The Grub & Grog Shops new Autumn menu’s in full swing at Northern Monk Refectory and doesn’t disappoint. As always using seasonal, local and ethically sourced ingredients is at the forefront of all their food, with vegetables the cornerstone of their menu. However, meat and fish lovers never feel pushed to the wayside with specials using tried and tested local producers Swillington Farm and Tarbett’s Fishmongers doing the honours.
Seriously tempted by pretty much the whole of the menu, not kidding either!! I got recommendations to help me narrow down my choice, both the specials were hitting all the right notes – pressed pork belly with black pudding and pear or red mullet with mushroom and juniper, but my decision of vegan option Harlequin squash was a surprising choice for me considering pork belly was there for the taking. After the first mouthful I gave myself a congratulatory slap on the back – I’d been rewarded with a sublime, carefully thought out and well executed plate of food, perfect for the start of Autumn!!! The marriage of ingredients just works with different tastes and textures each playing their part, a major piece of eye candy too; my photo really doesn’t do it justice!
Any serious foodie will already know about Rare in Leeds, having sampled their fantastic array of mouth-watering meat based delights, including their bespoke steak boards which allow the diner to not only choose the cut of meat but also the breed. My first foray into the ‘uncommon excellence’ of Rare was on a ‘beef and bourbon’ night which shone the spotlight on my favourite meat coupled with my favourite tipple (in fact, look back far enough on this blog and you’ll find it, reviewed by Diane). A roaring success, apart from my misgivings about a piece of sweetened beef on top of a cake, I was excited about going back to sample the new Rareties menu.
An evening meal in Rare usually takes one on a tour into the subterranean dining room which, while beautiful and tastefully furnished, focuses around a large stuffed cow in the middle of the room – nothing like eating a steak, being guilt tripped by the shiny eyes of a stuffed bovine (I do love dark humour and this addition is an amusing reminder of where your delicious mouthful is coming from). The Rareties menu, however, is offering the customer a less formal affair, available to be enjoyed in the bar area with a small plate ethos which allows more choice along with a value for money price tag. But don’t be fooled – this bar menu does not mean anaemic potato wedges and deep fried nonsense – the Rare M.O of bringing the customer something unique and top quality is at the heart of this new venture and it really is something spectacular.
Using local rare breed producers, the Rareties menu is offering an experience that is unparalleled in Leeds at the moment. Our first plate was Longhorn beef on toast, which is priced at £4.50. The portion was big enough for my friend and I to both have two slices and every mouthful was better than the last. Not only was the beef succulently tender, but the accompaniments to the beef worked perfectly. The sourdough bread was a wonderful base for the rare cooked meat, which was topped with piquant capers, girolles and pickled shallots. Topped with a crispy, salty sliver of guinea fowl skin, this plate was a showstopper on its own, offering an insight in to what was to come on the Rareties menu (so much so that I’ll definitely be back in for this dish, on my own – forget sharing!).
Our next plates were the Mangalitza Hotdog on homemade brioche bun (£6) and the Hambleton Ale fed Dexter slider (£4.50). Both of these dishes showcase Rare’s dedication to using unique producers for the best flavour, and you are excused if you just read Mangalitza and thought ‘What the hell is that?’ because I was exactly the same. Luckily, the friendly owner of Rare told us all about the fall and rise of the plucky Mangalitza pig so get ready for this tasty history lesson people!
In the 1830’s, Arch Duke Joseph Anton Johann of the Austro-Hungarian Empire created the breed of the Mangalitza pig for the Habsberg Royal Family, resulting in its delicious meat and fat being highly prized all over Europe by the end of the century. This curly-haired pig takes a long time to mature and is smaller than other breeds, meaning that after World War Two and the change in consumerism and animal husbandry, the majestic Mangalitza pig became too expensive to rear and by the 1980’s, this curly-coated porker was nearly extinct. But don’t fear farmyard fans – you don’t get rid of the Mangalitza that easily! With the efforts of a geneticist called Peter Roth, this succulent squealer has now been saved, and Rare get their meat from Otterburn-Mangalitza, a specialist breeding programme in Helmsley, North Yorkshire. Anyway, enough of the history lesson – let’s get to the taste! Oh my…the taste! It is a mix between beef and pork – rich, incredibly tasty and so moreish. The hot dog bun was slightly crumbly and didn’t hold together very well but the quality of the meat counteracted any failings of the bread and was probably one of the best sausages I’ve ever eaten ( and I come from Lincolnshire, so that’s quite an achievement!).
The slider was also a wonderful little burger, piled high with a medium rare Dexter beef patty which is fed with Hambleton Ale, resulting in a wonderfully rich flavour which is complemented well with a soft brioche bun and a spiky Dijon mayonnaise. It was a great little snack which would be perfectly complemented by a bottle of Hambleton Ale, also stocked by Rare.
We were also presented with a side plate of ‘Carol’s Pink Fir potatoes with a smoked roe dip’. I don’t know who Carole is but she can cook some damn fine potatoes. Perfectly boiled and seasoned, their waxy texture made them a perfect snack, and whilst I’m never a fan of fish based dips, my friend loved the smoked roe mayonnaise so we’ll call that a success.
Not only does Rare excel in the fine food department, but they sure know how to mix a damn fine cocktail. I asked the friendly waiter for a suggestion of a drink to enjoy, as the choice was just too much for me. He suggested a Portfolio, which consisted of Colonel Fox gin, Fonsecca crusted port, thyme liqueur, tonic and a sprig of thyme for good measure. Its herbal tones worked perfectly with the gin and really worked well with everything I ate. My friend went for a Hedgerow, a gorgeous concoction of Aylesbury Duck vodka, elderflower liqueur, greengage liqueur and topped with fresh raspberries and blackberries. My friend was very happy with this choice and I have to admit, I got cocktail envy. It looked beautiful and tasted even better – a wonderful mixture which I would happily suffer a hangover from.
We were also given a taste of some of the desserts on offer, with a lemon meringue tart presented to us with three types of meringue. After quizzing the waiter, we found out that the soft, flame charred meringues on top of the tart were Swiss-style, whereas the long cylinder was a French style lemon meringue, along with a crisp sliver of the same meringue, studded with lemon and thyme. We both loved the meringue which had a zesty zing to it but were a little disappointed by the actual tart which lacked any real lemon taste. The pastry was perfect but without a strong citrus filling, it lacked the impact that its presentation gave.
With our coffees, we were also given a toasty paper bag which was opened to a plume of spicy steam, revealing two freshly made donuts. They were soft and crisp on the outside and were liberally covered in star anise flavoured sugar – a perfect side to dip in our coffee.
I can see exactly why Rare have launched their Rareties menu, especially due to the amount of eateries that have opened in Leeds. The small plate culture has blossomed in Leeds and Rare really has got something unique to offer. With relaxed surroundings, friendly staff and some of the best produce you will ever eat, the Rareties menu is well worth a try.
Leeds Indie Food Festivalis about to start in a matter of weeks, I can’t believe it’s coming round so quickly, it’s really exciting! Recently I posted about which events were on my must go to list, if time and money were no object, one of those was Gorse: A Dinner Experience for Curious Gastronomes. Who are Gorse? Well, they are a two-man team – Geoffroy and Richard, a French/Scottish duo who have conjured up a six course tasting menu based around vegetables. Now even though I’m a full on meat-loving carnivore, as regular readers may’ve cottoned onto, the last few years I’ve grown more of a fondness of meat-free food and was more than intrigued when one of the events during the festival was solely based around vegetables. What particularly caught my eye was that the whole experience was to showcase produce from around Yorkshire and collaboration, both being at the heart of the festival’s ethos.
Hosted by Mrs Atha’s, we were treated to the dishes as a preview to their 10 night pop-up in May.
Here are some photos of the evening:
I won’t describe each one in detail as I’d rather you find out for yourselves, but what I will say is that it was delicious, combining lots of interesting tastes and textures flowing through the savoury and the sweet. As mentioned earlier, Gorse is one of the events in the Leeds Indie Food festival, I’d recommend going, even for the most hardened carnivore it’s well worth it!! If you want anymore information on getting tickets click on the link here!!
OOOH, I love a good meatball and I like to think that I make a decent bowl of pasta and meatballs. So when I heard that Harrogate would have its very own restaurant specialising in meatballs to say I was dead excited was a bit of an understatement!! The Yorkshire Meatball Company was the place to promise the goods in the form of the meatball variety, and I for one was looking forward to the anticipation of feasting on delicious meatballs!!
Harrogate is full of good restaurants, but this place is bringing an original concept and the first of its kind in the UK. Found a short walk from Harrogate train station the place is very easy to find with a central location. I loved the warm and inviting interior, with its quirky lighting pendants made from colanders and cheese graters an amusing touch.
We were give a warm welcome by Gareth Atkinson, the son of the father and son duo who’ve brought this restaurant to Harrogate and went through the menu with us. Part of their ethos is to bring the humble meatball to the North using local ingredients to create a tasty and innovative menu based on 6 meatball varieties. There’s the mix ‘n’ match combo where ‘ball’ varieties are combined with ‘beds’ (sides) and ‘blankets’ (sauce). There’s also ‘Naked Balls’ (Salads), ‘Squashed Balls’ (Burgers) and ‘Tasters’ (individual Balls served in a mini brioche bun with an accompanying Blanket), Small Plates and Sides.
Obvious innuendos aside, the menu combinations seem endless and have something to offer everyone, especially as the menu caters for full-on meat eaters, non-meat and gluten free diners too.
To drink, a number of Yorkshire Ales from a selection of the regions microbreweries have been selected, such as Wharfebank Brewery and Hop Studio Brewery. A short, but concise list of house and ‘posh’ wines are on offer too, on this occasion I was on soft drinks, but I did notice their nifty little wine dispenser for serving wines by the glass! Of course non-alcoholic drinks area must in this family friendly restaurant, so to accompany the usual soft drinks, they’ve carefully sourced a range of Yorkshire produced cordials from Side Oven Bakery, baked in Foston on the Wolds. I tried the Elderflower cordial which was lovely, summery and very refreshing. Great on what was a gloriously sunny Sunday.
I started with a Taster fish ball which Gareth had recommended. It was a yummy few mouthfuls, the fish ball had a delicate golden breadcrumbed crust, a lovely light lemon sauce, all in a lightly toasted Brioche bun that was just the right size (bread supplied by Truly Scrumpious, Blubberhouses). The fish (supplied by Inshore Fisheries, Redcar) itself was tasty, nicely seasoned and had spring onions running through it giving it a delicate onioniness….apologies if that’s not an actual word, I couldn’t think of a better one! Highly enjoyable and I could have eaten loads of them.
For the main course, as soon as the special of Lamb and Rosemary meatballs was mentioned my choice was made, and I’m so glad as it was excellent!!
The meatballs were succulent and full of flavour (meat supplied by Sykes House Farm, Wetherby), perfectly cooked with a lovely crust on the exterior, meaty but not overworked so they still had give. The dauphinoise potatoes were spot on, thinly sliced with a hint of garlic running through it and just enough cream, and was surrounded by a glossy, rich redcurrant sauce. Oh, I nearly forgot the Yorkshire pudding was pretty good too, and the deep fried rosemary was great for adding a hit of pungency on demand.
My dining companion seemed to enjoy her lunch every bit as much as I did, as she couldn’t find fault in it anywhere.
We had a little bit of room left for dessert and The Yorkshire Meatball Company have got that covered too with their ‘Skewered Balls’, which come in the form of ‘Brownie Balls, ‘Cheesecake Balls’ and ‘Profiter Balls’. They were kind enough to allow us a little sampler of all three. Out of the three our favourite was the Brownie Ball, which surprised me as I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, it was good because it was an ice cream rolled in dark chocolate crumbs. They get their excellent ice-cream from Brymor Ice Cream Parlour near Brimham Rocks, where Gareth used to visit as a youngster.
I can see myself coming back time and time again, they have a multitude of combinations so it’ll take me a while to work my way through ALL of them!
They even have a Brunch menu, including Balls Benedict which I think may gain legendary status – a pork ball served in a brioche breakfast bun with a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce, it sounds like a winner to me!
I’d spotted on good old Twitter that relative newcomer to the street food scene Emily Boothroyd, who’s mission is to bring the Vietnamese Bánh mì up North was doing a pop up at the Kirkstall Bridge Inn. I’d eaten them in London but hadn’t seen them anywhere else, so I ventured up last night asking a foodie friend to join me in the process. Last month I’d had a lovely evening at the Kirkstall Bridge Inn enjoying a pint and a platter, but this evening was a completely different affair.
For people who are unfamiliar with the Bánh mì,it’s a Vietnamese phrase which refers to bread, in particular the baguette. From what I’d researched traditionally the bread for bánh mì usually has a light, crusty exterior, but it isn’t uncommon to see a version with a softer crust and lots of soft bread, so I was particularly interested in the bread being used and of course the fillings!
The menu comprised a selection of treats to snack on, such as the Six spice pork crackling and Crispy ‘no name’ veg fritters, at £1.50 and £2.50 respectively. For those wanting something more substantial there was the bánh mì sandwich and rice noodle dishes with different fillings/toppings at £5, or £6 with a fried egg.
It was good to see the locality of the ingredients was very important to the philosophy of the food, with many ingredients being sourced from local producers – Bondgate Bakery (bread), Neil’s Quality Greengrocer and Allan Morton Butchers of Distinction, based in Horsforth.
So after a quick look at the menu I decided on the bánh mì with char sui BBQ pork, being a pork lover and having eaten plenty of char sui in my time, I was intrigued to see how this fared to those I’d eaten in the past. I also saw pork crackling on the menu, so it was a no brainer that I’d have to sample a portion of that too, while my friend chose the rice noodles with tofu and aubergine.
The pork crackling was already bagged up and raring to go, so I could sample these almost immediately while waiting for my bánh mì to arrive.
For me good pork crackling has ultimately got to be crisp and flavourful, with the sound from the first bite that’s recognised even when your eyes are shut and you can’t rely on your other senses to tell you what it is!! These were very tasty bite sized morsels – light, crisp and highly flavoured. Whatever the spices were in this concoction they were certainly hitting the right notes. A great bar snack and a lovely alternative to traditional pork scratchings!
A little while later our main dishes were brought over, in addition a tray of condiments which we could add to our own taste were available.
I thought my bánh mìlooked the part and was very generously filled. You could see all the different layers of ingredients wanting to play their part in this story. What I tend to find with these is that they are quite difficult to hold as they are long, and it’s often hard to keep everything in without it all falling out. This of course didn’t detract from the flavours on show.
The char sui pork had a pleasant flavour, but I prefer it to be a little more intense and flavourful. I really liked the different textures and flavours with crisp onions, cool refreshing cucumber (which I normally hate), the pickled daikon and carrot helped to cut through any richness, The egg which possessed a yolk like the golden Sun was a great addition, providing the sandwich with its own sauce. I’d definitely go for two eggs next time, one for each half! Fresh coriander was always there in the background, with its pungent flavour that can be a love/hate ingredient, in this instance it was a definite love. The bread was good, but I prefer it with a crustier outside and less bread in the centre, rather than these which were more like a submarine roll, soft on the outside and more bread in the centre. It is, as always just personal preference though.
My friend very much enjoyed her noodle dish, and I did try a bit, the tofu and aubergine were well flavoured, the other ingredients weren’t scrimped on and the noodles were silky smooth. It would have been nice if there had been chopsticks to use, as my friend, for whatever reason struggled to eat it with a plastic fork.
All in all we had a tasty meal, and it didn’t put a huge hole in our pockets, in total our food cost £12.50 for 2 people. On my next Bánh mì experience, of which I’m sure there’ll be a next time, I definitely want to try the veg fritters, after seeing photos of these they looked fantastic!!
The Bánh mì Booth has finally been unleashed in Leeds and I’m sure will be going from strength to strength, Emily has already planned more appearances at different street food events, such as Brandon Mills Night Market on 28th March. Go on and get the Bánh mì up treatment!
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.