Category Archives: cheap eats

OnRoundhay Festival Preview, by Lucy Reynolds 

I am currently counting down the days to the OnRoundhay Festival on Saturday 17th September and I’m happy that it’s less than a month away now. Aside from the awesome combo of bands like Wolf Alice, Primal Scream and the mighty James, I am equally excited (OK, it’s food…I’m a lot more excited) about the John Lewis Food Village, which appears to offer a little bit of just about everything to the hungry festival goer. Leeds Indie Food are offering an embarrassment of riches, with Loiner legends Manjit’s Kitchen and Laynes Espresso, alongside a personal favourite of mine, The Madeleine Express, which is basically Noisette Bakehouse on wheels. If you haven’t tried one of Sarah’s cakes, you haven’t lived. The sea salt chocolate brownie is so delectable, you’d sell your granny to get another!

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Manjit’s Kitchen
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Laynes Espresso
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Madeleine Express

I’m not one to just stay with my tried and tested favourites though. After a lot of dancing and prancing to music, I will definitely be trying dishes from Clawhide, Bánh mì Booth, Yakumama and Piggie Smalls. It also appears to be the year of the ‘shack’ with The Mac Shac, Crabbieshack and Longhorn’s BBQ shack serving up tasty treats…I hope I actually have time to catch the music. There are even more food stalls to choose from…I’ll just have to fast for a week I suppose and then blog about my gluttony after, giving all my gastronomic choices the obligatory shout out. Phew, I feel stuffed already. 

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Claw hide
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Bánh mì Booth
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Yakumama’s tacos

And to top that, we have just had the exciting announcement that Olia Hercules, of Mamushka fame, is going to be part of the Chef line up, joining fellow gastronauts like Murray Wilson of Horto, Greg Lewis of Pintura and Simon Jewitt of Norse, along with other accomplished chefs from far and wide. So much to see and only one day – I’ll make sure to wear my running shoes to get around everything I want to see.

The OnRoundhay Festival marks the long awaited opening of the Leeds’ branch of John Lewis and I, for one, cannot wait! Just another jewel in Leeds’ crown – make this honorary Northerner a bit dewy eyed. Who needs London when you’ve got Leeds? 

http://www.onroundhayfestival.com

All photos courtesy of I Like Press


 

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?! 

Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana, Leeds

Social media is still my first port of call when it comes to finding out what’s new and worth trying out, so a quick twitter request threw up a couple of suggestions prior to my Leeds visit. There’s so many new places opening up it can be tricky filtering out the good from the bad. One that instantly appealed was Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana on Cardigan Road, thanks to blogger bigspoonlittlespoon.com for the recommendation! The place doesn’t have a website, but it’s Facebook page had lots of glowing reports and so my decision was made pretty swiftly.

Located on the lower part of Cardigan Road, for those in the know it’s just passed the Spar petrol station on the left, opposite the Harold’s (as I call them) and from the street looks like a roadside cafe that’s been pimped up with vivid yellow walls and Mexican skull wall art – I loved it straight away!


The place was definitely deceptive in terms of size, from the street it looked small, but its open kitchen and bar sat nicely alongside the dining space leaving enough room for plenty of tables. A comprehensive menu, very clearly laid out was on show with guacamole, salads, ceviche, street food, seafood sides, meat dishes, tacos and enchiladas – lots being gluten free, great for when the other half comes back for a visit too; if it was any good that is! Drinks-wise they offer beer, cocktails and soft drinks, including some traditional Mexican offerings, we went for the Agua de Jamaica; intrigued by a concoction of hibiscus flower, sugar and water. Sweet without being sickly, it was perfectly refreshing.

The place itself had only opened a few weeks earlier, after lots of eager diners kept asking when it was opening. A relaxed, warm welcome made us feel at home quickly and our food came out at a steady pace, we were in no rush and were happy to graze. From the four items we picked, there was lots to enjoy and commend – homemade thin, crisp tortilla chips served with salsas that tasted homemade too – the tomato one didn’t resemble a standard chunky salsa I’m more accustomed too, was full of freshness and heat where required. From the street food section the flautas was a highlight – a crispy rolled tortilla filled with mildly spiced chicken and topped with earthy black beans, a tomato salsa, sour cream and mild queso fresco which all worked so well together. The sopes rancheros was another tasty mouthful – the shredded beef in an adobe sauce had a delicate piquancy, more hearty black beans, all balanced out with avocado and queso fresco.

Agua de Jamaica
Tortillas w/ salsa
Flautas
Sopes rancheros
Queso Fundido

It’s probably obvious I really liked Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana, it’s open for lunch and dinner so get yourself down there!!! It’s an informal and relaxed affair, the food is so so good, there’s plenty for meat lovers, veggies, also lots of gluten free dishes and it’s all kind on the pocket!!

Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana 

204 Cardigan Road

Leeds

https://www.facebook.com/lupescantinamexicana/?rf=203829306636135

Khana Bombay Cafe, Leeds

Many moons ago, when I first moved to Leeds my mates and I would start out the weekend in Headingley. Every Friday, I’d get there around 4pm with a friend/work colleague and we’d set up stall in the Arc. On a weekly basis a ritual of feasting on plates of potato wedges with white wine started?!?! Who knows why, it sounds bizarre now! Our mates would join us and at closing time we’d pile into taxis and head into town, Oporto to be exact, which is where we’d be until the early hours. One thing I also remember was back in those days, the Lounge cinema was still doing business on the corner by the Arc, one of the last films I watched there was Lord of the Rings one December (not sure which part) we’d sit on the red velvet seats with our drinks from the downstairs bar. 

How things have changed since those days – the Lounge closed years ago, was vacant for ages and my memory fails me to what’s been there in recent times, but obviously nothing that had staying power. 

My jaunt up to Leeds in the Easter hols had come after my Chicago trip, so my spending budget was tight – always frustrating when I just want to try as many spots as possible! 

For one reason or another, Headingley was were I was catching up with an old mate, and keeping an eye on the city’s food scene I sort’ve knew there were a few places to try. Khana Bombay Cafe was one that was open all day and their food deals came as a bonus. Advertised as an all-day cafe the menu has lots to get the juices flowing, and in a similar style to faves Bundobust and Tharavadu have gone for a modern feel. 

The restaurant benefits from large windows letting light in and also the upstairs for extra dining space. Whilst downstairs there’s an open kitchen, a spot of nostalgia on the walls with old photos and the odd bit of quirky decoration, e.g. the front of a truck doubling as the front of a counter. The bit I found a little odd were the ropes, picking a table by the window meant I was faced by ropes slightly reminiscent of nooses hanging from the ceiling. These ropes draped across towards the window and hung down like school gym ropes, you probably know the ones I mean?! Maybe I just didn’t get the whole aesthetic!


The deals on paper looked straight forward, but needed clarification – could we still get 50% off the lunchtime offer – which was a good one in its own right. The answer was ‘yes’, so after quite a long time perusing the menu and chatting, we got our act together and ordered.

The lunch deals looked too tempting – 3 small plates for £10, followed by curry/biryani with two sides for £14 and by sticking to water, we hoped for a bargain lunch especially with the 50% discount also applying.

Apart from a couple of other tables we were the only people there, it was Easter hols so students were few and far between. Smells from the kitchen very gently wafted across, suggesting a decent ventilation system especially with an open kitchen! 

Waiting times were fine, as they should’ve been considering it wasn’t busy, so soon we were brought a vegetable samosa chaat, chicken kathi roll and an aloo tikka. My favourite was the kathi roll, which on its own was a good size and filled with lots of nicely spiced chicken. The samosa chaat was tasty, but lacked the punch I was expecting, my love of the samosa chaat from street food queen Manjit of Manjit’s Kitchen remains. The balance between crunch from samosa and soft chickpea and tangy sauce was a bit off kilter too, personally a little less of the chickpea and more samosa for me, but that’s me being very picky. The aloo tikka were also gently spiced and could’ve been a little crisper on the outside, however tasty nonetheless. 

A short wait for the main courses brought a chicken karahi, plain naan and steamed rice, all of which couldn’t be faulted. The curry was really enjoyable, had the spiciness I expected and came in a generous portion. I love it when naan breads aren’t piddly tiny things and this wasn’t, coming with a bit of chew and beautifully blistered and gnarly every now and again it was a good one. The rice, steamed was lovely and fluffy, so all in all the three together was a winner in my book. 

So how much did our lunch come to – an absolute steal at £12.35 in total!!! I’m not sure how long the deal is on for, if it is remember to book online to qualify for the discount. Overall Khana Bombay Cafe is doing lots of things right, the food’s tasty and service is friendly. It’s great to see the place being used again – I hope it lasts!!

Khana Bombay Cafe

North Lane

Headingley 

Leeds

http://khanabombaycafe.com

 

Where To Eat Pizza

Everyone knows that pizza is one of the most popular things to eat, now you can find out where the best pizza slingers can be found virtually anywhere in the world.

How?

Well, publishing group Phaidon have released a new book, aptly named Where To Eat Pizza, by author Daniel Young, the man responsible for the London Pizza Festival. Last year, I was kindly asked to contribute to the book with my recommendations for Leeds; I reckon it must’ve been my constant banging on about the great and good of the city that did the trick.

The book compiles the favourites of a whole host of food lovers from chefs, critics to bloggers like me. The result – a staggering 1700+ entries world-wide are listed, so pizza lovers out there will be hard-pressed to not find a decent slice or two!  For each city included there’s a map pinpointing each entry and a description of why it’s part of the list. 

  

To find out about my recommendations, or for the best places around the globe Where To Eat Pizza is available to buy now, both online and from all good book shops!!