Category Archives: mediterranean

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.

img_8921-2

img_8902-2

img_8900-2

img_8898-2

img_8944-2

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. 

img_7837

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!

img_8906-3

img_7129-2

img_8940-4

Chicago Cultural Centre

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

img_7616-1

img_8036

img_8035-3

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!

img_8971-2

img_8972-2

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. 

img_8994-2

img_8989-2

img_8995-2

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!

img_9021-2

img_7861-1

img_7851-1

img_7850-1

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. 

img_7889-1

img_7898-1

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.

img_8065-1

img_8112-1

img_8079

Chicago by night

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

img_8908-2

img_8909-2

img_8907-2

img_8950-2

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! 

img_9004-2

img_9002-2

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!!

img_8985-2

img_8974-2

img_8984-2

img_8981-2

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!

img_7120-1

img_7176-1

img_7171-1

img_7166-1

img_7175-1

img_7178-1

img_7164-1

img_7173-1

img_7170-1

img_7180-1

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.

img_7502-1

img_7505-1

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.

img_7593

img_7603

img_7604

img_7607

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.

img_8010

img_8021

img_8025

img_8023

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! 

img_8195

img_8197\img_8201

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.

img_8287

img_8249

img_8255

img_8258

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!

img_7635

img_7271

img_8219

img_7613-1

img_7276-1

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.

img_7619-2

img_7630-2

img_7840-1

img_7841

img_8062-1

img_8059-1

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

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

Advertisements

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. 

img_6843-1

img_6849-1
Crispy Iberico pigs ears
img_6846
Padron Peppers
img_6888
Jamon Iberico de Bellota
img_6886
Patatas fritas with alioli and bravas sauce
img_6887
Braised ox cheeks with PX, carrots puree, agretti and anchovy dressing
img_6885
Scallops with parsnip, saffron puree, muscatel butter and jamon migas
img_6882
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

 

Salt Yard, London 

Birthday celebration meals can be a little tricky to organise for large groups I reckon, trying to satisfy different tastes can be a fiddly problem to get your head around and having something that pleases the whole crowd can take some thought!

For a mates birthday, we had a few of these issues to work around and after a bit of research I went for tapas at Salt Yard, on Goodge Street in central London. With specific dietary requirements at the forefront of my mind I was keen to make this was a matter of importance when booking. The staff at Salt Yard couldn’t be faulted in this respect, producing an individual menu for a friend with a severe egg allergy and providing extra fish and veg dishes for a couple who were Halal.

Being the Christmas season the restaurant offered two set menus, at £40 and £45 per person, with plenty of choice on each we collectively decided on the less expensive of the two. On the night, three of the party were running very late and with a need to vacate our table by 9pm, I was a little worried we’d struggle for time and knowing how stressful it can be for staff I was a bit concerned. Forty-five minutes later we were all accounted for and dinner could begin – a steady stream of dishes came thick and fast, it was obvious the kitchen and waiting staff were trying their best to get food to our table, which pleased me no end because I was starving!!

Of all the dishes, my favourites were the salt cod brandade with egg which was beautiful, a perfectly poached egg with a yolk that runs effortlessly and paired with the slightly salty brandade it was a favourite amongst the table, oh also the pork belly (typical I know!). The deep fried courgette flowers were the source of amusement on the plate, but that’s just us being childish and facetious, they tasted great though even though the batter could’ve been lighter. The meat dishes were popular, in particular the pork belly which was one of the stand out dishes of the evening. The bavette of venison may’ve looked like a mess on the plate, but the meat was beautiful, I’ve had better roasted cauliflower though (Ox Club in Leeds!!!).

Not everything was a success with the whole table – the cured mackerel was a little hit and miss, it pretty much depended on which bit you took. Some pieces were chunkier than others making them harder to eat, I was canny to choose the thinner pieces so didn’t have the same problem. The ricotta doughnuts didn’t work for me – the grainy texture was off putting and after trying a couple I sadly left the rest. 

IMG_5382

Smoked almonds
Brown shrimp with rocket and pesto salad
Chargrilled flat bread with homemade butter
Smoked eel croquettes, with beetroot and horseradish, mini chorizo with potato crisp and pickle peppers, crispy squash with salsa verde
Grilled polenta crostini with gorgonzola dulce
Salt Yard chilli and marjoram salami
Manchego with quince
Patatas bravas with aioli and bravas sauce
Cured mackerel with golden beetroot, sherry and shaved Jamon Iberico 
Courgette flowers stuffed with goats cheese, drizzled with honey
Salt cod brandade with poached duck egg, braised cavalo nero and crispy artichokes
Arroz negro with sautéed squid and gremolata
Venison tartare with truffle, aioli, muscatel and sour dough croutons

Confit of Old Spot pork belly with rosemary scented cannelloni beans
Beetroot with goats curd, baby chard and toasted pine nuts
Grilled bavette with roast cauliflower, spiced cauliflower puree and garlic migas
Mascarpone and vanilla cheese cake, spiced apple compote and toasted almonds
Home made Cantucci, bitter chocolate and pistachio fudge
Saffron poached pear, chocolate and hazelnut mousse with crushed Turron
Ricotta dumplings with lemon curd and raspberry compote

On the whole, I reckon the group had an enjoyable evening and the birthday girl was certainly happy with the restaurant choice. We were all pretty stuffed, even though some dishes were loved more than others, I think it’s hard to please everyone with such a diverse menu.

Salt Yard

54 Goodge Street

London

W1T 4NA

http://www.saltyard.co.uk

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!

IMG_2227

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! 

IMG_2232

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.

IMG_2234

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.

IMG_2230

*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!

IMG_2228

*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. 

IMG_2186-0

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! 

IMG_2187

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!

IMG_2208

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! 

IMG_2218

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! 

IMG_2193

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.  

IMG_2217

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!

IMG_2189

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!

IMG_2198

*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.

IMG_2216

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. 

IMG_2220

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!

IMG_2199

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.

IMG_2221

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. 

IMG_2206

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!  

IMG_2236

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.

IMG_2205

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.   

IMG_2195

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.   

IMG_2202

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. 

IMG_2197

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!

IMG_2196

*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. 

IMG_2211

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.

IMG_2235

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.

IMG_2207

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!

IMG_2223

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!!

IMG_2226

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!!!