70 Highcross St, Leicester, UK

Right Royal Dining: Reviewing the King Richard III Pub and Chop House

What is Leicester famous for? Aside from being the birthplace of Walkers Crisps and the well-known travel company Thomas Cook, Leicester has had its fair share of front page headlines in recent years. Foxes fans will remember the glory of their local team's unlikely victory in the 2016 Premier League, but for history buffs like me, a lot more excitement stems from the events of the year 2012. That's right, I'm referring to the discovery of the remains of King Richard III, which were unearthed in an unassuming car park in Leicester city-centre. Excavations began in August / September 2012 and the king's remains were soon uncovered in a shallow grave. Amazingly, his skeleton was more-or-less complete, aside from his missing feet!

Since the incredible recovery of King Richard's bones, a purpose built visitor centre has opened in the city, telling the story of the life of the last Plantagenet king and his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. King Rick has also been reburied in the Leicester Cathedral just across the road from his former resting place. His legacy still lives on in the city, with many attractions besides the visitor centre boasting his name. One such venue paying homage to Leicester's long history is the newly relaunched King Richard III Pub and Chop House. I was invited along to sample their tasty new menu and today's blog post is dedicated to my honest thoughts on the experience.

A glass of Prosecco at the King Richard III chop house, Leicester

The Venue

The King Richard III is a compact venue but it nevertheless maximises all of the available space. Before its reopening under new management, KRIII had the reputation as being a drink-focused pub and its front room ensures that those just popping in for a pint will still feel very welcome. The decor is traditional and alludes to the fascinating history of the area with portraits of King Richard himself on the walls. These are accompanied by illustrations of the Shakespeare play that takes the king's name. A rotating sandwich menu and bar snacks are on offer for hungry punters choosing to sit here, including some very tasty looking homemade scotch eggs which caught my boyfriend's eye! 

Moving from the pub to the stylish and upmarket chophouse was a real surprise. There has been a clear effort made to differentiate the two spaces and it works very well. The chophouse is immaculately decorated with dark green walls and natural toned seating, topped off with gorgeous gold details. Upon entering the chophouse, you are immediately struck by an opulent floor-to-ceiling gold framed mirror. Although the room isn't the largest, the tables are by no means crowded and every diner has ample space. Exiting the pub through a side door will bring you into the KRIII's courtyard. Again, this small space has been decorated to perfection with sturdy wooden seating, fairy lights, and leafy green walls and planters to give a bit of life. The whole venue has been finished to an impressively high standard.

Exterior of the King Richard III pub and chop house
A glass of Prosecco at the King Richard III chop house
A glass of Malbec at the King Richard III chop house
Seating at the King Richard III chop house, Leicester

The Drinks

Upon our arrival at King Richard III, we were greeted by the friendly front of house staff and ushered in to the chophouse, where we were invited to enjoy a drink. To our surprise, the first waitress who served us told us that there was no wine list available for us to look at, but she was able to rattle off the names of many of the wines on offer. Happily, we still ended up with a tipple that we thoroughly enjoyed. My boyfriend and I were both very pleased with our choice of the Argentinian Amaru Malbec (175ml x £5.95). We had both thoroughly enjoyed an Argentinian Malbec at our recent visit to the Tamatanga restaurant at Highcross and we were keen to sample another. The Amaru Malbec, the tasting notes for which include baked plums, raisins, chocolate, and vanilla, definitely hit the spot. It was light, juicy and went down very easily. Normally I tire of red wine after a single glass but with this Malbec, I could've happily sipped on it all night. I did, however, choose to sample a different drink as we made our way through the meal. A wine list was found for us by the lovely assistant manager Rhian, enabling me to select a glass of Prosecco Brut (125ml x £6.25). Prosecco can often be too dry for me but this had the ideal fruity palette. Served with a floating strawberry garnish, it was the ideal summer fizz.

Chop house decor at the King Richard III, Leicester

Gold chandelier at King Richard III chop house, Leicester

The Food: Starting with a Bang

What could be better than a course of starters to begin your meal? Well, two rounds of starters, of course! The King Richard III menu offers a selection of while you wait nibbles on their menu which are served before the traditional starters, and after seeing the chef's choice of Polenta Fritters (£4.00) on the list, I couldn't say no. For those of you not initiated into the joys of polenta, this starchy staple consists of a corn-based grain that makes a tasty alternative to mashed potatoes or pasta, but only when seasoned correctly. With polenta, good seasoning is a must because (like tofu) it can be bland and tasteless if just left on its own, as I've experienced at far too many other restaurants. I am happy to report that the KRIII polenta was more than up to scratch. It was seasoned with plentiful salt and pepper and cooked to a light consistency - definitely something I'd order again.

While I munched away on my polenta, my boyfriend tucked into his selection from the while you wait menu, Tomato Concasse (£3.50). In the interests of writing a good review, I had to sneak a few bites and I was really impressed! The diced tomatoes were incredibly juicy and fresh, of a standard I've only experienced in Mediterranean restaurants in the past. The robata grilled garlic sourdough on which the tomatoes were served was equally impressive - it was airy, providing the perfect crunch to contrast to the tomatoes. Often with a dish like this, you'd miss having a little feta on top but the flavours were perfectly balanced on the plate at KRIII, meaning that you didn't feel that anything was absent. With both the Tomato Concasse and the Polenta Fritters, the portion size was very generous, much bigger than I expected. 

Spicy robata chicken wings and cauliflower karaage at King Richard III chop house, Leicester

The Food: A Taste of Japan

Shortly after polishing off our while you wait nibbles, our second round of starters was served. While all of three of the while you wait dishes were suitable for vegetarians, there was only one veggie starter on offer, the Cauliflower Karaage (£6.50). Being limited to only one choice didn't mean that I was limited in terms of flavour, however! I was thoroughly impressed by this dish. Karaage, a traditional Japanese cooking technique involving coating small morsels in a seasoned breadcrumb mix before deep frying, is usually reserved for chicken or fish but it was employed exceptionally well with the cauliflower at KRIII. Deep frying can often leave vegetables soggy and heavy, swimming in oil on the plate, but not so in this case. The cauliflower remained crisp and delicate. A kick of spice was added by the sriracha mayonnaise and red chilli peppers served alongside. I found the dish to be delightfully moreish but it did not spoil my appetite for the main course - exactly what you want from a starter.

My boyfriend's starter was also influenced by Japanese cooking methods. He opted for the Spicy Robata Chicken Wings (£6.80). He had enjoyed his first taste of robata, a type of Japanese BBQ where the food is cooked at varying speeds over a charcoal grill, with the Tomato Concasse and found it to be equally delicious when applied to chicken. The robata technique (short for robatataki) is traditionally used for seafood and vegetable dishes but the KRIII's own unique twist on it went down a treat. My boyfriend reported that the chicken wings were of excellent quality and that the spice of the robata sauce was contrasted nicely by the smooth, cooling cropwell bishop stilton mayonnaise. The mayonnaise was not overpoweringly cheesy and did not distract from the dominant flavours of the robata.

Spinach gnocchi, sirloin steak, beef dripping fries, macaroni cheese, and spicy broccoli at King Richard III chop house, Leicester

The Food: The Main Event

Moving on to mains, this was the only part of the meal which left me feeling a little disappointed. Again, there was only one vegetarian option on the menu: Spinach Gnocchi (£14.00). I felt that spinach gnocchi was perhaps the wrong name for this dish because although spinach was present in small quantities, I couldn't taste it at all. The predominant flavours in the dish were of mushroom. I do enjoy mushrooms but my personal preference is to have them in small doses, so a dish which contained more mushrooms than spinach wasn't quite what I was expecting. The portion was large and the truffles also contained within it made the dish very rich, meaning that I struggled to eat more than half of it. The elements that I enjoyed were the gnocchi pieces themselves, which were cooked perfectly to a doughy consistency and the breadcrumbs scattered on the top, the crunchy texture of which gave a satisfying contrast to the softer pasta and veg beneath. If this dish were renamed mushroom gnocchi, I think it would be a lot more successful.

After mulling over the many meaty options on the menu for some time, my boyfriend eventually selected the 400g sirloin of beef on the bone (£20.00). Steaks are notoriously difficult to get right in the kitchen but the King Richard III chefs proved their mettle when cooking my boyfriend's sirloin - it came out medium-rare, exactly as requested. When speaking of steak, I was delighted to see a sign in the chop house about how the restaurant sources their beef. All beef served at KRIII is farm assured from local Leicestershire farms that staff have been personally visited and approved. This assurance of high welfare standards for all animals made for very pleasant reading. Returning to my boyfriend's sirloin - this was served with a fragrant peppercorn sauce and a fresh grilled tomato. But if you'd like chips with your steak when visiting KRIII, you have to order these separately, which is exactly what we did!

Main courses being eaten at King Richard III chop house, Leicester

The Food: A Bit on the Side

A meal simply isn't complete without a few side dishes! My boyfriend was craving a few carbs to enjoy alongside his steak, so he chose the Beef Dripping Fries (£2.00). These were chunky chips instead of the slim fries that you might expect and were all the better for it! Rhian, our kind server, even offered to ensure that the chips were cooked in vegetable oil instead of their usual beef dripping, enabling me to try them as well, which was fantastic service. The chips had a little bit of bite on the outside but were fluffy and delicious on the inside, the ideal combination. They were a highlight of my boyfriend's meal. On the other hand, I favoured the Stir Fried Broccoli (£3). The broccoli had been cooked with chilli and garlic, giving it a pleasant pop of spice without blowing your head off. Efforts had clearly been expended to serve the veggies at a good consistency: the broccoli was just past the point of being al dente but without being too soggy. And of course, our side dish extravaganza just had to be rounded off with a bowl of Macaroni Cheese (£3.50). This whopping portion of cheesy pasta could've been a main course on its own but it was too good to leave even a morsel of it! The sauce was creamy but not too rich, with crunchy breadcrumbs being added to the top once more. It might have been slightly improved by popping it under the grill for slightly longer to crisp up the top before serving, but this certainly wouldn't stop me from ordering it again on my next visit to KRIII.

Chocolate brownie with Judes pistachio ice cream at King Richard III chop house, Leicester

The Food: Decadent Dessert

After chowing down on our banquet fit for a king, we definitely needed some fresh air before moving on to dessert! We moved outside to the courtyard to finish our drinks and peruse the dessert menu there. Although I was sorely tempted by the delicious-sounding Apple Crumble Creme Brûlée (£6.00), in the end I decided to share my boyfriend's choice of Chocolate Brownie with Jude's Pistachio Ice Cream (£6.00). I always have fond memories of eating pistachio ice cream on holidays with my Mum (it's her favourite flavour!) so this brownie was a trip down memory lane. The pistachio flavour was natural and not too sickly or overwhelming and it worked very well with the soft, sweet brownie. The brownie wasn't the most indulgent I've ever had; it was definitely on the lighter side, but after a very rich main course, this was exactly what was needed. The white chocolate cream on the top of the brownie did add a richer, intensely chocolatey element but in just the right amount. I thought that the portion size was ideal for splitting between two people but my boyfriend who was forced to share might disagree!

Interior decoration of King Richard III pub, Leicester, featuring pictures of King Richard and Shakespeare

The Service

A huge thank you goes out to the fantastic Rhian who looked after me and my boyfriend for the majority of our time at the KRIII. Rhian was immensely knowledgeable about the menu and the pub as a whole, was able to make informed suggestions based on her own tasting of the food, and answered every single one our questions. Her friendly and welcoming demeanour is a real asset to the King Richard III team - nothing was too much trouble for her. The only aspect of our time at the venue that could've been improved was the choice of music in the chop house. While Katy Perry and Ed Sheeran might be natural choices for the informal atmosphere of the pub at the front, I didn't feel that they quite matched the stylish surroundings of the chop house where they were playing during our meal. Perhaps a more refined playlist would suit the chop house better. However, this was a very small matter and certainly didn't impact our enjoyment of the food. On the subject of small improvements, it might also be nice to see a few more vegetarian and vegan main dishes on offer at KRIII to suit a greater variety of tastes.

Outdoor courtyard seating at King Richard III chop house, Leicester
Abbey enjoying the courtyard at King Richard III chop house, Leicester

The Verdict: Long live the King!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the King Richard III pub and chop house and I'll definitely be heading back for more food and drinks in the near future. The KRIII experience doesn't end when you leave the doors of the pub either. The pub is currently giving away complimentary tickets to the King Richard III visitor centre to all chop house customers, so you can take in some of Leicester's most incredible history after your meal. The KRIII is part of Leicester's Beautiful Pubs Collective, which also includes the Knight & Garter and The Forge Inn. My visit to KRIII has definitely whetted my appetite for outstanding Leicester pub grub so I'll be paying these other venues a visit very soon as well.

What is your favourite pub food? Let me know in the comments below.

*My meal at the King Richard III Pub and Chop House was complimentary in exchange for a blog post review.