Coffee Cupping @ La Bottega Milanese, Leeds

La Bottega Milanese had their first coffee cupping event a little while ago at their recently opened coffee shop on Bond Court. If you’ve not been to La Bottega’s newest coffee shop, you really must as Alex Galantino has done such a beautiful job on getting the place fitted out, it looks fantastic!

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The original plan was for roastery The Grumpy Mule to showcase their coffee, but sadly they were unable to attend. As always, the show must go on, so fortunately a number of fantastic baristas from well-known coffee shops around Leeds and it’s surrounding areas were on hand to help out with their coffee expertise instead. Another typical example of how Leeds’ coffee community works together so well, with the likes of Adam (Opposite), Matt (Mrs Athas) and Oakley (Crema Espresso) bringing a selection of coffees along for the event.

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There seemed to be a varying amount of cupping experience amongst us, so Alex was more than happy to ease us into the procedure. I really liked this because it showed us that whatever experience and knowledge we had with coffee, it was an event that could cater for everyone, regardless of any limitations we may have.

Alex briefly explained how the aim of a cupping session was to compare and contrast coffees against each other. Six different coffees with slightly different flavour profiles, produced by a range of well-known roasters using beans from a variety of countries would be showcased. He drew our attention to taking tasting notes, possibly drawing out a wheel of flavour to compare each coffee. The most popular coffee would then be used to produce coffee to drink using an  Aeropress.

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Here’s a brief run through of the cupping procedure:

1. Smell the ground coffee – is there are difference between ground and not ground? Some coffees had been processed in different methods, e.g. processed/washed would give differences in how clean their flavours were.

I even surprised myself when I got a noseful of the Hasbean coffee, which had a huge whack of strawberry that instantly filled my nostrils. Earlier that morning I’d had a bowl of strawberries for breakfast and it reminded me of that immediately. 

2. Each coffee was brewed for 4 minutes by added hot water of a specific temperature (not boiling) onto the coffee grounds, allowing an even extraction and the formation of a crust. 

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3. The surface of the crust was broken by using a spoon to push the grounds down with three swift movements. The aromas released would give an indication of what was to come during tasting.  Quickly the cups had the ground coffee removed before the slurping process could begin.

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4. People started to work their way through each coffee, slurping away, getting the coffee to coat the tongue to taste, comparing them at different temperatures. 

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A quick analysis of opinions was garnered to see what people thought. 

There was a general consensus that the Grumpy Mule tasted the most ‘ordinary’ – with a more bitter taste, it tasted like a more traditional, standard coffee. This was unlike the others as they had been roasted much lighter to develop flavour profiles.

The San Agustin roasted by Square Mile seemed to be a popular choice – an easy drinking coffee and not too bitter. As it started to cool its taste began to resemble tea. The Yirgacheffe, (Square Mile) was found to be very floral, with bergamot notes. We were told that fully washed coffees produce lovely bright fruit flavours. 

The Nicaraguan Hasbean coffee was also a popular choice, it certainly stood out as the flavours produced were very intense with fruit. Matt explained that these beans were massive, due to being grown slowly at high altitude. After undergoing a natural process, rather than being washed like others, fermentation allows levels of texture and flavour to intensify, resulting in really jammy coffee full of strawberry.

During each cupping session there is always so much to take in and learn and I always feel completely out of my depth, but at the same time feel I am very slowly learning more a bit at a time. I would highly recommend going to a cupping event if you’ve not been to one before!!

Their next cupping session is this Sunday, when La Bottega will be hosting The Coffee Officina  roasters from Essex.

Hopefully I’ll see you there!!

La Bottega Milanese
2 Bond Court
Leeds
LS1 2JZ
0113 2454242
http://www.labottegamilanese.co.uk

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Zucco slap-up celebration meal!

Another school year ended on 17th July, as you can imagine this is always a time to celebrate for any teacher. Apart from that, my other cause to celebrate was the decision to teach high school part-time from September, after working my backside off for 14 years. So with this in mind a slap up meal was called for!!

I visited Zucco when it opened last year, where between myself and my dining companion we devoured seven plates for Sunday lunch. I remember quite clearly talking about it very positively, and if I’d been a betting person could’ve put money on Zucco becoming a favourite haunt amongst food lovers. Since then it’s developed a very popular following, people have fallen in love with the humble simplicity of their food and use of ingredients.

Arriving on a warm Friday evening, bang on 7pm for our booking, it was no surprise to see the place already starting to fill up. Zucco’s menu is ideal for sharing with a plethora of dishes to choose from, we decided to pick six dishes to share; two fish, two meat and two veg.
A prosecco cocktail was ordered which was lovely and light, the cube of sugar floating and fizzing gently around the glass provided our entertainment.

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There are many wonderful sounding dishes on the menu it’s hard to leave any behind, so after some helpful advise we were happy to have our order taken. Our server said the two fish would be our first course, the meat and veg would arrive together. That worked for us, and I’m sure for the kitchen too. I remember last time as Zucco’s was still in its infancy, service from the kitchen was a tad slow and a little haphazard, as dishes were brought over once cooked without much order.

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Our first course showed us the promise of good things to come, with simplicity in presentation which you don’t often see in these parts. This was the other half’s first experience with soft shell crab and it didn’t disappoint. Beautifully cooked sweet crab meat with a giving exterior, coated in the thinnest of batters lending itself perfectly to be eaten whole. Lovely dish.

I ate Fritto Misto last time and nearly fall for it every time I see it on a menu, so it wasn’t a surprise when I chose it again. It’s a highly enjoyed dish where you literally just dive in, grab something along with a swipe of aioli. My selection of mixed fried seafood included lightly battered squid, whitefish, whitebait and a prawn. The only mini slight gripe was the squid, which in my opinion would have benefitted from being taken out of the fryer a tad sooner, allowing the squid to have more give in it’s texture. Apart from that the rest was wolfed down without much hesitation, lightly crisp, sweet prawn and juicy fish and whitebait. With a quick squeeze of lemon I’m easily pleased.

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After a little break in between courses, our meat and veg dishes were brought over. Even though the chicken was really the other half’s dish, I managed to snaffle some myself, with permission of course! The chicken itself was very moist and had a texture like it had been poached or sous-vide, then griddled forming light charring marks. Topped with thin slithers of chilli and garlic, it was pleasant, and even though I can appreciate the subtleties of the dish, it could have had more welly!

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I selected the beef, another beautifully simple dish with braised meat woven through wide strips of pappardelle pasta. The beef was fantastic with a lovingly soft, giving texture and lots of flavour, whilst the pappardelle was al dente and silky. A great dish!

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Our accompaniments came in the form of zucchini and mushrooms, both of these were winners and a much loved part of the meal. I’d read much about deep fried zucchini from fellow food lover Elizabeth Dix (Whip Until Fluffy) fame, so this gave me the green light to my choice. Saying that, what did I think to it? Well, the zucchini fries were light, thinly coated in batter and with a pinch of salt, they’d make me happy any day of the week! Whilst the mushrooms had a very savoury meatiness! Possessing a fab crust and punchy flavours to boot! From the first mouthful, the other half who tends to be a lot more reserved in expressing feelings towards food until asked, quite openly gushed at how good it tasted!

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I was pretty much full now, but the other half had spotted the Panna cotta, probably his go to Italian dessert. It arrived, not in the classic style of turned out on the plate, which allows the wobble factor to be tested out, but instead in a small glass topped with berries and sauce.
Comments included: creamy and full of vanilla (very evident on closer inspection). Even though he prefers Panna cotta to be served alone without anything else, the fruits did bring a component of sharpness to the dish to cut through it’s creamy richness. I personally think they should be served with something exactly for this purpose. But we can agree to disagree!

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I love the simplicity of the drinks menu at Zucco, going for a classic list of Italian cocktails, the other half went for the Negroni next, he’d never had one before so fancied trying one. Unbeknownst to him, only because he’d never paid attention to the ingredients it was quite a bitter drink. Too bitter for him, so I gladly offered my services and took it off his hands instead!

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The total cost of our meal with drinks was £59.40, without tip.

More than a year on and I think Zucco is still one of the best places to eat out in Leeds at the moment, be it lunch or dinner. Yes, it’s not the cheapest, but the quality of the food and service makes the difference for me.

Food: Ingredients cooked simply and well. Lots of choice and hard not to choose lots!

Service: Much improvement in a smoother delivery from the kitchen. Knowledgable and helpful staff, unfussy and efficient.

Atmosphere: A popular place which generates a lovely busy ambience. 

Zucco
603 Meanwood Road
Leeds
LS6 4AY
0113 2249679
http://zucco.co.uk


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Bundobust!

Bundobust is OPEN! I know, it officially opened on the 11th July, but I’ve waited to say it for so long, so I’m gonna. It finally happened, with hoards of Leeds folk waiting for this moment for ages, from the looks of it on social media they were RAVENOUS!

Oh….are there some of you unaware of Bundobust? Well, I like to think of Bundobust as a meeting of minds from Prashad – locally and nationally renowned Gujarati restaurant originally from Bradford, now based in Drighlington, and The Sparrow – well known watering hole in Bradford. Serving up Indian vegetarian street food with style and drinks to match.

The team who came up with this gem are Mayur Patel (Prashad) and Mark Husak (The Sparrow), who’ve teased us with their pop-ups at different venues and events. So much so that when they planted the seed of a permanent venture in Leeds city centre, I’m certain a cry of joy could be heard across Leeds, that’s what I like to imagine happened anyway! 

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Following a couple of preview evenings a continuous stream of teasers on social media quickly ensued, and with early reviews praising both food and venue to the hilt, things looked promising and my expectations were high. By the time of the official opening, word had spread like wildfire demonstrated by a street-long queue waiting to get in!! 

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The place is very laid back – walking through the entrance you’re soon surrounded by a jigsaw puzzle of recycled doors, cushions made from sacks once containing rice and dhal, chip board, naked brick walls and also comes with a dose of quirky minimalism combined with a slice of charm.

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The place is a bit tardis-like, as from the street I didn’t expect the amount of square footage it actually has, and comes with an inspired inside/outside space.

The location could possibly be a stroke of genius; in the centre of town, but far enough from the hustle and bustle of Boar Lane. Maybe like the Northern Quarter, Bundobust’s presence, along with nearby neighbours Friends of Ham and Laynes Espresso will spark the resurgence of this end of town too!

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One thing I immediately noticed walking up to the bar is the signage, I LOVE it!!! This place sets its stall out immediately, with the phrase ‘no beef’ predominately positioned at the bar. 

They seem to have struck a harmonious chord, with the philosophy of combining craft beers and Indian street food at the heart of Bundobust. Not far off a match made in heaven, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t drink a lot of the stuff!! With this in mind they have a grand selection of handpicked beverages, chosen to pair well with Indian food such as IPA’s and Pilsners. Also great news for those with a gluten intolerance (other half included) Bundobust stock Mongozo, this means they don’t need to miss out either. 

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Being the innovators that they are the team like to experiment, on the bar was a piece of apparatus I hadn’t seen before. Marko informed me it was a Hop Randall which infuses other flavours into beer, such as pineapple and apricot. Even though I’m not the greatest beer or ale drinker by any stretch of the imagination, I may have to sample this at some point!

For those without a penchant for ale, their wine and cocktail list may tempt you, including the Bhang Lassi which I remember fondly from their Belgrave residential. Nestled amongst the choice of soft drinks is the Indian staple Mango Lassi for non-alcohol drinkers. One thing I was gutted about just because I only spotted it as I was leaving – lovely soothing and warm House Chai, having been introduced to this by a mate, I need to remember to get some next time. A fantastic addition to the drinks menu, these guys really have thought of virtually everything!

So what about the food? The food menu or ‘munch’ as they’ve named it is short and concise, 12 items at present, but it’s also well planned as it consists of items which are ideal depending on how hungry you are, whether it be a few snacks to have with their beers, or something more substantial. Marko suggested one small snack with a drink or two, e.g. the Okra fries, for something to accompany it either a samosa-based dish (Bundo Chaat and Bhel Puri) or Bhaji, and for a more filling dish the Dosa, Pethis or Idli Sambhar.

I’d been preparing myself all day for this three courses it was! First the Okra Fries (their memory still echoes from their guest residential at the Belgrave), the Bhaji and Massala Dosa, and to drink a Mango Lassi. The Lassi was perfect for what had been a reasonably warm day, sweet and thick enough to make it incredibly moreish. The addition of the fennel seed and aniseed just makes it come alive and gives it vibrancy.

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Turn over from ordering to table was pretty reasonable; good news for my rumbling belly.

The Okra Fries are a great snack, perfect for dipping into while sipping on of their specially selected beverages. They are exactly as described on the menu – crisp and spiced.

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The bhaji were pretty much perfect – accurately spiced, fried perfectly so they arrived crisp. To complement the bhaji was a tangy sauce, which didn’t play second fiddle and definitely came through nicely. Gotta love fried stuff, in moderation of course!

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I love a Massala Dosa, I remember my first at Prashad and this is a smaller version of that. With a crisp, wafer thin rice flour and lentil crepes, the perfect vehicle for the curry it accompanies. A well balanced, all rounder of a dish – lightly spiced curry, the potato and onion are evident and haven’t just disintegrated, the lentil soup brings a little oomph and the coconut chutney does what it’s supposed to and cools it down when required.

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After all the pop-ups and the hard work, everything has come to fruition and I for one am a HUGE fan. Looking at the response they’ve had it’s obvious I’m one of many!! Bundobust does pose a problem for me though, just the fact that I literally walk up Mill Hill, passed Bundobust every time I come into Leeds may prove lethal, 100% in a good way that is!!

I suppose the saying ‘good things come to those who wait’, would ring true here as the team have delivered big time. If you haven’t been yet, you should go.
The cost of my meal was £15.50. 

I’d definitely recommend Bundobust!!!

Food: Great Indian street food, perfect for sharing or for having all too yourself!!

Service: Staff are lovely and friendly, good at helping with menu choices and food waiting times were very reasonable.

Atmosphere: Good atmosphere, the place had a real buzz even when it was just half full (got there before the after work crowd arrived).

Bundobust
6 Mill Hill  
Leeds
LS1 5DQ
http://www.bundobust.com

Street Feast VII @Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen, Leeds

The second weekend of each month always signals the return of Belgrave Street Feast! I’m sure regular readers know the drill by now, but just in case you don’t this is the deal; independent street food traders from Leeds and its surrounding areas come and feed the masses. There’s always a host of Belgrave regulars doing what they do best, such as Dough Boys, Patty Smith’s, Laynes Espresso, Fish&, Wilson’s Champions Pies. But what draws me back is the variety of new traders they entice each month.

With the other half in tow the aim was to share everything, mainly so I could have a taster of as much food as possible!!!

First course – returning to the Belgrave was Arepa!Arepa!Arepa! who took street feast by storm a few months ago with their brilliant Arepa. They may not be new to The Belgrave, but even the slightest hint that they were returning made them an absolute MUST for me. 

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huhuhu
Butifarra 

One of the best things about the Arepa is the difference in textures – crisp on the outside (courtesy of the hot plate) and soft on the inside, filled with tender pork, which had bags of flavour. It’s basically a delicious handful and even though it’s inevitable a mess is made whilst eating them, it’s well worth it!

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Complimentary lollies!!

Second course – Chaat Cart, we are very lucky in Leeds to have Manjit’s Kitchen, so for me this was always a bit of a comparison to see their take on it. I went for the Samosa Chaat; don’t get me wrong I liked it, but for me it was lacking a little something. I missed a little kick of heat, cool yoghurt and a sprinkling of crisp sev providing texture.

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Samosa Chaat
Samosa Chaat

The Moocher provided us with our third course, after a little research I found out they’re known for being keen foragers and this was reflected in the Ox heart dish which included wild garlic flower. But it was the beef and venison which sang out to us, opting for £3 portions as we were slowly filling up, good job too as they were generously portioned up!  

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Pulled venison
Black IPA beef brisket with celeriac croquette
Beef brisket and celeriac croquettes
Chipotle chilli pulled venison with slaw

It was basically a flatbread sandwich filled with tasty meat that fell apart with ease, and slaw added good crunch and helped cut through the richness in the meat. If I did have a niggle it would be the croquette, which could’ve done with being hot and crisp.

4th course – Fire and Salt BBQ the Taco took our fancy here and was assembled by opening a packet of Doritos, sliced lettuce and chopped tomato were dropped in, along with a squirt of their Jackalope BBQ sauce, then topped with four chunks of ox cheek. The meat was flavourful, but it wasn’t quite melt in the mouth, one of the chunks also had a lot of chewy fat still attached. I liked the tang from the BBQ sauce, whilst the lettuce and tomato did their usual job of keeping it fresh and light.

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BBQ Walking Taco
BBQ Walking Taco

The Caribbean Cafe were found on the roof terrace, these local traders are well known for their base in Kirkgate Market where they are dishing up flavours of the Caribbean. By this time we were pretty much done unfortunately, but I gotta say that the smell of jerk chicken on the hot plate was pretty tempting though!

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Noisette Bakehouse – I always have to leave with something to nibble on and as always the beautifully delightful bakes from Noisette Bakehouse caught my eye. Leaving with the almost legendary Sea salt caramel brownie and Sarah’s new Watermelon gin jellies!

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Watermelon Gin Jelly and Sea Salt Caramel Brownie

There are a couple of other traders who I should mention too, unfortunately I didn’t get chance to see them; Bare Plume and Flavours Found (who are also trading at Trinity Kitchen with Shake Maroc & Roll).

Next month it’s Beacons Festival I think, so I may see you there!

Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen
1-1a Cross Belgrave Street
Leeds
LS2 8JP
0113 2346160

Friday night bowling, burgers, subs and laughs @ Roxy Lanes, Leeds

A couple of Friday’s ago, the evening literally played itself out like a tale of two sittings!! It all began with a ‘quick’ curry after work in Wakefield, the intention was to have a starter or two, I really tried to stick to this, but inevitably it ended up becoming a full on curry, oops! A pretty decent one it was too. Then there was the small matter of a quick stop to see the latest Academy Alumni 2014, dressed in all their finery at the Year 11 Prom, it’s always a fantastic occasion seeing the students you teach looking all grown up and celebrating their 5 years becoming young adults. Unfortunately, it could only be a short visit as I’d unwittingly double booked myself and arranged to meet the girls for a catch-up. The plan was to meet at Roxy lanes for a bowling sesh, but stupidly in my haste forgot a much needed pair of socks, so after a quick detour (in the wrong direction) I finally got to our meeting place of Roxy Lanes in Leeds city centre.
Family, work and life in general had made this occasion a very long over-due catch up with my mates, and the older we get the more spread out these occasions become, so it was one I was really looking forward to. Yeah it was a Friday night, and I must admit that an evening of bowling, drinks and a burger wouldn’t normally be my evening of choice for a catch-up, but it made a refreshing change! 

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The location of Roxy Lanes is probably not the most obvious of choices, its entrance is a little unnoticeable being around the corner from Tesco, just off Park Row!

Once inside and up a set of stairs, you arrive into the venue to see an air of the semi-industrial, there’s neon and a street art vibe with four lanes for bowling. Lined up with bowling balls that resemble giant pool balls, we took great delight in having a go with the mahoosive ’15’ white ball which lit up in lots of different colours. I’m such a weakling I could hardly pick it up, let alone launch it down the lane and get a strike. Hey, nevermind it was all part of the fun!!

As we were probably a little giddy and excited, we weren’t observant enough to read the notices advertising their deals, we paid for 1 game (£8 each). Only later did we find out about said deals – drink & bowl – £10, mini eat, drink & bowl – £15 and mega eat, drink & bowl £20. Definitely worth another visit just to make the most of these deal I reckon.

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The plan for me was always to try out Roxy’s menu, and even though I’d had a full curry just a few hours earlier I still wanted to give it a shot! The team at Roxy have got a diner style menu with burgers, pizzas, and what they called grilled subs, more that a grilled panini and ale a selection of starters that would be great for sharing!

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After managing to squeeze in a quick game of bowling, we sat down for a feed. Roxy Lanes has pizza, burgers, grilled subs and a range of starters ideal for sharing. Three of us choose burgers and I went for a grilled meatball sub, all accompanied by cracked black pepper chips. 

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The staff were friendly and very helpful and waiting times for ordering and the food being brought to the table wasn’t overly long. On first appearances the portion sizes looked good and overall we were pretty pleased with our food.  My grilled sub was tasty enough, more like a panini but tasty all the sane! 

The impression we all got was that Roxy Lanes is the place you may go to at the start of the evening, where you can all meet, have a good laugh bowling, a few drinks and a bite to eat to line the stomachs, then head further into town to see what the rest of the evening has in store.
The price for our food (4 people) was £35.80.
I'd recommend Roxy Lanes!

Food: A reasonable choice of food, definitely worth using the deals if you are bowling and want to make an evening out of it!

Service: Pleasant service, decent waiting times.

Atmosphere: Good atmosphere, the place probably benefits from the lively action taking place on the bowling lanes. 

Roxy Lanes

1st Floor
The Podium
Bond St
Leeds
West Yorkshire
LS1 5BQ
0113 322 1781
http://www.roxylanes.co.uk/main-page/4584618104