Celebrate Chinese New Year in Leeds!!

Of course being Chinese, I love the food!! I’ve been lucky to have parents who are both excellent cooks. With Chinese New Year starting today for 15 days, this is one of the most important times where families celebrate with lots of food!!
In Leeds we lost Chinatown a number of years ago with my favourite restaurant Lucky Dragon, which was at the centre of it closing very suddenly!! I still remember the evening we were going for dinner to read the sign on the door saying it had closed with immediate effect and wouldn’t be re-opening.
Well since those days other Chinese restaurants have had to take the helm and show the way.
Places I go to instead for a good Chinese meal are Maxis just off Kirkstall Road, you can’t miss the Chinese Arch at the front of the building.
Oriental City Restaurant on Cross Stanford Street, which is joined to the huge Oriental Supermarket. There’s also Ho’s and Tong Palace which serves both Vietnamese and Chinese food on Vicar Lane. These tend to serve the more standard Westernised version of Chinese food with the odd regional special. If you want Dim Sum you can’t go far wrong with Maxis and Oriental, this is what I’ll be going for this weekend!! For those who favour the Szechuan style of Chinese cuisine then Red Chilli is the place for you, with some mega hot dishes and also very regional dishes that you don’t get at the other three. All are reasonably priced, serving a wide range of Chinese dishes.

Just writing this is making me salivate so I think I have a sneaky plate of dumplings right now!!

Happy Chinese New Year everyone !!

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North Star Latte Art Throwdown @ North Star Micro Roasters, Leeds

One of my 2013 blog highlights was North Star Micro Roasters Inaugural Cupping Event.  Since their initial launch North Star have gone from strength to strength, building a large following of coffee lovers in Leeds and beyond.

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Wednesday was the day of their Inaugural Latte Art Throwdown Championships, held at their premises in Meanwood. I’ve been a little obsessed with the whole latte art thing over the last few months after seeing a latte with a Darth Vadar design, to the point where I’ve even been really sad watching YouTube clips and making my husband watch them! 

For people not in the know, Latte art is where coffee is made by pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso which results in a  pattern on the surface.

headed down after school with my friend Alice to meet some coffee folk, watch in awe and of course take some photos!! We’d wondered which baristas would be competing, with such great places to get coffee in Leeds at the moment we were optimistic, such as Laynes, Opposite, Mrs Athas and La Bottega Milanese to name a well known few. really decent crowd were already there when we arrived at North Star Headquarters, and Krag and Ellis, the boys at the helm of North Star were there hosting.  

When Ellis announced the competitors we weren’t far wrong, representing Leeds were baristas from Froth ‘n’ Fodder, Cielo, La Bottega Milanese, Mrs AthasNotes and also Ellis from North Star. Also vying for the crown were baristas from further afield – Bean and Bud and Baltzersens hailing from HarrogateUpshot Espresso from Sheffield, Grumpy Mule from Meltham and finally Crema Espresso from Bridlington.

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Independent food produce was also on show during the event with fantastic bread from theLeeds Bread Co-op, paired with yummy chutney fromMade by Jim, unctuous brownies and caramels from Sarah at Noisette Bakehouse, and lastly beautiful meat and cheese platters supplied byBaltzersens.

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Ok, so apologies for my trigger happy camera finger, I know it happens a lot, but I managed to take 300+ photos during the evening!!! I’ve tried to be good and have whittled it down to a compilation of photos that hopefully tell the tale of the competition.

The rules for the 1st round were that competitors would battle it out head to head, they could pour any design they wanted into a 6oz cup, using a 12oz jug. Being watched by eagle-eyed judges – Adam from Opposite Cafe, Carl from Layne’s Espresso and Krag from North Star, competitors were judged using the following criteria:

  • balance and symmetry
  • colour definition
  • use of space
  • the overall pour

All of to be done under pressure with a crowd of their peers and latte art admirers!!!Here’s a compilation of the 1st round pours:

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In the 2nd round the ten remaining baristas had to pour a rosetta:

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Tulips were up next in the semi-finals:

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So after three rounds of a closely contested battle, the field of twenty hopefuls was down to the final three: Lenka (Bean and Bud), Matt (Mrs Athas) and Oakley (Crema Espresso).

In the final round they had to use a 12oz jug to make a latte in a 6oz cup but also a piccolo, being as artistic as they dared with the design.

Matt from Mrs Athas
Matt from Mrs Athas
Oakley from Crema Espresso
Oakley from Crema Espresso
Lenka from Bean and Bud
Lenka from Bean and Bud

The judges took a few minutes to deliberate and come to an agreement over their scores, in the meantime the crowd and the competitors waited with baited breath.

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A few minutes later Ellis announced the winner of this years Inaugural Latte Art Throwdown – Oakley from Crema Espresso!! He was the clear winner, with Lenka from Bean Bud in 2nd and Matt from Mrs Athas in 3rd. All very well deserved!!

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The winner – Oakley from Crema Espresso!!!

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So another great event at North Star, an evening full of shaky hands, tense moments, great camaraderie and sportsmanship. It was fantastic to meet some of the North’s independent coffee community and see them come out in force! Here’s to more cupping events and throwdowns in the future!!!

North Star Micro Roasters

Unit 27
Penraevon Industrial Estate
Jackson Road
Meanwood Road
Leeds
LS7 2AP

Sunday lunch @ The Hungry Bear, Leeds

This Sunday we had lunch at The Hungry Bear, for one reason or another it’s taken me ages to get to Meanwood and try them out. The last time I ate here was months ago at Zucco, the independent Italian ‘small plate’ restaurant just across the road. They opened last year and have joined the rest of the Meanwood food scene, which is becoming a bit of a haven with some great bars, cafes and restaurants, such as East of Arcadia, Alfred bar and the aforementioned Zucco. On appearance the exterior of the place is quite unassuming, but as you walk closer the sight of The Hungry Bear becomes apparent. On entering it’s quite small and petite,  nicely decked out with large grey slate tiles, walls adorned tastefully with prints and a lovely selection of wooden tables and chairs which looked just right in their surroundings.  

 

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imageOur server brought us some menus and immediately pointed us to their homemade ales, which are brewed on the premises upstairs, but we decided to opt for some wine which was reasonably priced. This was quickly brought over with some tap water, which was a really nice touch.

After a quick nosey at the menu, we both fancied two courses so two courses it was!! They had a good looking menu with quite a few dishes from both starters and main courses that would have suited me just fine!!! We were on paper spoilt for choice. Starters are priced between £4.50 – £7 and main courses £8.90 – £14.50.

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We decided to start with scallops and smoked salmon, then for the main course I won the battle of the belly pork on this occasion, my other half had to settle for his second choice of the burger. While the starters were being prepared we were brought an amuse bouche, which was a lovely surprise. A white onion velouté to be exact which was delicious, light but creamy, well seasoned and full of flavour. A fantastic start, and definitely a good sign for the rest of the meal!

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I must say we felt comfortable very quickly here and found the place homely, even though the restaurant is on a well known busy road, I know this all too well from running countless times up Stonegate and Meanwood Road while training for one of my silly races, you really wouldn’t think it from the inside at all.

Our starters arrived not long after with great anticipation and didn’t disappoint.

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Both went down really well, my scallops were well cooked, no sign of these being rubbery little bullets, the chorizo added smokiness, and with the salty crispy pancetta it was a great combination. The other half also devoured his starter in a matter of minutes, the salmon accurately smoked was accompanied by a well flavoured, smooth puree. The crisps were good in flavour, the chive one could have been thinner and more crisp, but did deliver on taste.

Our main courses looked very appetising and after taking my compulsory snaps I dove right in. I was loving the look of my plate, regular readers may have read of my love of belly pork and this reaffirmed my affection for this cut of meat. Moist, juicy and flavourful, partnered by a lovely puree, iron rich greens and a hearty cassoulet, all of which really worked. I loved every mouthful. Oh, I can’t forget the crackling, one of the best I’ve had in a long time, cooked attached to the belly so it possessed a good mix of crispness while also having that sticky, chewy texture. A great crackling! I was a good girl though, sharing it with the other half who also showered it with equal amounts of praise. 

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The other half’s burger looked great too, being gluten intolerant he left the bread, which I happily ate. His comments about the dish were that the burger was good, well cooked and was topped with good pulled pork. He wished there’d been more pulled pork though as it was rather tasty. The chips were excellent and were incredibly soft in the middle with a good crust on the outside. The burger patty on its own could have done with being a tad more flavourful, but when eaten with the pepper, relish and lettuce was a tasty mouthful.

So far so good, our Sunday lunch was going really well! We had a nosey at the desserts and by my surprise we both ordered one.

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The other half’s passion fruit brûlée was lacking in passion fruit, but this really suited him as he loves traditional creme brûlée, it being one of his favourite desserts. So even though the passion fruit was absent, he certainly wasn’t complaining and thought it was excellent!! I’m not one who would not normally order a sponge based dessert, but this was YUMMY and incredibly moist. The cake was really light, airy, had lots of poppy seeds throughout and came with a great taste of orange.

Overall we had a lovely meal in The Hungry Bear. It’s been a while since I ate in Meanwood last, but I’ll certainly be back a lot sooner, and probably at The Hungry Bear!! 

I definitely recommend it!!

Food: Nice size menu, enough choice for everyone from starters to desserts. Tastes great and very satisfying.

Service: Friendly service, staff unfussy but efficient and attentive when needed. Food arrived from the kitchen in good time and there were no overly long waiting times.

Atmosphere: Lovely and cosy atmosphere, nice ambience. Not pretentious in any way. 

The Hungry Bear
10 – 14 Stonegate Road
Meanwood
Leeds
0113 2740241
http://www.thehungrybear.co.uk


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Smoke Barbecue Grand Opening, Sheffield

Only since starting the blog has Sheffield come onto my radar as somewhere to go out for a decent feed. Even though my best mate lives there, I didn’t really know much about their food scene until I started reading other bloggers reviews. So when I was invited to visit a new restaurant called Smoke Barbecue in Sheffield city centre, I was quite excited. The owner Sean Gregory was so inspired after watching Man v Food, he hopped on a plane to Texas and hasn’t looked back since, opening Smoke Barbecue in December 2013. They say they specialise in authentic BBQ pit meats using a unique smoke for cooking. 

From what I’d researched, Sheffield has been waiting a long time for a restaurant like this and well here it is in all its glory. Smoke Barbecue is found beneath the striking, but aptly named ‘Cheesegrater’ car park on Charles Street in the heart of Sheffield city centre. I was a little worried on the way there that I’d have trouble finding the place, but luckily the old sat nav did the trick! We stepped out of the car park to find the restaurant with its signage showing us the way. Tempting smells wafted over, giving us a hit of smokiness which immediately caught us in our stride and drew us in.

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Smoke Barbecue initially opened its doors in December with a soft launch, with the aim of gradually honing their craft over the last month or so. I was intrigued by this venture as living in Leeds, the last year or so has seen a major increase in the American barbecue scene, especially with the likes of Reds True Barbecue amongst others making such an massive impact.

On entering the building we found it to be a pretty sizeable space, there’s an open plan industrial/warehouse feel with metal ducting, bare concrete and exposed brick walls on show. There was a strange mix of furniture, with some diners eating at proper dining tables, while others were sat at tables made out of pretend pallets. I’m all for being a little quirky, but I found it a little bit odd.

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We were greeted by a lovely lady who seated us at a booth. It did take a number of minutes for us to get served though, and as the restaurant had been informed that one of us was gluten intolerant, our server seemed to have no idea what this was, when I mentioned it!! This is where inconsistencies started to show up, for example I could see diners being given popcorn while they looked at their menus, but neither we, or some others tables received any.

On perusal of their menu it’s definitely for the carnivore, very protein heavy with only a small selection of options for non-meat eaters.

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We were told by our server we’d be given a Smoke Sharer Plate to sample between us, which costs £30. Included in the plate were beef brisket, pulled pork, turkey leg, links sausage, baby back ribs, chips and a side of our choice, I also selected the smokey pit beans to accompany this feast. All sounded great on paper, if not a little meat heavy. We also ordered two glasses of wine which arrived strangely in glass tumblers, is this what they do in Texas?

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The food did take a little while to arrive, and on first glance I think I was a little scared by the massive turkey leg so we decided to leave it till last. The food was also served warm, part from the sides which was disappointing. 

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From this sample there were definitely positive and negatives. In terms of the meat the best bit on our plate was the brisket, which had a lovely smokey flavour and was well cooked leaving it juicy and moist. It worked well with the accompanying sauce. The Texas link sausages were meaty and had a nice smokey flavour to them, nicely charred from the grill. The sides were excellent! Our chips were great – a good size, crisp and fluffy, the smokey pit beans were exactly that, they had an amazing smokey sauce, very delicious. I’d love those beans on a big slice of toast. These were the best bits.

The pulled pork was a real disappointment and it didn’t really do it for me. The meat itself was quite bland compared to pulled pork I’ve had from other places. The turkey leg was something I’d would never normally choose, as I’m not a fan anyway, but we both found it dry and sadly lacking flavour. The baby back ribs were small in size as you’d expect and even though the sticky sauce that had been brushed on them was nice, the ribs themselves were just ok.

In terms of service we were seated so we could see the bar as well as the kitchen, after a month of opening I felt the service was friendly but could be a more efficient. There were times when sharer plates were ready on the pass at the same time, but there was no one to take them. The staff did seem happy to get receive feedback and were very pleasant during the evening though. Service is a bug bear with me, but as Smoke Barbecue is still in its infancy I’m sure the team will endeavour to iron out these niggles. 

Their slogan is ‘Put the fork down, it’s time to get dirty!’ which we happily did, but then when wiping your hands after eating lots of food covered in sauce, a napkin doesn’t really do the trick sufficiently. A supply of moist hand wipes to clean up the mess would have been ideal. 

If I’m completely honest I would say that the food here is definitely a work in progress, more consistency in quality of flavour is required. This is where the phrase ‘quality not quantity’ rings true, more thought and attention to detail to get the meat really juicy, moist and full of flavour across the whole menu is needed here. More choice is needed too, especially for non-meat eaters.

Food: Carnivore friendly, food hit and miss, more consistency needed in terms of flavour and temperature!! Lacks choice for non-meat eater.

Service: Friendly but need to improve efficiency and consistency.

Atmosphere: It was a busy evening so the place did have a buzz about it.

Value for money: We were invited, so our meal was complimentary,  but we felt the plate was quite expensive for the quality of the food.

Smoke Barbecue

1 St Pauls Place

Arundel Gate

Sheffield

S1 2PN

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