Black Swanhas a new Autumn menu and recently I visited to give it the once over. If you’ve not been to the Black Swan yet or haven’t heard of it, here’s a brief catch up for you. Found at the bottom end of Call Lane, next to Rolands and opposite Arts Cafe, it’s part of the Sandinista and Smokestack family. With a menu that’s been designed in consultation with Anthony Flynn of Anthony’s fame, there’s plenty to please, whether you fancy handmade sourdough pizzas cooked in their stone baked oven, or maybe something off the ‘DINE’ menu which follows a more British contemporary style.
The few days I’d spent back in Leeds was pretty full-on revisiting some favourites and trying out some new ones, so I’d had more than my fair share of great food already and was getting a bit full, even for me! So knowing I was nearing my limit I was gonna try stay away from heavier choices.
For starters the braised pig cheek sang out to me, brought out dressed up with apple, leaves and a pork pie purée which actually had the flavour of a pork pie in a more delicate form. The cheek itself was nice and tender, apple with different tastes of sweet and sour worked well with the pig and even though there was some small pieces of crackling, I felt it could’ve done with lots more and it need to be saltier too.
For main course, I could’ve easily have gone for steak or a pie, but thought a fish dish would be a lighter option, picking out the red snapper. Perfectly cooked, the snapper came with obligatory crispy skin, mussels were massive with plump and juicy flesh, all sat on a bed of salty samphire and surrounded by a tomato and chilli broth. I think the broth could’ve done with more chilli heat as it was quite delicate, but nevertheless it was a tasty bowl of food!
Overall, Black Swan is a good choice if your in the city centre, fancy the comforts of a pub, but also want something that pushes the boat out with a reasonably priced food menu. The staff are friendly, service is efficient and the surroundings are cosy.
The Grub & Grog Shops new Autumn menu’s in full swing at Northern Monk Refectory and doesn’t disappoint. As always using seasonal, local and ethically sourced ingredients is at the forefront of all their food, with vegetables the cornerstone of their menu. However, meat and fish lovers never feel pushed to the wayside with specials using tried and tested local producers Swillington Farm and Tarbett’s Fishmongers doing the honours.
Seriously tempted by pretty much the whole of the menu, not kidding either!! I got recommendations to help me narrow down my choice, both the specials were hitting all the right notes – pressed pork belly with black pudding and pear or red mullet with mushroom and juniper, but my decision of vegan option Harlequin squash was a surprising choice for me considering pork belly was there for the taking. After the first mouthful I gave myself a congratulatory slap on the back – I’d been rewarded with a sublime, carefully thought out and well executed plate of food, perfect for the start of Autumn!!! The marriage of ingredients just works with different tastes and textures each playing their part, a major piece of eye candy too; my photo really doesn’t do it justice!
Living down south means missing out on new openings and playing catch-up on visits back, this was the case with Sheaf St. Cafeteria and their collaboration with Laynes Espresso. Opened in early August and located in a much neglected part of the city centre, the Victorian building where Duke Studios now resides has been rejuvenated into an uber-cool space ideal for work and play, whatever takes your fancy.
If you’ve been to Belgrave Music Hall for Layne’s Sunday Brunch, you’ll probably be familiar with the veggie menu, including avocado on toast, shakshuka, pancakes and braised beans. Of course, where there’s Laynes expect first-rate coffee, here they’ve diverted from their regular roasters Square Mile to using coffee from Workshop instead.
It’s common for the humble egg to be a breakfast/brunch favourite, never more so in our household where it’s a definite staple and I love them cooked in any form! Since starting their Sunday brunch service, Laynes’ shakshuka has been a popular choice on the menu, hardly surprising to see it here then. Baked egg dishes are yummy because they’re so comforting, eggs work perfectly with other tastes and flavours – the warming background of spice and chilli heat, oozy eggs enveloped in an aromatic pepper/tomato sauce, all mopped up with a chunk of buttered sourdough – you can’t go wrong!! It’s also for satisfying both veggie or carnivore, add a little Merguez or chorizo or now a think about it a hit of Nduja in there and jobs a good ‘un!
This version had lots going for it – a gloriously runny yolk, lots of peppers and red onion still with a touch of bite in a thick tomato sauce. If I’m picky I’d say it could’ve done with more spice and chilli heat, but that’s totally my preference. My day still started off pretty well nevertheless!
When you think of the pubs in Leeds, Whitelock’sis synonymous with the very best. The oldest public house in the city celebrated a 300th birthday this year, but certainly hasn’t rested on its laurels since being taken over by a new owner in 2012. This much-loved establishment has always been renowned for its history and a passion for championing real ales from local breweries, all served by very knowledge staff. However, Whitelock’s isn’t all about quality beverages, they’ve given plenty of attention to a food menu that suits the pub with classic, hearty dishes made using ingredients from local producers, in particular Kirkstall Market.
With a new chef at the helm, there are starter and light bite plates like the Heirloom beetroot and Yorkshire fine fettle salad or the stunner of a chorizo dish, accompanied with peas and mint sitting on top of a crumpet. Large chunks of chorizo from award winning Lishman’s of Ilkley had a beautiful smokiness without being too intense, peas (and their pods) brought sweetness and a lovely soft crumpet all made for a real scrumptious starter.
As far as main courses go there are classics such as beer battered fish and chips, Lishman’s sausage and mash and the homemade beef and ale pie with chips and veg which was my choice, also a few regularly changing specials. Even though the pie wasn’t fully encased in pastry, all was forgiven as it was a comforting and delicious crowdpleaser. The pastry lid itself was perfect – golden, crisp and flaky, and not let down by the filling underneath of tender beef and rich gravy, laced with ale. Along with good chunky chips and seasonal veg it was a wholesome plate of damn tasty food!
Whitelock’s is definitely serving food to match the quality of its drinks, this can only be an amazing thing and simply reinforces that yes, it may be in its 300th year, however the place is still pushing itself and striving to be even better than it already is!!!
Turn back time to last weekend, along with thousands of others I completed the Berlin Marathon – a goal of mine for the last ten months.
With a couple of travel guides reused from a previous visit and some research scouring local blogs I’d got together a list of food spots worth trying out. However, with all the best intentions my priority was still the marathon and with time taken to travel and the need to collect my running pack from the event’s expo, it left us with Saturday and possibly Sunday after the race, depending on the condition my body was in to explore and try things out.
Here are some photos from the weekend, some of the food was a bit hit and miss in terms of quality and at times we experienced complete disasters with service to the point of walking out of one restaurant:
Preflight brunch at Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionist’s Cafe in Heathrow Airport – limited on gluten free options for the other half and whilst my eggs and bacon on a muffin had lots of good point to it, such as crisp bacon and great poached egg with a glorious intensely orange yolk, it was all a bit too precise and nice. Cocktails were good though, their Bloody Mary came with its very own tabasco filled pipette so you could alter it to your taste.
Tired and needing food quickly after hot-footing it to the Berlin Marathon’s running expo to pick up my race pack, instead of finding one of the places on my list, we succumbed to getting food from one of the events traders with typical Berlin fare – Bratwurst, currywurst and fries, it did the job satisfying any hunger pangs.
Saturday morning started off well with brunch at Parker Bowles, in fashionable district Kreuzberg. Open all day, their menus go from breakfast through to dinner, including a range of omelettes which we both went for. Great that they all start off being veggie, but can be pimped up with extra bacon or chorizo if you fancy it, our omelettes with a couple of fresh juices went down a treat!
After wandering around the city for a few hours, my legs started getting tired and I didn’t want to ruin myself before the race the following morning. Realising it was also way passed lunchtime, readers my know that lunchtime in our house is 12pm – it was nearly 3pm, we found ourselvesat Gendarmenmarkt and stepped into the nearest Italian we could get a table at, everywhere was either predictably heaving or wasn’t really suitable. Good old marathon special of linguine al bolognese was perfect and a bit of a bargain too!
One disadvantage of eating lunch late was knowing we’d probably be eating dinner fairly late too, in hindsight we should’ve booked somewhere, but we didn’t and we’ve learned from our mistakes! The first restaurant we tried – Ristorante Malatesta, we’d been given a table about to be cleared in their outside dining area, and were asked to stand and wait for it to be done. Ok, no problem this would’ve been fine, but it took so long we ended up looking like complete lemons stood next to the front door. Eventually it was cleared and we plonked ourselves down with a couple of menus I picked up from the side, we then watched as waiting staff basically whizzed around completely ignoring us, when we did manage to get eye contact they joked if we were ready to pay the bill!!!! We hadn’t even ordered, let alone eaten anything!!! Not at any one time did a member of staff give us the time of day – it was truly horrendous!! I know it was very busy, but there’s one thing being busy and making an effort to keep customers happy, it’s completely different when the staff are completely oblivious! We ended up walking out completely frustrated!!
So still on the look out for a feed, we ended up in another Italian a few blocks down the road, its name I’ve forgotten though. We were slightly more lucky this time, this time our order was taken but took an hour to get to us, we even worked our way through a bottle of wine which seemed to trigger some action from staff…I wonder why?! Apologies for the sarcasm, this is completely for want of a better phrase a first world problem and life could be a million times worse, however, it’s not the best when you know you need to eat, get a good nights sleep if possible, get up early to run in a race you worked towards for ten months. At least this place, did try to make amends for their confusion and delays, but I think I was so peeved I couldn’t be bothered with the whole thing – I just wanted to eat and go to bed! Like I said earlier, in hindsight we should’ve booked and have definitely learned the hard way!!
The race itself was amazing and tough in equal measure, the crowds were fantastic and it was wonderful to run with so many thousands of people from first-timers to the world’s elite at the same time; approximately 40,000 had entered the race and 36,000 finished it! Having the chance to see parts of the city I’d never seen before was a treat too and getting a new PB was the icing on the cake!
I distinctly remember nearly two years earlier after running my first marathon, I hardly ate anything, a few crisps was as much as I could handle. This time I was on much better form and actually managed a tasty plate of Augustiner sausages on mash and white cabbage at Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt. Such a different experience from our attempts at dinner the night before – it was just as busy but service was jovial, friendly and efficient, our server also gave great recommendations in particular the sweet mustard condiment that was offered.
The next few hours were spent resting up and having my legs rollered to stretch out the muscles – trust me they needed it, followed by dinner at well known North African restaurant Baraka. Reminding me very much of Leeds’ Caravanserai or one of my current local favourites Jeitta in Woking, the lady who served us was friendly and efficient, from a menu that’s not massive by any means there’s still enough choice to suit. I found the food tasty, in particular the tagine with meatballs and cous cous which was delicious.
I’m sure I’ll be back in Berlin again as it’s got so much to offer with its cultural heritage and the fantastic food and drink scene, next time I’ll be a spectator if the race is on so I can make the most of it.
Hi, I'm Diane and welcome to my blog. I'm currently hopping between Leeds and the South finding the best and the worst in food and drink whilst on my travels. You'll find reviews and recommendations, sometimes the odd thing about running, travel and my life in general.