Tag Archives: belly pork

Naturally Chinese, Surbiton 

Ahhh, the food I grew up surrounded by, I’m not sure if Chinese food is my out and out favourite, but it’s definitely up there! The idea of feasting on dim sum all day long, grazing on steamed dumplings and fried stuff fills me with joy, literally!! But for my husband that would probably sound like one his worst nightmares, he enjoys the food but as Chinese restaurant menus go, let’s face it they’re usually laden with gluten which he has an intolerance too. 

A couple of months ago we were scouting out the Kingston and Surbiton areas, basically trying to get our bearings as possible places to set up home. On our way round we drove passed Naturally Chinese, within seconds I got onto the web for a spot of research. Brilliant, a restaurant producing authentic dishes without a hint of MSG, with its own gluten free menu, and not the kind with just a few items to make it look like an afterthought. 

The idea was mentioned and a table for lunch booked after my husband was pleasantly surprised at the variety on the GF menu! A gorgeous Saturday it was yesterday and we hopped onto the train from the flat into Surbiton, spending a little time to have a wander around the town. The restaurant is between 5-10 minutes from the train station, depending how speedy a walker you are and located on the corner of Brighton Road. Benefitting from large windows on two sides it’s a light and airy place, with a more intimate dining area to the side. 

A pot of green tea was quickly ordered, something I’d never have drunk by choice as a child, in fact I would wait to the last minute to drink it at the end of yum cha with my family, just so it wouldn’t be refilled!!   

  

The dim sum menu had all the usual classics on it, so I was in my element and picked four dishes, selecting them on a tick sheet. The other half had plenty of choice on the GF menu and even I was a bit jealous when he went for sliced belly pork!

I couldn’t fault the dim sum, I could’ve told myself off though as I wish I’d ordered more!! All made and cooked to perfection, especially the handmade dumplings which were on point! The cheung fun rolls were delicate and much thinner and less heavy than some I’ve had recently, I find that sometimes char siu pork can be overly sweet, but this had been made with a far more delicate touch.  

Deep fried taro and minced pork croquettes (wu gok)
Char siu pork rice noodle rolls (cheung fun)

Steamed prawn dumplings (ha gau)
Shanghai pork dumplings – minced pork, ginger and spring onions in superior soup (XLB)

The other half had ordered some cuttlefish and coriander cakes which looked awesome and I’ve been informed tasted equally as good. Golden and crisp on the outside, whilst being juicy and meaty on the inside making it a fantastic starter before the star of the show that was the pork belly!! Enough for two really, in our family it would normally be amongst a whole manor of sharing dishes, where you just help yourself; fill a bowl with rice and top it with the things you want. I managed to snaffle a couple of pieces and was impressed! The meat was juicy and its skin crisp, but not only that it wasn’t too salty, even my parents who know a thing or two about cooking belly pork would approve I reckon.

Cuttlefish and coriander cakes  
Crispy skin pork belly with egg fried rice

Service was quick, dishes came out in good time, in particular the dim sum. Lots of menu choice and more importantly for us no more worries when it comes to gluten intolerances. Naturally Chinese is a definite winner, I’m looking forward to my next visit!!

Naturally Chinese

59-63 Brighton Road

Surbiton

Surrey

KT6 5LR

Tel. 020 8399 5533

http://www.naturallychineserestaurant.co.uk

Naturally Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Noodle House

Last Thursday, I caught up with a couple of friends during the school Easter hols in the city centre’s Northern Quarter, which is definitely a hive of activity nowadays when it comes a night out. Not only was Nicky Minaj undoubtably doing what she does best on stage at the First Direct Arena, newly opened Bar Soba’s launch night was kicking off. However, more importantly for us, one of my two friends was involved in playing a gig at Verve bar on Merrion St!

The band (Sons of Great Men) wasn’t on till 10pm, and we were getting hungry, so I’d told my friend Lucy about Noodle House. She’s also a lover of Chinese food, and with it just being up the street from Verve, there were lots of plus points and sounded like a great idea. Being pretty late going in, around 9:30pm, we turned out to be their last customers, so understandably they were running low on a few things, in particular the roasted meats. 

I knew what I wanted even before looking at the menu; my go to dish beef ho fun, but they’d run out of ho fun noodles and could offer rice vermicelli as an alternative, which I was happy to go along with. Lucy first choice was the soy marinated chicken, but again they were running low and knowing there wasn’t enough for a full portion offered a selection of three meats; char siu, belly pork and chicken for the same price.

Having been a few times, one of the great things about this place is that it’s really informal, and the food is cooked and ready to go quickly! So it wasn’t long before we collected our food from the counter. With soft beef, silky noodles, the addition of a handful of beansprouts, sliced onion, carrot, spring onion and correct seasoning made me more than happy!! As far as Lucy’s food went, I think we were both taken aback by the more than generous portion size, it was probably enough for two people I’d say, especially with the rice and greens!! She finished about two-thirds and was completely spent!

 

I can’t remember how much eat dish was, but the total bill for 2 plates of food, a bottle of aloe water and still water came to £14.70. For tasty food, generous portions, decent service – a bargain! 

Sunday lunch @ The Hungry Bear, Leeds

This Sunday we had lunch at The Hungry Bear, for one reason or another it’s taken me ages to get to Meanwood and try them out. The last time I ate here was months ago at Zucco, the independent Italian ‘small plate’ restaurant just across the road. They opened last year and have joined the rest of the Meanwood food scene, which is becoming a bit of a haven with some great bars, cafes and restaurants, such as East of Arcadia, Alfred bar and the aforementioned Zucco. On appearance the exterior of the place is quite unassuming, but as you walk closer the sight of The Hungry Bear becomes apparent. On entering it’s quite small and petite,  nicely decked out with large grey slate tiles, walls adorned tastefully with prints and a lovely selection of wooden tables and chairs which looked just right in their surroundings.  

 

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imageOur server brought us some menus and immediately pointed us to their homemade ales, which are brewed on the premises upstairs, but we decided to opt for some wine which was reasonably priced. This was quickly brought over with some tap water, which was a really nice touch.

After a quick nosey at the menu, we both fancied two courses so two courses it was!! They had a good looking menu with quite a few dishes from both starters and main courses that would have suited me just fine!!! We were on paper spoilt for choice. Starters are priced between £4.50 – £7 and main courses £8.90 – £14.50.

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We decided to start with scallops and smoked salmon, then for the main course I won the battle of the belly pork on this occasion, my other half had to settle for his second choice of the burger. While the starters were being prepared we were brought an amuse bouche, which was a lovely surprise. A white onion velouté to be exact which was delicious, light but creamy, well seasoned and full of flavour. A fantastic start, and definitely a good sign for the rest of the meal!

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I must say we felt comfortable very quickly here and found the place homely, even though the restaurant is on a well known busy road, I know this all too well from running countless times up Stonegate and Meanwood Road while training for one of my silly races, you really wouldn’t think it from the inside at all.

Our starters arrived not long after with great anticipation and didn’t disappoint.

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Both went down really well, my scallops were well cooked, no sign of these being rubbery little bullets, the chorizo added smokiness, and with the salty crispy pancetta it was a great combination. The other half also devoured his starter in a matter of minutes, the salmon accurately smoked was accompanied by a well flavoured, smooth puree. The crisps were good in flavour, the chive one could have been thinner and more crisp, but did deliver on taste.

Our main courses looked very appetising and after taking my compulsory snaps I dove right in. I was loving the look of my plate, regular readers may have read of my love of belly pork and this reaffirmed my affection for this cut of meat. Moist, juicy and flavourful, partnered by a lovely puree, iron rich greens and a hearty cassoulet, all of which really worked. I loved every mouthful. Oh, I can’t forget the crackling, one of the best I’ve had in a long time, cooked attached to the belly so it possessed a good mix of crispness while also having that sticky, chewy texture. A great crackling! I was a good girl though, sharing it with the other half who also showered it with equal amounts of praise. 

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The other half’s burger looked great too, being gluten intolerant he left the bread, which I happily ate. His comments about the dish were that the burger was good, well cooked and was topped with good pulled pork. He wished there’d been more pulled pork though as it was rather tasty. The chips were excellent and were incredibly soft in the middle with a good crust on the outside. The burger patty on its own could have done with being a tad more flavourful, but when eaten with the pepper, relish and lettuce was a tasty mouthful.

So far so good, our Sunday lunch was going really well! We had a nosey at the desserts and by my surprise we both ordered one.

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The other half’s passion fruit brûlée was lacking in passion fruit, but this really suited him as he loves traditional creme brûlée, it being one of his favourite desserts. So even though the passion fruit was absent, he certainly wasn’t complaining and thought it was excellent!! I’m not one who would not normally order a sponge based dessert, but this was YUMMY and incredibly moist. The cake was really light, airy, had lots of poppy seeds throughout and came with a great taste of orange.

Overall we had a lovely meal in The Hungry Bear. It’s been a while since I ate in Meanwood last, but I’ll certainly be back a lot sooner, and probably at The Hungry Bear!! 

I definitely recommend it!!

Food: Nice size menu, enough choice for everyone from starters to desserts. Tastes great and very satisfying.

Service: Friendly service, staff unfussy but efficient and attentive when needed. Food arrived from the kitchen in good time and there were no overly long waiting times.

Atmosphere: Lovely and cosy atmosphere, nice ambience. Not pretentious in any way. 

The Hungry Bear
10 – 14 Stonegate Road
Meanwood
Leeds
0113 2740241
http://www.thehungrybear.co.uk


The Hungry Bear on Urbanspoon

Dinner @ Dish

A couple of weeks ago the Oliver Award winning restaurant Dish opened in its new home on Boar Lane, Leeds. If you’ve walked passed and recognised the venue it may know that it was the previous location of Anthony’s Restaurant. We went last Thursday to check out the new dining room and of course the food! On arrival we were greeted by a bar man in their lovely cocktail bar area, then kindly escorted downstairs to their dining room where we were welcomed in by Chris the Manager.

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One of the main reasons for the move from their original home on Great George Street was to have a much larger dining space, but also kitchen space and this has been reflected in the more extensive menu on offer. The main dining room looked very smart with a second bar and the pass from the kitchen in the background, it’s been filled with dark wooden tables, grey upholstered chairs and original wall art for a sleek and sophisticated feel. I completely understand why they have moved with a much larger kitchen and dining room giving them a lot more options. I did miss the vintage, quirkiness of the old place, but this was definitely a step up and somewhere that Dish can grow into.

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The menu was full of interesting and innovative dishes, showcasing modern British cooking. When it came to deciding what to order I was gutted when the other half picked the dishes I had my eyes and grumbling stomach on (scallops and pork belly), so I opted for the crab and turbot.

In a restaurant of this quality the wine list is just as important as the food, they have a decent wine list with a range of choices to suit all tastes and pockets. It had been a long day at work, so we both wanted something easy drinking and chose a very quaffable pinot grigio.

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We’d arrived fairly early in an evening service so there was just one other couple dining when we arrived, this meant we could hear and feel the buzz from the kitchen. We happily kept filling our wine glasses up with a light, crisp pinot while waiting for our starters to arrive.

East coast crab with a salad of sauté tiger prawns, preserved lemon, horseradish snow, pickled white radish, red radish, wild rice and curry leaf granola and scampi oil
East coast crab with a salad of sauté tiger prawns, preserved lemon, horseradish snow, pickled white radish, red radish, wild rice and curry leaf granola and scampi oil
Chargrilled King scallops, saffron blinis, scallop tartar, smoked white chocolate veloute and mist, chilli oil and langoustine powder
Chargrilled King scallops, saffron blinis, scallop tartar, smoked white chocolate veloute and mist, chilli oil and langoustine powder

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My crab dish was exactly was I was expecting at Dish, it was very tasty, light and refreshing with lots of interesting ingredient combinations. The crab and prawns were both delicious, well cooked and had a lovely sweetness to them. A decent sized portion for a starter and was very well received. The granola added an interesting mix of textures, with it’s slight crunchy/chewy texture, radish kept the dish light and with the lemon gave a welcome acidity to the plate.

I was told that the scallops was a good dish, perfectly cooked and characteristically sweet in flavour, chilli oil provided a subtle hint of chilli. But it was the smoked white chocolate velouté that really brought the dish together and made it very enjoyable first course.

The dining room started to fill a little more as our main courses arrived.

Yorkshire belly pork, slow roasted fro 8 hours with fennel and chilli black pudding, smoked mash, pig ear and walnut salad pork crackling and roasting juices
Yorkshire belly pork, slow roasted for 8 hours with fennel and chilli black pudding, smoked mash, pig ear and walnut salad pork crackling and roasting juices
Pan fried turbot, served with a shellfish and vegetable coral bed, with a smoking saffron broth
Pan fried turbot, served with a shellfish and vegetable coral bed, with a smoking saffron broth

There was a lot of love for the belly pork from the other side of the table, making me even more gutted than I was before. From what I could gather the pork was moist and juicy, well cooked with a lovely bit of crackling lining the meat. The generously portioned mash was nice and smoky, but not overpowering and the healthy disc of fennel and chilli black pudding was meaty and well flavoured. The pig ear and crackling were crunchy, but the crackling could have done with more salt though. The roasting juices were rich and full of flavour finishing the meal off nicely.

My fish dish of turbot was brought over with a steaming broth, produced by little lumps of dry ice used to create some theatre to the dish. On the whole the component parts were cooked well, the turbot was moist, but I do prefer a crispy skin on my fish. It was an interesting dish with a lot of ingredients, including keta caviar (I think), clams, prawns, tomato, broad beans, radish and a saffron broth. I did expect more in terms of flavour though, as the fish lacked a little seasoning for me and I would have liked the broth to be more intense in flavour.

From my previous experience of eating at Dish I’ve come to expect impeccable service, it was great to see the team have carried on in exactly the same vein. The staff were friendly and welcoming, efficient and enthusiastic without being over the top. We were offered a dessert menu which I quickly said ‘yes please’ to and saw a short, but concise list of desserts and a cheeseboard, also on offer were digestif cocktails. My choice was the treacle tart, I’m a bit fussy with desserts as I’m not a chocolate, panna cotta or cheese fan so the treacle tart it would have to be or nothing.

I definitely made the right choice! It looked really good on a piece of grey slate, a decent wedge of treacle tart with a scoop of sorbet, a dollop of clotted cream and what I think was an intense raspberry snow. I don’t have treacle tart very often so I really savoured it and made every mouthful count. Served warm so the yummy filling had a lovely give to it, it was as if it had surrendered itself to a very good cause. The clotted cream was just right – creamy and rich enough to balance out the sweetness of the tart. And finally the sorbet I loved and was full of raspberry goodness. Basically the dessert was excellent!!

Treacle tart, clotted cream and raspberry bellini sorbet
Treacle tart, clotted cream and raspberry bellini sorbet

The other half ordered one of the digestif cocktails instead of a dessert. The tonka bean provided a lovely subtle vanilla hit to the espresso martini.

Tonka bean espresso martini
Tonka bean espresso martini

The total bill for our meal for 2 was £65 including service charge, reasonably priced for 3 courses each with wine! In matters other than our experience that evening, Dish is also open for lunch, both weekdays and weekends. I can vouch for the Sunday lunch, as it’s excellent!! Starters range from £5.50 – £12 for a sharing platter, main courses range from £9.50 –  £18.50, there is also a rib of Yorkshire beef to share at £55 and desserts are between £5 and £12 (sharing dessert).

I’d recommend Dish, it’s got a great new home and is serving good, modern British food.

Food: Enjoyed on the whole, interesting and innovative menu.

Service: Excellent, friendly and attentive staff.

Atmosphere: Quiet background music. Place has a nice ambience to it.

Dish Dining Room & Bar
19 Boar Lane
Leeds
LS1 6EA
(formerly at 18 Great George Street)
0113 3182274

dishdining.co.uk

Dish Dining Room and Bar on Urbanspoon

Ambiente Tapas Restaurant

A lovely Sunday deserved a good dinner to round it all off with, I’d read a tweet the day before about a tapas restaurant called Ambiente on the Calls, next to Brasserie 44 and The Calls Landing. It had been a pop-up restaurant in the past and I hadn’t realised it had reopened until I’d seen the tweet so I duly booked a table. It occupies the space of a couple of old Leeds favourites – The Calls Grill (which was a personal favourite of mine and River Plate, the Argentinean steakhouse).

IMG_2929The menu is divided into nibbles and sharing platters, paella, meat, fish, vegetarian tapas and a meat or vegetarian tapas set meal for £25/£24 for 2 people respectively.

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The waitress said to order 3 dishes each so we decided on a mixture of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes.

After our drinks arrived (white wine and water, I was the designated driver so water was my tipple for the night), we did wait quite a long time for any food to arrive, between 25-30 minutes. It wasn’t particularly busy yet as it was only the early evening. Maybe that’s the reason we’d been asked if we wanted any bread beforehand, I didn’t really want to be too full so I declined. I did see other people’s food go passed us and it did look and smell good, so I was certainly looking forward to eating it, but to be honest when it arrived I wasn’t completely blown away by it all.

My favourite dishes were the lamb patties with chimchurri which had lots of flavour, the yoghurt really worked well with the soft patties. The meatballs were also very good, with its creamy, thai inspired sauce. The lemongrass and chilli were both distinct flavours in the sauce without masking the flavour of the meatballs. A shame there was only 3 little morsels to feast on. The patatas bravas, a tapas staple were decent enough, the potatoes were well cooked but the tomato sauce was a little nondescript.

Patatas bravas - crispy potatoes with a tomato sauce
Patatas bravas – crispy potatoes with a tomato sauce
Meatballs in a chilli and lemongrass sauce
Meatballs in a chilli and lemongrass sauce
Lamb patties with chimchurri
Lamb patties with chimchurri

Of all the dishes I was most looking forward to I would say the slow cooked belly pork, being brought up in a Chinese family on belly pork I’m always salivating at the thought of a slice of yummy pork, but unfortunately was a little disappointed. A good belly pork must have a slightly salty crispy skin, otherwise it just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. The skin wasn’t crispy at all and the meat could have also done with more oomph in terms of flavour, more cumin and salt as was stated on the menu. The prawns were cooked well and tasted fine, but could have done with more a lot more chilli and garlic. While the pork skewers were a little dry, their saving grace was the piquillo mayonnaise accompaniment which was very tasty!!!

Moorish pork skewers served with piquillo mayonnaise
Pork skewers served with piquillo mayonnaise
Slow cooked belly pork with cumin and salt
Slow cooked belly pork with cumin and salt
Shelled prawns cooked with garlic and chilli
Shelled prawns cooked with garlic and chilli

On the whole the bill for 6 dishes with 2 glasses of wine was £37.85 for two people, not including a tip. I’m glad I tried it out as the waiting staff are friendly, helpful and the place has a nice atmosphere. Hopefully if I come again the service (from the kitchen) will be a bit quicker and the food packs more of a punch in flavour and consistency.

Ambiente
36-38 The Calls
Leeds
0113 246 1848