, beaten, to glaze.


1. First, cover the dried porcini mushrooms in boiling water, and leave to soak while you cook the other mushrooms.

2. While the porcini are soaking, halve the oyster mushrooms and slice them, and slice the chestnut mushrooms. Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat and melt the butter in it. Sauté the oyster mushrooms until golden-brown, add the vinegar, let it cook off, then set the mushrooms to one side. Cook the chestnut mushrooms in the same pan until they have given up their water and begun to sizzle.

3. Drain and roughly chop the rehydrated porcini mushrooms. Combine the porcini, oyster, and chestnut mushrooms, along with the crème fraîche and the tarragon, and season generously with the salt and some pepper. Line a bowl approximately 15cm across with clingfilm, spoon the creamy mushroom mixture into it, pack it down into an even layer (don’t worry, it won’t fill the bowl) and freeze for an hour until firm.

4. Meanwhile, roll out the puff pastry to the thickness of a pound coin. Later, you’re going to need to cut one 20cm and one 23cm disc from the pastry, so check that your rolled pastry is big enough to accommodate this. Divide the pastry in half, then transfer the two sheets of pastry on to a chopping board or tray with a sheet of baking paper between them. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

5. Cut out two discs, one 23cm, one 20cm, from the chilled pastry. Place the smaller disc on a baking paper-lined baking tray.Turn the chilled mushroom mixture out on to the centre of the pastry, removing the clingfilm from it, and dab a border of water around the edge of the pastry. Lay the second, larger disc on top. Smooth the top layer of pastry down over the mixture, to reduce air bubbles, and press the edges down with the tines of a fork to seal. Paint all over with egg yolk, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Paint the pastry with another coat of egg yolk and then, using the back of a small knife, make swooping marks from the centre of the pastry down towards the edge. Prick a hole in the centre, to act as a vent. Bake for 15 minutes, then drop the temperature to 170°C and bake for another 45 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve hot.

Such a joy when two of my favourite food and drink passions consummate a relationship and the twin offspring are equally appealing. That’s what happened when Balance Brewing and Blending met Polyspore to create a brace of tremendous mushroom beers, available to buy now.

I tasted both Freckled Chestnut and Lion’s Mane from the bottle at the collab’s launch in the upstairs bar of Manchester’s Port Street Beer House. Both sets of business partners were present the christening – Will Harris and James Horrocks of mixed culture, barrel fermentation specialists Balance and Polyspore specialist mushroom growers Mike Fothergill and Dylan Pybus.

I’ve profiled both groundbreaking operations in recent months, visiting their respective bases in North Western Street near Piccadilly Railway Station and in the Radium Wrks Altrincham (Balance are currently moving to Sheffield Street nearer the station). Read those respective backstories here and here.

The collab beers, named after specific mushroom types, were scheduled for release at IndyManBeerCon at the start of October but weren’t quite ready Will and James (ex-brewers at Track and Squawk respectively) are nothing if not particular. The presence of Wild Beer Co at the festival, where I tasted their wasp nest yeast beer, reminded me that the Somerset-based brewery had once brewed a mushroom beer of their own called Breakfast of Champigons. It was a one-off. Down to, I suspect, a reluctance of even the most avid funkheads to grasp the fungi flavour in a glass.

Still there was a rapturous reception across the Pond for repeated batches of Texas farmhouse brewers Jester KIng’s Snörkel – a saison brewed with alderwood smoked sea salt and oyster mushrooms.

All very exotic but how do the new Balance brews stand up? They started off life in a single barrel, filled in December 2021. According to James: “This barrel was chosen as a base due to its nicely balanced acidity, fruity funk and clarity of flavour. The beer was split between two tanks, one had Lion’s Mane mushrooms added and the other had Freckled Chestnut mushrooms. The beer married with the mushrooms for just over a week before being bottled and laid down to condition.

“The wonderful mushrooms grown by Polyspore have imparted their own distinct character while letting the beer shine too. Lion’s Mane shows some really nice citrus character with vanilla and gentle umami whilst Freckled Chestnut has more earthy tones and nuttiness with a beautiful savoury element.”

Spot on. The brewers prefer the more up-front funk of the Lion’s Mane; I marginally prefer the Freckled Chestnut’s more brooding charms, which will open out surely with a year or two’s bottle ageing. Visit Balance’s website and both limited edition beers, priced at £18, appear to have sold out but, as with previous releases, you may be able to seek them out at specialist bottle shops. 

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)is often cited as a myco adaptogen –  a class of fungi credited with medicinal merits across the centuries, especially by the Chinese. Hence it features in an IPA, part of a recently launched vegan and gluten free beer range called Fungtn. At 0.5per cent it is ‘guaranteed’ to keep you ‘hangover-free’. 

Personally, I’d rather take my chances and drink deep of the strikingly pure and complex 6.5 per cent Balance embodiment.

Some new destinations generate high expectations. Hence the enthusiasm with which I greeted Exhibition. Not just because it is heartening to see a historic Manchester edifice (home to a functional Pizza Express in its least interesting incarnation) given a stylish makeover; the presence of three quality indie food operators alongside a slick bar operation promised to set it apart from more canteen-like places chasing that food hall pot of gold.

Before this 400-capacity venue opens to the public on Saturday, November 12, I’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak preview of what’s on offer from OSMA, Caroline Martins and Baratxuri. While not neglecting a drinks offering headed up by Manchester Union Lager alongside smart wine and cocktail options. This was by special, lavish invitation only, so no way of gauging what the overall ‘live’ experience will be like. If that lives up to the parade of dishes served to us then Exhibition is a significant new player. a further bonus… it is dog-friendly throughout.

Here is a link to the lunch menu; and this is what’s on offer for dinner.

I’ve been a fan of Basque-inspired Baratxuri since its inception and over the years I’ve guzzled my share of Rubia Gallega Txuleton, bone-in rib steak from Galician dairy cattle aged over 50 days. At Exhibition £75 will get you 1kg’s worth served blue with fire-roasted new potatoes and tomato salad.

Another speciality of chef/founder Joe Botham also features. Rodaballo a la Parilla (£55) is a whole wild turbot grilled over ember and served with whippd pil-pil. Follow my turbot capital trail in Northern Spain here.

Simpler, less expensive dishes on the menu will satisfy equally well – the likes of immaculately sourced anchovies, the stickiest of ribs and scallops in the shell.

There’s a more compact menu from the offshoot of Scandi-influenced Michelin-rated OSMA in Prestwich, creation of Sofie Stoermann-Naess and Danielle Heron and. The name is an amalgam of duo’s respective home towns of Oslo and Manchester. My Manchester Confidential colleague Lucy Tomlinson gave it 16/20 in her review.

Priced similarly to its turbot rival across the dining rom, their whole cooked lobster is another huge temptation. They have a way with seafood. Check out their exquisite sashimi.

I’ve been a regular at Caroline Martins’ Sao Paulo Project pop-up at Ancoats’ Blossom Street Social. Her foray to Exhibition takes her away from tasting menus to a more stripped down approach, while still fusing Brazilian culinary traditions with cannily sourced local ingredients. Still, she couldn’t resist bringing with her a smaller version of her ‘splash hit’ choc pudding party piece I’ve written about before. My tip: don’t miss her Carlingford oyster with passion fruit sorbet.

Exhibition, St George’s House, 56 Peter Street, Manchester M2 3NQ.

An image of the humble vol-au-vent dropped into my inbox today and I almost swooned, giving it some retro love. Surprisingly the dinky, filled puff pastry didn’t make it onto the buffet of Abigail’s Party, nor did it feature in Simon Hopkinson and Lindsey Bareham’s 1997 retro recipe homage, The Prawn Cocktail Years

Naff image, though? Yes. Yet it has never really gone away as a buffet stalwart despite often languishing in the unfashionable tray. Certainly no one’s going to blame you for buying in a batch of ready-made bases to stuff with chicken, ham or mushrooms in a creamy sauce. One big plus – unlike the prawn cocktail, it’s resistant to ‘deconstruction’.

Variations, savoury and sweet, have been myriad ever since the dish’s invention in early 1800s Paris, credited to the great Antonin Carême. Originally a larger pie, the smaller cocktail party version we now know as a vol-au vent was then called a bouchée.

A testimony to its lightness, the name translates as ‘windblown’. Mrs Beeton (1861) offers us her strawberry version; we’re in naffer territory with Constance Spry (1956), her curry powder and boiled egg filling constituting vol-au-vent à l’indienne.

I expect much better from Climat when it opens in Manchester on Monday, December 5 on the eighth floor of Bruntwood’s Blackfriars House. Suppliers of this morning’s succulent j-peg, this rooftop restaurant/wine mecca is trumpeting the vol-au-vent as its signature snack. Following in the footsteps of the gougère, which serves in the same capacity at the team’s original base in Chester, Covino. That savoury carb, flavoured with Comte cheese, is made from choux pastry like its sweet cousin, the profiterole (which is in The Prawn Cocktail Years).

Luke Richardson, exec chef of Covino and Climat, tells me: “We want to have a different signature snack at each restaurant we open. The gougère will continue to serve Covino, while we’ve opted to resurrect the vol-au-vent for Climat, owing to their complete versatility throughout the seasons. They can literally be stuffed with anything. Beef tartare, parfait, truffle and ricotta, to name just a few.

“Both myself and Simon Ulph (Climat head chef) have worked closely together to develop an opening menu we are both super proud of and we think does justice to the building and the surroundings. We believe we offer something completely different to the Manchester restaurant scene.” 

I can vouch for the quality of food and wine at Michelin-rated Covino. Check out my report on a September visit. The setting there is cosy bistro; Climat is an altogether different beast – major selling points being the ninth floor panoramic view across Manchester city centre and a 250-strong wine list that itself stretches across the horizon. A substantial chunk of these will be Burgundies, a passion of Climat owner Christopher Laidler. Magnifique, I say. Equally promising is the regularly changing ‘modern’ menu with influences from across the world, described by chef Luke describes as ‘Parisian expat food’.

Feasting sized dishes aimed at tables of three or more to share will be a prominent feature in the 100-cover restaurant. Think whole turbot, slow cooked lamb shoulder or ex-dairy cuts on-the-bone. Alongside, Climat will follow the Covino small plates formula. Besides the vol au vents, the snack menu could include fresh malted loaves, seasonal oysters and charcuterie to match that comprehensive wine list.

So what’s on that wine list? Asking for a friend…

The name ‘Climat’ derives from the term used to describe a single vineyard site in Burgundy, which has its own microclimate and specific geological conditions. It’s the region that 40 per cent of the wine list will be allocated to. From some of the world’s best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, to the region’s lesser-known varieties and appellations. Who’s for a cheeky Mercurey, Montagny or St Aubin? From elsewhere expect to find at least 15 different grower’s Champagnes and the exciting wines of Jura. 

Climat, Blackfriars House, St Marys Parsonage, Manchester M3 2JA. The restaurant will be open Monday, 5pm-1pm; Tuesday-Saturday, 12pm-3pm, with snacks available -in-between before the kitchen reopens 5pm-11pm. Sundays the kitchen will be open 12pm-8pm, with the bar remaining open until 10pm. To book visit this link. Soft launches will also take place on December 2, 3 or 4, where guests will receive 25 per cent off their food bill.