Sunday 26 September 2010

Distrikt, Leeds

I have wanted to visit Distrikt for awhile, so after reading reasonably good reviews about the food and hearing about the unusual design for an eating establishment we went along.
Distrikt is located on Duncan Street down a small alley, in which for some reason, tables and chairs appear during the day and evening. It wouldn't be my choice to eat or drink there but I'm assuming its for the smokers. The entrance is similar to entering a club and the restaurant, if you can call it that, is located underground. The club theme continues at the bottom of the staircase with quite a dark room with a well stocked bar, tables and booths which we eventually moved to when one emptied.
We were quickly greeted by a pleasant member of staff who provided us with the menus, while browsing we ordered cocktails which were on a 2-4-1 offer. I ordered a Mojito and the Other Half ordered a Cosmopolitan, now either the waitress got very confused or the offer didn't allow two different ones to be ordered because two Mojitos and two cosmopolitans arrived which amused but hey its 2-4-1 so we drank them anyway.
The food is Tapas style with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and British influences, we decided to pick five and a meat sharing platter.

Smoked mackerel brandade with pita crisp.
Harrissa chicken wings with lime aioli.
Sticky caraway short ribs.
Rare beef, foraged salad and horseradish.
Meat and cheese platter.
Mussels in wheat beer

Ribs and Mussels
Mackerel and Chicken Wings

Meat and Cheese Platter

The food was very good, we chose to get the dishes as they were made instead of all at once, which I think is probably the best way because we could enjoy each dish individually. My particular favourite was the rare beef, soft and tender and perfectly cooked.
Afterwards we ordered some of the tapas puddings.
BBQ banana with Jack Daniels, chocolate and toffee
Summer fruit crumble
Crumble and JD Banana

The puddings were also very good, the crumble in particular was very fresh with crunchy crumble and huge pieces of fruit in a sauce that wasn't too sweet or too sour.
Service was slightly haphazard but good, the waitress completely forgot to return to take our pudding orders but was very apologetic when she realised, she was also very informative about the dishes and exactly how much food we were ordering.
The final bill came to £31 (minus the cocktails). Excellent value for the quality and amount of food we received.

7 Duncan Street,
0113 243 3674

Distrikt on Urbanspoon

Monday 20 September 2010

The Blue Bell, York

 Easily my favourite pub in York. a perfect example of how a pub should be in my opinion. Located on Fossgate a bit off the beaten tourist path, The Blue Bell is York's smallest pub, it consists of two very small rooms with a bar separating each room, a long corridor joins each room and is usually a drinking location when the rooms are full and by full I mean no more than ten people in each room. It is quite a novel experience ordering a pint through a little hatch in the backroom or standing at the door into the bar area.
For a tiny pub, there is quite a good selection of ale, along with a scrumpy cider, crammed onto the bar all in perfect condition. the pub still retains its fixtures that have been there since 1906 and the back room is like someones old fashioned living room, with a mantle piece, fire and various random pieces of furniture, very cosy in winter.
The pub has 3 rules however;
1. No Large Groups
2. No Swearing
3. No Mobile Phones.


The Blue Bell
53 Fossgate
North Yorkshire,
01904 654 904

Sunday 19 September 2010

My Top 5 Pubs in York

 York has got to be one of my favourite cities, beautiful architecture, a wide varied collection of quaint shops and a sense of history at every turn but one thing i really like about the city is, of course, it's vast collection of real ale pubs. I am unsure of the exact number but its rumoured to be in the hundreds both inside and outside the city walls. Being a regular visitor, albeit not as regular as I'd like, I have visited a few of these so I thought I would do a post on my top 5.

5. The Kings Arms
Located on the bank of the River Ouze, this pub serves Sam Smiths beer, for those ale drinkers among you this means cheap but good beer. The pub itself is not great its a bit grimy and it gets packed by every tourist in York ( or seems that way at times). The reason I have include this is because once you have battled through the crowds, got a drink and found a spot on the bank of the river on a beautiful summers day, then you just forget all that and watch the world go by. Perfect in Summer, head somewhere else in Winter.
Kings Arms

4. Maltings
Those of you who frequent York by train will probably know of this pub due to its close proximity to the station. Its possesses a dramatic black stone exterior, which can be slightly off putting but if you get over that and wander in then you won't be disappointed. It is a small one roomed pub decorated with; tiled floor, old style tin signs, a bar made of old doors and for some reason the days broadsheet papers in frames in the gents toilet. The Maltings serves plenty of real ales and ciders and there will be a drink that takes your fancy. Great pub.

3. The Golden Fleece
The most haunted pub in Britain (apparently). If this sort of thing appeals then that reason alone is worth visiting, the rest of us can enjoy a decent pub. It may or may not be the most haunted but it can claim to be one of York's oldest, dating back to the 16th century. The beer range is not very adventurous with most of the usual suspects making an appearance, Black Sheep, Taylors etc. It is decorated in traditional pub style, with photos and little pieces of history on the walls. Located at the end of The Shambles.
Golden Fleece

2. The York Brewery Pubs
I couldn't decide which of the pubs owned by the cities brewery as my number 2, so I've included them all. Each pub serves the breweries beers alongside a couple of guests and they all serve bar meals. I'll try and keep the descriptions brief. Yorkshire Terrier - cosy and intimate, located behind a little shop selling bottles and merchandise from the brewery. Three Legged Mare - open and light, almost like a wine bar. Last Drop Inn - sort of a cross between a bar and a pub. Each is worth a visit for their own individual personalities.

Three Legged Mare
Yorkshire Terrier
The Last Drop Inn

1. The Blue Bell
I think this one needs its own post - The Blue Bell

Harlequin Cafe, York

 On a recent trip to York, we decided to start off with a coffee, a quick search on Google and the Harlequin Cafe kept featuring with good reviews so we decided to head there.
It is located on King Square, near the Minster and The Shambles. It is quite easy to miss as it is just a doorway next to a Bookmakers. The cafe is located on the 1st floor above it.

The cafe is light and airy with various art prints on the walls. It was reasonably busy considering its location. we sat down and a friendly waitress came over and took our order, I opted to try their house blend served in an individual French Press. The Other Half decided on a cold drink and chose Fentimens Dandelion and Burdock.
Service was very good, quick and friendly, I was pleased to be offered the choice of cold/hot milk or cream with my coffee.

The coffee itself was very good, rich with subtle hints of chocolate. A variety of usual cafe food was on offer such as sandwiches soup etc... the selection of cakes also looked very tempting but with our next stop being the food festival we resisted.
Overall a very good coffee house and a little oasis from the hustle of York on a Saturday

2, Kings Square

The Harlequin Cafe on Urbanspoon

Ale #2 Rudgate Ruby Mild

Apperance: Dark, Ruby

Flavour: Smooth, combination of bitter, hops and sweetness

Aroma: Sweet with hints of smoke

Why its on here: Ruby Mild was crowned to be last years Champion Beer of Britain at the Great British Beer Festival. This is quite impressive considering it is a mild, which have been falling out of favour the past few years. The beer is delicious and complex. It drinks smooth and is quite hoppy and bitter for a mild but these work very well together. Well worth a pint

Sunday 12 September 2010

Calls Landing, Leeds

On the hunt for food on a sunny afternoon, we decided to head to The Calls Landing to try it out. located on the riverside, the pub/restaurant is rather quite spacious. It advertises itself as a stew and oyster kitchen and so on the menu, which was a chalkboard inside, were 3 stews and oyster selections. I was told that the kitchen was being refitted so this was all they were able to make. I was disappointed no to find any decent ales on offer especially with the prominence of the Theakstons logo, the bar had the usual suspects on and a not to shabby bottle selection, I settled for a pint of the Black Stuff.
We each opted for the chilli over a vegetarian Butternut squash stew and a intriguing Cowboy stew of Cumberland sausage and baked beans and sat outside in their small riverside beer garden. Service was speedy, I would have been annoyed if it wasn't considering stews do not take much effort to serve. The dishes themselves were very nicely presented, a large bowl of flavoursome chilli with the right amount of spice giving it a slight burn, it was very good. It was topped off with shavings of Cheddar, sour cream and rocket leaves and served with very soft white bread. I would have preferred a carbohydrate to go with it (other than bread) such as rice or a jacket potato but it was quite filling without it.

The final bill (paid upon ordering) was £13 (not including drinks). Reasonable value for lunch and quite tasty chilli.

Calls Landing
36-38 The Calls

Ale #1 - Rooster's Jasmine IPA

Roosters Jasmine IPA
Appearence: Golden ale

Flavour: Hoppy, slightly bitter, Jasmine flavour

Aroma: Flowery, Jasmine

Why Its on here: On a mini pub crawl around Granary Wharf, Leeds, we popped into Cross Keys. I like trying new beers and especially ones with intriguing flavours so I was quite happy to see this on the bar. The beer is smooth and the jasmine aroma and flavour is perfect not overpowering  and leaves a nice lingering finish demanding you continue drinking, delicious. It is a seasonal beer from Roosters, so chances are it wont be around for long. if you see it order a pint and enjoy.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Test Space Kitchen, Leeds

Being a novice to food events that don't take place in restaurants, I was unsure what to expect from TestSpace: Kitchen however the description however gave a few clues;
"a special Victorian menu created by local food writer and blogger Mike Wallis, expert food forager Mina Said and the award winning Sunshine Bakery: involving de-constructed whole hog, giant Eton mess, pastry covered fruit, loaned pineapples, local foraged food and more"
My first thoughts are that it would be a bit like Heston's Feasts so I paid the bargain price of £10 and went along.
Test Space carries out pop up events across Leeds in various venues promoting local talent, a more detailed description can be read here: Test Space. The venue for their first pop up kitchen was the stunning temple works in Holbeck, Leeds.
Temple Works, Leeds
The event was hosted in the back of Temple Works, in quite a small room for the amount of people, again this was different than I what I expected, I was expecting a warehouse sized room. The size of the room wasn't a bad thing however, it made the atmosphere more intimate and a little bit magical with the eerie surroundings and the anticipated arrival of the food.

We arrived at about 7pm and were informed that food would be about an hour, due to the food being cooked off site and transported in, we were kept informed at regular intervals about its progress but no one seemed to mind the wait due to the many new people to get to know and the menu to drool over.

The appearance of the pigs head coming through the door heralded the arrival of the meal and it was swiftly set up in the adjacent room. It was literally a feast for the eyes and mouth as you can see from the picture.
Plate after plate of several versions of pig including ham, pork belly, pork loin stew alongside various game birds and a couple of options for the Veggies. Each version of pork was beautifully cooked, juicy and flavoursome, the sauce of the stew was particularly good. A special thanks to Mike Wallis for creating this amazing feast and for Mina Said for foraging some of the ingredients.

After the main plus seconds and also after a couple of us decided to pick at parts of the pigs head, including the ears and cheek (interesting but nothing i would recommend, we also drew the line at the snout), the pudding was served and its probably a good thing it was served it when it was, due it being there on arrival and looking increasingly like it was going to collapse.
The dessert was a giant Eton Mess plus Eton Mess cupcakes made by David Bennet of the glorious Sunshine Bakery in Chapel Allerton. It was a fine pudding, tooth meltingly sweet meringue with cream and delicious strawberries, I also attempted to take a cupcake home but succumbed to temptation and ate it long before i left.
After the meal, SlowFoodYorks gave a short, interesting presentation about the slow food movement before a local musician played an acoustic guitar set.
Overall it was a brilliant night, fine food, excellent company and superb atmosphere. Roll on the next one.

Links to people mentioned in this post:

David Bennet/Sunshine Bakery:
Mike Wallis:,
Mina Said:
Test Space:

Monday 6 September 2010

Jamie's Italian, Leeds

On a pleasant bank holiday evening, me and the Other Half decided to go somewhere new for a meal, we had a couple of ideas in mind but being a bank holiday they were shut. After wandering round town pondering our options we noticed that Jamie's Italian was open and lacked the usual epic queue outside so we thought we might as well give it ago. I had read some quite negative reviews about the place but went in with an open mind anyway.
On arrival we were told there would be about a twenty minute wait and were invited to the bar to wait, we ordered a 500ml cafare of wine each at just under £10 per carafe, I thought this was reasonable value considering the wine prices of some places.
After a short while we were shown to our seat and greeted by our very friendly waitress who informed us that certain items such as the burger had sold out (this was 8 o clock) fortunately these were not dishes we planned on ordering. We ordered the Meat Antipasti plank for two consisting of; Meats - fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, Schiacciata piccante, Cheese - buffalo mozzarella and pecorino. Pickles - green chillies, gata olives and green capers and a crunchy salad of shaved root veg with chili, mint and lemon.The starter was quite impressive served on an plank of wood balanced on two tins of Italian tomatoes, the meats were very good especially combined with the creaminess of the mozzarella and the tang of the lemon and mint salad.
Antipasti Plank
 For our mains we ordered the parpadelle meatballs and the mushroom panzerotti. There was quite a wait between the starter and the main but the waitress apologised for our wait and promised our food would arrive shortly which it did. Each dish was made with fresh pasta but I wasn't especially convinced by my choice (meatballs). I was expecting a rich tomato dish or a very herby dish and received neither, the meatballs were nothing special either, however the mushroom dish was very flavoursome and I wished I had ordered that dish. (as an avid meat eater its a rare occasion when I wish that I had ordered a veggie option instead of a meat option). We declined a dessert and I opted to sample their coffee, I was given the option of hot or cold milk with my americano, ( i like my coffee black but it is nice to be given this temperature option if i didn't) the coffee was strong and well made and a good end to the meal.
Parpadelle Meatballs

The final bill came to around the £35 mark (minus the wine) which we thought was good value considering the name above the door.
I would recommend a visit to this place but I wouldn't recommend the meatball pasta dish, try it for yourself but go early because I have walked past this place many a time at around half 7 - 8 and witnessed a very large queue out of the door due to their 'no reservations' policy.

Jamie's Italian Website
35 Park Row,
West Yorkshire
0113 322 5400

Tamarind, London

 For our last day, we wanted somewhere a bit different especially for a Sunday meal. Having heard good things about Tamarind, I checked out the website for menus and prices, I originally looked at the pre-theatre menu, 3 courses for £25 but then I noticed an offers page and found the Sunday Lunch menu offer running through August and September, buy one Sunday Lunch at £32 and get the second one free. A Michelin Star meal for £16 each, too good to be true surely but we went ahead and booked it.

The Restaurant
Tamarind is located in Mayfair, it is a one Michelin Star Indian restaurant. The kitchen is run by Alfred Pasad, the youngest Indian chef to receive a Michelin Star. The dining room is located underground but is wide and very spacious. decorated in cream, burnished copper and gold. We were a little late, again because of those damned underground cancellations, but the friendly receptionist was assured us it wasn't a problem. We were shown to our seats and given the menus to browse.

The Menu
having already decided to go for the lunch menu we picked our options and looked at the drinks list. I ordered a glass of red and pretty much regretted it throughout the meal, not because of the quality of the wine, it was very good, but because it's an Indian meal and in my opinion red wine and Indian food is not a good combination but ah well. The Other Half had more sense and ordered one of their non alcoholic cocktails, which was very refreshing.
The waiter came over to take our orders and we told him we were ordering from the Lunch menu, this caused a slight bit of confusion as he began to take the menus away without us telling him our orders, he then told us it was a tasting menu and all we had to do was sit back and eat. We started to a get a little nervous at this point considering the last time we went to an Indian restaurant we couldn't walk for a good month due to the shear amount of food eaten and a Michelin star tasting menu for £16 hmm.

Sunday Lunch Menu
Spiced Chickpeas and crispy potato with sweetened yogurt, tamarind chutney and pomegranate.
Crispy Fried Fish with gram flour, chili, curry leaves and lime.
Tandoor grilled ground lamb kebab with saffron, mint, chili, cheese and red onion on mint chutney.

Diced lamb with baby potato in browned onion, tomato and spices.
Chicken with fenugreek leaves in onion tomato, cumin, garlic and red chili.
Served with
Cup mushroom and peas in a sauce of onion, tomato chili and cashew nut.
Cauliflower and peppers tossed with tomato cumin and spices.
Yellow lentils with mustard, turmeric, tamarind and curry leaves.
Basmati rice

Warm vermicelli pudding.
Honey and saffron ice cream.

My reservations about the quality of the food were wiped out with the arrival of the starter, crispy battered fish, flaky and perfectly cooked, the lamb was juicy and beautifully flavoured, balanced out with the mint chutney, the chickpeas were very soothing, cleansing the palate ready for the main.
Shortly afterward the main arrived, well the buffet arrived. Dish after dish was arranged on our table wafting cloud after cloud of fragrances over us. Each dish had clean well balanced flavours that were easily recognisable and not over powered by another flavour. The rice was perfectly cooked, fluffy and light and the warm golden naans were delicious, from our viewpoint we could see into the kitchen where a chef was making them. My only complaint was the lamb was a touch dry but the fragrant tomato sauce made up for this.
The dessert was a good end to the meal sweet, creamy vermicelli pudding with a delicious honey ice cream (the lack of picture is because I ate it then remembered I needed a picture).
Passionfruit cocktail

Service was good, having stated above about arriving late, the waiting staff were friendly and helpful, the sommelier was a bit over enthusiastic but nothing too drastic.

Some of the best Indian food you will eat and an absolute bargain of a Sunday lunch offer.

Tamarind Restaurant
20 Queen Street,
020 7629 3561

Nearest Underground Station: Green Park

Tamarind on Urbanspoon

Sunday 5 September 2010

Petrus, London

Having visited a couple of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants previously, we debated about whether or not to visit his latest opening but having checked out the reasonably priced lunch menu we decided to give it a try. This Petrus is the second version, The original was located at the Berkeley Hotel which is now Marcus Wareing's restaurant. This one is also located in Knightsbridge just a short walk away from the Berkeley.

The Restaurant
The restaurant is very open, styled with claret, silver and cream colours. sofas form a small waiting area at the front of the restaurant. In the centre of the restaurant is the wine celler/storage, a huge glass tube containing all the wines of the restaurant. visually impressive. Contained in this cellar is the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever come across on a wine list, a magnum (1.5 litres) of 1961 Petrus, at the wallet melting price of £49.500, we ordered a bottle each to get us started (if only). This is quite an epic mark up considering if you were to buy this bottle off a wine supplier it would set you back at around £15-16,000. The service charge for the bottle alone is around £6.000. For those of you are not Bill Gates there are glasses of wine at around £5+.

We went for the lunch menu of £25 per person. I ordered pressed foie gras and confit duck with carrot chutney and salad to start. For my main I ordered hanger steak with green beans, shallots and red wine jus. for my dessert I opted for roast fennel creme brulee with mango. First impressions of the food were that they were larger portions than what I was expecting. The starter was exceptionally rich but very very tasty, it was served with Melba toast and was a good combination of textures and flavours with the crunch of the carrot and toast with the buttery smoothness of duck and foie gras. The 'hanger' cut of steak is a recent discovery of mine and was quite happy to see it on the menu as I had been wanting to try this particular cut of beef. the hanger steak is taken from the diapraghm of the cow and located near the kidneys, it is usually known as the butchers steak as they would keep it for themselves instead of selling it. The steak was very deeply flavoured, much more 'beefy', for want of a better word, than cuts such as the fillet or sirloin, it was also a little more chewy than a fillet cut. The main overall was like a posh Sunday roast which was a nice change, a bit of relief from the intricately designed food of the previous restaurants. The dessert was a nice end to the meal, a light creme brulee with hints of fennel running through it served with refreshing mango sauce, prior to the dessert we each received a little brandy snap cone filled with lemon marscapone, very tasty. Our meal was finished off with coffee, mini bars of dark chocolate and chocolate covered almonds, the remainder were boxed up for us to take away.
Duck and Foie Gras
Hanger Steak

Creme Brulee

The service was excellent, due to several underground lines being closed, it took over an hour to get across London, making us 20 minutes late, the staff were accommodating and told us not to worry as we stumbled in slightly sweaty. The restaurant manager for those of you who watch Hells Kitchen USA is Jean-Philippe Susilovic who was very friendly, charming and informative.

Good food, good service. If you want to try a Ramsay restaurant or two I would recommend trying this one first due to the good value lunch menu before trying his flagship restaurant at Royal Hospital Road or his restaurant at Claridges.

Petrus Restaurant
1 Kinnerton Street
020 7592 1609

Nearest Underground Station : Hyde Park Corner

Petrus on Urbanspoon

Hibiscus, London

 Hibiscus is a French 2 Michelin Star restaurant located on Maddox Street,London. run by Chef Claude Bosi, the restaurant relocated from Ludlow, Shropshire to its current London location.

The Restaurant
The restaurant is located down a little street near Hamley's Toy Store, it is quite unobtrusive and if you were not paying attention you could easily walk right past it without noticing. The atmosphere is very informal and rather loud compared with the more formal serenity of Marcus Wareing's restaurant. The restaurant is decorated in a very minimalist way, simple beige colours with various art pieces around the restaurant.
We were shown to our seat and given the menus to browse, a small ceramic dish was brought over containing olives to nibble on whilst reading the menu. The Other Half finished these off as I cant stand them. We went for the lunch offer of 3 courses, a glass of wine and after dinner chocolates for £38 per person. I opted for a starter of lobster and salmon on leeks with a pea puree, a main of chicken with foie gras and dessert of raspberry sorbet on a white peach salad with pistachio ice cream. The lobster dish was delicately flavoured with the salmon and lobster complimenting each other with neither flavour overpowering. The main was three large pieces of chicken rolled with foie gras, a very very rich dish with an interesting complimenting texture of the beans. The dessert was very refreshing with perfectly ripe juicy white peaches with sharpness of the raspberry sorbet. The pistachio ice cream seemed to be an after thought served on a dish alongside, it was however very good. My personal highlight of the meal was the amuse bouche, a small goblet was brought over containing a watermelon and pineapple cocktail, we were informed to take a few sips and then shot the rest. We did as instructed and experienced an amazing flavour sensation. the pineapple juice was contained in little capsules, I presume made from a technique using calcium chloride and sodium aliginate to form a sturdy bubble of liquid. each bubble exploded releasing little flashes of pineapple combined with the watermelon, amazing.


Raspberry Sorbet

The service was very good, the sommelier was very knowledgeable considering he looked very young and the waiting staff were very well informed of each dish to answer any questions.

Excellent french food with a slightly modern touch and quite a good lunch offer for a 2 Michelin starred restaurant.

Hibiscus Restaurant
29 Maddox Street,
020 7629 2999
Nearest Underground Station: Oxford Circus

Hibiscus on Urbanspoon

Carthage ,Covent Garden, London

On the hunt for somewhere cheap but decent on our first night, we headed for Covent Garden to have a wander around. After doing a lap of the main area we ventured down a street just off the piazza. We spotted a little Mediterranean restaurant  with a starter and main offer for £10, the place seemed reasonably busy so taking this as a good sign we went in. 

The place was small and decorated in a middle eastern Arabian nights theme and had only one waiter who was doing everything from serving, clearing away and taking orders. I ordered a Sicilian sausage with tomato dip for my starter followed by lamb tagine, the Other Half ordered falafal and lamb moussaka.
The starters arrived quickly, arriving in a little lift from the kitchen, as you can see from the picture it was a bowl of delicately flavoured tomato sauce with chopped pieces of Sicilian sausage, it was very tasty and I could have quite happily finished another few bowls. The main arrived shortly afterwards, a large tagine consisting of lamb, vegetables, chickpeas and sauce. The vegetables were nothing special and seemed to be there just to bulk the dish up, the lamb however was beautifully cooked, still pink in the middle and falling apart, swimming, or more like drowning considering the amount, in a tasty meaty sauce which I had to request a spoon to finish off as it seemed a shame to waste.

The final bill (including a couple of drinks) came to £31, quite a bargain for the quality and the amount of food and in the centre of London.

Carthage Restaurant
Covent Garden
9 King Street

Nearest Underground: Covent Garden

Carthage on Urbanspoon