Peruvian food has definitely become ‘a thing’ in recent years, especially in London. Establishments such as Ceviche, Lima and Andina opening their doors to the public and winning the hearts of many with their fusion food and Pisco sours. Some of which have garnered high praise and acclaim, in particular Lima being awarded a Michelin star.
A table booked at Pachamama for 6pm sounded reasonable, right? In hindsight we probably shouldn’t have booked a table for 6pm, but had completely misjudged ourselves with how much we’d eat beforehand! You’ll see from my two posts on Opera Tavern and On the Bab!
Off the main drag, you’ll see a big ‘A’ in neon, I was a little confused at first, perhaps it relates to Andean cuisine? The front door immediately leads to a staircase taking customers below street level, resulting in a dark atmosphere to the room lit up with neon and the odd lamp/candle. The menu’s broken down into snack, sea, land, soil and desserts and lend themselves to sharing, you guessed it – small plates! We obliged by ordering something from each, apart from desserts – not wanting to risk bursting as we’d probably be full to the brim after all the eating we’d already done.
The dishes were beautifully executed, amalgamating good presentation with interesting ingredients and tastes. There wasn’t much to fault, apart from ourselves for possibly spooling our appetites before we’d even got to the restaurant, but that’s completely our (ahem my) greedy mistake. Highlights were many – the lamb belly, Iberico pork, fried chicken and chicharonnes! All on the money, some of the best fried chicken I’ve eaten and kicks the one from On The Bab into submission (hey, I know it’s not the same but whatever!). The lamb, you may know I’m not the greatest lover of lamb, but I could’ve been converted after that dish – well cooked, so tender and moist, with flavours which just sung. If I enjoyed the lamb, I loved the Iberico pork which was super succulent, the maize puffs reminded me of corn maize puff snacks which I love, and a huacatay sauce that provided its own unique herbiness to the plate.
Both food and cocktails being equally awesome, the staff are welcoming and its popularity didn’t seem to affect the speed of service. This aside, it’s certainly not cheap and despite how much we enjoyed it, Pachamama is definitely a place for a special treat, rather than somewhere you fancy going just because you can’t be bothered to cook tea!
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.
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.
It’s been an exciting wait for Polpo to open in Leeds. The critically acclaimed London restaurant has branched forth into the glorious north and laid their hat in the luxurious surrounding of Harvey Nichols, blending Venetian style with an added touch of rustic charm. This really was the hottest opening in town so my friend and I got dressed up and hot-footed it to the top floor of the fancy shopping centre to see what Russell Norman’s latest bacaro has to offer. Thanks to Harvey Nichols for the free invitation!
If you like the small plate style of eating, then Polpo is for you, offering up tapas style food with a distinctly Venetian flavour. We sat at our table and were welcomed by a complimentary cone of calamari and courgette which, whilst lacking seasoning, was a lovely way to start snacking whilst perusing the menu for what to indulge in. The surroundings were busy and created a cosy atmosphere with unique lighting which made it feel like you had walked into a family run Italian bistro, a move away from the slick glass and metal modernity of Harvey Nichols.
The staff were very friendly, advising us to order quite a few dishes to enjoy between us and giving us personal favourites to help us order. In the end, after much deliberation over which type of meatball to order (yes, the struggle is real!), we plumped for a mix of seafood, meat and a couple of the staff favourites. First arrived our cicchetti (meaning very small), which were the stuffed fried olives and ham hock and mustard crostini. Along with this came our cocktails, elderflower martinis which came in daintily small glasses. They were delicious and the size was deceptive – I had three, thinking how something so small wouldn’t have much effect. My head didn’t agree the next day. Note to self: don’t be greedy! Anyway, enough of my lack of self control, more about the food!
The fried olives, stuffed with anchovies, were worthy of the recommendation from our waitress – crispy, salty and moreish, a perfect partner with a crisp glass of white wine or a cold beer. The ham hock and mustard crostini looked delicious and was piled high with meat, but was slightly less successful than the olives in terms of taste. The pork was succulent but, similar to the calamari, lacked seasoning and a sense of piquancy – in fact, it was pretty difficult to pick up on any mustard on the crostini. Tasty, but slightly bland. Possibly a opening night oversight. Our pizzette – a light alternative to its doughy namesake was topped with spinach, parmesan and a soft baked egg. This was a surprising find, with a different texture from what we expected, with the spinach topping forming a soft mousse consistency, cradling the perfectly baked egg. With a generous sprinkling of parmesan, this was a light and satisfying dish which we thought would make a great lunch if you weren’t wanting a filling dish. From trying the spinach offering, I’d definitely go back for the other three pizzettes, with the prosciutto, scamorza and pickled radicchio flavour sounding very tempting.
Along with our pizzette came one of the Venetian classic dishes: meatballs and spaghettini. The choice of meatball at Polpo is pretty impressive, with a customer being able to choose the ‘classic’ beef and pork, lamb and mint, spicy pork and fennel or a chickpea, spinach and ricotta offering for the vegetarian diners. You also get the choice of tomato sauce and spaghettini or meatballs ‘alla vedova’, which means the meaty morsel is deep fried in a crispy crumb. We plumped for the classic sauce and pasta option and really enjoyed it, with the mixture of the beef and pork giving the ball a firm texture and a deftly balanced, savoury flavour. We inhaled them greedily, fighting the urge to play out a scene from Lady and the Tramp (I’d have been the tramp, just in case my friend is reading this!).
Our last duo of dishes were the roast pork belly with braised apple and chilli and garlic prawns, which are always a great partnership in my opinion. The prawns were well seasoned and cooked (I could have eaten two dishes full of them) and the crackling on the pork was devilishly crispy and delicious. The actual pork belly and apple combination, a natural pairing, unfortunately followed suit with the previous dishes due to a lack of seasoning. It should have been a stand out dish but paled into the background with the soft apple adding little taste to the overall plate. But never fear, the desserts were here to save the day – and did they ever! My friend and I would both own up to being massively sweet-toothed, so when we saw tiramisu on the menu, there was no debate – it had to happen! I also decided to try the flourless pistachio and almond cake, because those two flavours are personal favourites of mine. Now did I mention how greedy I was earlier? Yes…well, we saw chocolate salami on the menu and had our curiosity piqued. The waitress offered to bring some over as well and y’know, who were we to refuse? It would have been rude not to. The tiramisu pot was sumptuously silky and boozy – everything that a tiramisu should be. However, the stand out dish was the pistachio and almond cake, coming with a HUGE dollop of mascarpone drizzled in honey (my pet peeve is when restaurants give you a meagre serving of cream – so thanks Polpo for your dairy generosity!). It was light, moist and one of the finest sponges I’ve eaten in a long time, The pistachio flavour shone through and was delicately accompanied by a wonderful almond essence which lingered in the mouth. It is worth returning just for this cake – a masterpiece! And the chocolate salami, I hear you cry? Well it was very simply slices of chocolate, nut and fruit – we’d nearly eaten ourselves into a coma by then so didn’t finish them, but it was a lovely side dish and I could imagine children loving this accompaniment, or it going down a treat with a cup of coffee. The evening was really enjoyable and the food, on the whole, was tasty and definitely well worth the prices. Leeds is pretty jam packed with restaurants at the moment but I think the placing of Polpo in Harvey Nichols, along with its reputation, will see it thrive. Hopefully small niggles like seasoning will be ironed out in the first few weeks of opening and if I was to recommend anything, go in for coffee and the flourless pistachio cake, or a pizzette and an elderflower martini (just don’t drink three on a work night – your liver won’t thank you, mark my words).
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.
‘The Swine That Dines’ – the alter ego of The Greedy Pig, you know the place…the one that makes arguably the best breakfast in Leeds, does wonders with nose to tail dining, make incredible scotch eggs and knows a thing or two about pies? Well they’ve started serving up a menu of small plates, just on Friday evenings for now; the first one being last night. In their own way The Greedy Pig quietly announced their new menu on social media a few days ago, alongside a brand spanking new logo – which somehow shows a knowing simplicity, it’s to the point and possesses an unfussiness which suits their style down to the ground. This is something they’ve been wanting to do for ages and now seems the right time to set their stall out.
So what about the menu, with Stu’s background in Modern British cuisine he’s developed a seven plate menu that follows this train of thought. The menu’s written simply with core ingredients listed, I love how they don’t play it safe with the choice of meat (ox tongue, goat and rabbit), I also loved some of the terminology they’ve used like Penny Bun, which Jo informed us was the English name for a cep or porcini mushroom and instead of using the word boudin, they’ve stuck with the humble sausage!
With each dish being comparable to a starter portion, it was suggested 2-3 plates per person which probably sounded about right. Even though I’d looked at the menu on Instagram countless times, I was still finding it hard to narrow my chosen few down, so fortunately for me I was joined by a fellow food lover I’d met before at different events. This gave us both the perfect opportunity to try most of the dishes – picking 6 of the 7, leaving out the ox tongue as we’d eaten that before. I won’t go into all the details of each dish as I think it may ruin it for you, but here are some shots of the plates we enjoyed.
I implore you to go and try it for yourself because the food is great, admittedly I’m a fan of The Greedy Pig, however just see for yourself and I hope you’ll be thanking me. For six plates and some bread setting us back £31.50 between two of us, it was pretty bargainous, and as always service is warm and friendly. Their honest approach just shines through and after having already missed all of their themed suppers, I really wanted to make it this time!!
For now it’s a BYOB affair and while they are settling in they aren’t taking bookings at the moment, so just turn up and expect a good feed.
The Swine That Dines will be serving small plates every Friday 6-9pm, with the possibility of a Saturday service and a wider menu choice in the future too.
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.