Town Hall Tavern

Knowing that I was to spend the evening in Leeds city centre, I thought carefully about where I could get a decent plate of food. My criteria included (apart from yummy food) – nice surroundings, good service and a yummy glass of wine, after a hard days work. I had a few places in mind but chose the Town Hall Tavern, it’s opposite Leeds County Court, and as the name suggests the Leeds Town hall.

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The pub has been open since 1926, but had a major refurbishment in May 2011 and since then I’ve been a regular diner. It was actually here that it was first suggested that I write a food blog! The menu is full of tempting dishes, being in the city centre it gets a lot of city workers in, so the menu has been thought about carefully, e.g. knife and fork sandwiches which are ideal for lunch. For people who want a bit more, there are great home comforts, e.g. steak, pie and mash, their scampi in a basket is a favourite of mine and also their signature dishes, e.g. sea bass and a slow roast belly pork.

I’d already seen on their Facebook page that moules mariniere and beef dripping chips was on the specials board, so I was definitely going to order it with a large glass of sauvignon blanc.

The food arrived under wraps, with the compulsory dish for the empty shells on top, accompanied with a mini pan of chips and bread wedges.

Moules mariniere waiting to be unveiled.
Moules mariniere waiting to be unveiled.

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The mussels smelled delicious and looked plump and juicy. There was plenty of sauce to dunk my chips and bread in too. The taste was fantastic, mussels perfectly cooked and the chips were crispy but soft in the middle. The bread was lovely and fresh – great for soaking up the sauce!

The staff are always friendly and attentive, without being overbearing and I’ve always really enjoyed the food there. I didn’t have a dessert this time, but they are rather special too!

Cost – £7.95 for the mussels and a large glass of sauvignon blanc was £5.25. The pub has regular offers and till the end of the February has a 20% off on food which I couldn’t waste, so in the end was £11. An absolute bargain for the quality!!!

It’s great to have a fantastic gastropub in the centre of Leeds, I’m sure I’ll be back again soon!

Town Hall Tavern
17 Westgate
Leeds
LS1 2RA
0113 244 0765
 
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An Indonesian in Amsterdam

During our trip around Amsterdam, I’d read a lot about the many Indonesian restaurants in the city. We’d seen a place called Sama Sebo when we were visiting the Rijksmuseum and decided to try it out. I’d already had a look on its website to check out their menu and it said it’s normally fully booked, so the need for booking was paramount. Despite this, we went on spec to see if we could be squeezed in, luckily we like to eat dinner quite early. Sama Sebo is one of the oldest and arguably most famous of the Indonesian restaurants in the city.

On entering the restaurant you walk straight into the bar area, which was already quite busy, there was one table left in the corner so we happily sat down. It quickly seemed obvious how popular this place as a large group of people came in and took over the back room for a large dinner party.

The restaurant has a lunch and a la carte menu, but specialises in something called the Rijstaffel (rice table), where there are different rice dishes and a large number of side dishes. The a la carte menu had no english translation, but the Rijstaffel menu did; so due to our lack of Dutch we decided on the latter!

The Rijstaffel menu.
The Rijstaffel menu.

A few minutes after our order was taken 4 plate warmers were carefully arranged on our table, giving us an idea of how much food would be on its way. After approximately 10 minutes the dishes started to come out, the waiter very efficiently brought out the bowls of rice, fruit, vegetables and other condiments; finally followed by the meat dishes. There were so many dishes that some had to be balanced on top of two other dishes so they could all fit!

So where to start, that was the most difficult thing to decide on, there was so much food! In total the table was covered with 20 different dishes.

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chilli sauce, peanuts, sour cucumber and fried coconut
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soya bean cake, green beans and bean sprouts
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soya bean cake and omelette with spring onion
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hot peppers, rice, vegetable soup, chicken drumsticks, meatballs, roasted pork on sticks, chicken on skewers and fried banana.
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sweet and sour fruit, sour cucumber and fried coconut.
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vegetables in a peanut sauce with boiled eggs and giant prawn crackers.

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Being a hard and fast carnivore I went straight for the meat dishes, there were roasted pork skewers, marinated chicken drumsticks and chicken on skewers and meatballs.

The rice was flavourful and al dente as I like it, one was plain boiled rice and there was another that looked to the untrained eye like an indonesian egg fried rice.

The meat dishes were very well cooked, soft and tender and the chicken drumsticks fell off the bone and had tonnes of flavour (very moreish). The meatballs didn’t last very long and the skewers had a delicious sauce, the vegetables all seemed to compliment the rice and meat dishes. I initially found this hard to understand because of the wide variety of side dishes. But as I ate them I seemed to get why they had been chosen, each adding a different dimension to the food and enhancing the flavour. There were some huge prawn crackers which were lovely and crisp, not too intense in prawn which was good. The condiments included sour vegetables, sweet and sour fruit, hot peppers, peanuts, tofu, chilli sauce, even fried bananas and coconut. All were really delicious except the banana and peanuts, just because I have a personal hatred against these. I was told by my fellow diner that they were actually very tasty! There was even a bowl of soup containing some sort of broth with mixed vegetables. Just beware of the chilli sauce, just go for the oil as the pieces of chilli were found to mightily powerful!!

As we ate we could see that the Rijstaffel was a popular choice, more tables around us had ordered it also. As we emptying finished our dishes and were in less need of the plate warmers, they were being taken away by the waiter and placed on someone else’s table in readiness for their dishes to arrive.

The Rijstaffel was €29.50 each and with drinks on top was still very reasonable, considering the amount of food and more importantly the flavour! The place had a nice atmosphere and was popular with locals and tourists alike. If I wanted to eat a little later in the evening, I would definitely say that booking was advisable, because when we left the place was packed.

Saturday night curry

Starting a food blog gives me a good excuse to go out for food, so I thought a curry was a good choice on a chilly Saturday night. I was feeling a bit peckish after missing out on lunch anyway today! A favourite of ours is Amaans curry house in Morley, Leeds. Even though it’s probably only a couple of miles away, it’s not the nearest place to sit down for a curry, but in our opinion it’s the yummiest! As usual we were greeted by the same friendly faces and were asked for drinks. Our food order was taken and we were invited into the dining room when poppadoms and pickle tray arrived soon after sitting down. It’s always a good introduction to the curry which is to come, the poppadoms crisp and the condiments tasty.

The pickle tray  with poppadoms.
The pickle tray with poppadoms.

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The chicken pakora arrived and they were delicious, just enough spice to give a warming feeling and the raita dip was a nice partner for the pakora.

Chicken pakora.
Chicken pakora.

Next up were the main courses of classic chicken bhuna and a dish from Amaans signature selection called Harry’s special, to be mopped up with a garlic naan bread. Named after a regular diner, Harry’s special consists of tender pieces of chicken lamb in a thick sauce with onions and peppers. Being regular customers ourselves we already knew what to expect and this occasion didn’t disappoint. The garlic naan came hanging off the customary naan bread tree and was lovely and soft, with enough garlic to taste yummy, but not too much to be overpowering. My chicken bhuna was tasty, I normally go for a prawn bhuna but decided to go with chicken and was very pleased with my choice. The chicken was tender and the sauce packed with flavour of coriander, garlic, tomato and other herbs and spices. I was told repeatedly how good Harry’s special was, the combination of the chicken and lamb was a match made in heaven and the sauce was extremely moreish! The drink of choice was a Cobra beer which as you would think complimented the food perfectly and just a lemonade for me, the designated driver.

Classic chicken bhuna.
Classic chicken bhuna.
Harry's special - a dish of chicken and lamb in a special sauce with fried onions and peppers.
Harry’s special – a dish of chicken and lamb in a special sauce with fried onions and peppers.
Classic accompaniment garlic naan bread.
Classic accompaniment garlic naan bread.

The service is always friendly and welcoming and the menu is filled with all the usual starters and sundries. The range of curries is vast, with the usual classics like tikka masala and korma but also a decent selection of Amaans own dishes, e.g. the Vensi a curry cooked with the meat of your choice, cream and a sauce with herbs, spices, tomatoes & peppers. The  Special Handi is also a popular dish, your choice of meat is cooked in a clay pot with herbs & spices and the chef’s sauce.

As usual with all curry houses vegetarians are well catered for, speaking from past experience I’ve always been pleased with the vegetarian dishes I’ve eaten here. Prices are reasonable, our meal last night came to around £38 for 2 people (a starter, 2 main courses with a naan bread, 2 pints of cobra and a lemonade).

Starters range from £2.95 – £6.50, main courses are between £6 – £10, side dishes and sundries £2 – £3.50.

I know there are loads of decent places in Leeds and Bradford, but Amaans stills remains a favourite of ours!

A Dutch burger

For my first blog I thought long and hard about what I could write about. Having just been to Amsterdam I thought my first post could be about the humble burger. I’m not normally someone who would usually go out for a burger, but I seemed to be craving some dutch beef. After doing some research on where I could get a decent one I found Burgermeester, so ventured down to their burger joint on Albert Cuypstraat.

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On entering the place I was faced with a huge menu with all they had to offer, the wall was covered with black and white photographs of the cows which supply the beef. A breed called the Blonde d’Aquitaine are used, the cows are French but are bred in the Netherlands.

There was a wide range of burgers to choose from, from the humble beef burger, lamb burger, a spicy version of the lamb burger and a chicken burger with a curry masala for carnivores and many variations to choose from; for vegetarians they have lentil burgers and goats cheese burgers.

We decided on a cheeseburger and a lamb burger washed down with coke, surprisingly the place doesn’t serve fries with their burgers, I’m not sure if this is common place in the Netherlands, but it’s not the first time it had happened on our visit. Nevertheless, when they arrived they didn’t look too lonely because they stood tall and proud on the plate. My cheese burger was perfectly cooked, you may think cooking a good burger isn’t too difficult, but it was just pink in the middle, nicely charred on the outside and had a good dollop of mild mustard on top. The bread bun was a nice surprise too, normally I’m not impressed when the bun is soft and tasteless, but this was lovely with a proper crust to it making the burger very yummy indeed!! The lamb burger was also just as yummy and the red onion compote, I’m told was a very good compliment to the lamb.

Classic lamb burger with a red onion compote
Classic lamb burger with a red onion compote
Cheese burger with mustard and ketchup
Cheese burger with cheddar cheese, mustard and ketchup

On matters other than the actual quality of the food, the service was efficient and our food arrived in good time, it wasn’t very busy so luckily we didn’t have to stay hungry for too long. In terms of price, burgers range from 7€ to 8.50€, so not the cheapest especially as they don’t serve fries with them, but if I visited Amsterdam again, I would definitely go back for another yummy burger!