Leeds’ much loved Kirkgate Market will soon show off the results of a multi-million pound refurb. Recently voted as Britain’s Favourite Market, part of its new development will include a fresh food hall where meat, fish, game and a whole host of other fresh produce will be available in one dedicated area. Its long-standing traders will still be in attendance selling their top quality produce, however there’s an opportunity for the regions speciality food producers to become part of the market and set up shop in one of the food halls spots. It could be an ideal chance for artisan producers to showcase their products to a wider audience, especially with fresh impetus from the much anticipated new opening, as well as the possibility of extra customers from the footfall that the Victoria Gate shopping centre may bring when it opens later this year. The hope is that these new traders will enhance what is already a list full of quality on the market’s roster.
Leeds City Council is eager to introduce a diverse range of artisan and local businesses, here’s an example of the areas they are most interested in …..
Local organic or farm produce
World food; fresh, speciality, niche, supermarkets
Savouries – pies, homemade/handmade, hot and cold
Eggs, dairy, cheese
Sweet things – patisserie, ice cream, handmade chocolates
Sunday morning after an all day session the day before found us sprightly and raring for Sunday lunch somewhere. None of us could really be bothered wandering too far, so The Eagle pub at the end of the road was put forward as an option. Well known in the local area, the Victorian boozer can boast having its name in the Pop Goes The Weasel nursery rhyme, and brings with it old school charm and a rough around the edges feel.
It wasn’t busy, pretty empty in fact considering it was prime time Sunday lunch, making me think from the off that we may’ve been better going elsewhere. I found their menu a tad confusing; there were Sunday roasts, boards of charcuterie, salads and then a mix of small plates ranging from Poutine, sprats and padron peppers. This initial confusion stopped me in my tracks for a few minutes, and for a while I’d contemplated getting a selection of small plates, but thought better of it and went for a classic fish and chips.
The aforementioned fish and chips were good; fish came with a light crisp, golden batter, and regardless of my view that chippy chips are the best, these did the job. Even the mushy peas which were more akin to crushed peas were decent, and I don’t even like them normally. Poutine was good – made with compulsory rich and creamy curds, furthermore, they hadn’t drowned the chips in a sea of gravy; always a plus in my book. The roasts themselves looked just ok, but that’s about it really. Whilst the other half heartily tucked into the meat, he gifted me the Yorkshire which I found disappointingly dry and should’ve been a lot better. The veg was just above average, the parsnips in particular looked anaemic, underdone and were hard to cut, the roast potatoes were better and slightly, just slightly made up for them.
Overall, the place has a homely feel and I was happy with parts of the meal – the poutine and fish and chips were great, but if you’re after a Sunday roast I’m sure there are better places locally.
Apologies for any delay in posting this continuation from the all day session that started with Lantana Cafe, just the usual stuff like life getting in the way again. So after brunch at Lantana, a steady wander around Spitalfields and a few drinks later at a local pub followed. As always the idea of sustenance was never far from our minds, so the job came to me to find somewhere to graze – tapas was the suggested option. Fine, I was ok with that and had a couple of suggestions up my sleeve – the first was Copita Del Mercado, bit was the closest but their opening hours didn’t work for us. So my second option José Pizarro, part of the regeneration of Broadgate Circle worked out perfectly as it’s open all day!
With classy interiors and legs of ham hung from the bar, the place means business and all the better for it, as we were all well up for a mid-afternoon feed to match the watering we’d already had. Greeted by friendly staff, even though we had an idea of must-haves from the menu, our server was well on hand to make suggestions, which on this occasion I was happy to receive.
All initial thoughts of ‘we’ll just order a few dishes….’, ended up becoming quite a feast with a few bottles of Reisling added for good measure and we enjoyed every second of it. The service was lovely and the food was impeccable, including a sublime marinated octopus, beautiful Iberico ham where the fat simply dissolves on the tongue and the meat is rich, nutty and flavourful, gloriously uber soft meaty pork cheeks and prawn fritters with unctuous aioli (which I might have to try make at home).
We ate mid Saturday afternoon so the place was very quiet, with us being the only customers at the time, but I can imagine that after work weekdays it’s probably doing a good trade and I can see why. Pizarro’s has two other eateries in Bermondsey, both of which I’d love to try out…..!
I’ve openly declared my love of brunch plenty of times here, in particular the boozy variety, but where did it all start….well a trip to Dublin where friends introduced us to the past-time at one of their favourite haunts Dillinger’s started the love affair and the rest is history. A couple of weekends ago we had a long overdue catch up but without crossing the Irish Sea, as they now live in London which is great for us! Being within easy driving distance we arrived at their flat in the Hoxton area of the city and deliberately hadn’t eaten all morning in readiness for late Saturday brunch and an ensuing all day session. A spot of research pointed me in the direction of Lantana Cafe on City Road and we arrived during what seemed peak time – just before 12pm, joining the back of a queue 5/6 deep.
After waiting around 10/15 minutes a member of staff looked at the queue and proceeded talking to the front half taking note of party numbers, whilst ignoring the rest of us! Pretty poor form, the issue was they hadn’t got an overall view of numbers they could’ve seated customers much more effectively with the tables they had remaining. Unfortunately they didn’t, so when it was our turn to be seated next, staff hadn’t accounted for our party of five and the next available tables only accommodated couples or a group of four. Basically meaning people who’d literally just walked in got seated straight away, we’d been waiting at least 25/30 minutes by then. All that without any form of apology whatsoever, we’d hoped for a better start. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand how it can be when a place is busy and staff are trying their best to please everyone. I’ve worked in restaurants and been in the same situation, but the basics should be paramount.
After one further wait we sat down, we quickly perused the food menu and briskly got our drinks order while we had the attention from a staff member – all zoning in on cocktails. The waitress asked if we’d wanted any coffees, we and simply replied ‘oh no, cocktails please!!’ A few Bloody Mary’s, an Aperol Spritz and mimosa ordered, it took a little while to get them so in the meantime we nabbed a staff member to take our food order. Aperol Spritz and mimosa are hard to get wrong and as it turned out were thirst quenchingly refreshing, however the Bloody Mary’s were very much on the tame side, lacked kick and were due a couple of twists of cracked black pepper, tabasco and some celery salt.
The food looked great, but it didn’t arrive at the same time, with one of us having a sizeable wait (actually the whole table, because we didn’t want to be rude and start eating) and once again no apology when it was brought over.
Service aside, my breakfast burger was just what I needed with a really tasty meaty/herby sausage patty, crisp streaky bacon, a perfect fried egg with compulsory runny yolk, avocado and a little kick from a chilli ketchup. Supposedly there was some smoked cheese in the mix – the cheese element was definitely apparent, the smokiness not so much, whether it actually needed it was another question. On paper it sounded a lot, but in reality it wasn’t too large, I didn’t feel overfaced and if I’m honest was a bit relieved, especially knowing full well how all day sessions with these lot pan out.
There was a similar feeling about the food across the table – we couldn’t grumble on portion size, the food cooked well, was tasty and did what a good brunch does and set us up nicely for the day ahead. There was spicy chorizo, runny poached eggs, silky scrambled eggs, salty crispy bacon and charred halloumi there to please. It was the niggles with service that made our experience really frustrating, and it was a shame because for me, having great service is so important! Apart from the initial wait, trying time after time to get the attention of waiting staff, and it wasn’t if we weren’t making it plainly obvious, while staff wandered past us countless times, without even an acknowledgment to the point where we just gave up.
Overall the food at Lantana was great, the Bloody Mary and their service needs work.
The Leeds food scene continues to grow from strength to strength, and one which has stood out from the crowd of this new breed is Ox Club. Anyone who loves food, who’s been in Leeds over the last year will probably have eaten something from Belgrave Music Hall conjured up by Ben Davy, the mastermind behind Dough Boys, Patty Smiths and British Street Food Award winners Fu-Schnikens. Ox Club’s hangar steak had already become a hit after a few flirtations at Belgrave, however it was their highly anticipated opening in Headrow House, even though delayed which became a bonus early Christmas present for Leeds folk. Its launch had the desired effect with a steady stream of yummy photos filling my Instagram feed, doing the inevitable and making me very eager to get my chops around some Ox Club fare!
With dismay I thought it may be months until I’d be back in the north, but the food gods looked favourably upon me with a mates’ birthday dinner. Reading the news literally made me whoop with utter joy, so I decided to try brunch too – nothing wrong with a double whammy, eh?!
Having seen the space in its early building site days and as Big Lil’s, its previous guise, the place is completely transformed with an understated dining space – bare wood, concrete floors and white painted brick walls. An open kitchen is adorned with the beast of a Grillworks Grill, providing the fire power to bring out the best in local produce showcased in the menu. Their thoughtful menus salute inspiration from a range of food cultures, in particular from a trip in North American with influences subtly reflected.
Let’s start with brunch first – as per usual drinks to whet the appetite were of major importance with a Bloody Mary, Ox Club have a pimped up version with a simply genius move of using their very own steak infused vodka…yes you read right – S.T.E.A.K I.N.F.U.S.E.D V.O.D.K.A! So not only is there a balancing act from a smack of Tabasco heat, tomato sourness etc….there’s also steak meatiness! At the time this was the only brunch cocktail on the books, much to my disappointment, so I stuck to a trusty North Star coffee.
Service is relaxed and easy going, all in a good way as people don’t take themselves too seriously here, but still give a helping hand with the menu if required. Expect food that’s something a little different from the norm – where boundaries are pushed as far as mainstream breakfast or brunch goes. There were three of us, but four dishes ordered – why? Well, I’m basically a greedy little bugger and didn’t want to settle on one, ordering a conservative two.
For all establishments serving breakfast/brunch it’s hard to get away from having a version of the full English on the roster. However, similarly to their evolution of Bloody Mary they have their own take which includes pork belly, German sausage and home fries. With extra bacon added on the side the other half was suitably well fed to tackle the rest of the day. In fact, the pork belly was so good they should put that on the sides menu, because I’d be all over it!
Kimchi chicken was my first port of call – the amalgamation of a multitude of tastes and textures playing around in my mouth was a joy! Crispy chicken, sourness and heat of fermented kimchi, balanced by the nutty wild rice and the addition of a fried egg with runny yolk makes it a winning dish!
Cassoulet was my second choice – a comforting dish with some tasty elements; in particular the sausages and Guinea fowl. However it lacked a little something, mainly because the flageolet beans were a touch under seasoned.
Their evening menu follows the small plates trend with dishes like hangar steak, ox cheek and razor clams, as well as plenty to tempt vegetable lovers. Notably a roasted cauliflower plate that’s quickly gained cult status and been at the forefront of diners memories!
Highlights off the menu were many, my favourite picks – chicken schmaltz, not on the menu as such but it was an opening gambit I’d be happy to start a meal with any day! Some restaurants may offer olive oil and Balsamic vinegar, not here – this nectar from the food gods was basically like chicken dripping, or in my mind roast chicken in liquid form.
The burrata was another favourite, something so simple giving maximum pleasure – beautifully creamy and smokey, treated simply with fennel, lemon and black pepper was a treat!
Melt in the mouth Ox cheek that’d been cooked until its meaty gelatinous texture lovingly gave up in my mouth, bringing along with it deep flavours – sublime! Hangar steak beautifully cooked, a little more salsa verde with its umami herbiness would’ve made it even more awesome. It came with cracking chips too, with smoked sea salt and Bloody Mary ketchup – they’ve really thought of everything!
Roasted cauliflower – this supposed ‘side dish’ has been winning the hearts of everyone and I’m not surprised. I’ve tried this veg roasted a few times, not always successfully. When done well it’s incredible and full of flavour, the innate taste of the vegetable changes and it’s brilliant at taking on more intense flavours. With a piquant romesco sauce and flaked almonds it’s a must order dish, even if your not a fan of the veg, this dish could win you over.
Dessert-wise the lemon tart was always my first choice, I’m not the greatest dessert lover usually, but I can be tempted by something citrusy and this is one of my favourites, so much so it was our wedding dessert. As this only needs a few ingredients a lot can go wrong, so a pastry that’s short and crumbly is compulsory, filled with a silky creamy lemon filling, possessing a sharp enough hit of lemon just enough so you don’t wince. Ox Club’s was right up there and top notch.
It was only a matter of time before food maestro Ben Davy and his pals would open up a fully fledged establishment, with grown up plates of food which don’t cost the earth – Leeds is a very lucky place to have them!
Hi, I'm Diane and welcome to my blog. I'm currently hopping between Leeds and the South finding the best and the worst in food and drink whilst on my travels. You'll find reviews and recommendations, sometimes the odd thing about running, travel and my life in general.
Recipe blog and other musings from the author of the bestselling cookbook 'A Girl Called Jack'. "The contemporary pauper's cook" - Daisy Goodwin. "The Jocasta Innes of her generation" - The Independent. "A bit of a pillock" - my Dad.