Category Archives: breakfast

Chicago

Ok, so why visit Chicago?? It’s probably not the first place that springs to mind when picking a North American holiday, but as we found out it’s got lots going for it. Before the trip my knowledge of the city came from stuff like the Chicago marathon, their love of deep dish pizza, Edward Hopper’s painting ‘Nighthawks’, being called the Windy City and watching The Good Wife. Fairly standard stuff, apart from that I was a bit clueless. 

Here’s some great things about the city:

It’s so flat!!

Chicago’s dead easy to get around on foot, but if walking big distances aren’t your thing or you want to venture further afield, the L (elevated train system) is cheap and straightforward to use. On our walkabouts we found Chicagoans so likeable and friendly, the city was far less crowded than New York and I’d say a lot more relaxed too.

Make the most of FREE stuff!!

One of the best things was the amount of free stuff to enjoy, including:

Millenium Park 

A public park slap bang in the Loop where you’ll find Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavillion and the Crown Fountain. Definitely a tourist magnet, Cloud Gate’s seen from North Michigan Avenue and is a landmark that just lures people in.

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Free views anyone?!

As much as I wanted to experience the Sky Deck in the Willis Tower, I didn’t like price tag, especially when I found out a well known ‘secret’ spot with a fantastic view for free in the John Hancock Centre. Venturing up to the Signature Room on the 95th floor rewarded us with a great view for nowt, in our case we nipped into the ladies toilets where the photo was taken, as the restaurant wasn’t open yet. 

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We got another free view at Cindy’s in the Chicago Athletic Association, this cool bar has a terrace overlooking Millennium park and cracking cocktails to go with it!

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Chicago Cultural Centre

We loved its Tiffany-stained glass domes, marble lobbies and mother of pearl mosaics. 

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Lincoln Park Zoo 

Easy to get to, lots of different animals (200+ species) to see and free to boot; what’s not to like?! We spent a couple of hours there easy!

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Museum of Contemporary Photography

Centrally located, just off Millennium Park and the Chicago Institute of Art. It was one of our lasts stops before our plane back to the UK and I’m glad we managed to fit it in as this small but perfectly formed museum likes to show contemporary work from new national and international photographers.  

Public art 

The city has so much free art on display, some donated by world famous artists, such as Picasso, Miro, Chagall and Henry Moore. We saw many wandering around the city, whilst many were in the city’s municipal buildings. 

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Garfield Park Conservatory 

Easily reached with a trip on the L, this is one of the largest conservatories in the country and was well worth a trip out. There’s a beautiful palm house, fern room, dessert house and tonnes more. If you LOVE succulents, cacti, ferns and palms you will absolutely LOVE this place!

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National Museum of Mexican Art

Another highlight reached by a trip out of town on the L, this museum’s located in the Pilsen neighbourhood. The area itself has lots of character with street art and this gem of a museum, full of thought provoking and beautiful pieces. I wished we’d been able to spend more time to really explore Pilsen, in particular see the colourful murals and try out some of amazing Mexican food we kept smelling. 

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Explore the outer neighbourhoods

I kept reading about Chicago’s hipster suburbs and in hindsight we should’ve done more of it. The 606 is a useful stretch to consider – an elevated park trail linking four neighbourhoods together (Humboldt Park, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Bucktown). A couple of hours spent in Wicker Park before our flight home were definitely well spent, soaking in a bit of suburban culture and a tasty Furious Spoon ramen feed en route.

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Chicago by night

Many of the buildings become illuminated and bring the city’s skyline to life at night. 

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Obviously not everything’s free (shame), here’s some of our favourites:

Chicago Institute of Art 

A place I could’ve stayed all day – their collection of American Art, Impressionist and Post Impressionist pieces were plenty to satisfy my artistic needs. One high point was seeing Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, I was like an excited child when I spotted it from afar! 

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Architecture boat tour

This was one of the best things we did – learning about the history of the city, the architects and their buildings that shaped the area after the Great Chicago Fire from interesting and knowledgeable guides. I can’t recommend doing this more, 75 minutes well spent!!

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Great food scene

Maybe it doesn’t possess the reputation of other cities, such as New York and San Francisco, but Chicago has plenty going on. With lots of fantastic independent restaurants and bars, the city has a great food and drink scene to brag about, it’s not all deep dish pizzas and hotdogs either! 

Some of our food highlights included:

Minghin Cuisine – this all day dim sum joint was our first port of call after landing in the city. With lots of dim sum classics and roasted meats to choose from, I was completely in my element and ordered far too much (no surprise there!), and ended up being so full I couldn’t manage any more food until the following day!

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Korean at Crisp was a great lunch stop – quick service, inexpensive menu choices (korean burritos, bibimbap, sandwiches, fried chicken etc) and really tasty food. My Seoul steak bowl of bulgogi beef and rice, paired with two awesome sauces was particularly good, inparticular their mayo based ‘atomic sauce’ and ‘smoky spicy BBQ,’ a spicy gochujang sauce.

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Japanese at Momotaro was booked weeks in advance after reading fab reviews. The restaurant, located in popular Fulton Market District had an interesting cocktail list and mixologists who definitely knew their stuff. Waiting staff were helpful, which was much needed as the menu covers a lot of bases, so even for those knowledgeable with Japanese cuisine it may take of bit of deciphering. For me the hot dishes stood out more compared to the sushi, but on the whole we enjoyed the experience.

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The Publican in Fulton Market District is one of the city’s current hotspots (along with Momotaro), it’s basically a large beer hall serving great food and lots of it! Expect a menu heavily laden with seafood and pork dishes, brought to diners sitting at long communal tables stretching across the hall from end to end.

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Tanta, this Peruvian restaurant really showed off the art of fusion food, with a concoction of European and Asian influences their menu makes a point of the cuisine’s diversity. I really liked the helpful serving staff, great cocktails; the Pisco Sour is recommended, great plates ideal for sharing and a lively atmosphere. We really loved the anticuchos skewers with New York strip, potatoes, corn and huacatay and the chafe aeropuerto, a side dish  of pork fried rice in a hot bowl, topped with a shrimp tortilla and a huge smack of spicy garlic in there for good measure. Enough to get scare off vampires! 

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Frontera Grill (N. Clark Street) was our Saturday brunch spot. A popular haunt with locals and tourists alike, it soon became full after we arrived and I’m not surprised – great brunch cocktails, lots of choice on the menu, really friendly staff and tasty food.

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Coffee 

Chicago has great specialty coffee shops committed to serving direct trade coffee, we visited a few whilst we were there including Bowtruss, Intelligentsia and Asado. These three are definitely worth popping into with skilful baristas and great coffee!

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Doughnuts

I had no idea Chicago had a thing for doughnuts, but the city has shops aplenty with a huge variety for anyone with a sweet tooth to try! We saw many people going in for breakfast, one with a coffee seemed the done thing, from a long list we tried Firecakes, Do-Rite and Glazed and Infused, our favourite was definitely Firecakes. Personally I  found many just too big and too sweet (emphasising my lack of a sweet tooth), however saying that I still wish we’d managed to try The Doughnut Vault and Bombobar also.

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Have you been to Chicago, what did you make of it?

Is there anything we should’ve done that we didn’t?! 

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Lantana Cafe, Shoreditch

I’ve openly declared my love of brunch plenty of times here, in particular the boozy variety, but where did it all start….well a trip to Dublin where friends introduced us to the past-time at one of their favourite haunts Dillinger’s started the love affair and the rest is history. A couple of weekends ago we had a long overdue catch up but without crossing the Irish Sea, as they now live in London which is great for us! Being within easy driving distance we arrived at their flat in the Hoxton area of the city and deliberately hadn’t eaten all morning in readiness for late Saturday brunch and an ensuing all day session. A spot of research pointed me in the direction of Lantana Cafe on City Road and we arrived during what seemed peak time – just before 12pm, joining the back of a queue 5/6 deep.

After waiting around 10/15 minutes a member of staff looked at the queue and proceeded talking to the front half taking note of party numbers, whilst ignoring the rest of us! Pretty poor form, the issue was they hadn’t got an overall view of numbers they could’ve seated customers much more effectively with the tables they had remaining. Unfortunately they didn’t, so when it was our turn to be seated next, staff hadn’t accounted for our party of five and the next available tables only accommodated couples or a group of four. Basically meaning people who’d literally just walked in got seated straight away, we’d been waiting at least 25/30 minutes by then. All that without any form of apology whatsoever, we’d hoped for a better start. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand how it can be when a place is busy and staff are trying their best to please everyone. I’ve worked in restaurants and been in the same situation, but the basics should be paramount.

After one further wait we sat down, we quickly perused the food menu and briskly got our drinks order while we had the attention from a staff member – all zoning in on cocktails. The waitress asked if we’d wanted any coffees, we and simply replied ‘oh no, cocktails please!!’ A few Bloody Mary’s, an Aperol Spritz and mimosa ordered, it took a little while to get them so in the meantime we nabbed a staff member to take our food order. Aperol Spritz and mimosa are hard to get wrong and as it turned out were thirst quenchingly refreshing, however the Bloody Mary’s were very much on the tame side, lacked kick and were due a couple of twists of cracked black pepper, tabasco and some celery salt.

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The food looked great, but it didn’t arrive at the same time, with one of us having a sizeable wait (actually the whole table, because we didn’t want to be rude and start eating) and once again no apology when it was brought over.

Service aside, my breakfast burger was just what I needed with a really tasty meaty/herby sausage patty, crisp streaky bacon, a perfect fried egg with compulsory runny yolk, avocado and a little kick from a chilli ketchup. Supposedly there was some smoked cheese in the mix – the cheese element was definitely apparent, the smokiness not so much, whether it actually needed it was another question. On paper it sounded a lot, but in reality it wasn’t too large, I didn’t feel overfaced and if I’m honest was a bit relieved, especially knowing full well how all day sessions with these lot pan out.

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There was a similar feeling about the food across the table – we couldn’t grumble on portion size, the food cooked well, was tasty and did what a good brunch does and set us up nicely for the day ahead. There was spicy chorizo, runny poached eggs, silky scrambled eggs, salty crispy bacon and charred halloumi there to please. It was the niggles with service that made our experience really frustrating, and it was a shame because for me, having great service is so important! Apart from the initial wait, trying time after time to get the attention of waiting staff, and it wasn’t if we weren’t making it plainly obvious, while staff wandered past us countless times, without even an acknowledgment to the point where we just gave up. 

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Corn fritters stacked with streaky bacon, fresh spinach, roast tomatoes, smashed avocado, lemon crème fraiche with extra chorizo and halloumi cheese
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Poached eggs and pork and leek sausages on toast
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The Full Lantana – poached eggs with fried potato bread, bacon, roasted mushrooms, house baked beans and extra black pudding

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Scrambled eggs with streaky bacon on toast

Overall the food at Lantana was great, the Bloody Mary and their service needs work. 

Lantana Cafe

Unit 2

1 Oliver’s Yard

55 City Rd

London

EC1Y 1HQ

Birthday brunch @ Balans Soho Society, Kensington 

If an actual reason was needed for Sunday brunch, then the morning after a night of birthday celebrations is as good a reason as any!! We’d stayed the night at a mates in Fulham and wanted to keep things local, no one fancies traipsing across London in search of a morning feed after a late night! Balans Soho Society had a good combination of location, menu choice and price so after a short hop on the bus to Kensington High Street we were there and within minutes we’d ordered a compulsory bloody Mary and prosecco!

 

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Their all day brunch menu has a mix of global influences resulting in a wide choice, including eggs Benedict, masala omelette, quesadilla, roast chicken and bacon cobb with ranch dressing or Thai inspired rare beef salad.

Welcoming, friendly service and a relaxed, warm atmosphere made it a good place to spend a few hours while we gradually woke ourselves up from the night before. My High Society Eggs Benedict was basically a pimped up eggs Benedict with additional crispy bacon, avocado and lobster. Avocado seems to have cult status at the moment, so any dish where it graces a presence tends to be a popular one! I would’ve liked more acidity in the hollandaise and would criticise the meagre amount of lobster on the plate – I’d built my hopes up after spying an Instagram photo which had a far more generous amount! Despite any minor faults it was a yummy plate of food though.

The Soho Full English – this classic breakfast can sometimes look like a car crash on a plate, however there are some, such as The Greedy Pig’s version (full on meat or veggie alternative) which always looks picture perfect and delivers on the aim of satisfying the morning hunger pangs. This one looked the part with the compulsory elements spruced up with poached eggs, field mushrooms and potatoes and was well received.

The birthday girl was celebrating another year with French toast and a scattering of banana, strawberries and syrup. This would’ve been the last thing I would’ve chosen, with my hatred for bananas and sickly sweet syrup. However, who was I to argue when the birthday girl who normally eats very slowly and predictably finishes her plate last, was the first to finish and by a long stretch at that!  

Masala omelette was a tasty affair – well spiced with a whack of chilli heat, cooked so soft in the middle and sat alongside their fried potatoes making it a filling mid morning meal! 

All in all Balans is a good brunch option in London, fairly priced and with a few spots around the city your not limited by location. 

Balans Soho Society

187 Kensington High Street

London

W8 6SH

Where To Eat In Leeds!!

I began writing this post in January with the aim of it going on the blog when I was about to head down south, as that’s virtually happened here it is! The other day some friends asked if I’d eaten everywhere in Leeds and of course I haven’t, however I think I’ve tried many of the best and some of the worst in the city and can give some sort of judgement for what it’s worth. In the early days our regular haunts were places like The Reliance, Arts Cafe, Lucky Dragon (sadly no more), Salvos and Viva Cuba and fast forward fourteen years and the landscape has changed so much already, I can imagine on my visits back how it’s going to alter even further!!

With all this choice, choosing where to get a feed can be an arduous task, so to give you a helping hand in the decision making I’ve come up with my list of where to eat in the city. I’ve categorised them as best as I can, I’m sure there’s probably a better way of doing it, but I’ve tried my best.

I see this list as a flexible one, one that’ll change with new additions and possibly deletions if needed. Apologies to any more than worthy establishments left off, this list could go on and on all down to the fact the depth of quality available now is so good, but it has to stop somewhere! 

NB: places with an asterisk * are probably my absolute faves, I’ve included establishments which I’ve heard great things about on my ‘wish list’ and ones I’ve enjoyed that need revisiting.

Coffee / breakfast / brunch

*Laynes Espresso

Go for the best coffee, snappily dressed baristas and gorgeous baked goods from local baking legends Noisette Bakehouse, That Old Chestnut and Dumouchel! Prefer something savoury? The avocado on sourdough is a must even though it looks too beautiful to eat, or maybe one of their tasty sandwiches. Currently with two locations; the original on New Station Street, the second at Belgrave Music Hall, a third is soon to be revealed from a collaboration with Duke Studios resulting in the Sheaf St Cafeteria!

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Mrs Atha’s

Visit for its beautiful space with a bohemian vibe, great locally roasted Maude coffee and pretty vintage cups and spoons not just to gaze at, but also to use. Great for brunch – their pancakes win every time! 

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Opposite

One of Leeds’ coffee indie originals and still up there with the best, its VQ hub is great for a pick me up whilst on the run, if your lucky to be near Chapel Allerton, head to the shop for a sit down, great Square Mile coffee and a slice of a little something from superstar vegan bakers That Old Chestnut.

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La Bottega Milanese

Their coffee’s served with Italian passion and partnered with pastries, antipasti and homemade pasta. With two venues to choose from; one in The Light and a second outpost in the city’s financial district on Bond Court.

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*The Greedy Pig

Visit for food cooked with love, the best full English and veggie breakfast in town at a bargain price too. What the place lacks in square footage it makes up for with great food and service from genuinely lovely people. If you spot their homemade scotch eggs on the counter, make sure you grab one before their all gone!

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*Grub and Grog Shop

Found in the relaxed surroundings of Northern Monk Refectory, their breakfast/brunch menu’s a real treat for anyone! There’s no half measures taken here and you’ll thank yourself for going – think homemade crumpets, breakfast baps, buckwheat blinis, kedgeree…the list goes on. Beverage wise there’s locally roasted North Star for a coffee fix and also Sheffield’s Birdhouse Tea Company for your drinking pleasure. 

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Belgrave Music Hall – Laynes Brunch

Usually held monthly (apart from summer months) Laynes Espresso currently serve Sunday brunch at Belgrave Music Hall and it’s a real Sunday treat. The regularly changing menu always has something a bit special for both lovers of the savoury or the sweet. Previous dishes have included sourdough french toast, sweetcorn fritters, salt beef hash all with extra trimmings! 

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On the wish list – Sociable Folk on Wellington Place and Kapow on The Calls.

Pan-Asian

*My Thai

My current fave amongst an ever-growing number of Thai spots in the city, with top quality food that’s dead cheap! It’s not the biggest spot which adds to the charm of the place, so booking ahead could be the way to go, if you are unlucky takeout is always good option saving you even more of your hard earned cash!

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Thai Aroy Dee

This very popular restaurant finally reopened a few doors from their original site after much anticipation……a few glitches on my first visit back, but I’ve been hearing good things since. Great to see their bargainous lunch offer is still available too – £6.95 for two courses! 

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NOM Deli

Leeds doesn’t have many Vietnamese spots to my knowledge, but this is definitely a handy one to know. Found on Great George Street and run by a lovely couple passionate about the food from their homeland. Their menu maybe short, but everything is made really well, in particular their Banh Mi’s baguettes which are damn good! Opening hours are limited, however they are perfect for lunch and kind to the pocket!! 

*Noodle House

This place may feel like a cafe, but the food it cooks up are restaurant quality! Mostly Chinese with a few Malaysian additions, you’ll see dishes ranging from tasty, filling wonton soup to roasted belly pork and rice, even suckling pig if your organised. Great food, quick friendly service and value for money. 

Bulgogi Grill

The idea of Bulgogi Grill is to cook your own dinner, think marinated meats and seafood, wrapped in lettuce with pickled veg, rice and lettuce! It’s not the cheapest on paper, but diners get lots for their money – you won’t leave hungry! Friendly and attentive without being in your face. On the up side it’s interactive and a bit of fun, on the downside it’s hard not to end up smelling of grilled food! 

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Fuji Hiro

Fuji’s been around for years and is still a popular choice for many, with its no frills canteen style feel and sizeable noodle and rice dishes. My go to dishes are edamame beans, ebi or spicy beef gyoza, then yaki soba or cha han. The two course set meals is the way to go here.  

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Sushi Waka

There aren’t many decent sushi places in the city, but this is one of them. At times the service can be a little sketchy, but they’ve definitely improved since opening. If sushi isn’t your thing, they also have an extensive menu covering all things like noodles, rice and Bento boxes!

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Another notable favourite – BangWok and their glorious pad thai, currently open weekday lunchtimes!!! 

On the wish list – Line Thai Oriental on Great George Street I hear is doing some good things. Also May’s Thai Cafe in Hyde Park – loved her food when she traded at Kirkgate Market, but am yet to visit the cafe. 

Curry

Tharavadu

Tharavadu have won an army of fans and awards aplenty with their warm, friendly staff and stunning Keralan food. Always seems busy, lunch (bargain lunch deal on offer) or dinner.

One to revisit- The Corner Cafe on Burley Road.

Prashad and Bundobust fit into this category as well!!

Vegetarian / vegan

Prashad

Go to Prashad for superb Gujarati cooking where even the most stubborn carnivore has been known not to miss meat! Definitely worth a little trip to Drighlington!

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*Bundobust

This popular bar is just as well loved in its alternative guise as a street food venue, the two go hand in hand with their well crafted drinks menu and equally well thought food offerings. I ALWAYS find it really difficult not ordering a table full of food here, it’s a great spot any time of day, however week day lunch times they currently have a deal on – 2 dishes for £7.

Humpit

Found in the beautiful surroundings of the Corn Exchange, hummus and falafel are their thing and you won’t go wrong with their the falafel pitta or humpit classic! Run by really lovely people, great value for money and filling! Great spot for lunch in town.

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Central & South American

Cielo Blanco

The younger sibling of Neon Cactus found in Trinity. Think sharing boards, tostadas, burritos and enchiladas paired with cleansing juices and great cocktails. 

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Pinche Pinche

This suburban gem has served the folk of Chapel Allerton for years and has done so with tasty Mexican food. Great for catering to groups of varying sizes, their small plates are ideal for sharing, whilst their burritos, enchiladas or sharing platters can satisfy those with bigger appetites and larger groups!

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One to revisit – Neon Cactus, older sister restaurant of Cielo Blanco. For me, it has to be their feast menu (to share obviously) washed down with a caipirinha or two…!!! 

On the wish list – Casa Colombiana in the Grand Arcade. Tried the coffee but not the food, even though they’ve been on the list for a year!!

BBQ and Burgers

*Patty Smith’s

Arguably serve up the best burgers in Leeds, for me it’s a toss up between their ultra messy Dirty Burger (beef) or the spiced up Colonel Patty (chicken), on the fries side the double portion session fries are pretty awesome with smokey mayo and pancetta!! Find them at their home in Belgrave Music Hall or at festivals around the country.

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On my ‘wish list’ – Boss Burgers on Brudenell Grove,  I’ve heard from many as probably being the best takeaway burger joint in Leeds. Another one I’ve failed to visit and I can’t put my finger on why is Meat Liquor!!

Italian

*Zucco

Cracking Italian in suburban Meanwood, serving up plates to die for; including a mouth watering beef pappardelle and those deep fried zucchini which have semi-legendary status around these parts. Dead friendly staff and lip smackingly good cocktails too. 

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Livin’Italy 

This city centre bar/restaurant has a great selection Italian wines, friendly, knowledgeable staff and a small but great selection of Italian classics on the menu. My go to dishes are their humble lasagne and the porchetta accompanied by the odd Aperol Spritz!  

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Spanish

Bilbao Bar

At lunch and dinner they have a great tapas menu, while on Saturday’s their bar is fully laden with Basque-inspired pintxos, reminding me of time spent in San Sebastian. There are some very reasonable menu deals and you’ll be treated to dead friendly service.

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Pintura Basque Kitchen & Bar

Go here for a modern take on Basque cuisine, inspired by the tastes of northern Spain and their downstairs gin bar. Having visited a couple of times I enjoyed the food and liked the gin bar, but thought the service could be improved a lot. One for a treat, as always with tapas it’s easy to order a table full of food and end up with a hefty bill because it’s not the cheapest.   

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One to revisit – El Bareto, not been for years, but I hear it still delivers the goods! 

On the wish list – La Rambla on East Parade.

North African / Mediterranean

Cafe Moor

This fantastic stall at Kirkgate Market is a firm favourite with Leeds folk! It’s hard to hold yourself back and not to be tempted by a plethora of dips and salads whilst your order is prepared. Only open during market hours though and the popular chicken shawarma has been known to sell out way before closing time. A great spot to bag a bargain for lunch or takeaway tea.

 

Caravanserai

Cafe Moor’s second spot, to the side of the Corn Exchange, with seating upstairs and late opening hours, you get more of that authentic North African food and ambience.   

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Ephesus

This Rodley outpost brings the food of Turkey to Leeds with classics like Iskender kebab, kofte and Pide (Turkish version of pizza). Great food – it would be very easy to get full on the mezze options alone. 

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On my wish list – Darvish on Roundhay Road and Safran on Kirkgate.

Pizza

*Ecco Pizzeria

This Headingley spot has a large menu, so I stick to the classics made by their Neapolitan pizza makers Pizzaiolo, using ingredients imported from Italy. Go for the classic Margherita Ecco – you won’t regret it, but if you prefer something more extravagant no doubt you’ll find it here!

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*Dough Boys

A slice of Dough Boys is hard to resist when you step into the Belgrave Music Hall, especially when it’s half price a slice!!! The Sausage Fest and Baa No More are my personal faves, but every now and again one of their themed pizzas catches my eye. 

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Sela Bar

This subterranean bar has served up great pizzas for years, there’s a short menu but everything is quality. Great vibe in there, especially on Wednesday reggae night.

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Posh / special occasion

The Man Behind The Curtain

Food/art, art/food – Michael O’Hare’s pushing the boundaries and doing it in Leeds which can only be an amazing thing. A tasting menu that not only looks stunning but pushes and prods the senses to the max. Perfect for a special occasion. If the multi-course degustation menu is a little out of your price bracket, they also serve a more pocket friendly lunch Friday/Saturdays.

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Kendells Bistro

Award-winning rustic French cooking from a Yorkshireman, has been a popular choice for many years. Booking is normally essential to nab yourself a table here and the food doesn’t disappoint. My only gripe is that even though the staff are really lovely and friendly, service can be slow – possibly a consequence of its popularity.

British

*The Reliance

A long time favourite of mine – The Reliance is friendly, relaxed, understated and serves great food using seasonal ingredients treated simply all day long. With a thoughtful wine list and beers to match, it’s only got better over the years!

*Grub & Grog Shop

Sublime heartwarming food produced from locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, carefully prepared and beautifully cooked is what you’ll get here. Think charring, pickling, braising and a whole other manner of techniques used to create damn tasty plates!

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Supper clubs / pop-ups

The Noise of Strangers

A collaboration between a number of folk from Leeds’ food and drink scene, including chef Joe Hepworth of Hepworths Deli fame. If you’re lucky to get a ticket to one of their events you’ll be treated to an innovative menu served in an unusual dining space.

*The Swine That Dines

The Greedy Pig’s alter ego where thoughtful dishes are produced often using ingredients which are less commonly used. They may be better known for their love of pleasing the carnivores amongst us, however their vegetarian dishes are prepared and cooked with the equal aplomb. Their BYOB menu is perfect for sharing, all plates are £5 each so two/three people could treat themselves to the whole menu!!! 

Dinner at the Manor

Run by two food lovers who base their BYOB supper club events on well known cook books, it all takes place in a secret location which happens to be one of the homes of these two amateur cooks. You’ll be treated to a glorious multi-course experience and the chance to chat to fellow food lovers. Ticket prices can range depending on the event, but it’s always value for money in my opinion!! 

On the wish list – TrestleThe idea – 12 people sat around one table in an unusual location somewhere in Leeds. Gutted to have never made it to one of their events…. one day maybe….!

Afsaneh’s Persian Kitchen Supper Club for a Persian feast and Mario Olianas’s (from Gusto italiano) Cena Sarda Dining Club for suckling pig!!! 

Other

*Friends of Ham

Another award winner, but rightfully so with thoughtfully selected meat, cheese, wine and craft ales and ciders in beautifully designed surroundings……there’s not much else to say really! Lovely, knowledgable staff who guide even the most clueless (meaning me) person in the art of cheese etc!! You’ll find me sat at the Ham Bar probably with a glass of wine and a board of meat!!! 

Ira B’s

Found in the suburbs of Moortown, this Jewish deli/cafe is a very popular spot. Famed for its sandwiches, including their awesome chicken schnitzel with potato latkes and the Grobber, their version of salt beef on rye reminiscent of what you get in NYC’s Katz’s Deli!!

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One to revisit (over and over) – Belgrave Feast – go for brilliant street food from a whole range of different cuisines, all under one roof in the Belgrave Music Hall, oh I mustn’t forget Sarah’s Noisette Bakehouse with her next level baking creations and Layne’s coffee!!!

I’ll be interested to see how new additions turn out over the next year, such as Turtle Bay, Smokehouse (I wasn’t too impressed by their Sheffield restaurant), The Brunswick and WIno Bar and Merchants!!

Any recommendations for the list of where to try on my visits back would be great!!!

Leeds Food Tour

With the whole leaving Leeds and moving down south thing going on, I planned a mini food tour to visit some of my favourites in and around the city. The massive choice I had at my disposal made whittling choices down a difficult one, but don’t me wrong, it’s a ‘hardship’ I was happy to take on!! An all day feed calls for a little restraint and careful pacing, especially when you eat as much as I do, the last thing I wanted was to be full to bursting after lunch!

So Friday I dragged a friend round with me to kill two birds with one stone; firstly it gave me a great excuse (not that I really need one) to go visit my faves, secondly I could introduce her to a few spots I constantly talk about.

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For breakfast it was a toss up between The Grub and Grog Shop at Northern Monk Refectory and The Greedy Pig; the Pig’s full English is my go-to breakfast (over their pancakes which are also top notch) when I visit, but knowing what the day entailed pushed me towards something smaller. I’d been banging on to the point of exhaustion to my friend about Grub and Grog, so put my money where my mouth was. Their breakfast menu definitely spoils with every dish – my homemade crumpets were made even better by beautiful fermented wild honey and they soon won over my friend with buckwheat blinis with all the trimmings and North Star coffee. I think they’ve won a new fan and she’s vowed to be back.

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Buckwheat blinis with cinnamon, fruit compote and yoghurt

Homemade crumpets with fermented wild honey

My love for Leeds independent coffee scene has been well documented on the blog, so it was inevitable there’d be a mid-morning caffeine stop, the last few years has seen the rise of independents above the many chains scattered across the city and with local roasters, such as North Star and Maude it continues to grow from strength to strength. Of the big four (Laynes Espresso, La Bottega Milanese, Mrs Atha’s and OppositeLaynes is my absolute fave and I’m gonna miss ordering my regular; a piccolo and relaxing even for a short time in the tranquility of the shop, all whilst people watching; whether it be the beautifully attired baristas do their thing or Leeds folk go about their daily business outside.

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Lunch called for great food in relaxed surroundings, so for me The Reliance fitted the bill! This indie’s been a fave since the early days of my life in Leeds, some 14 years ago and we’ve celebrated many events here – birthdays, Christmases and reunions, it’s always drawn me back basically because they do a great job full stop! Its laid back, relaxed atmosphere and friendly service puts you at ease, they understand the use of local, seasonal ingredients and produce great dishes. It doesn’t cost the earth either! 

It surprised us both that we’d unwittingly gone for a veggie lunch and absolutely beautiful it was too – chargrilled courgettes with fettle cheese, chilli and mint, alongside some greens with a knock out hazelnut butter laced with a touch of chilli. I could’ve eaten a double portion of my herb tabbouleh with aubergine, brought it to life with pomegranate seeds – it was pretty damn awesome! An obligatory side of fries was no surprise choice as far as I was concerned, as they’re always good. 

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Chargrilled courgettes, fettle, mint and chilli

Herb tabbouleh with grilled aubergines, Harissa yoghurt and pomegranate

Dinner wasn’t booked till after 7pm, so we had a few leisurely hours to kill – what better way than spending them with cocktails and a mini feed to keep us going?! I wanted to pop into Roland’s for one of their fancy cocktails, but we’d got there before opening time, damn shame, so went back up the street to Neon Cactus for a caipirinha and a lagerita. For the mini feed I suggested Red Chilli, even though their originally from the other side of the Pennines it was the ideal place as I’d developed a hankering for dumplings. Of course one portion of dumplings is never enough, so we also shared salt and pepper chicken wings and sesame pan fried dumplings because lets face it, it had to be done!  Of the few Chinese restaurants my parents have tried in Leeds, even they liked it so that can only be a good thing, especially with their exacting standards. 

Caipirinha and Sammy’s Lagerita

Guotie – shallow fried Beijing dumplings with minced pork

Salt and pepper chicken wings

Pan fried minced pork dumplings with sesame, ginger and spring onion

For dinner my first choice was to revisit Zucco, this Meanwood Italian has established itself amongst the best restaurants in the city. I’m so glad I booked as it got busy quickly and for good reason too – glorious food and friendly service. We settled for two plates each, I predictably went for dishes I’d enjoyed before – beef pappardelle and zucchini, my friend thought her choices in particular the smoked haddock and scallops were beautifully cooked. It was probably a good thing we weren’t really sharing as perhaps that dish didn’t really lend itself to it unlike the others. Regardless, the dishes were cooked faultlessly and it was another place my friend would definitely be keeping in mind for the future. 

Bellini

Smoked haddock and scallops

Deep fried zucchini

Braised beef pappardelle

Flash fried verdura

Originally the plan was to make Bundobust my last stop for a spot of old school supper and join in their 1st birthday celebrations, but however tempting the idea was I just couldn’t manage anything else!!

If you had a day to eat your way through Leeds or anywhere else that matter, where would you go?

http://www.grubandgrog.co.uk

http://www.laynesespresso.co.uk

http://www.the-reliance.co.uk

http://www.neoncactus.co.uk

http://redchillirestaurant.co.uk/leeds/

http://zucco.co.uk

http://www.bundobust.com