I went to the new Soul Kitchen in The Wardrobe, Leeds for a Friday night catch up with the best mate. The Soul Kitchen is a new venture that’s taken over the kitchen at the popular Leeds venue. They describe their food as home cooked recipes with a soul food twist, inspired by the classic dishes of the deep south, Caribbean and Creole Cuisine.
They had a really intriguing menu with lots of dishes that jumped off the page at me, just due to the fact I only have basic knowledge about this type of food.
We were quickly brought over some water without even being asked, which was a great touch and asked about any drinks, so we ordered a bottle of wine. I really liked the thoughtful and friendly service from the start. We ordered the unusually sounding odds ‘n’ sods to share, then the creole jambalaya and lamb skewers with different sides.
Before our starters arrived a lady brought over a dish from the kitchen to have before our starter – a gumbo with bread and honeyed butter. The gumbo was served up in cool enamel pots and after the first dunk thought it was really yummy. I loved the sticky, sweet honey with the butter and the fresh bread was very soft and had a tasty sweet flavour to it. The gumbo was great, with a spicy kick and plenty of vegetables making it quite a hearty start to our meal. We were both pleasantly surprised how good it was!!
Our Odds ‘n’ Sods were brought to the table just as we were finishing the gumbo. We had a feeling that portion sizes were generous at this place, as even though this was a starter to share you would still consider this a large portion for two. Not that I’m complaining, I’m sure no one is a fan a tiny portions of food! It looked really good, we had a bucket of whitebait, two large chicken wings and crab cakes to work our way through.
They also brought over two metal buckets of condiments, some named brands and then a bucket of their in-house sauces, including BBQ, hot, and very hot.
Ok, the whitebait had a delicately spiced, thin crust on the outside. Soft flesh which made it very easy to munch away on the tasty morsels. The wings were juicy and again had a delicately spiced crust, its meat was pulled off the bone with ease. The crab cakes were soft on the inside and full of crabby flavour. All were delicious and also very filling!! We used some of the in-house condiments, the hot and very hot sauces were both good and not too fiery adding a little extra to the starters. Personally we thought they could be made hotter to pack more of a punch!!
So we’d steadily worked our way through two courses in quick succession of each other and were wondering how big the main courses would be. Both of us realised we were filling up quickly from the gumbo and shared starters, and before we knew it they were bringing over what looked like more enormous portions of food!
From my basic knowledge I knew that jambalaya was a traditional Louisiana Creole dish and was influenced by paella, which I’m a huge fan of. Traditionally made with smoked sausage, usually Andouille sausage, chicken rice, shrimp, celery and spices.
My jambalaya was served in a cast iron pan and was certainly a very hearty portion, 2 large King prawns sat proudly on top of the rice filled with lots of chicken, sausage, peppers and peas. I’d chosen a side of spiced plantain, I’d been introduced to plantain by a university housemate and have loved them ever since, especially during our travels around Cuba. These had been cooked well till they were soft, but not mushy and the subtle spicing didn’t detract from the distinctive flavour of the plantain, which is far less sweet compared to its distant relative the banana. This is a good thing as I hate bananas!!!
Neither of us could believe our eyes when we saw the board of lamb skewers and 2 sides as they were put in front of my friend. It was mahoosive!!! Normally my partner in crime is very good at steadily grazing away, but she knew she would have to admit defeat to this beast of a dish!!
There was a selection of rubs and glazes that the lamb skewers could be flavoured with, from which the chilli, lime and coriander was picked. I was told the lamb had good flavour but there could been have more of a lime/chilli/coriander hit as the rub was subtle. Also, they thought the meat was quite chewy, but maybe that is normal for lamb rump rather than some other cuts of meat. In terms of the side dishes neither of us really knew exactly what Collard greens were, after some research I know now these are a staple food in traditional American South cooking. They were basically cooked greens, such as cabbage and kale, both these and the chips were fab! Far too much food but luckily for us they offered to pack up the leftover skewer for takeaway, which my friend’s other half wolfed down at home.
Overall we enjoyed our first dining experience of soul food at Soul Kitchen, I’m sure its not going to be only time I eat here. The staff were friendly, instantly likeable and efficient, maybe sometimes too efficient as we could well have done with longer breaks in between courses, this was partly our fault too though for not asking!! The menu is currently a work in progress as they asked for customer feedback, this obviously means the Soul Kitchen team are keen to improve and even though they are not quite the finished article yet, with a few little tweaks I’m sure it will be. We did benefit from their introductory 50% discount off food, so in the end the total cost of our meal including tip was £42 for 2 people.
I’d recommend Soul Kitchen and will definitely be back!!
Food – tasty, hearty portions, would be even better if the dishes had more kick.
Service – friendly staff, helpful and quick.
Atmosphere – good buzz from the DJ in the background.Soul Kitchen The Wardrobe St. Peters Square Leeds LS9 8AH 0113 383 8800 http://www.thewardrobe.co.uk/