NEW restaurant and bar: Rare, Leeds

A new restaurant called Rare joined the ranks of up and coming places to drink and dine in Leeds City Centre. Located in Lambert’s Yard, in between Fibre and Smokestack on Lower Briggate, it’s opened a few days ahead of a new retail and lifestyle destination, namely Lambert’s Yard, which is set to open on Wednesday 5th December.

After postponing my invitation to the press launch on Thursday due to school commitments, they very kindly allowed me to defer my invite to the public opening on Friday instead.

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After following the exploits of Rare on Twitter and Facebook, I’d anticipated a number of things – that big portions, the highest quality rare breed meats and customer service would be key to their ethos. On walking into Rare I found the bar area a little sparse at first to be honest, but then I’d remembered that they’ve promised plenty of space for customers, and I liked that fact they they will have limited standing room in the bar. The room was dimly lit, with wood panelling and comfortable brown leather sofas. We were welcomed immediately by their staff and shown to a table where we could peruse their drinks list.

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After ordering a bottle of Montepulciano, a little pot of hot, meaty Tamworth pork sausages were brought to our table. The combination worked really well and were polished down in a couple of minutes.  A good start, it certainly whetted our appetite for more meat!

Mini Tamworth pig sausages
Mini Tamworth pig sausages

One of the key elements that the team at Rare have made integral to the bar is table service. I really liked this luxurious touch and I felt like I was being looked after, it’s one thing I could easily get used to. After being given time to settle into our surroundings, we were then  escorted downstairs into the restaurant’s dining area. If it lacked anything upstairs, it was made up for downstairs where it looked classy and sophisticated, with an understated elegance. One of the things that grab your attention instantly is the taxidermi Longhorn cow called Sue, she stood proud and overlooked the dining room with an air of knowing. I thought it was a great feature. It shows the place wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and gives an indication of the passion they have for the quality of the produce they champion.

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I’d been keeping an eye on their menu and had drooled over the preview photos that they’d posted on different social media. So it didn’t take long for my friend and I to order. I liked the fact they they have a short and concise menu, with three starters and main courses divided by the primary ingredient, such as cow, pig and game. Apart from table service, another string to their bow is the use of rare breed, locally sourced meats which are known to yield a higher fat content. The reward they desire is mouthwateringly tasty dishes, and by using more traditional cooking techniques such as brining, braising and slow cooking they plan to bring out the innate flavours and textures in the meat to the fore.

Ok, I’ve banged on about the decor and Sue the Longhorn cow etc, but what really counts is how the food tastes. Well there was one word for our starters…yum! My friend’s Tamworth pork belly ribs were a joy, the meat was super moist and juicy, well flavoured and extremely moreish!! The red cabbage and pickle both worked in harmony with the pork, and had the right level of acidity to match the meat. It was also a generous portion so simply a WIN WIN on every level. My friend was certainly very happy.

Spicy Tamworth pork belly ribs
Spicy Tamworth pork belly ribs

I got two decent sized crisp Yorkshire puds with a deep beef, onion and porter gravy. It was tasty and rich, a good portion size again, with enough sauce to pour onto the puds. Attention to detail is obviously important here as I could pour as much sauce as I wanted, rather than having been brought soggy Yorkshire puds.

Yorkshire Puddings!
Yorkshire Puddings!

What a good start.

I could see other tables receiving their food, and I found myself following plates seemingly float from kitchen to table with an eye of distinct jealousy as we waited for our food. We had a welcome break before our main courses arrived and boy did they wow us. 

Our lady had informed us that the Game pie had a filling of venison, pheasant, pigeon, mallard and partridge!! It was mahoosive, and arrived with a lovely crispy butter puff pastry top and a cranberry compote. My friend who has a large appetite found it a very large portion; it probably could have been enough for two people. The pastry was delicious, I love pastry and this was a very good one. The generous filling was rich, full of flavour and the meat was cooked accurately.  

Yorkshire Game pie
Yorkshire Game pie

My Tamworth pork belly, was always going to be my first choice from the menu, as regular readers will know how much I LOVE pork belly. Oh my word, it was more than substantial and looked fantastic. It stood on top of a bed of thinly sliced pickled Cox English apples, and had a wholegrain mustard and cider sauce. If this wasn’t enough, the mandatory piece of decent pork crackling was placed on top, just waiting to be munched on.  In terms of taste it was delicious, the pork was extremely succulent, having been slowly cooked; the meat was incredibly moist. Pork and apple are always a match made in heaven and this just reinforced this well known fact. The apples acidity aided by the cider sauce helped to cut through the richness of the meat.  With a killer piece of crackling on the top, it was a cracker of a dish. 

1/2kg Tamworth pork belly
1/2kg Tamworth pork belly

To accompany our dishes we ordered some triple cooked chips and honey glazed vegetables. The chips was excellent, they had a lovely crunch and soft centre, not too big as well. The vegetables were the only part that didn’t reach the heights of the rest of the meal, we both agreed that they were a little too al dente and needed more honey to give that gorgeous sticky sweetness.

Triple cooked chips and honey glazed root vegetable
Triple cooked chips and honey glazed root vegetable

Now we were pretty full after this, but after having a quick nosey at the desserts, and also a recommendation from our lady about their sticky pudding, we decided to go halves and share one. They thankfully allowed us a little break in between courses while we gathered our thoughts on the evening.

Sticky Cinder Toffee Pudding
Sticky Cinder Toffee Pudding

Once again on arrival it was a sizeable portion, so it was a good job we were sharing, because it was definitely enough for two people. I’m not normally someone who orders a sticky toffee pudding, but if they are always as good as this I may have to change this fact. The sponge served at the right temperature was perfect and light, they hadn’t scrimped on the sauce and was so good!! Sweet enough to make it you want to saturate your sponge with as much sauce as possible. A lovely Cox apple ice-cream and cinder toffee just topped off a fantastic meal.

In terms of value Rare have priced their menu very reasonably and with the quality of produce on offer, you’ll get served well and leave very satisfied indeed with these great tasting dishes. We had a very enjoyable experience and will definitely be back for more meat! I’ll be wanting to try out some of their cocktails and drinks from their well-stocked bar next time.

I would definitely recommend Rare.

Food: Generous portions, great tastes and very satisfying. Plenty for the hungry carnivore, but more thought is needed for extending the choice for non-meat eaters.

Atmosphere: Dining room has a lovely, relaxed feel, elegant and sophisticated.

Service: Staff were friendly, observant, knowledgable and efficient, without being over fussy.

RARE
Lamberts Yard
163 Lower Briggate
Leeds
LS1 6LY
0113 246 7013
http://www.eatdrinkrare.com
Featured image: courtesy of RARE

Rare on Urbanspoon

 

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Bakestone Bakery, Pontypool

Decent gluten free and dairy free baked goodies can be hard to come by, in Leeds we have That Old Chestnut which is a wonderful bakery producing 100% vegan goodies. Also bakers like the Noisette Bakehouse are making gluten free and vegan bakes, and the Cupcake Cafe and Cupcakes by Charley both produce good gluten free cupcakes. My gluten intolerant husband was given some gluten free cupcakes to try and found out they were produced by a 100% gluten free and lactose free bakers called the Bakestone Bakery, who are based in South Wales.

Not only do they make cupcakes, but in their repertoire are Welsh cakes, chocolate muffins and a selection of cakes, such as coffee cake, carrot & walnut cake, Victoria sponge and also sticky date and toffee pudding. All of which are suitable for Coeliacs and other allergy sufferers. image

I tried one of the cup cakes, and I must admit I was a little wary of how they would taste and also the texture, especially after having bad experiences when looking for gluten free stuff for the other half. To my surprise they were good, the sponge was light and moist, unlike those awful dry, really solid sponges I’ve eaten before. Topped with a nice buttercream icing on the whole it was a decent cupcake. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised at the quality of the sponge, as I later found out that they worked extensively with the Food Centre Wales.

imageIt’s good that more bakers are increasingly becoming aware of the need to make and develop products which can cater for other dietary requirements. Bakestone Bakery are interested in supplying restaurants, hotels, but can do home deliveries when ordered through their website or by phone.

If these cup cakes are anything to go by, I’m hoping it’s a good sign of the quality of their other products. I know the other half is looking forward to trying them out. Hopefully I’ll be able to report back on these soon.

Bakestone Bakery

Unit 12 ARD Ind. Est. 
Polo Grounds, 
New Inn 
Pontypool 
Torfaen 
NP4 0SW
(01495) 524435
http://www.bakestonebakery.co.uk

La Vecchia Scuola, York

I visited some old friends who live in York on Saturday,  and for lunch they suggested trying out La Vecchia Scuola, on Low Petergate in the city centre. They are like minded people who also enjoy eating out, so when they suggest a restaurant who am I to say otherwise. 

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When they mentioned it I’d remembered I’d eaten there once before, a couple of years ago. But it wasn’t going to be how I’d remembered it in the past, as they said it was under new ownership, after the previous one had been banned from the food industry for breaching health and safety regulations! As you might think the new owner Decio Franca obviously had a lot of rebuilding to do to get the reputation of the place back to what it once was.

La Vecchia Scuola is a lovely Grade II listed building which dates back 300 years, and was once York College for Girls from 1908 to 1997, on entering the restaurant the memorabilia adorning the walls showed old black and white photos of school days gone by.

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It has an enviable location, with a view of York Minster from the conservatory and with the entrance on one of York city centre’s busiest shopping streets, it would be difficult for it not to get a lot of foot fall. 

Their a la carte menu consists of lots of classic dishes such as Lasagne al forno, Spinach and ricotta cannelloni and Margherita pizza, as well more modern dishes for example Ravioli di Aragosta (lobster ravioli). The menu was quite large so it took a few minutes for us to decide, they also had  a set lunch menu with 2 courses £9.95 or 3 courses for £12.95. Very good in terms of price, but we felt that it had more of the classic dishes on it and we weren’t particularly tempted.

Gamberoni Arrabiata
Gamberoni Arrabiata

My friend’s Gamberoni looked really good, exactly the sort of dish I would usually order. From the first mouthful it was obvious how good it was, the King prawns were cooked accurately and were very juicy. The sauce had a lovely balance of garlic, tomato and chilli.

Garlic pizza bread
Garlic pizza bread

I shared a pizza bread with a friend which was tasted great. It was maybe a little anaemic on appearance, but for taste it hit all the right notes, with a  good Pomodoro sauce it had a decent amount of garlic without it being overpowering. 

For our main courses we chose the Lobster ravioli and sea bass. The sea bass was a generous portion, and had lots of lovely colours, two large sea bass fillets, and plenty of salty capers. New potatoes, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes accompanied the dish and making it quite a hearty portion.

Branzino alla Toscana
Branzino alla Toscana

On all accounts my friend enjoyed it immensely. The dish was well cooked and had great flavours. On a personal note I think the dish would have been better if the fish had nice, crispy skin. It was presented skin side down, a shame really as the fish would have looked great with crispy skin on show! 

We both were relishing the thought of our Lobster ravioli, luckily we weren’t disappointed. The ravioli was plump and had plenty of tomato and basil sauce. Lots of juicy King prawns were also accompanying the ravioli which was a lovely surprise. I certainly wasn’t complaining about that! The ravioli had been made well, the pasta was lovely and thin and each were generously filled with lobster. The sauce was rich and full of flavour, each ravioli was enveloped in the sauce.  With perfectly cooked prawns it was a fantastic dish and not too rich. 

Ravioli di Aragosta
Ravioli di Aragosta

I’d recommend going there, it was a lovely place to have lunch, it’s bang in the middle of York city centre and in a lovely setting.

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Our lunch including a bottle of wine cost £88 for 3 people.

Food: Decent portions, well cooked and very tasty. 

Service: Staff were attentive, efficient and welcoming.

Atmosphere: The restaurant seemed to have a good turn over of diners so the atmosphere was good, not too noisy and was also relaxed. 

La Vecchia Scuola
62 Low Petergate
York
YO1 7HZ
Tel: 01904644600

 

World Feast on Briggate, Leeds

The Madeleine Express is a cute Citroën H Van in a gorgeous cool spearmint colour, this van transports the bakes created by Noisette Bakehouse who are based in Robertown, Liversedge. DSC_0375On the counter was a complete feast for the eyes, full of goodies for anyone with a sweet tooth. I absolutely love Madeleines and after missing them last time on Briggate I had highlighted the World Feast in my diary for Sunday 24th Nov ages ago, and was determined to get my hands on some.

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After a lovely chat with Sarah who does the baking and her father, it seemed to me that they are really enjoying what they do, travelling as far as their Citroën will allow, and selling these gorgeous delights. On offer they had lots of treats, on my wish list was the prized Madeleine, two types were available; Vanilla sugar and Winter spice. I got 3 of each and went on my way, supposedly waiting to eat them when I got home with a cup of tea.

Madeleines - Winter Spice and Vanilla Sugar
Madeleines – Winter Spice and Vanilla Sugar
My Madeleines!!
My Madeleines!!

Who was I kidding, I walked as far as Trinity Leeds (basically one minute walk away) and opened the bag. I was immediately hooked as soon as I could smell them, two were gone within the first five minutes. Deliciously moist, with flavours which were distinct. I had the vanilla first, they had a lovely flavour from Ugandan vanilla powder called Ndali, the finest you can get I was told. The Winter Spiced madeleines had orange in them and I thought they were REALLY yummy. I may have even liked them more than the Vanilla ones. I tried to be really good, but two hours had passed and I was down to two left!! I didn’t need a cuppa with them as they were really moist.

They also make gluten free and vegan delights as well, for the other half I purchased one of each of these, a Cherry tartlet and a Harvest loaf with banana, spices, molasses centre.

My husband's gluten free goodies - Cherry Crumble Tartlet and Harvest Loaf (sweet potato, banana, spices, fudge molasses centre)
My husband’s gluten free goodies – Cherry Crumble Tartlet and Harvest Loaf

Here are some other delights they had on offer that day:

Banana Fosters Supreme - banana cake layered with banana, molasses, rum cream, topped with pecan brittle.
Banana Fosters Supreme – banana cake layered with banana, molasses, rum cream, topped with pecan brittle.
Raspberry white chocolate brownie
Raspberry white chocolate brownie
Toffee Apple Cheesecake
Toffee Apple Cheesecake
Cocoa Walnut Brownie
Cocoa Walnut Brownie
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
Rodeo Yo Yo's
Rodeo Yo Yo’s

The Madeleine Express can be found at local food markets, such at Kirkstall Deli market on the last weekend of every month. Not only do they produce sweet treats, but also lots of savoury goodies and breakfast too for example granola, raw bars and muffins. They also serve coffee from the guys at North Star Micro Roasters as well as good old Yorkshire Tea. They’ll also be involved in Winter Wonderleeds in December, a 17 day festival celebrating 20 of the best stalls from independent, local businesses in Leeds on Briggate.

A little while later I strolled up to the Street Fodder truck, a mobile food van serving Asian style street food. I’d been following them on Twitter for a while, after reading that they’d been selling their street food in and around Leeds. I’d been wanting to try out their food for ages and thought this would be as good a time as any to have a try.

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On offer they had Chicken Massaman Curry, Nasi Goreng and Pad Thai (£5) and Chicken Kati wraps (£4). I love a good Pad Thai and that was always going to be my first choice. As some of my friends will know I always ask for it WITHOUT nuts (as I hate them)!! The lady who served me very kindly asked if I wanted some crispy shallots instead, which was a really good alternative I thought giving extra flavour and texture. It took a matter of minutes to cook from start to finish. I walked away armed with a pair of chopsticks in one hand and my pot of Pad Thai in the other.

Chicken Pad Thai with crispy shallots
Chicken Pad Thai with crispy shallots

The first few mouthfuls gave me a tonne of flavour straight away, with moist pieces of chicken, plenty of coriander and lots of bean sprouts and carrot to give crunch and rice noodles all coated with a well flavoured slippery sauce. It costs just £5 and it was well worth it too!! 

You can find Street Fodder in and around Leeds, recently they’ve been feeding people at Lawnswood Park, Roundhay,  Alwoodley, City West on Geldard Road and Wellington Place in Leeds city centre. If you see them, try them out!!

http://noisettebakehouse.com/madeleine-express/

https://twitter.com/StreetFodder
http://www.leedsmarkets.co.uk/e/world-feast

 

Afternoon Tea @ Just Grand! Vintage Tearooms, Leeds

Ooh I love a bit of afternoon tea, it’s the height of sophistication when done well. I’ve had a few experiences of this indulgence with differing reviews in the past, and have been wondering for ages if there was anywhere decent in Leeds to partake in this pastime. The best was Fortnum and Mason; simply a perfect, classic experience. Everything was picture perfect, that day we had High tea, so I remember very distinctly having the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had, then a selection of PERFECTLY made sandwiches and pastries. After which, we selected some delectable cakes from a tray of absolute gems, brought around by a perfectly dressed gentlemen. The tea was also a revelation, I love a good cuppa, but I’m a PG tips or Yorkshire Tea girl. I’m certainly not a tea connoisseur, but that afternoon I selected Russian Caravan, a white tea from their World Tea selection which was light, slightly fragrant and still comforting like a good cup of tea should be. My subsequent trips to Fortnum and Mason have always included buying a box of Russian Caravan to bring home with me. I loved that whole afternoon because it felt like an event and always remember it fondly.

On the flip side for a trip to Glasgow, I’d researched the best places for afternoon tea and of course there’s the famous The Willow Tearooms, but I didn’t want to go for the obvious this time. Instead I chose The Butterfly and the Pig because I’d read great reviews, and I liked the idea of it having a quirky charming side, as well as doing great cakes etc. Everything was spot on about the decor and the quirky charm, but we came away disappointed after having sandwiches with very dry bread, just a few cakes to choose from what was a much bigger list. Then I was also very surprised to be watching TV programmes on an LCD screen attached to the wall, it really wasn’t what I was expecting. We had an ok experience, but my expectations had been so much higher.

So saying this I’ve been wanting to do afternoon tea in Leeds for so long, my friend Lucy Reynolds had just written about The Queens Hotel, saying it was just ok. I’d thought about other locations, such as Harvey Nichols, The Food Academy at Flannels and Browns. What about something independent, anything Leeds based!!! Who does great afternoon tea near me?? So this is me in search of the perfect afternoon tea in Leeds.

Well I visited Just Grand!, a vintage style tea room, at the bottom of Handpicked Hall in the The Grand Arcade. It’s been open since August and every time I’ve driven by or walked passed it’s been busy. For those of you who don’t know Handpicked Hall, it’s a multi-levelled space containing many different independent traders.

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They want you to step back in time as you walk in, they have created a  space that reminds you of a time decades ago, the 40’s and 50’s. There are homemade delights like cakes, scones and sandwiches on offer, but also specialist loose leaf teas and vintage soft drinks like Sarsaparilla and Cream Soda. All of this while music harking back to the good old days plays in the background.

Their version of afternoon tea consisted of 4 sliced sandwiches – hand carved ham, cheddar cheese, free range egg mayonnaise and cress, cream cheese and cucumber. On balance it may have been good to have another sandwich with meat, e.g. beef and horseradish or smoked salmon and cream cheese to even the choice a little more. There was a large scone, they had 3 varieties to choose from; I chose the standard fruit, which came with the essentials – butter, clotted cream and jam. Some fruit cake and a wedge of Wensleydale cheese was also part of the mix. They had a nice selection of loose leaf teas to choose from, but I stuck to good old Yorkshire Tea that arrived in a pretty china pot, and was also unlimited. A nice touch!!

Afternoon tea for one - sandwiches, fruit scone, fruit cake, cheese and salad
Afternoon tea for one – sandwiches, fruit scone, fruit cake, cheese and salad
Large fruit scone, Fruit cake and Wensleydale
Large fruit scone, Fruit cake and Wensleydale

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A pot of Yorkshire tea
A pot of Yorkshire tea

Everything I ate was good, the sandwiches were freshly made, with soft bread and good fillings. I think if I was to go again, I would just select specific items though, rather than going for afternoon tea as I am fussy and didn’t eat each item. I don’t care much for fruit cake and I’m not really a cheese fan, so the cheese sandwich, fruit cake and Wensleydale I left. Not sure what the salad garnish was there for either, that’s just fussy me though!!! I’d definitely go back for the scones which were lovely, and try the other cakes too. It certainly had a quirky vintage charm, the staff looked great in their vintage garb, and the ambience was livened up by the music in the background. 

Gorgeous tea pots
Gorgeous tea pots

For £9.50 it’s pretty good value, the place is relaxed with lovely people. I’d recommend Just Grand!

Food: Sandwiches were good and they serve great scones!!! Maybe could do with more meat options in sandwiches. Even start doing more savoury items like Eggs Benedict, Welsh Rarebit etc for High tea.

Service: Friendly and attentive staff.

Atmosphere: Relaxed environment, quirky charm about the place. 

Just Grand!
Handpicked Hall
Grand Arcade
Leeds
01937 541783
http://www.fun-keyfunctions.co.uk/190-2/
http://www.handpickedhall.co.uk