Restaurant review: ORSO Leicester… does it live up to the hype?

During Leicester Restaurant Week, Ana Goncalves pays a visit to ORSO Leicester to see if the place lives up to the hype after tirelessly hearing numerous recommendations.

ORSO is a quaint coffee shop on Market Place, right next to Leicester Market, and has been open for just over a year now.

In that time, it has been busy carving out a nice reputation as an affordable and cosy place for students, pensioners and busy shoppers to spend the cold winter days.

I’ve heard so many good recommendations, and whenever I pass by, catching a whiff of the freshly-made coffee and a hint of cinnamon, I can see full tables and happy faces through the windows. It looked – and smelled – great. 

My experience? Not quite as positive, unfortunately.

When I arrived, I was immediately greeted by staff and went to the till to grab a menu. Orso offer different types of toast and drinks. Their prices range between £3.50 to £7 for sourdough toast, and between £1.80 to £4.50 for drinks. 

I got ‘The Avo One’, a sourdough toast with fresh smashed avocado and lime, topped with poached eggs and seeds, a Chai, and an OJ. 

‘The Avo One’, Chai & OJ – taken by Ana Goncalves

First, they brought the Chai. I have to say, it was as white as milk, which is quite weird because chai is supposed to have a light brownish colour. And as I took my first sip, my fears were confirmed. It was just sugary milk with a dash of cinnamon on top.

Definitely disappointed, as Chai is meant to be a very flavourful mix of herbs and spices. 

The avocado toast, on the other hand, was good. I had to ask for salt & pepper, as it needed the seasoning for the flavours to be more accentuated, but other than that, it was okay.

And the OJ was my favourite – freshly-made like OJ is supposed to be.

I believe ORSO is perhaps one of those places you only go to once. The price-quality ratio is not worthy in my opinion, and I was very disappointed with the Chai, mainly. 

Overall, it doesn’t live up to the hype. I would give it a 3/5.

Halal Food Festival set for Morningside Arena in Leicester

By Samuel Gill

This Summer will see a Halal Food Festival take place at Morningside Arena, Leicester, on Sunday, June 21.

Taking place at the home of British Basketball League team Leicester Riders, organisers say it will boast live cooking demos, chefs and special guests, unique food items, as well as free entry for under-10s.

As described on their event page, they are inviting all Halal foodies to get involved in this event, which comes to Leicester for the first time.

It is part of a string of events that Morningside Arena is putting on alongside the basketball and previously the darts, with sports events such as the Weber Cup and Championship League Snooker as well as concerts such as Indian Idol.

Fergus Garner works for both the arena and with the basketball team so sees both sides to the growing arena complex in Charter Street, which since opening has attracted more and more big names to get involved and start networking.

“I really enjoy it, it’s great to have a variety in what you do and bringing in all the events means there is always something different. For example we had the Riders game on Friday night and straight after the game we had a wedding fair the next day,” said Mr Garner.

He continued: “I think it’s really good for us to have different events for different kinds of cultural groups such as Indian Idol and the Halal Food Festival, which bring in a lot of Asian customers. Leicester is a very diverse city so for us to host events for all those different groups is important for us and we want as many people to come to the arena as possible.”

Click here to book your tickets for the event with early bird rates currently out for potential ticket holders.

DMU Sport holds ‘Cooking on a Budget’ nutrition workshop for students

By Jacob Moseley

The DMU sport societies came together to create a day of free food tasting, lifestyle tips and nutritional advice for all the DMU students still stuck to the fast food chains.

On Tuesday, the Watershed was opened up from 7pm until 8.30pm by volunteer students and sports players to showcase the best ways in which to stay healthy whilst living in university halls.

Sam Kibble, the strength and conditioning (S&C) coach at DMU Sport, stated the main aims of the event were to “Encourage our Sports scholars and sports teams to live a healthier lifestyle that may benefit their performance.

“For us as an S&C team it is all about the students being able to fuel their bodies well for match days, training days and general day-to-day activities. Being able to maintain high energy levels will give them the ability to perform at their optimum ability.”

With free food such as “smoothie pots, post workout shakes and a penne pasta dish”, the event was a brilliant introduction to students making meals for the first time. Sam explained: “The sessions give people a few ideas that they can take away and using recipe cards and free samples helps to show that cooking food is worth it.”

Even though the crowds did not flood to the Watershed, with the turnout being just under 20 people, DMU Sport are looking forward to the next event, with additions such as shopping list ideas and cost comparisons.

If you want to join DMU Sport to help integrate a healthier lifestyle, the next event is being held tomorrow(FRI,OCT18) and will focus on injury prevention whilst competing in sport.

 

Has Instagram changed the way we eat?

Saints of Mokha has a large Instagram following.

By Conor de Smith

Apicius, the first-century Roman gourmand and author, is credited with the aphorism: “The first taste is always with the eyes.”

In fact, some of the largest increases in cerebral blood flow occur when a hungry brain is exposed to images of desirable foods. This might go some way in explaining why the phenomenon of ‘foodporn’ has changed the world’s eating habits over the last decade.  

The British public are sharing images of food more than ever before with a huge amount of this food-centric media revolving around the photography uploaded on social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. More than 130,000 pictures of food are shared on Instagram every day in the UK and one-in-five Britons have admit to sharing photos online once a month.

Ever since its launch in 2010, food has been a great provider of content on Instagram. The immensely popular social media site, which boasts 600 million monthly active users, specialises in photosharing and around 208 million posts have been tagged on the app with the “food” hashtag since it was founded.

The introduction of mobile phones with in-built cameras have made sharing pictures of our food easier than ever. Taking a photo of an aesthetically appealing ‘freakshake’ or ‘raindrop cake’ has become customary when dining out, but is this changing the way the public consume food?

Breakfast, for example, has shifted from unphotogenic cereal or jam on toast to the bright hues of avocado toast – there are nearly 750,000 #avocadotoast hashtagged photos on Instagram –  and trendy smoothie bowls. Some meals are now social media magnets and some cafes or restaurants aim to hone on this ‘free advertising’.

In Leicester, there are dozens of independent establishments that utilise social media in order to draw in customers. Some, such as the Toast Inn, have become self aware and have called a fruity Prosecco drink infused with candyfloss ‘I want that drink I saw on Instagram’. Sex sells and ‘food porn’ is no different. In 2005, for example, M&S’ sales skyrocketed by 3,500% when the supermarket launched an advert showing a chocolate pudding with an extravagant melting centre.

The younger generation are the main culprits with 18 to 24-year-olds five times more likely to share photos of their food online than the over 55s. According to research by Zizzi, 18-35-year-olds spend five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30 per cent would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak.

This consumer behaviour is literally changing the way some restaurants, cafes and eateries approach their business. Omar Sacranie, owner of a Leicester coffee shop called Saints of Mokha, believes he runs his store differently because of social media.

“A lot of the launches we do are on Instagram,” says the 20-year-old. “When I look at people of an older age and how they construct a business, it is very different to how I do things. They will launch products in-store, everything is in-store for them, while I like to launch things online. I find it more efficient and easier to do things online.”

The store opened in the summer of 2016 and has proven to be a huge hit on Instagram. In March 2018, there were 50 geotagged posts of the store or its products. The majority are aerial views of wonderfully designed coffees and cakes, while others focus on the wooden interior which is made entirely of recycled pallets from factories.

Mr Sacranie is very aware of the power of photographs. Above the counter, there are dozens of polaroids of customers that staff have found eccentric or interesting with messages underneath. These are rarely placed on Instagram but they add a personal touch to the cafe. “I would cover the whole shop with these pictures,” he says but was adamant that he has never sold a product due to its ‘Instagramability’.

“I don’t think people put photos first. I have considered making something because it looks good on Instagram, but it is not the main crux of the decision. I’ve not thought ‘this is picturesque, I’m going to sell it’ if it doesn’t taste good, if it’s not efficient, if it’s not popular, if it’s not a familiar taste – there’s a lot more that goes into a dish for me.”

Leicester Food posts photos of establishments such as Cake Club & Doughnotts.

Some are very aware of this amplified word of mouth and restaurants such as Media Noche in San Francisco designed their restaurant to be perfect for Instagram, from the floor pattern to the lighting. Some chefs have labelled this strategy, putting this much focus on style, dangerous. It is a risk many are taking due to the impact these social influencers harbour.

In Leicestershire, the Instagram account ‘LeicesterFood’ is unrivaled when it comes to followers and influence. Going public in 2016, the account now has near 7,000 followers by offering high-definition photographs of the city’s most popular food trends. Its hashtag, which users can place below their photos to get featured, has been used over 10,000.

Pia Chauhan, 26, runs the account as a hobby and makes no financial gains from the account, but does get invited to the opening of some restaurants in return for some coveted online exposure. Instagram is difficult the monetise for influencers without seeking brand deals so why has it proven so popular?

“It is very easy to use,” said Miss Chauhan. “It’s very visual and attractive. Also, people seem to be more active on Instagram compared to other social media – especially the younger generation. For me it’s a hobby, I enjoy it and I can pass time. I also get invited to new restaurant openings and food events to eat for free.”

It appears traditional newspaper and magazine restaurant reviews are losing their influence over millennials in favour of online round-ups, social networks and influencers. One anonymous publicist, however, says influencers can become a burden for top establishments. They say these social media stars have demanded not only the complimentary meals, plus-one’s, and a free buffet of every dish on a restaurant’s menu. The publicist added, “I get emails: ‘I have 114.3K followers. Here’s where I’d like to go.’ Miss Chauhan believes that befriending influencers can be vital to the success of local businesses.

“It’s free advertising for them and they can connect with other local businesses,” she says. They can showcase their food and target them to the Leicester population very easily and with minimal effort.”

The fear for long-serving food creators is that ‘minimal effort’ might start to creep into the food industry due to Instagram but, for now, ‘Instagrammable’ dishes are here to stay in a big way.

Feature: Irish pub O’Neill’s reopens after revamp

One of Leicester’s best known pubs has reopened after a major revamp. Reporter Simon Sansome popped in to sample the atmosphere.

Andy Hazel Assistant Manager

O’Neill’s pub in Leicester has been around for ever. Most people living in the city would have walked past the pub or popped in for a pint and a meal. The Irish themed pub sits on Loseby Lane in the beating heart of Leicester. While the whole area has been renovated to a high standard, O’Neill’s used to look like it was lagging behind, with its dark wood, old man-style watering hole and out-of-date menu. They needed to do something to bring this once-loved pub back to life.

The renovated O’Neill’s feels cosy, welcoming and is open for business once again. They are offering an updated food menu from stone baked pizza to tapas and 21-day aged steaks. A new cocktail drinks menu and a range of crafted beers and ciders means there is something for everyone. O’Neill’s has also reached out to the younger generation by offering a new range of Churro doughnuts and dipping sauces.

To celebrate the renovation O’Neill’s launched a VIP night, with samples of the new menu on offer and entertainment with break-dancers, magicians, live music and stilt-walkers.

Long gone are the dark corners and flooring. Brighter lighting helps to create a more relaxed environment.

It still plays host to sports TVs but it is a more comfortable environment with better furniture, menu and, for me, better burgers.

O’Neill’s has welcomed many new and old punters through the doors since the revamp.

Dr Troy Levers, 55, International Law Lecture at Leicester University, said: “I like the environment, the pub feels cosy, the décor has been well done and makes people want so socialise.”

Joanne Gravett, 24, journalist, said: “The food is really tasty, we got VIP treatment and liked the people on the stilts, we took a photo standing under the people on stilts it’s just fun.

“I would recommend O’Neill’s to my friends and family.”

There is also a small private room for hire for a group of 10 people closed off from the bar for private meals and meetings.

Jo Blockly and Dawn Julian said: It’s a massive difference.

“It feels so much bigger, brighter and looks a lot cleaner and not closed off as it used to feel.”

Andy Hazel, Assistant Manager, said: “We have invested a lot of money to give the pub a fresher feel and changed the menu and introduced new music into Leicester by having live bands with good food.”