Category Archives: lunch

Ricci’s Tapas and Cicchetti and 53 Degrees North opening in Leeds, by Lucy Reynolds

Nestled on the corner of Infirmary Street, the opening of Ricci’s Tapas and Cicchetti and 53 Degrees North has been something that most foodies in Leeds have been waiting for with baited breath and salivating tastebuds. Restauranteur Michael Ricci, after gaining acclaim with his Halifax based restaurant and bar of the same name, is branching out into the opulence of the grade 2 listed building Goodbard House in Leeds, bringing a fusion of experimental Mediterranean tapas and exciting mixology. 

Arriving at the restaurant for their press launch evening, we were stamped with the phrase #diehappy, which also adorned the back of the t-shirts that all the staff wore. Quite a bold claim there, but I do like the confidence that comes with that statement and when you are handed a glass of elderflower champagne the minute you walk in a place, it sets off the tone of the evening nicely. 

Being eager beavers, we arrived dead on 6.30pm, which meant that there were still work men busily making final touches to the restaurant, which I quite like. It makes the anticipation even more heightened and really does show the huge effort that goes into the preparation of a place for its first public showing. The staff were brilliant, being incredibly attentive to us and always checking if we wanted another drink (the answer is always yes). When the launch finally got started, at around 6.45pm, the waiting staff began circulating with some incredibly tasty tapas treats, which are going to be on the regular menu from the 11th, which is when they open to the public.

Our first taste was salmon tartare, with miso creme fraiche, cucumber and capers on a soft tortilla, which was a wonderful, fresh mouthful. The caper’s salty zing worked well with the creme fraiche and the natural flavour of the salmon. We also had some deliciously seasoned squid, with a squeeze of charred lime, which is always a crowd pleaser and delightfully moreish.

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We managed to foster a friendship with some of the waiting staff, who obviously realised how greedy we were, as they made a beeline to us with each new plate of tapas, which were then greatly received with our NSFW groans and moans when we saw each new plate of food porn laid out in front of us. Our next offering was manchego cheese and bittersweet figs wrapped in Serrano Gran Reserva, dressed with a touch of balsamic glaze. It was delicious, and would be perfect with a cool crisp glass of Estrella. My friend Michaela loved this salty sweet mouthful so much that she near enough offered to sell her kidneys to the waiting staff to get them to bring her more. I suppose #diehappy doesn’t seem so far-fetched after all!

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We also greedily devoured a bowl of smoky chorizo slices and some beautifully arranged crab and avocado mousse treats, served inside a cherry tomato. These were bursting with flavour and again showcasing how fresh and seasonal the produce is, a factor that Ricci’s prides itself on.

Whilst my friend kept a beady eye out for more manchego cheese wrapped in Serrano ham, we were treated to a bowl of sweet potato wedges, figs, goat cheese, chilli, honey and pomegranate seeds. This was a real trip to the Mediterranean, with the heat of the chilli perfectly balancing with the sweet fig and potato wedges, the vibrant burst of pomegranate and the creamy, earthy cheese as a cool background note. 

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As I mentioned in my previous blog about the opening of Ricci’s, it currently holds the prestigious honour of being the only place in the UK to serve Estrella Galicia 1906 Reserva Especial on draught. 


From tasting the food, I can tell that most dishes would be perfectly paired with Spanish beer or wine, blending the citrus notes of the alcohol and the vibrancy of the flavours being used in the kitchen. In particular, the fried Padron peppers with Ibizan salt would be a perfect pairing with a cold glass of Estrella – close your eyes and imagine yourself in the sunset of Ibiza (blocking out the traffic of West Yorkshire, that is!)

Next up was an Iberico pork and Riojan chorizo burger, which was absolutely divine – juicy, well seasoned – a carnivore’s dream which elicited more inappropriate moans from my friend and I ( a must-try if you go in). If we weren’t yet on the edge of a hashtag happy death, we were just about finished off with a seared pigeon breast bruschetta, with pea and broad bean cream fraiche, and a dairy cow aged fillet bruschetta with sweet onions and peppers. Whilst my friend wasn’t too keen on the gamey pigeon, I enjoyed the flavour along with the creamy pea bed it was perched on. The aged cow fillet was definitely the show stopper though. It was so tender it would probably try to seduce you with a Barry White medley. The sweet onions and peppers complimented the joyous savoury smack of the beef – if I hadn’t already eaten myself close to a food coma, I would have had many more of these. 

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After nearly eating our weight in tapas, we decided it was time to experience 53 Degrees North, Ricci’s cocktail bar which is joined to the restaurant by a shiny lift style set of door, which offers a ‘sound scape’ whilst diners wait for one set of doors to close and another to open. Inside you are treated to a visual exploration through a field of greenery, whilst ambient chilled house music plays. An unusual and entertaining experience, but I do wonder what it will be like when it is 11pm on a Saturday night and, if it is anything like the lift doors in my apartment block, they jam, leaving you to hammer desperately on the doors whilst chill- out tunes drown out your cries. Sorry – got a bit carried away with myself there…and there is a corridor that joins the two buildings together too so my vision of claustrophobic panic needn’t be a reality. 

When we entered 53 Degrees North (named after the line of latitude that the original bar lies on in Halifax), the atmosphere seemed much more relaxed – that Balearic sound scape must have worked a treat. The bar is central and open, offering a 360 degree view of the surroundings, with DJ booth in one corner, and a fringed off area in the other, possibly for VIP seating/ private parties when the bar opens to the public. There is a sense of eclecticism to the furnishings, with luxurious beige velvet booths to sit in around the bar, and exposed brick work and metal pipes which seem to be de rigueur in most trendy bars nowadays. If you take a little walk around the building, and down to the hidden gin bar near the bathrooms (and a private boardroom and dining area) you experience some amazing graffiti art by Ben Allen. I’m a massive fan of street art and often prefer to search for this when I travel instead of looking at the tourist favourite art works in galleries. Allen’s work is fantastic and deserves more than a moments consideration when you are on your way down to the bathrooms after one too many cocktails. 

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Talking of cocktails, we managed to have a look at the menu and were blown away by the range on offer. Due to this being a launch night, there was a limited selection on offer to the press (fair enough) so we plumped for a passion fruit champagne cocktail and a Bull Dog G&T. The passion fruit cocktail came with a shot of champagne, which was an unexpected but lovely surprise, and the G&T came festooned with a smattering of lavender on top (not such a lovely surprise). Now, don’t get me wrong – these two things are a joy to behold. Gin and tonic is one of my favourite drinks and lavender is one of my favourite scents, and I understand how lavender could really compliment some of the botanical undertones of the gin. But when I have the insides of a potpourri bag emptied into my glass, it just means that I have to spend the next ten minutes pulling lavender buds and stalks from my teeth as I try to drink. My friend even laughed at me until she tried to do the same thing, which I caught on camera for comedic value. Maybe the lavender, if so essential to that brand of gin, could have been made into a syrup or sugar that could have been mixed in with the drink or placed around the side of the glass? As lovely as a shower of lavender looks in a glass, it doesn’t enhance the drinking experience and means you end up having to drink with a straw, when I feel G&T should be sipped, especially when in such lovely large glasses. 

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Aside from lavender stalks in my teeth, I think that Ricci’s pairing of innovative cocktails and exciting Mediterranean cuisine is a real boon for Leeds. Yes, Leeds is bursting at the seams with similar places, but Ricci’s has a unique identity all of its own and most importantly, the food is amazing and the price is reasonable. Set in the financial heart of Leeds, I can see many suits clamouring to get a seat in here, and with the added bonus of the Ibizan DJ booth in 53 Degrees North, it holds the potential to be an up and coming music venue in the future too. You could go for a meal then transport yourself, via the soundscape lift, into the cool interior of the cocktail bar, without stepping outside into the inevitable Yorkshire rain. Now that’s got to be worth a few sprigs of lavender in your teeth. 

Ricci’s Tapas & Cicchetti

Goodbar House

15 Infirmary Street

Leeds

LS1 2JS

http://riccistapasandcicchetti.co.uk/leeds/

Photos by Lucy Reynolds and The Influencer  Group. 

William IV, Shoreditch

A good Sunday roast is an easy thing for any establishment to say they deliver, but often in reality can be a disappointment and leave a diner unsatisfied!! So a little while back we tried out lunch at the William IV pub in hipster Shoreditch – our friends said it did a fine one and I was eager to find out if it lived up to the hype. 

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The William IV’s a nicely laid out pub, benefiting from a position on the corner of two roads, lots of windows keep the space bright and welcoming. A round of punchy Bloody Mary’s started lunch for some of us – birthday celebrations the day before being the cheeky culprit!

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Bloody Mary

Sunday lunch offerings are short, but sweet – a couple of starters, roasts that cover all the main bases, a few sharing options and desserts to get your teeth into.

Whilst most of us eyed up the roasts, the other half was diverted off course and went for two sharing boards!! Oh, don’t worry this isn’t so much of a surprise to me, there are plenty of tales which have become folklore amongst our uni mates, where he’d order everything for himself because he couldn’t decide – the chip shop story has become stuff of legend, even finding a way into our mates wedding speech. 

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Charcuterie board and cheese board

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New season asparagus w/ poached eggs and hollandaise sauce

After a bit of a mess up with the order – my original choice being the sirloin of beef, I was brought chicken, however after clocking my eyes on the bird I was pleasantly surprised. Normally I’d get a bit irritated with a messed up order, but he was very apologetic and looked a little mortified at giving me it, saying he would happily bring out the beef. 

My verdict on the roast – it’s a cracking one on all counts; my plate had a generous amount of moist and juicy roast chicken, coming with crispy skin and lots of herbs. The greens still had bite, it’s iron-packed goodness still intact, and the all-important Yorkshire was crisp, light and a good size. The essentials like decent roast potatoes and veg were treated simply and cooked well, then finally to complete the plate a gravy boat full of the good stuff finishing the roasts off perfectly. 

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Lemon and herb roast chicken

Roasts aside, the asparagus and sharing plates can be commended too – eggs poached to perfection, meat and cheese boards meeting the needs of the other half who worked his way steadily through both very satisfactorily! 

Whether it’s the best Sunday roast in Shoreditch is yet to be seen, but what I can say is it’s  a damn tasty one! William IV is a lovely neighbourhood pub and I can see why my friends love it there!!

William IV

7 Shepherdess Walk

London

N1 7QE

http://www.thewilliam.co.uk

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

 

On The Bab, Covent Garden

On The Bab, Korean street food purveyors are found in Covent Garden Opera Tavern. Their food I’d seen on Instagram and basically just wanted to get my hands on their fried chicken, take a look for yourselves and you’ll see what I mean. Our lunch stint at the Opera Tavern had filled me satisfactorily, but when seeing this place on the way out I couldn’t help going in, I’m hoping you’ll forgive the lack of willpower?!

On entering, tables fill a fairly narrow space and work their way around the counter where all the action in the kitchen and bar happens. With just a few spare bar seats unoccupied, we took up the remaining counter spots after a little struggle to get there. The place is a little short on space and diners may find themselves squeezed within close proximity of neighbouring diners on three out of four sides. However, that brings along with it a lively atmosphere.  

For such a busy time of day, they seemed a tad short staffed out front and the waiter seemed completely rushed off his feet, bezzing around as best as he could. Now who was I kidding when I said I only wanted to try the fried chicken, if only I had the willpower to resist ordering more. Even though I’d only just finished lunch!! Their buns on the menu sounded great, so my resistance wained without much effort and alongside the fried chicken were a couple of buns, one filled with spicy pork, the other with crispy chicken. 

The best bit – the fried chicken which were crispy, coated in a sauce that did as advertised (sweet and spicy) and topped with crushed peanuts to add texture. The chicken itself was like popcorn chicken, wolfed down within a minute and could’ve done with being chunkier pieces resulting in juicier meat. The buns could’ve been hotter, one wasn’t very hot at all, verging on the side of just warm. The better of the two fillings was the pork – sweet, spicy, sticky and sloppy. Whilst the crispy chicken was a tad anaemic and could’ve done with a bit longer in the fryer to crispen it up more. The other half’s spicy pork on rice didn’t do his gluten intolerance any favours, but was a tasty filling bowl. 

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Sojito and Sojito breeze
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Yangyum chicken

 

Crispy chicken bun

 

Spicy pork bun
Spicy pork on rice 

On reflection I’d say On the Bab does decent grub overall – it’s definitely not perfect, but turns out tasty food and is reasonably priced for the location. Don’t be going there for a leisurely long lunch or intimate dinner, it’s not kind of place at all I think, to me it’s more of a quick pit stop. They need to brush up on their service, more people out front would help no end. 

On the Bab

36 Wellington Street

Covent Garden

London

WC2E 7BD

http://onthebab.co.uk/coventgarden/index.html#4thPage

Opera Tavern, Covent Garden 

There are times when I find myself over faced with food, greediness takes over and before I know it, I’ve eaten far too much and kicking myself! You ever been in the same situation? Well early last month we’d hopped on the train into London to go for dinner, it’ll all been booked but having arrived around lunchtime which is basically 12pm in our house we couldn’t let it slip us by and started wandering around Covent Garden with more purpose. Around Covent Garden there’s so much choice it’s difficult to single one place out so we stepped off the track a touch, into the Opera Tavern. I knew the name rang a bell and it soon came clear it was a sister restaurant of Salt Yard, a place we’d enjoyed a birthday dinner last December. 

With a similar menu to their Salt Yard counterparts they offer up their small plates/tapas  which is fantastic for grazing, however, also too easy to over face yourself without realising and ending up with a hefty bill at the end of the meal. Trying to pace ourselves we ordered a selection from the charcuterie, bar snacks and tapas sections of the menu. During the lunchtime service it started to get busier with tables filling up, the pace of service fluctuated and the odd dish was forgotten about and staff needed reminding. As far as the food goes, there were lots of positives – a benchmark is always the charcuterie and the Iberico ham was soft, delicate in its savoury acorn nuttiness. I’ve had it carved thinner, but on taste and texture it was bang on.  The ox cheek was melt in the mouth, like it should be and the accompanying liquor and puree did all the right things to cut through the richness of the gelatinous flesh. Padron peppers had a good balance between charring, tenderness, heat and saltiness, then the crispy pigs ears were the perfect snack to nibble on, lasting a matter of a few minutes.

The only fault I could really find were in the scallops, even though they were cooked to perfection – on the fence to whether they were translucent or not, there was a bit of grit, argh! What a shame because it really spoilt them. 

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Crispy Iberico pigs ears
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Padron Peppers
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Jamon Iberico de Bellota
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Patatas fritas with alioli and bravas sauce
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Braised ox cheeks with PX, carrots puree, agretti and anchovy dressing
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Scallops with parsnip, saffron puree, muscatel butter and jamon migas
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Pinchos Morunos – Iberico pork with paprika and cumin

Yes, there were a couple of mishaps, however both were handled well by the staff, rectified and wouldn’t stop me from going again in the future. 

Opera Tavern

23 Catherine St

London

Greater London

WC2B 5JS

http://www.operatavern.co.uk