York

A work/social meeting last week in York was made all the more pleasurable by lunch at J Bakers. This fabulous York restaurant has been well documented in this blog, but I really do feel it’s worth another mention.

Tucked away on Fossgate, it really is one of those places that the locals know all about and the visitors only happen upon if they’re lucky or they’ve done their research beforehand. On this particular lunchtime it wasn’t jam packed like last time, but I did overhear a couple of japanese tourists trying to get a table for a weekend evening and the head waiter patiently explaining that wasn’t a table to be had for weeks due to York Races.

Although I foolishly forgot to pick up a menu, I’ll try and remember the quirkily complex lunch through the medium of photography:

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We started with the little freebie amouse bouche brown paper bag of new potatoes with a very garlicky dip quickly followed ion by a couple of very accomplished starters. I went for the venison tartare with a soft quail’s egg and my guest opted for the potted parmesan custard (I think). Both spectacular and presentation has to get a special mention, with my dessert looking like a work of neon art from 1987, but in a good way.

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Mains were out of the top drawer too. I chose the special halibut and my fellow diner couldn’t resist the steak (with a crispy duck’s egg, no less). My fish was meaty and delicate and the wild asparagus that came with it were exquisite. The steak was ‘hanger’ cut which I’ve heard of but never seen served before, anyway it was declared perfectly cooked and full of meaty specialness (my words, by the way).

The accompanying side dishes deserve a mention too and in the interests of research, we felt we should try the chips (of course), which were twice cooked, the ‘unusual carrots (which were purple with aniseed) and the greens. We thought we were being greedy when ordering these, but trust me, there was no waste as they were so goooood!

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As if we weren’t quite full enough, we gave desserts a fair crack of the whip ( I know), unusually for me I quite fancied a little hit of something sweet before I headed back to Leeds. I had the Seaside Special – lemon curd mousse and popping candy (and yes, it did) and Nick had chocolate tart with peanut butter sorbet. We will return another time to sample the knickerbocker glory!

It was completely satisfying and the end to a perfect lunch. Washed down with a cheeky Spanish Rosado (sensibly priced at £15), topped off with very good coffee, it was lunch of the finest order.

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Jamie’s Italian

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Superstar foodie chef Jamie Oliver finally has a presence in Leeds. The most northerly outpost of his Italian restaurant chain has finally opened in Leeds, with surprisingly little fanfair. There has been a lot of buzz in the foodie blogs about when it might open and after a week of ‘soft launch’ to get things up to speed, it was officially opened last week.

I’ve eaten at the Brighton restaurant earlier this year and very good it was too, so expectations are high for the Leeds operation. And after the disappointment of the failure to open Fifteen in the city, Jamie’s Italian has a great opportunity to firmly establish itself as a major player on the Leeds restaurant scene.

First things first – this is essentially a high class chain restaurant and although at times it’s easy to forget this, as everything is so well done, a chain it is – and all the more impressive for that. The second thing that hits you is the size of the place and the investment – the budget for the fit out alone is probably more than most restaurants make in a year. It’s a joy to behold from a design perspective with the interior stripped right back to the bare walls – very cool, modern and funky. First impressions are very good indeed.

We decided to eat early after a few drinks in Bar & Grill and sat down around 5pm. Top tip: to avoid the queues – and there are lots of people wanting to eat here – aim to eat between 5-6.30. I realise that’s early, but if not you’re in for a long wait and as we left at 7pm, the line was ten deep outside the door.

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The atmosphere is lively, laid back and very much of the moment. The waitress knew her stuff and recounted in detail the exact nature of the specials (Porchetta and Pollock respectively) so we opted for those and ordered the cured meat and cheese platter for two. Drinks took a little bit too long to arrive and considering the place was half empty, that wasn’t really good enough. As the restaurant filled up, people all around us were having to wait a little bit too long in between drinks and courses – it seemed like the staff were experiencing a few teething problems.

Our food arrived in fairly good time and the meats et al arrived on a rustic plank, supported by two tins of italian tomatoes – which was a nice touch and a little bit of theatre. The mains arrived and Julie’s porchetta was spot on although lacked the crispy crackling advertised and my pollock was nicely cooked although not quite the ‘chunky portion of white fish’ she promised. Well priced at £13.50 too. Washed down with a bottle of Venetian Pino Grigio, we were very happy indeed. I did take some pics of the food but the lighting was modishly low where we were sat and they are just too dark. These pics from the website perfectly represent what to expect:

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By now the restaurant was jumping and the early evening dinner crowd were in full swing. This would be a great, lively destination for a group of diners although the expected wait in the bar (if you’re lucky) might put a lot of people off. If you don’t mind a few beers before you eat, I suspect it would add to the evening. If you like to get seated as soon as you arrive (like me), then you’ll be frustrated.

We finished with a quite acceptable but quite orangey Tiramisu to share and the bill finally came to £70 including tip. Nice also to see that the practice of sticking 10% automatically on to the bill is not practiced at Jamie’s Italian.

Jamie’s Italian is a welcome addition to the Leeds restaurant scene – a big, hairy commercial set up that is completely in keeping with the city’s stature (some would say fur coat no knickers outlook, but not me) . I think it will have the knock on effect of boosting restaurant trade across the city too will be considerable, as people who can’t be bothered to wait or can’t get in, go elsewhere.

All in all, we felt it was pretty good value for the food and dining experience, although it seems that they’re still finding their way a little bit and I expect these minor details will get ironed out in the coming weeks. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the attention to detail right across the restaurant is terrific in terms of ‘brand Jamie’ – it all works and feels right. If you’re a fan of Jamie and his cooking, then a visit to this restaurant won’t disappoint.

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Lost Afternoon

As a long standing customer of Virgin Wines, we’d got some tickets for their first tasting event in Leeds. I’ve long been a fan of Virgin Wines and I love the different wines and hard to find vintages they have on offer. So we planned a full Troffers outing (apart from Jill who was in London seeing Julie Andrews, don’t ask) to give them all a try.

We knew it was going to get messy. A full afternoon, tasting the very best Virgin Wines had to offer?? We needed sustenance before we headed down to The Loft, where it was all happening.

So proceedings kicked off at The Reliance, which proved to the perfect place to fill up on great food (and beer, rather ominously). As you know, Reliance is one of my staple restaurants in Leeds and most of the Troffers hadn’t been before, so I was very pleased to introduce them to its chilled out pleasures.

Saturday lunchtime is as good as time as any to eat at Reliance (is there a bad time?) and we all got stuck in. Fish & chips, chicken livers, ploughman’s, gammon & eggs and welsh rarebit all delivered in terms of taste and were as ever, generously portioned.

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The Reliance won many more converts that afternoon – the food was excellent – simple and well cooked. The service was attentive and considerate and the Reliance Bitter was on top form.

The wine tasting was a pretty impressive affair and much bigger than we were all expecting. The Loft is a bar/club space that’s pretty sizeable and the place was packed to the rafters with a huge cross section of wine slurpers – from  in the know foodie types to gaggles of women hell bent on a great afternoon out. There were literally hundreds of wines on offer and it would have been impossible to try them all, so we all pursued the tables where our favourites were on tasting.

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Complete with glass, pen and booklet we set about the wide selection of vino with missionary zeal. The Chilean section was of particular interest to me and it seemed that they had cornered the market in massive reds, toothsome roses and spanking fresh whites. The girls hunted down the prosecco table and hogged the rose wines until they were satisfied they had tasted them all. After a while it all predictably became a bit of a blur (literally) and the afternoon ended most satisfyingly with the announcement via mobile that Leeds United had gained promotion. More wine drunk in celebration!

To cap things off, we adjourned to Anthony’s for a glass of wine (I kid you not!) and to stock up on cheese and delicious goodies for an outdoor supper around the fire in D&G’s garden. The evening carried on back in New Farnley and the treats purchased from Anthony’s were of the highest quality – the Epoisses cheese was monumental, as were the cured meats. Special mention has to go to the posh version of the old sweet shop favourites: cinder toffee and snowballs. Amazing both!

The International, Morley St, Bradford

Curry night this month was at one of the oldest curry houses in Bradford….and it was great. Tess wrote about the International a few months ago so I was looking forward to our visit. Starting with lamb chops, my staple for our curry nights, the flavours were fabulous, not too spicy so I enjoyed every bite…I ventured away from my usual main course of chicken korma and opted for chicken, mushroom and potato balti which again was not too spicy so you could taste all the herbs, spices and meat….great and all washed down with a well made glass or two of sweet lassi…10/10..Next time I am having the Taqur thali platter which as seen below is a small sampler of prawn, veg and chicken curry served with rice and salad…food was good value and staff very friendly.

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D & Tess.

St Pancras Grand.

Just before we caught the train back up Norf we decided to check out the St Pancras Grand in the newly renovated St Pancras Station which now is the Euro Star hub. This is a very special place with the huge glass and steel roof, giant statue of Man and Woman embracing a truly magnificent introduction to Cool Britannia. Evokes a grand and bygone era, sitting sipping champagne from a  taster selection we watched what seemed like the the whole world go by, rushing to catch, meet or greet tugging behind them kids, luggage or both, is their journey starting or finished? I love sitting, watching and wondering especially with a glass of champagne.

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Time to eat, we had watched various plates come and go and all looked very appetising…G opted for 1/2 doz Dorset Organic rock oysters, unusual shells and plenty of meat…he savoured every one! I had the grilled cheddar and ham sandwich with tomato chutney and yes you guessed, fat chips…which were delicious..I have to be in the right mood for oysters so G ate all 6 to himself  but helped me with the fat chips!!Stuffed to the brim I ventured into the main restaurant to look at the seafood display, a couple were sat at the end of the bar snuggled around a large sharing seafood platter which looked fabulous..the chef was preparing a platter of oysters but looked up and took the time to say hello..

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sandwichA final glass of champagne but this time I opted for the Gosset Grand reserve, fresh and crisp with a lasting flavour before our journeys end.

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A walk round Covent Garden.

We had some time to kill on Saturday morning so we decided to take the short walk to Covent Garden. This is a really great market as the pics show lots to see and taste………. As we had had breakfast we just took pics but were wonderfully entertained by live musicians whilst we meandered around. D was inspired and will be down with Jen for a girlie shopping trip soon.

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D&G

Galvins at The Hilton Park Lane, London followed by Tamarind, Mayfair, London.

2nd night in London and D joined me. We met at Galvins which is on the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton. I would say there are 3 places on a par to view London, Vertigo(Tower 42 in The City), The London Eye and Galvins. The most stylish and sumptuous is Galvins.

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The Galvin’s bloody Mary is the best I’ve ever had anywhere(truffle oil…..)! Not cheap though.

We were lazy so we caught a taxi to Tamarind which is just off Curzon Street and only 5 mins walk off Park Lane. Copper is the interior design theme. There are curry houses and then there is Tamarind. Chef Alfred Prasad is the youngest ever Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin Star. The dishes below will be known to all but with respect to all the good curry’s we have eaten the taste and ability to discern individual flavours was a fantastic first;

Aloo Tikka, Seekh Kebab, Shami Kebab, Kadhai Jingha, Murgh Makni, Bhuna Murgh, Saag Aloo, Bhindi, Bread basket and Basmati rice. To drink well, Cobra’s and Lassi of course!

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