Filmore & Union @ VQ, Leeds

Filmore & Union is one of those places in the Victoria Quarter that I’ve walked passed many times, but haven’t stopped to eat there before. I think being in the middle of the shopping area hasn’t really appealed to me so much in the past, however lovely it looks. Since thinking more about the issues with eating gluten free in Leeds, I was reminded of the place as an option, in particular as they have an accreditation with Coeliac UK, making them a possible destination. The only time I’ve visited one of their branches was October 2013, at their York train station branch, popping in for a bagel and a juice which I remember both were very good.

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On arrival, one of the first things I noticed were the delicious looking cakes and muffins, which I must admit looked hard to resist, luckily I was seated straight away and thankfully my table was near the outdoor heater. It’d been a chilly morning so I kept my coat and gloves on until I was warm enough to take them off. I liked the fact they had lovely, cosy blankets at each table too!

It was the middle of lunchtime so quite busy when I turned up, some were enjoying tea and cakes, others a spot of lunch. I wasn’t sure if I’d feel comfortable being sat there as the Victoria Quarter is a place where a multitude of shoppers stroll passed, but even though it’s so open, there was still a nice atmosphere and it didn’t feel too weird being sat in the arcade. 

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Their lunch menu is littered with lots of gf dishes, but also for those who require a dairy free, vegetarian and vegan menu too, great to see that everything was very clearly labelled. All sounded really healthy too; reading up on them in advance I noticed they say they ‘believe in pure, healthy food that supplies real nutrition for everyday life’.

Knowing I was going to be staying in town late into that evening, I wanted a filling lunch to keep me going, so when I was told there was a chicken tagine it sounded tasty and I went for it. On the menu they also have a selection of salads, bagels and wraps.

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Service was friendly and polite, with a juice arriving not long after ordering. My juice, a ‘slim down’ was made with pineapple, lemon, orange, apple and strawberry – really very refreshing, sometimes I can find juices a little too acidic, on this occasion it wasn’t and had the right amount of tang to it. 

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A little while longer, the tagine arrived and looked reasonable on appearance, but didn’t really jump out for me though. On taste, the rice had a lovely nuttiness, the salad leaves were fresh, crisp and brought their metallicy goodness to the dish. The tagine itself was a bit underwhelming, their version included courgettes and spring onions(?), it was nice, but I don’t know really, it needed something to bring it alive more. I could’ve coped with that but the chicken itself was a bit odd, the pieces seemed to remain in a rigid shape like it’d been cut whilst frozen and when cooked had a tough texture. Do you know what I mean??? Maybe I was unlucky and it was a once off, who knows, but I was disappointed, considering it was £10.95.

Gilmore's Tagine of the day
Filmore’s Tagine of the day

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I’m not sure if I would visit again to be honest, as overall I think what I had was over-priced. I’m not a big salad person, so next time maybe sticking to the bagels and wraps is a better bet.

My lunch came to £14.70.

Food: Has a menu which caters for many different dietary requirements, lots of healthy choices. My dish was disappointing though.

Service: Staff were friendly and polite, service reasonably quick considering it was in the middle of lunch.

Atmosphere: It didn’t feel out of place eating there, even though there were lots of shoppers walking passed and with the outdoor heaters it didn’t take long to warm up. 

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Organising Leeds Christmas lunch!

Every December, the ‘Leeds lot’ that I call our Leeds mates all gather for a celebratory Christmas meal, it’s become a bit of a tradition within our group, and is something we’ve done as long as I can remember over the last decade or so. In the early years our festive lunch with all the trimmings was spent at the West End pub in Kirkstall, mainly because we all lived within a few miles of the place, and for many of us, it was our local. 

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Some Christmas lunch dishes from the past

Over that period of time many friends have gotten married, moved further afield, had children making it more of a challenge to get us all together. As yours truly organises it, it’s always been a priority as soon as September arrives to get it organised. Why so early? I’m sure you know as well as I do, how hard it can be to organise a single date or place that a large group of people can attend at the same time!

It can be quite an arduous process and I have to treat it a bit like a military operation, but it all gets done in the end, sometimes after a little gentle cajoling to kick some into action. This year I’m so excited it’s at The Reliance, it’s a place I love and have eaten there on and off since moving to Leeds. Everyone’s selected their 2/3 courses and I’m eager to start tucking into our lunch in a couple of weeks time, having a laugh whilst wearing Christmas cracker hats and telling each other bad jokes. 

Of course there are other fantastic independents which also have a Christmas menu, including Shears YardArts Cafe BarCross Keys Bird & BeastKendells Bistro and Dish.

Are you visiting one of Leeds’ many restaurants for a Christmas meal, which ones? 

The Grub & Grog Shop @ NMBCo

I’d been dying to try out The Grub & Grog Shop’s food at their new residence, serving in Northern Monk Brewery‘s refectory, having not had chance to visit properly until now. I’ll happily admit from the off that I’ve been a fan of the Grub & Grog team for a while now, having enjoyed their food at different events in and around Leeds, whether it be Veg Out, Amazing Graze, Belgrave Feast and more recently Cornucopia at the Corn Exchange.

Serving throughout the day means if you’re fortunate to be in town you can drop in whenever you are hungry for a quick feed and a drink. It’s times like these I really wish I worked in the city centre!! With its location in Holbeck, on the Marshall Mills site, it could be a bit of an unusual spot for many to take the trouble to go to, but it’s great for me as I tend to park this end of the town anyway! Lucky me!

One of the main reasons why I was there, apart from having a spot of dinner, was because there was a gathering of other like minded Leeds food folk, arranged by Banh Mi Booth’s Emily Boothroyd to have a meeting of minds about food and stuff. 

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On the dinner menu, available 12pm -10pm are lots of interesting, well thought dishes that sound comforting and perfect for the colder, darker evenings that have kicked in. Dishes like pan fried river trout, with roasted celeriac and ox tongue hash with cauliflower mash amongst others.

My eyes saw ox tongue and that was it really, even after looking down the rest of the menu my was decision made, to accompany it a side of their Yorkshire fries. When choosing something to wash it down I was definitely in need of help though, as I have virtually no clue when it comes to ale! Wanting something light and easy drinking I was pointed in the direction of Northern Monks Blue Habit, a blueberry Saison, which was lovely and was exactly was I was after. All of which can be served as pints, halves or thirds, I loved the glasses and would love even more to buy some for the house!!

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Ox tongue hash with cauliflower mash

The hash had good flavour and the ox tongue wasn’t scrimped on, it was quite a soft hash and had lots of give in it, for me personally I would’ve loved more of a crust on the top to give it a tad more texture. It sat on a smooth cauliflower mash and was topped with pickled veg, which did its job providing acidity and a shot of colour to the dish. Crisp metallic kale and a light gravy made it a well-rounded dish. The Yorkshire fries were different types of root veg including potato, carrot with an unctuous mayo dip on the side. A lovely side. It’s something I could eat again without question.

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I’d definitely recommend The Grub & Grog Shop, next time I’ll be giving the breakfast or lunch a go. Don’t let the slightly off the beaten track location put you off, because its great! 

The total cost for my meal came to £10.30.

Food: tastes good, the menu caters well for vegetarians as well as meat eaters. 

Service: food is ordered at the bar and brought in good time. Staff are knowledge on the drinks and thoughtful when it came to pairing with food. 

Atmosphere: the place has a relaxed ambience, easy to feel comfortable.

Northern Monk Brewery & The Refectory Tap Room
The Old Flax Store
Holbeck Urban Village
LS11 9YJ.
http://www.grubandgrog.co.uk

Post-Abbey dash refuel

OK, so the Abbey Dash came and went on Sunday, I was pretty nervous the morning of the race, a result of my own laziness, but thankfully the other half, who knows what it’s like himself was there for moral support before and after. Also, it was great to start the race with fellow runner Ewan, who I’ve bumped into a few times this year at different events. Neither of us had an ideal build up to the race, Ewan through injury and myself from lack of motivation and basic idleness!

Chatting before the race Ewan said at one point he was doubtful about racing that day, but was determined to do it after finding out a good friend of his was seriously injured from a mountaineering accident, he started raising money for the Mountain Rescue Team who found him. Whatever our issues were that day, it was nothing compared what his friend was going through!! So by the time our starting pen was given the green light, my nerves had started to settle a little, I just had to get on with it and my aim was to get through it without stopping.

After 48:23 my race was over, a fairly decent time considering and I was close(ish) to my PB, but then this annoyed me for not being properly ready for it. Yes, I know I’m not a runner of any high level of ability, I’m not even a club runner so I shouldn’t beat myself up about it, but I could have done a lot better. Oh well, it’s done for another year and I’ve learned some lessons from it!

As always running makes me hungry, and even though I’d seen that a number of eateries were offering discounts and free stuff for showing your finishers T-shirt, we wandered across to Briggate Farmers & Craft Market to see what they had to offer instead. 1st stop was Market Wraps, with a choice of pulled beef, pork or chicken, cheese, homemade coleslaw and sauces. I wasn’t in the mood for pulled beef and I just can’t get my head around pulled chicken for some reason, so pork it was. 

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At £3 for a small wrap, its not an OK price, the fajita was warmed and was filled with tasty pulled pork, decent homemade coleslaw giving a little crunch.

Additional note!! I do think the price is OK, just re-read it and realised it’s a stupid error so have crossed out the mistake, really sorry Market Wraps!

I don’t like sickly coleslaw and this thankfully wasn’t. The additional ‘sweet n sticky’ sauce was really good and complemented the meat, I much preferred that to a BBQ sauce, as I can find it a bit much and overpowering.  I would’ve loved some crackling in there too, that would make it, for me an awesome wrap!!!

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After that I spotted Mario’s Gusto Italiano stall and was eyeing up the massive doughnuts, so went home VERY happily with one of these. For their size they are light, fried till perfectly golden, and covered in a lemony sugar. Very enjoyable with a nice cup of Yorkshire Tea. I think it was £1.25, a bargain!!

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Briggate Farmers & Craft Market
Kirkgate
Leeds

Pre-Abbey Dash carb-loading @ LIVIN’Italy

Apart from the whole eating out and taking photos malarky, I’m a bit of a runner, a part-time one. Having started running as a hobby 2/3 years ago I’ve entered a few races here and there, and when working full-time seemed to manage to run on a regular basis. It’s funny/annoying how much it was easier to motivate myself then, but now as a part-timer and having zero excuse it’s been far more difficult. Why is that? Have any of you had a similar problem?

This year I’d been fairly pro-active in terms of races; two half marathons, the Harewood and Leeds 10K, in July which was my last race until the Abbey Dash on Sunday. Since the Leeds 10K, to say I’d trained like a demon would be an absolute lie I’m ashamed to say, I’m not a particularly speedy runner and I’m not really competitive against other runners, it’s more about self-improvement. So with my running frequency drastically decreased, but a hell of a lot more eating on my days off (at school I don’t get time to eat apart from tea and a few biscuits), whereas now I’ll have a proper breakfast and lunch during the day, as well as decent dinner too, all culminating in poor fitness!

So the 15th November, the day of the race arrived, my training – maybe 5/6 short runs since July, made for not very impressive reading! I’d planned my pre-race ritual of carb-loading, as I was going to need as much energy reserved in the tank as possible if I was to run any close to a reasonable time. The other half was back for the weekend after travelling like a mentalist around the country with work, so dinner out where I could also carb-load was a perfect idea! After a little thought we chose LIVIN’Italy in Granary Wharf, it’s been one of the places that’s helped to change the area for the better since opening and had always served great pasta in previous visits.

We’d arrived at 6pm, and were a little surprised to see how busy it was, after a couple minutes of waiting to see if we could get a table, the gentleman in charge was initially sorting out a couple of other parties as there seemed to be a miscommunication somewhere. Nevertheless, it didn’t affect us luckily as we managed to nab a table downstairs!

Sorry – poor iPhone photos again!

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One of the things I like about this place is the staff, the lady who served us was friendly and gave us a great big smile which put me at ease straight away. The usual order of things happened – menus were given, drinks and food orders were placed within five minutes I’d say. Also love the wine list, with the labels and clear tasting notes on each wine given.

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To start came polpette, which I’ve eaten a few times before, on this occasion they were equally as good. The meatballs made with beef and pork were juicy, not like rock hard bullets that you can get sometimes from other establishments. The tomato sauce was fresh and tasted of its main component without being too sharp. It was so nice, that after the meatballs were eaten we wanted a spoon to get the rest of the sauce. I would’ve loved a few more meatballs in there, but it was a starter. The dough sticks were crisp after being freshly fried, and the lardo when laid on top of the hot dough sticks melted beautifully. I have had lardo sliced more thinly elsewhere, but the rich flavour was spot on. With a little salt, pepper and a drizzle of sticky sweet honey helping to bring it alive, it was a very enjoyable starter.

Polpette
Polpette
Dough sticks (Sgabei) with Lardo and honey
Dough sticks (Sgabei) with Lardo and honey

Service was pretty brisk that evening as not long after our starters were cleared away, the main course was brought out. Not that I was complaining as the starters had really whetted our appetites! On the opposite side of the table my favourite at LIVIN’Italy had been ordered – their lasagne. I think it’s pretty special with its thin, ultra silky and soft pasta woven through delicious, meaty ragu. Every time we reminisce about our honeymoon in Italy, eating the best lasagne I’ve ever eaten, remembering watching a young boy eating the same lasagne literally, and I mean literally wolfing it down like it was his last ever meal!! I went for the Penne with good ol’ meatballs, I’m a big meatball fan and like to think I make a decent bowl full myself. This would give me carbs for the race and were nicely coated in tomato sauce and the meatballs, once again were juicy and damn tasty. 

Beef Lasagne
Beef Lasagne
Penne with meatballs
Penne with meatballs

We don’t normally go for desserts but I quite fancied one on this occasion, so a vanilla cheesecake and cherry tart came a few minutes later. This was probably the worst part of the meal, the base of the cheesecake was thick and didn’t need the layer of strawberry gel-like layer on the top considering it was a vanilla cheesecake. Also the whole squirty cream wasn’t needed. The cherry tart was nice, the  fruit was sweet and had a touch of sharpness, the pastry was thin but a little bland and could’ve been a touch sweeter. It was also small as far as portions go.

Vanilla Cheesecake
Vanilla Cheesecake
Cherry tart
Cherry tart

The total bill for two, 3 courses with wine was £75.52 including service.

Food: on the whole the food was great, especially the first two courses, not perfect with the desserts but enjoyable nonetheless.

Service: lovely friendly people, quick and make you feel very welcome.

Atmosphere: a busy and warm atmosphere. 

LIVIN’Italy
Granary Wharf
Leeds
LS1 4BR
http://livinitaly.com

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