What’s happened to the weather? All of a sudden it’s turned a bit miserable again, from what seemed like a glorious summer with lots of sunshine and warmth it’s now turned into showers and a down turn in temperatures. Well anyway, even though the weather may not be up to much, there are a couple of pop-ups on at the moment which Leeds folk may be interested in.
Here are a couple of spots I was asked to have a nosey at and try out for free:
Rum Shack’s a pop-up run by three Leeds bartenders with a wealth of experience, with a beach bar feel selling rum based cocktails. If you went to Leeds Feast, you may’ve noticed them and enjoyed a thirst quenching reggae rum punch off them. If that’s your kind of thing then it’s easily found in the Northern Quarter, as it’s in-between the Belgrave Music Hall, Blind Tyger and Sandinista so you can’t miss it! Every few weeks they’ll be changing their cocktail menu, it’s a bit of fun and great way of using the space. I can imagine it could be a good way to start off the night -enjoy some rum punch, a piña colada or whatever they’ve got on their menu that sounds appealing, then nip into the Belgrave for a slice of Dough Boys pizza or Patty Smith’s for one of their legendary burgers and then wherever the evening takes you.
Ice Bar – found upstairs in Bierkeller off the Headrow, the whole Ice Bar experience is something I’ve had before, but on a far more impressive scale in LapLand’s Ice Hotel. This is quite a small affair and for a fiver you get 25 minutes in the bar and whilst your sipping on either wine, Coor’s Light (the sponsors) or a small selection of spirits and mixers, you may want to have a game on the mini curling or take some selfies next to the polar bear ice sculpture if that floats your boat.
Love cocktails? I do, who doesn’t?! Recently an email popped into my inbox about a Havana Club Mojito masterclass, what a great idea and apart from the obvious wanting to drink Mojitos, the opportunity to learn more about the drink and it’s history. Cuba brings back a tonne of amazing memories from a holiday that the best mate and I had there four years ago, part of that was of course sampling lots of Mojitos! In fact it was the first drink we had when we arrived at our hotel.
Havana Club UK recently began a certification programme and have been on a quest to find the best, most authentic Cuban Mojitos in the UK, searching the length and breadth of the country.Leeds has some great independent cocktails bars and three have been singled out – The Maven, Viva Cuba and Call Lane Social, using the freshest of ingredients and Havana Club Añejo 3 Años rum and been awards with a certified badge, because they feel these bars stays true to the Havana Club tradition, work with same ethos as the brand and are passionate about what they do.
Having Havana Club UK’s global ambassador Meimi Sanchez there to explain more about the drinks origins was a treat, as from our trip there’d always been something I wanted to know – why mojitos in Cuba tasted slightly different to ones I’d drank here. They weren’t as sharp and zingy for some reason, Meimi explained that Cuban ‘limes’ are slightly different, it’s more of a fusion between lime and lemon, with sweetness and more of a softer citrus. In the UK, Brazilian limes are often used which are more tangy, and also Cuban mint is more aromatic, softer on the nose, whereas here the mint is much more course and more punchy. All makes more sense now!!
With a passion for her native Cuba and the drink it was fascinating chatting to Meimi and listening to her describe number of theories to how the Mojito was first created –
Firstly, in the 15/16th century sailors were rationed on rum, maybe hard to believe but true, as water was unhygienic, so when Sir Francis Drake got to Havana his crew were suffering from scurvy and dysentery, knowing that the locals had some sort of medicinal drink that could get rid of this he got the ingredients for making it. This being aguardiente de caña made from the syrup which is extracted from sugar cane (guarapa) )which means fire water (76%), combining that with lime (stops scurvy), sugar and mint (improves taste). Who knew that Mojitos were good for you?!
Another possible theory comes from the idea that the slave trade was instrumental in the invention of the drink, as slaves worked in the sugar cane plantations, so had direct access to grape the syrup extracted from sugar cane.
Regardless of how the Mojito originated in Cuba, the drink is still made in the same way and classically uses five ingredients. La Bodeguita del Medio, a famous restaurant/bar in Old Havana, opened in1949, lays claim to having invented to Mojito and the place is well known for being a regular haunt of many creatives, including writer Ernest Hemingway. The same recipe has been used since then, with speedy bartenders make them in seconds.
I’ve never made a Mojito at home, probably because I thought I’d need to use fancy equipment so just gave up, but with a little thought, basics that you’d have in any kitchen would be more than adequate. Meimi quickly demonstrated the steps to make one, also explaining the reasons for doing specific things with ingredients. Then I had a little go myself – it was so simple and of course with a little bit of tweaking made to my own taste too!!
Thanks Havana Club UK, I had a great time, not just for the obvious, but because I learned a lot about Cuba and can relate to it only adds to the fantastic experience I had over there.
With Leeds Loves Cocktails week starting on the 1st June, I thought this ties in beautifully in with the Havana Club masterclass. Many of Leeds’ best bars involved, holding events, demonstrations, talks on cocktails and their history. If you’re a lover of cocktails, I may see you there.
A couple of weekends ago my life revolved around the Hackney Half marathon, a couple of friends and I had entered the race and the day before was spent trying our best to prepare, basically eating as many carbs as possible!! All in the hopes of being able to trudge around (in my case) the streets in and around Hackney the best we could. Our plan; to spend Saturday carbing up at their home in Chelmsford, then travel to Hackney early Sunday morning for the race. It’s a good job our friends love eating out as much as I do and had a suggestion up their sleeve, a place called A Canteen. An independent family run business that started off as a cafe and moved into larger premises in February. On first impressions, this place wasn’t just a canteen, the space also housed a coffee shop/grocery, a bar and homeware/lifestyle shop! All of this under one roof!
It was soon obvious the place was a popular one, bustling with people, many tables were occupied and staff were bezzing around. Soon informed we could sit at a table, but there’d be a 25 minute wait for food, we took this into consideration, but were happy to wait as reports from their previous base had been good by all accounts.
Drinks were ordered including a Bloody Mary and a few coffees, all arriving in time for our food order to be taken. The place has a varied lunch day menu, whether it be their all-day breakfast, a selection of sandwiches, wraps, salads, bigger plates such as fish and chips, burgers, also pizzas.
For most of us carbing up was the priority so we went for sandwiches and baps, also some extras of roasted squash salad, sweet potato wedges and chips. The drinks were going down well, in particular the Bloody Mary which was very good with a good mix of sourness and spice and the coffee. Made using beans from local roastersTheCoffee Officina, it was excellent and also a lovely surprise!! I remember first enjoying their coffee at a cupping in Leeds’ own La Bottega Milanese a few months ago, liking it so much I brought a bag home.
The space became very full while we waited, virtually all tables became occupied and our waiting time was longer than expected, more than 35 minutes. When our food was brought across, it would’ve been nice for a ‘I’m sorry for the long wait’ sort of comment but nothing. Oh well.
Portion sizes were decent, but there was another wait for the other half’s food (which an apology was given for) – some hiccup because the chef hadn’t paid careful enough attention to his order; asking for a lamb burger with gluten free bread, preferring sliced bread to the focacciait should have been served, as it would’ve been laden with it. Also I found the idea of focaccia being used for a burger an odd choice, I may be wrong, but that’s just my opinion. After all that palaver, the lamb burger ended up being swapped for the Moroccan spiced lamb sandwich instead! When he finally got it, it fell apart as the sliced bread which was soft, a definite plus with gluten free bread broke apart easily when trying to hold/eat it. The lamb itself was well spiced and tasty enough.
Portion wise, I was really happy with mine and there was a similar view across the table. My pork bap came with lots of chips and the bap was filled generously with pulled pork shoulder, stuffing, apple sauce and tomato. On taste, the pork shoulder lacked a little flavour but was moist, it benefitted from the stuffing which did its best to add what was missing. The chips were great, crisp, golden and fluffy on the inside!! After eating it all, I was pretty full and definitely needed a break afterwards.
Overall, I really liked the concept and the cool space they’ve created. The food in general was good, tasty and filling, however there were a couple of niggles which need ironing out, possibly a consequence of how busy they are. The speed of service is an obvious area for improvement, with the potential for a large number of covers to be served at any one time, they found it difficult to keep up the pace. Yes, it was Saturday lunchtime and located in a prime spot, so high numbers would be expected, but to wait ages for food without even a hint of an apology was a bit of a shame, as well as the mess up with the order.
The place has definitely got a lot going for it and tonnes of potential, it’d be good to see how the place improves and develops over the next few months.
I’d heard on the grapevine the bottom floor of the Candle House building in Granary Wharf would be converted into a bar/pizzeria a while ago. This part of town has a growing reputation of becoming another part the city centre’s vibrant food and drink scene with the likes of Livin’Italy, Bilbao Bar and Fazenda as neighbours.
A catch up with the girls a couple of weeks ago meant drinks and a spot of lunch was in order – we thought Brewery Wharf would make a change, rather than staying slap bang in the centre, or going to one of our favourite haunts over the years – The Reliance, and anyway it’s always good to try out somewhere new.
The menu is primarily based around pizzas, freshly made and cooked in their wood-fired oven. Head chef Johan, who’s worked wonders at The Hop in York, one of the other venues in Ossett Brewery’s armoury heads up kitchen operations here, and having tried them before I’d expected good things! Those not up for a pizza, they have a small selection of salads and sharing platters, with meat, cheese or if you fancy mixing it up, then both??? Pizzas prices range between £7 and £11, they’ve got classics like Margherita and Meat Feast, to suit the more traditional pizza lovers amongst us, but for the slightly more adventurous a selection of specials such as their pizza titled ‘New Yorker’ with pastrami and apple wood cheese. In terms of comparing on price with other places around town, I’d say somewhere in the middle, not the cheapest but definitely not the most expensive.
Each month they focus on a country of origin for the wine, this month was Italy, so they match a pizza from the specials with wine; a nice idea in theory, but how successful an idea, only time will tell. Also on the drinks front, being part of Ossett Brewery they are clued up on craft beers, but also have one of those fancy wine dispensers to serve it by the glass.
Candle Bar is a bar which serves food, rather than a restaurant so orders are taken at the bar, and as expected a number is handed over to display in return. It started to get a busier while we were there allowing an atmosphere and ambience to build. I really like the setting, the space is left open so you can see right around the bar to the kitchen, and with floor to ceiling windows letting light in, it’s a relaxing spot for lunch.
We waited a little while, even though we were pretty hungry we were busy catching up and making quite a bit of noise, adding to the atmosphere, so in a way we were happy to wait. Being the first couple of days of opening, I would expect this to speed up as procedures become more embedded. Three pizzas, a salad and some focaccia were brought to the table, with some waiting time in between things being brought over. Little niggles I’m sure over time will be ironed out.
Good things: the base is thin, topped generously and made with quality ingredients. Lots of compliments in terms of taste were flying around the table, I like how they aren’t ridiculously overloaded with cheese, as far as pizzas go, possibly not as calorific?! I can imagine in the summer months when/if we get some days when it could be perfect for a day spent in their outdoor seating, I could happily graze on pizza and not be too full to leisurely enjoy drinks in the sun.
The salad and bread went down particularly well too; the salmon salad was generously portioned and they hadn’t scrimped on the salmon. The bread was a winner with all of us – I loved it! Served warm, it had lots of olive oil and herbs, really yummy.
As far as a lunch spot goes, I think it’s a good addition to this part of town.
A new restaurant called Rare joined the ranks of up and coming places to drink and dinein Leeds City Centre. Located in Lambert’s Yard, in between Fibre and Smokestackon Lower Briggate, it’s opened a few days ahead of a new retail and lifestyle destination, namely Lambert’s Yard, which is set to open on Wednesday 5th December.
After postponing my invitation to the press launch on Thursday due to school commitments, they very kindly allowed me to defer my invite to the public opening on Friday instead.
After following the exploits of Rare on Twitter and Facebook, I’d anticipated a number of things – that big portions, the highest quality rare breed meats and customer service would be key to their ethos. On walking into Rare I found the bar area a little sparse at first to be honest, but then I’d remembered that they’ve promised plenty of space for customers, and I liked that fact they they will have limited standing room in the bar. The room was dimly lit, with wood panelling and comfortable brown leather sofas. We were welcomed immediately by their staff and shown to a table where we could peruse their drinks list.
After ordering a bottle of Montepulciano, a little pot of hot, meaty Tamworth pork sausages were brought to our table. The combination worked really well and were polished down in a couple of minutes. A good start, it certainly whetted our appetite for more meat!
One of the key elements that the team at Rare have made integral to the bar is table service. I really liked this luxurious touch and I felt like I was being looked after, it’s one thing I could easily get used to. After being given time to settle into our surroundings, we were then escorted downstairs into the restaurant’s dining area. If it lacked anything upstairs, it was made up for downstairs where it looked classy and sophisticated, with an understated elegance. One of the things that grab your attention instantly is the taxidermi Longhorn cow called Sue, she stood proud and overlooked the dining room with an air of knowing. I thought it was a great feature. It shows the place wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve and gives an indication of the passion they have for the quality of the produce they champion.
I’d been keeping an eye on their menu and had drooled over the preview photos that they’d posted on different social media. So it didn’t take long for my friend and I to order. I liked the fact they they have a short and concise menu, with three starters and main courses divided by the primary ingredient, such as cow, pig and game. Apart from table service, another string to their bow is the use of rare breed, locally sourced meats which are known to yield a higher fat content. The reward they desire is mouthwateringly tasty dishes, and by using more traditional cooking techniques such as brining, braising and slow cooking they plan to bring out the innate flavours and textures in the meat to the fore.
Ok, I’ve banged on about the decor and Sue the Longhorn cow etc, but what really counts is how the food tastes. Well there was one word for our starters…yum! My friend’s Tamworth pork belly ribs were a joy, the meat was super moist and juicy, well flavoured and extremely moreish!! The red cabbage and pickle both worked in harmony with the pork, and had the right level of acidity to match the meat. It was also a generous portion so simply a WIN WIN on every level. My friend was certainly very happy.
I got two decent sized crisp Yorkshire puds with a deep beef, onion and porter gravy. It was tasty and rich, a good portion size again, with enough sauce to pour onto the puds. Attention to detail is obviously important here as I could pour as much sauce as I wanted, rather than having been brought soggy Yorkshire puds.
What a good start.
I could see other tables receiving their food, and I found myself following plates seemingly float from kitchen to table with an eye of distinct jealousy as we waited for our food. We had a welcome break before our main courses arrived and boy did they wow us.
Our lady had informed us that the Game pie had a filling of venison, pheasant, pigeon, mallard and partridge!! It was mahoosive, and arrived with a lovely crispy butter puff pastry top and a cranberry compote. My friend who has a large appetite found it a very large portion; it probably could have been enough for two people. The pastry was delicious, I love pastry and this was a very good one. The generous filling was rich, full of flavour and the meat was cooked accurately.
My Tamworth pork belly, was always going to be my first choice from the menu, as regular readers will know how much I LOVE pork belly. Oh my word, it was more than substantial and looked fantastic. It stood on top of a bed of thinly sliced pickled Cox English apples, and had a wholegrain mustard and cider sauce. If this wasn’t enough, the mandatory piece of decent pork crackling was placed on top, just waiting to be munched on. In terms of taste it was delicious, the pork was extremely succulent, having been slowly cooked; the meat was incredibly moist. Pork and apple are always a match made in heaven and this just reinforced this well known fact. The apples acidity aided by the cider sauce helped to cut through the richness of the meat. With a killer piece of crackling on the top, it was a cracker of a dish.
To accompany our dishes we ordered some triple cooked chips and honey glazed vegetables. The chips was excellent, they had a lovely crunch and soft centre, not too big as well. The vegetables were the only part that didn’t reach the heights of the rest of the meal, we both agreed that they were a little too al dente and needed more honey to give that gorgeous sticky sweetness.
Now we were pretty full after this, but after having a quick nosey at the desserts, and also a recommendation from our lady about their sticky pudding, we decided to go halves and share one. They thankfully allowed us a little break in between courses while we gathered our thoughts on the evening.
Once again on arrival it was a sizeable portion, so it was a good job we were sharing, because it was definitely enough for two people. I’m not normally someone who orders a sticky toffee pudding, but if they are always as good as this I may have to change this fact. The sponge served at the right temperature was perfect and light, they hadn’t scrimped on the sauce and was so good!! Sweet enough to make it you want to saturate your sponge with as much sauce as possible. A lovely Cox apple ice-cream and cinder toffee just topped off a fantastic meal.
In terms of value Rare have priced their menu very reasonably and with the quality of produce on offer, you’ll get served well and leave very satisfied indeed with these great tasting dishes. We had a very enjoyable experience and will definitely be back for more meat! I’ll be wanting to try out some of their cocktails and drinks from their well-stocked bar next time.
Hi, I'm Diane and welcome to my blog. I'm currently hopping between Leeds and the South finding the best and the worst in food and drink whilst on my travels. You'll find reviews and recommendations, sometimes the odd thing about running, travel and my life in general.