When you think of cities for a gastronomically themed UK break, I doubt that many people would think of Leicester in the first instance. However, we have just returned from a weekend in the city to celebrate Ian's birthday, enjoying the wonderful food on offer for vegetarian families like ourselves. The Veggie Vacation is one of the Stay, Play and Explore short breaks that you can enjoy in Leicester. Each break includes a hotel stay with breakfast at the Ramada Encore in the city centre, as well as some additional experiences all included in the price.
The Veggie Vacation includes a choice of three out of five experience options. You can choose between a three course meal and hot drink at Mirch Masala; a cocktail making class with two drinks each at 33 Cank Street; buffet lunch and drink at Shivalli; afternoon tea at White Peacock and a consultation and shop tour with arm massage at Lush. You can pre-book your three choices before you travel and print off your voucher online to take with you on the day.
It was great to have an all-inclusive package to look forward to, helping us to plan our weekend, knowing that most of our food was taken care of and pre-paid for. As vegetarians, it was lovely to be able to take the hassle out of eating out. All the experiences offered provide a tried and tested vegetarian option (and in some cases vegan), so we knew we could enjoy them with confidence.
Our first port of call in Leicester was the White Peacock where we had booked a vegetarian afternoon tea. The place was lovely with attentive staff and stylish decor. It was a real posh treat! We were served tea or coffee followed by a slate plate of quartered or fingered sandwiches with fillings such as brie, cucumber, egg, feta & roast pepper and grated cheese with fruity pickle. They were elegantly presented. A pair of two tiered plates of cakes followed including warm tonka bean and saffron scones with clotted cream and fruit compote, salted caramel panna cotta, strawberry tart, chocolate and parma violet cream cake, chocolate truffle and iced fruit and almond cake. There was plenty of food to go round and it was all in easy to manage portion sizes, meaning we got to try everything.
Mirch Masala is a completely vegetarian restaurant serving food from India, Mexico, Indo-China and Italy. The menu is staggeringly huge and we were utterly spoiled for choice with their huge array of starters and mains from around the world. Usually in restaurants we get to choose between two or three options at the best, so having a whole menu at our disposal was brilliant. However it took us ages to choose, but thankfully our waiter was very patient and on hand to answer our questions. We finally decided on an eclectic mix of world cuisines including Chinese dim sum, Mexican nachos, Italian lasagne and Indian curries.
The food was really very good and the portion sizes were massive. Leftovers were boxed up and returned at the end of the meal to take home for later. Mirch Masala is a real gem in the city centre for vegetarians and vegans alike, with reasonable prices, great choices, good food and excellent service.
Shivalli was our destination for our lunch on Sunday. From the outside the restaurant looks quite unassuming, but once inside it was lovely. The buffet of Southern Indian curries, rice, dosa, appetisers, popadoms and salads looked and smelled so appetising. We were shown to our table and brought drinks and a jug of water. We loved that we could select our choices from the buffet in little silver bowls and serve ourselves at the table. One pet hate of mine is having a plateful of mix and match food on my plate, so this worked so well, allowing us to savour each dish. In addition to the buffet, which had some incredible tasting veggie curries, we were also brought some freshly prepared pancakes filled with spicy potato curry and some puffy breads. Everything was divine and the attentive, friendly service made this a wonderful experience.
In addition to our fantastic food, we also enjoyed shopping in some of Leicester's quirky and independent shops (and in their big shopping centre too). It is a really nice city and there was lots going on with buskers and street performers doing their thing as well as the Sky Ride cycle event taking place. The Ramada Encore was a good place to rest our heads. The rooms were clean and well equipped with tea and coffee making, a hairdryer and big TV. The bathroom was superb with a huge walk in, wet room style shower. We had a selection of Lush samples in our room to test out too, which was a real treat.
Overall, we had a brilliant weekend. The cost of the Veggie Vacation with overnight stay, breakfast and the three experiences per person is just £129 for two adults sharing. Such a great value way to explore a new city!
We had two rooms, one for Ian and I and one for Ella and Kezia, and we also took Freddy with us, who slept in a sofa bed for a supplement of £15. (He was too young to go to the White Peacock as that is for 12's and overs, but was welcomed everywhere else. This gave us the chance to take Ian's sister, who doesn't live too far from Leicester, for an girlie afternoon tea with us, while Ian took Freddy to Costa for his lunch, so it worked perfectly for us. )
With Family Fun, Family Adventure, Heritage, City Treats, Gourmet Taste and Richard III vacations also available, there is an option to suit most people's needs.
Find out more about these exciting short breaks in Leicester at www.stayplayexplore.co.uk.