Bird & Beast Chicken dinner, Leeds

Bird and Beast is a new restaurant that will hopefully liven up the Central Arcade, set up by chef Simon Shaw who runs well respected El Gato Negro in Ripponden.

As they were promoting their opening with a voucher for 50% off food, the other half and I went a few weeks ago with voucher in hand. It would’ve been rude not to!!  Chicken is something I order very rarely, preferring other forms of meaty options, so I was intrigued to see their take on it. 

Their ethos is pretty straightforward; to serve the humble chicken by using locally sourced free-range birds, treating them simply and using the rotisserie to build flavour. Why chicken? The idea was born from difficulty in finding somewhere that served great chicken when dining out. Great idea!!!

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Located on the upper level of the arcade, it has two entrances – one from Central Road (near Hifi and Mrs Atha’s) and from inside the arcade. We walked in from the Briggate side, noticing the place fairly empty in terms of businesses, and in turn a little low on footfall.

Approaching the restaurant it has a full glass wall showing the dining room, cleverly bringing in light, I’m assuming that element would be much needed considering it’s located at the end of the arcade. 

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With its open kitchen the place has a relaxed feel, the rotisserie having pride of place in full view of the dining room. We were offered a choice of tables to sit at, we chose to sit along the side of the room to get a better aspect, but in hindsight we should’ve sat at the counter to get en eyeful of chickens cooking on the rotisserie and watch them being carved up. I’ll leave that for next time!

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From the menu it’s obvious to see that it’s ALL about the humble chicken,  it can be ordered quartered, half or whole (£5-15.50). Non-meat-eaters could easily be excluded from this place, but with a selection of summer salads (£6.96 – £8.95) as a main course or for sharing this is their way of fulfilling the brief. Changing the salads on a regular basis to keep it seasonal was a nice touch. Other side orders to accompany your meal like fries, corn on the cob and coleslaw are available too (£2.75 – £3.25).

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They proudly state that the chickens are free-range and sourced locally from well known Sykes House Farm, in the Yorkshire Wolds. The birds are treated with care, double marinated before being cooked in an oven to keep the bird as moist as possible. A final flourish on the spit using cherry wood chips and charcoal provides the birds with a smoky flavour.

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The other half is a huge fan of roast chicken, especially the breast, no pun intended, whilst I’m a thigh, wings and drumstick kinda girl! Similarly like the crackling on pork belly, I also love chicken skin, I know a lot of people who always leave it, like they would crisp fish skin, but what a waste! I LOVE it!

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It was yummy and crisp and possessed tonnes of flavour from lemon and herbs. I dove in for the wing, it lasted a couple of minutes, altogether delicious, juicy and moist! A definite use your hands moment! The same with the drumstick. Good to see the chicken breast was also moist and the portion size was enough for two people. But as I’m not the quickest of eaters, the other half will testify to that, my chicken breast did go a little dry, so sauces were definitely needed.

Sounds silly but we didn’t actually know any sauces were available as no-one even mentioned them. We only realised when a diner brought some over to their table that they had loads of different types. At the time of our visit it was still early days as a fully functioning restaurant so that can be forgiven, till next time! What surprised me was seeing that ALL the sauces were bought in, no homemade sauces on offer. Fair enough with Heinz and Tabasco etc, but it seemed odd having things like Nandos sauces in the mix, I’m hoping in time they’ll be coming up with their own range. 

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Even though they doesn’t serve starters as such, our sides of fries, sweet potato wedges and corn on the cob was plenty for two. We enjoyed the sweet potato wedges the most, the fries were nice, but think they’d been cooked a little bit before being plated up as they weren’t as crisp as expected and tasted a little flat. The corn on the cob was alright, had a little charring on the side, but was served barely warm, don’t know if this was how they intended it to be, I would have preferred them to be hotter.

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With 50% off food, our total bill for two people came to £17 including a tip. 

If I was to visit again I think I’d want to try their Sunday Roast, where beast meets bird with Rib of beef and Belly pork on the menu!

I’d recommend Bird & Beast!

Food: a small, concise menu with a clear aim. Chicken, being the star of the show is allowed to be just that and was tasty. Shame you can’t just order the wings and drums etc, just saying that because they are my favourite bits. Portion sizes and prices are reasonable too.

Service: ordering food took a little while as staff were still finding their feet. Turnover in the kitchen was fairly swift. Staff were overall friendly and helpful, but need to remember to tell diners about the sauces though! 

Atmosphere: lovely, great looking space. Music in the background is the right volume so you can have a conversation even when it’s full. 

It was a number of weeks since we visited Bird & Beast, so I’m hoping any little niggles of mine have had chance to get ironed out.

Bird & Beast
Central Arcade
Central Road
Leeds
West Yorkshire
LS1 6DX
0113 245 3348

Bird & Beast on Urbanspoon

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Taste of London, 2014 – guest blog by Noisette Bakehouse

From Wednesday 18th June to Sunday 22nd June, Regents Park in London was transformed into an immense food festival; Taste of London had arrived and with it the biggest showcase of food, drink and culinary excellence I had ever seen. Sure I had heard of Taste of London, but I’d never visited so when I received the invite to head down and showcase Noisette Bakehouse as a representative for the YBF’s (Young British Foodies), I pretty much jumped atop of my oven and did a little dance.

The line up read like the most mouthwatering menu you can ever imagine, and the amazing variety of food on offer was unlike anything you would normally get to experience. I don’t know anywhere else that you could grab a beautiful bun stuffed with grilled sea bass, coriander miso and kimchi courtesy of the hip Flesh and Buns, then follow it up with some gastronomic classics, such as Veloute de mais, crevettes, grises et amandes (or sweetcorn soup with shrimps and roast almond puree for those lost in translation) from the legendary Le Gavroche.

I entered the YBF’s last year and was a finalist with my street food venture, the Madeleine Express, so this gig seemed just my kinda thing, a chance to pop up in London with my bakes at what was to be the equivalent of a Michelin Starred Street Feast. Unfortunately on this occasion Madeleine wasn’t allowed to ride with me, so I assembled my crack team (Mum, Sister, Dad and Husband) to transport everything we would need down to London to present our offerings on the stand kindly provided by the YBF’s.

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Taking the stand in the days before, had been fellow YBF representatives, Hansen and Lydersen, and Tozino with Gosnell‘s Mead to follow on Sunday after our little stint. As much as I was excited to be showcasing amongst the likes Duck and Waffle, Bleeding Heart and Salt Yard, I was just as excited to be there in toe with the talented salmon smoker, charcuterie master and honey fermenting mean meadists. The only downside is the fact that I couldn’t get my hands on any of their delicious grub.

We arrived onsite early on Saturday morning, (the 5am alarm wasn’t needed, that much excitement would never allow me to sleep in), we grabbed our passes and found our way to stand G8A to set up for the day. The pitch was in a great position with a view of the VIP area, which sat alongside the huge tent housing offerings from Salt Yard, Theo Randall at the Intercontinental, Le Gavroche with the Masterchef himself, Michel Roux Jr in attendance. At the end of our row was just the bar I wanted to see, manned by Chase Vodka I was intent upon grabbing a Marmalade Mule or two should I get the chance.

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To my immense delight I saw that Bread Ahead Bakery were set up just opposite, to the right. For those of you who might not be familiar with the amazingly talented Justin Gellatly (really? where have you been? get on it!) he was resident pastry chef at St John Restaurant under the guidance of Fergus Henderson, champion of Nose to Tail dining. Justin left to peruse his passion for baking, playing his role in bringing ‘real bread’ back to the fore with beautiful long fermented loaves that have wowed the crowds on stalls at Borough Market and Maltby street for years. He set up Bread Ahead Bakery with Matthew Jones, in a permanent brick and mortar instalment at Borough Market in 2013. I could write a whole post on how inspirational this guy is, but I am merely a guest here and it would be rude to out stay my welcome so I will cut to the chase, he makes the best doughnuts you will ever eat in your life and if you are ever in London I suggest you make a beeline for them and feed yourself silly.

The site slowly started to fill with everyone else rushing about to get ready for another day, deliveries of ice were coming in left right and centre, as were fresh bread, boxes of fresh fish and bottles upon bottle of the fizzy stuff, corks soon to pop. I saw a few ‘celebrity’ chefs come and go and plenty more that I didn’t, all dressed in their freshly laundered whites and aprons all equally important in preparing for the mass catering operation, primed to showcase their skills and get ready for service. Michel Roux Jr passed the stand a couple of times as I set up before donning his whites and setting to signing a mountain of cook books.

I took my opportunity, parcelled up some Madeleines and paid him a visit. I have never been a contestant nor even applied for Masterchef, but as soon as I approached with my little brown box I could’ve been on set presenting him with my signature dish. What was intended as a funny little gesture of kindness turned into something I hadn’t signed up for. I half expected him to say ‘oh great yeah thanks’, have a quick cheeky snap with him and then just walk away sort of awkward and giggly. But no, he took the box held it, commented ‘nice presentation’, I explained they were Madeleines, that I had a little stand down there with the green tablecloth and that I had baked them at home, back in Leeds. He replied ‘What yourself?’, I said ‘Yes, every one’, he sort of half scoffed and said ‘Each one, by hand?’, he grabbed my hand, turned it over a bit to examine, ‘Yes I baked each and everyone by hand!’, I don’t think he believed me (why would he). He took a bite, took another and ate a whole Madeleine right there in front of me, ‘very good’, he remarked and closed up the box, ‘I will save these for my cup of tea later’. A bit agog, he threw his arm round me, we had the cheeky pic and off I went, a bit wobbly legged and in need of the Marmalade Mule (shame the bar wasn’t open yet)!

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Finally at 12 pm the gates open to visitors and the park soon filled up with masses of people eager to try as much as they could. There were lots and lots of drinks being given out here and there, samples galore of all sorts of little treats and plenty of guests made their way over to our stand to have a browse. 

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We had obviously brought the best seller, Salt Caramel Brownie along with honey caramels, lavender and lemon shortbread, a selection of tarts filled with new season jams, the buckle, as well as vegan and gluten free bakes. I’m pleased to report that the brownie went down as well at Taste as it does here in Leeds, with people returning to buy more before they left. I met some great people who clearly loved their food and were complimentary about what they saw on offer.

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The intrigue and questions gave me the opportunity to talk about how we started out and why we were there. I couldn’t really have asked for more. I was kept busy the whole day and had little chance to walk around the site to see everything, but luckily enough I was brought a mismatch of treats to form the weirdest picnic I have ever had – some mighty fine sushi from Sake No Hana, silky sweet soup as mentioned before from Le Gavroche, along with a ballotine of chicken with puy lentils, a delectably tasty cheese and olive stick and custard doughnut from Bread Ahead, Scallops from Theo Randall and super hot Mexican Cactus Tacos from Mestizo.

At 6pm I headed over to the Cook Skills Theatre to do a cookery demo, Valentine Warner was to compere and I was on straight after Jason Atherton (no pressure there then). A little nervous with fear and excitement, I just hoped they would understand my accent. I had the voices of the ever charming boys from North Star going round my head, they had suggested I get someone to voice dub over me…that is how unlikely they thought they would understand my ‘funny wakey’ accent If you want to see the demo for yourself, just follow the link here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gm2FT8olnK4

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Over the five days a number of YBF finalists and winners had been given the opportunity to take to the stage to demonstrate their talents. Ole from Hansen and Lydersen was sandwiched in between demos from Vivek Singh and René Redzepi, but obviously kept his cool and had apparently impressed with his tales of piano playing whilst gently smoking his salmon, Iltud from Charcuterie Ltd showed the crowd how he likes his sausages, Gringa Dairy wowed with her curds and whey and Lucie Bennett assembled a beautiful Frasier cake, displaying her perfection for patisserie.

The whole experience was fantastic from start to finish, none of it would’ve been possible without the YBF’s. They continue to provide the perfect opportunity for young British businesses like mine to showcase what they have to offer. There is no doubt that we can hold our own alongside the all star Michelin crowd, and I urge any food or drink enthusiast setting out in business to get their application into the YBF’s, before entries close for this years competition on the 30th July.
I sincerely hope this isn’t the last time that I get to team up with such amazing talent, and you can bet your last salt caramel brownie that the YBF’s will be the first to get their hands on the Michelin stars of the future.

So that’s the news from London, in the local news i’m pretty excited to let you all know that on my return to Leeds, I headed straight off the train to sign the lease on a proper brick and mortar bakery of my own! In a few weeks time I will be moving out of the little domestic kitchen that has served me so well over the past year into a space that is a little more suitable. There won’t be any fancy upscaling of machinery or equipment just yet, my Mum’s ancient and bashed Kenwood will be making the move with me, but the extra space will allow me to develop our range of baked goods even more. It won’t be in a city centre, but here in the village I started the Bakehouse, it has a great space that I hope to turn into a small retail shop and coffee/tea spot at the start of next year, with a pretty neat space outback to grow herbs, fruit and edible flowers. 

http://noisettebakehouse.com
Photo credit: Noisette Bakehouse

Bundobust finally opens on 4th July!!!

Hooray!!! Bundobust are opening after spending months fitting out their premises on Mill Hill in the city centre!! I’ve walked passed countless times, eagerly waiting for the good news and it finally happened. This is one of those occasions when there’s the tiniest bit of regret I’m not accepting freebies anymore, especially when I see the preview invite pop up in the inbox, but I have to decline and will, no doubt feed my face silly when the place is open to the public.

For those of you who don’t know of Bundobust, they are a collaboration between much-loved Prashad, Drighlington’s Indian vegetarian restaurant and The Sparrow pub from Bradford. Their aim is to serve fantastic Indian street food from their street food kitchen, accompanied with great Indian craft beer.

Just to the get the mouth watering and the taste-buds tingling in readiness for the opening, here’s a photo from the pop-up at The Belgrave a few months ago:

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If I was a betting person I doubt the bookies would let me put money on my (popular) prediction; that Bundobust is going to be a highly sought-after food venture. With their crowd-pleasing street food already having a large following; myself included in that long list, I cannot wait to be ordering everything off the menu!! If the food’s anything as good as the stuff they’ve dished up in the past they are definitely onto an odds on winner!

Bundobust opens on the 4th July, I’ll see you there no doubt!!

This date has now been changed to the 11th July.

Bundobust
6 Mill Hill
Leeds
LS1 5DQ

Bilbao Bar @ Granary Wharf, Leeds

My regular jaunts into Leeds city centre lends itself well for noticing any new openings. Whilst cutting through Granary Wharf a number of weeks ago, I spotted a new eatery being fitted out, looking for its signage I saw the words ‘Bilbao Bar‘ – alarm bells started ringing and my eyes lit up immediately!! For regular readers, you may already know that I love, love, love the food of Northern Spain, with a soft spot for Pintxos which all came from a road trip around the Basque region a few years ago. After visiting five destinations in ten days, the other half and I fell in love with the food on our journey around Northern Spain. With areas including Bilbao, San Sebastian and Pamplona on our itinerary, all places synonymous with these hand-held works of culinary art. As you can imagine we gorged ourselves big style!!

Located in Granary Wharf, this new venue finds itself in good company with neighbours LIVIN’Italy and Wasabi Teppanyaki. Bilbao Bar has been open a couple of weeks now and serves up food Spanish food, with the emphasis on Basque inspired Pintxos during the day, then charcuterie and tapas in the evenings. The majority of the team are from Spain’s Basque region, to be more exact from Basari, a town very close to Bilbao, so they say you can expect authentic Spanish cuisine here. 

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The venue itself has got a very modern feel, it’s light, bright and airy with a great counter to place all the stunning Pintxos, ready to be eyed up and inevitably devoured!

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I’d popped in a couple of times within close proximity of one another, trying their charcuterie after work and then back for lunch, sampling their pintxos the following day.

At the time I arrived, I was a little early for tapas (served 7pm onwards) so picked the Ibérico ham from the charcuterie menu.

Watching someone carve Ibérico ham is like watching a craftsman at work, I imagine it’s a skill that’s hard to do well; trying to carve it so wafer thin and also a particular size. In Spain, there’s a select band of people who are Maestro Cortadores (Master ham carvers), so hats off to those who do it well. I’d love to have a go, but would be mortified if I hacked it to shreds!!

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With a glass of their house white I happily sat at the bar and relished every slice of Iberico ham. The ham with its intense dark red meat was sweet and rich in flavour from the animals acorn fed diet. I loved that the ham was so thin it verged on translucent, and how the fat just started to soften and melt away in my mouth. Simply beautiful stuff! 

The following lunchtime was ALL about the Pintxos for me, I’d been looking forward to taking a seat at the bar, grazing away with one pintxos after another and a drink. Bilbao Bar have a very inticing offer of three pintxos with a drink for £7.95, which sounded perfect!! As always with pintxos it’s suitable for both carnivores and non-meat eaters, with lots of choice for all.

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Feast your eyes on these, the chef noticed I was snapping away and said they may look great, but they taste even better….bold words indeed!

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Just writing about them is making me want to head straight back and order more, they were that good!!! A great Pintxos standard is the quality of the Spanish omelette. I’ve eaten quite a few in leeds restaurants, and although they were good on flavour, they’ve fallen short on texture and are too firm in the middle. 

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This is the place to go if you want great tortilla, Where the potato is soft, not mushy and the egg is squidgy in the middle and bordering on just set. For me perfect in every way!! I went for their traditional version, but they also have one with chorizo; a lovely twist on the original.

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Take my word for it – everything on my plate was absolutely delicious and instead of waxing lyrical about each one, if you like pintxos you should just go and find out for yourselves. 

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Being the greedy guts I am I went for a fourth pintxos, to be honest it would’ve been extremely easy to sit there all day and get through the whole counter. I’ll have to set myself the challenge I think!

I’d LOVE to keep this place a secret, but as that would be selfish I would have to say that I definitely RECOMMEND Bilbao Bar!!!

Get yourself down there, sit at the bar and graze away!!

Food: Superb take on authentic pintxos with a twist. Excellent charcuterie too!!!

Service: Lovely staff, who were friendly and genuinely have a love of the food they serve.

Atmosphere: I arrived during the quiet times of the day, so can’t comment on what its like when it gets busier. But, the place has a very relaxed ambience to it, a few hours (or more) could easily be spent here!

Bilbao Bar
Arch U Dark Arches
Dark Neville Street
Granary Wharf
Leeds
LS1 4BR
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bilbao-Bar/446808278788354?fref=ts

Bilbao Bar on Urbanspoon

The Pink Shed – Behind the scenes photoblog @ Trinity Leeds

Any of you Leeds folk notice a pink shed in Leeds recently, you may remember seeing it once before, last year at Trinity Leeds? The Pink Shed was brought back by Chilled Events for Leeds Loves Food Festival after being so popular the last time. Some of you may have been lucky enough to get a seat at the table, whilst many others had to resign themselves to just walking passed, being jealous about the food that was being devoured inside. Over the two week period, some of the best independent restaurants and food producers from Leeds and its surrounding areas including Friends of Ham, The Greedy Pig and Shears Yard gave diners a fantastic dining experience to remember. 

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On its final weekend The Sunshine Bakery from Chapel Allerton had a 3 course Sunday lunch on the menu. Run by David Bennett, in my limited knowledge I knew that the place was well-respected for its cakes and also ran a supper club, but I had no idea that David was once a former chef for Marco Pierre-White, so had more than enough credentials for something like this.

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I’d gone along for a behind-the scenes peek at the goings on behind closed doors, or as it actually was down the seemingly never ending corridors of Trinity Leeds. The kitchens location was reminiscent of watching the final banquet episode on the TV programme The Great British Menu, with a temporary makeshift kitchen found down a corridor surrounded by never-ending fire doors. Whilst the actual pink shed was a lot more sophisticated that its exterior appearance, with eight places set around on the dining table. 

Here’s my photoblog of how the lunch service unfolded over the  following  couple of hours:

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Makeshift Pink Shed kitchen!
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The unpacking begins!
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Vegetables at the ready
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Starters!

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Galette of Sea bass with Asparagus
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Components of the main course
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Main course plating up
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Saucing!
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Roast leg of lamb with roasted vegetables and mint beurre blanc
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Components for the dessert

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Sablee aux Framboise
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Job well done!

My few hours as a fly on the wall was really enjoyable; whether it was the guys from Chilled Events basically doing their thing and hosting, or the team from The Sunshine Bakery, all working like a well-oiled machine with a few laughs thrown in along the way. All the food looked fantastic and smelled just as good, plates came back clean and comments from start to finish were massively complimentary.

Who knows if we’ll see The Pink Shed again, maybe, only time will tell. I’m sure whatever the team at Chilled Events have up their sleeve, it’ll have a simple but innovative premise, just like The Pink Shed. Where through collaboration with local independent businesses the Leeds community are brought together.

The Sunshine Bakery
182 Harrogate Road
Chapel Allerton
Leeds
LS7 4NZ
0113 2680656
http://www.sunshinebakeryleeds.co.uk
http://www.chilled-events.co.uk