Category Archives: Gluten free

The Cat’s Pyjamas, Leeds 

Hmmmm….Indian street food….small plates in Leeds….definitely rings a bell?! Leeds has its fair share of outstanding establishments – Bundobust and Manjit’s Kitchen automatically spring to mind, then there’s Prashad further afield in Drighlington who’ve flown the flag of great Indian food for years! So when The Cat’s Pyjamas opened in Headingley, I wondered how it would compare to these already well-loved spots, also how it would fit into the area itself. Back in the day, Headingley and Woodhouse Lane were the perfect places for a messy curry, I remember many a memorable night spent at Tariqs, Akmals or even Nafees (a late-nighter, think it’s now the Balti King?), so along with Khana Bombay Cafe is there a new breed of curry houses populating this part of Leeds?

I’d missed their launch event, but a few positive reviews and tempting food snaps on Instagram was enough to get us turning up on spec a few weeks ago. Already quite busy at 6pm, we managed to nick a table in-between bookings. One early plus was the varied gluten free menu, which kept my husband happy! Pity we were still a tad full from lunch at Lupe’s Cantina Mexicana, so instead of ordering a table full we sensibly chose a pickle tray/poppadoms, a couple of starters and a curry with rice. Of the two starters my favourite was the Keralan beef fry, an unexpected dish as the cow is considered a sacred animal in many parts of India, Kerala being an exception. Here the meat was beautifully tender and highly spiced. The Tandoori mixed grill didn’t really blow me away – the tikka prawns were juicy and gilafi seekh kebab (lamb) well flavoured, but I found the malai tikka (chicken) lacklustre, even though a mint chutney helped bring it to life I found it a bit wanting. 

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Tandoori mixed grill,  Keralan beef fry

The Kheema Matar was generously portioned up and as it was packed with minced lamb it was filling and I doubt I could’ve eaten the whole thing on my own. This highly flavoured dish came with a warming smack of heat and the addition of peas provided some sweetness to the dish.

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Kheema matar and pilau rice

Overall I liked the food, there were a lot of positives, but still a work in progress. Also considering it’s in Headingley, the place isn’t particularly cheap and I feel you get better value and tastier food elsewhere. 

The Cat’s Pyjamas

53 Otley Rd

Leeds

LS6 3AB

http://www.thecatspjs.co.uk

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Norse, Harrogate 

Norse has become one of the North’s best restaurants over the last couple of years, earning a fantastic reputation for quality. If you haven’t heard if it, it’s basically located in Baltzersens  – a cracking Scandinavian cafe in the heart of Harrogate, North Yorkshire. The place produces food influenced by Nordic cuisine and places great importance of the provenance of their ingredients, making the most of the fantastic produce the local area has to offer. 

After being lucky enough to try their food a couple of times, once at a taster event and at the Leeds Indie Food festival last year, for some reason my attempts to get back there never materialised and then being based in the South, I could only get there on trips back up which are never as often as I’d like!

A few weeks ago, we had a few days back in Leeds and took the opportunity to go for the other half’s birthday. Now even though he’d loved their food at Leeds Indie Food festival, he couldn’t remember it! So when we walked passed he said ‘so where’ve you brought me this time?’, like it was some sort of random place I’d conjured up. I was more than confident that he’d love it and couldn’t wait to get stuck in! The staff are very knowledgable and happily offered advice and explained ingredients and other questions. All done without being stuffy, just dead relaxed and informal. We picked four dishes, all clearly marked as gluten free so we could share freely, without any worries of later discomfort etc! Their drinks menu is also well worth a look, all carefully sourced, lots of care and attention is taken into partnering drinks with food.  

Here are photos of our experience, I won’t go into stupid detail about each dish and why I loved all the intricacies etc, but I will say that the food is such high quality, the ingredients work so well together that any curiosities there may have been all paled into significance on eating. The place deserves all the praise it gets and I hope to get back a lot sooner next time. Oh yeah, even my husband really enjoyed it too! 

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Bread and grains, pea and mint, and beetroot and ginger schnapps

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Top: slow cooked pheasant egg w/ broad beans, pickled eryngi mushrooms and sprouting rye. Bottom: cured mackerel tartare w/ beetroot, fermented red currants , ransom skyr and squid ink crisp.

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Top: Cornish turbot w/ roasted salsify, hay-baked mussel sauce and pickled clams. Bottom: Loin and BBQ lamb shoulder w/ Yorkshire peas, garlic, celeriac and lamb sauce.

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Norse

22 Oxford St

Harrogate

HG1 1PU

http://www.norserestaurant.co.uk

 

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

 

Chinese New Year @ Naturally Chinese, Surbiton

Increasingly more places are getting to grips with catering for those with a gluten intolerance, however it can still be a challenge at times, in particular for those with a love of asian food. When Chinese New Year arrives the other half would usually have slim pickings, where dishes not containing the dreaded gluten would be few and far between. Luckily since moving down south, we’ve found Naturally Chinese – the first Chinese restaurant to be gluten free accredited. As you can imagine this is no mean feat, making it the obvious place for us to go for Chinese New Year. 

Having been last year we knew it was good, booking in advance to avoid disappointment, we turned up Friday evening. For me it was a bit of a triple whammy meal – Chinese New Year, end of half term and Valentine’s Day.

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Automatically my eyes head straight towards the starters to see if there’s any dim sum on the menu. My favourite ha gau dumplings were a given, juicy prawns wrapped in gelatinous translucent wrappers, followed by crispy belly pork (of course) with a good meat to fat ratio and decent crackling. Whilst gluten free goodies included crispy squid, spring rolls made with rice paper and a beef brisket hot pot. Service was friendly, not over-facing and like our previous visit were on hand for advice with the gluten free menu. Personally I can’t fault Naturally Chinese – it’s a popular restaurant, however still retains a relaxed ambience, the food is spot on and those with a gluten intolerance can rest easy in the knowledge that all the highest standards and guidelines have been followed to the nth degree.

Starters – ha gau, prawn toast, spring rolls and crispy squid
Crispy squid
Rice paper spring rolls
Sesame prawn toast
Roast pork belly, beef brisket hot pot
Beef brisket hot pot
Crispy pork belly

Naturally Chinese

59-63 Brighton Road

Surbiton

Surrey

KT6 5LR

http://www.naturallychineserestaurant.co.uk