Dish, Leeds

After a very busy week spent mostly in London which included business dinners all you need is a night in but D had other ideas…..
I wasn’t told where I had to go and when the cab dropped us off at The Electric Press I thought we were going to start at Epernay but was very surprised when we walked into the little place between Epernay and Casa Mia called Dish. I had heard of Dish but didn’t even know it was there. The place is very small, under 30 covers but is nicely set as a Bistro style, wooden floors and dark wood tables, high ceiling lots of blackboards.

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The bar is tiny and the kitchen is open and small to say the least so I was kind of pleased that there where only 3 tables occupied because I worried whether the chef and his assistant would be able to cope.
The front of house is a charming young chap called Chris and he explained that they were fully booked so the only table available was the high one in the bar area right outside the kitchen but D was determined so we climbed into the seats.
D ordered a glass Prosecco and I had a Japanese whisky which I am particularly fond of at present called Yamazaki we asked for some crackling and truffle popcorn to nibble on whilst we perused the menu.

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Looking at the menu my immediate thought was, far too adventurous absolutely no way can these dishes be carried off in that kitchen! We ordered pan seared foie gras with apple and pork gel on toasted sourdough and artichoke crisps for me and East coast crab and sautéed tiger prawn salad with horseradish snow for D, I am guessing you understand my concern. The wine list is simple but well designed, we decided on a bottle of Laurent Perrier Rose as I hadn’t seen Mrs S all week!
The food was flying out of the kitchen and it looked amazing, the table we were at was turning into a “Chef’s table”, we were having fun and the place was filling up.
Our starters arrived and I can only say that both were just fabulous.

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We googled the chef who is Eddie Nuttal, very experienced, lots of flair and a star in the making but hang on we hadn’t had mains so let’s not get carried away too early.
D had slow roasted pork belly with fennel and chilli black pudding, smoked mash, pig ear and walnut salad and I opted for duck three ways, smoke crusted Gressingham duck breast, Peking duck consommé, pan seared duck hearts with pomme Anna. The amount of “wows, amazing” were off the scale…

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After all that I was full despite the beautiful desserts being taken out but D ordered lemon tart and see below because as they say a picture speaks a thousand words.

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We have no doubt that Eddy, Chris and the team here obviously deserve their “Best Newcomer” in the Oliver awards and will be successful. In fact I predict they will easily compete with the best places in Leeds….
G&D.

La Piloitte

Once again went to Portiragnes Plage in the South of France, this time the four sisters had managed to get together for a long weekend, hopefully the first of many. We ate at La Piloitte in the square, a lazy afternoon without a care in the world.

Three of us decided to have the three goats cheese salad for starters, the amount was just right and not too filling. For main course I had steak au poivre this was beautifully cooked medium rare perfection on a plate. It was served with ratatouille a baked tomato and dauphinoise potatoes. I had to have a couple of glasses of vin rouge to wash it down, from the Languedoc of course. My dessert was ile flottante which I have had several times but never disappoints. Crumble was the order of the day for Pat and Bernie. Maureen just ate a pizza which she said was very good and tasty.

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This restaurant is very reasonably priced, the service is excellent and I shall definitely visit again when I return to Portiragne at the end of May.

Tess and Pat

Trinity Leeds

Trinity Centre in Leeds is apparently the biggest Shopping Complex opening anywhere in Europe this year. It think it is named after the old Trinity church which it appears is having an interior make up but desperately needs a full on exterior clean as it looks forlorn outside the huge shiny new structure sharing it’s name. The Trinity centre is a Trinity of shops, bars and restaurants covered by an amazing glass roof that is designed so it overlaps in various places allowing gaps to the outside. The weather has been particularly cold but every time we have been it is like being “inside” a fridge so seeing ladies in heels and skimpy clothing rushing between bars is kind of odd. I have to admit other than to buy a pack of refills from The Pen Shop I haven’t been around the shops but there are some new to Leeds.
What is different is that there isn’t the normal obligatory shopping centre food hall although Giraffe, Carluccios, Waggamama and Yo Sushi represent the chains and the rest are smaller more stylish set ups.
In turn we have tried out Angelica (more later), The Alchemist and it’s sister bar The Botanist both of which serve great cocktails but very different in style. The Botanist is quirky and more shabby chic and although very busy right now the staff appear in better control, whether a pit stop whilst shopping or a pop in for one or two it has a nice friendly atmosphere. There is a heated outside area where you can see into the open kitchen which we liked very much but summer we thinks…
The Alchemist is aimed to be upmarket with a “science of mixology” vibe, serving the drinks in an elaborate mix of laboratory style vessels. All very intriguing and theatrical but the the thing is it is not all substance as the cocktails inside the vessels are on the whole excellent. The terrace has nice urban views and will be full in summer. We haven’t eaten at either the Botanist or Alchemist so can’t comment.

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So, onto D&D Group’s Angelica and Crafthouse which I guess are the anchor leisure food/drink destinations at Trinity. I am told this is D&D Group’s first foray outside of London where amongst others they own the very upmarket Le Pont de la Tour and Quaglino’s so the expectation is huge. Our first visit to Angelica was on a soft launch 1st Saturday night, as you would expect the joint was buzzing, there were eight of us booked in to eat but they can’t sit eight on one table so we had adjoining tables for dinner but then butted up after. The big idea is the raw fish bar which I was particularly looking forward to so you can imagine my disappointment when the ice behind the glass was covered in empty shells, looked good but EMPTY??

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Various dishes from sashimi to steak, to cold lobster left all eight of us underwhelmed, the service was also poor. However the drinks and atmosphere were superb and the views from the snow covered terrace are amongst the very best in Leeds centre, this coupled with the sincerely apologetic staff we decided we should go back but not for dinner. Lunch definitely and drinks without a doubt. After our trip to Casa Mia we decided to go back to Angelica for drinks to make sure we all would have a very “relaxing” Monday. We had a little persuading to do to get in as it was pretty packed but it was worth it, we had a fantastic night. My recommendation is not any of the great cocktails but the Venezuelan rum “Diplomatico” which is amazing.
This brings us nicely on to Crafthouse and our date night dinner. I have to add that we had had a good 10 day break from all the eating out by this time……. I know it has been a full on month so will we will be taking it easy for a while??
The Crafthouse space is all glass with a great mix of furniture from bar stools allowing seating looking into the kitchen to intimate tables enjoying a great view and a dining table for eight or more. Very impressive format.
The Executive chef Lee Bennett has created a nice menu that will challenge all the high end establishments in Leeds and beyond. Originally from Bridlington but travelled far and wide Lee has not lost all his roots with Bridlington, Lobster and “Ginger Pig’s” beef being a key part of his repertoire. They have what is called a Josper, some kind of amazing BBQ type grill which allows cooking at a high temperature adding that lovely sealed crisp effect along with smokiness without losing the ability to keep meat succulent inside.
As we had not had a date night for a while we decided what the hell and went all out. Laurent Perrior Rose, Grilled Lobster, Rib of Beef(accompanied by a very reasonably priced £21 carafe of Chianti)assiete of deserts and cheese over 4 hours. D and I can honestly say the Lobster was The Best and we were treated by the chef to a small amuse bouche version of his signature Lobster Bisque which was incredible in it’s depth of flavour with a heavenly texture

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How do you follow that, well Lee was showing off we think because the Rib was not only amazing but without doubt the finest beef we can remember tasting. We were pretty much beaten even though we didn’t finish all the beef so to our shame the desserts weren’t given full attention but we tried a little each of all of them and….next time! We waited for a while before cheese thankfully it was not a massive plate but just right portions of local cheeses which to be honest we played with but were lovely. The prices for the above are high but in our opinion worth it. This place will challenge it’s competitors to reach higher.

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Finally we had a very quick Monday night meal at Cielo Blanco a lovely independent Mexican and decided on the Street Food menu which allows you to choose 3 dishes for £10.95, we had slow cooked baby back ribs, pulled pork tacos, prawn tostados, mackerel and salsa verde tacos additionally we had a Mexican Fish Butty which was interesting. Mrs S had Mojito’s and I had a Modelo beer plus a couple of Virgin Mary’s to accompany the meal all were excellent. A nice friendly spot for a quick different experience.

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Will the Trinity Centre kill off the rest of Leeds High Street? I don’t think so if the Council gets it right and supports lots of variety with independents, festivals, street entertainment and develop a proper City Centre Strategy. Leeds is continuing to change so far for the better, let’s hope it stays that way.
G&D.

Glasgow

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I think Glasgow is a pretty cool city. It doesn’t have the pretensions of Edinburgh, isn’t encumbered with an overblown sense of itself and it is comfortable in its own skin. Glaswegians are warm and friendly too – even if the accent gets the better of me from time to time – and are clearly proud of their city. Long ago it had a bad reputation as a violent and forbidding place and I’m sure like every city in the UK, it still has some places like that, in the main it’s a safe, vibrant, modern European city.

We have an office in the city and I’m lucky enough to travel there often and this week I spent two days in the city which meant a night on the town was in order. It’s great knowing people who are locals as they pre qualify every night out to make sure that we only go to the best / coolest / most interesting  places – and this week was no exception.

We headed out to the West End of Glasgow, about 15 mins cab ride from the downtown area, and a real upcoming, happening part of the city. Testament to this fact was our first port of call: Brewdog – the coolest chain of bars in the UK, serving an amazing array of craft beers from all over the world. Of course, we now have a Brewdog in Leeds and after visiting the Glasgow branch, a visit to the Leeds outpost will be in order. I had a pint of Punk IPA, one of their own brews and a properly unusual and striking pale ale it was.

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We were eating just around the corner at one of Glasgow’s more interesting restaurants The Butchershop. It’s style is ‘Manhattan neighbourhood steakhouse’ and it does look the part as Glasgow definitely reminds me of US cities in parts. As the name implies this is a real meat eater’s dream gaff with a simple but beautifully curated menu featuring a choice of prime cuts and accompaniments. It’s all about the meat here and as you’d expect these days the provenance of the animals it came from was impeccable.

It was a blokey dinner so it was steaks all round and I opted for Loch Fyne oysters to get things rolling. It’s worth mentioning also the Earl Grey Old fashioned cocktail I ordered was sublime – there is clearly some class mixology going on behind the bar. I plumped for a ribeye topped with bone marrow (oh my) and guys variously had Cote de Boef, Sirloin and rump. Thrice cooked chips were served in the obligatory miniature tin pail ( I would have sent them back if they hadn’t been) and there were some sides somewhere but to be honest it was the meat we were interested in.

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It was all superb and looking back on it, I can’t find a bad word to say about it. Prices were where you would expect although the signature cuts Cote de Boeuf and T Bone were slightly wallet challenging but we are talking about dry aged for 35 days here. The wine list was sensible and house Rioja we quaffed tasted like a much more expensive wine. Someone mentioned that the service seemed slow but as we were in a large group, it wasn’t really noticeable or indeed an issue.

Afterwards we found a couple of cracking bars – The Ben Nevis which had a jaw dropping array of whiskies and live traditional music and a uber cool bar The Kelvin Hall Cafe. All in all a great evening, next time you’re in Glasgow it’s well worth a trip out to the West End and in particular The Butchershop. Vegetarian options are available.

The Foundry

Some people just do some things so well that they garner a loyalty amongst their clientele that when they move from a successful joint to start another place their success is never in doubt. Big Phil at The Foundry is one of those Leeds restaurateurs that is just one of these people. At the famous Leodis he was part of a great Leeds legend and when it was sold to Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie Blanc chain he set up The Foundry in the up and coming Round Foundry complex in Holbeck. A risk for some and even I thought it would be a challenge to make it work particularly as the competition included Sous le Nez, La Grillade, Kendals etc all very good in similar markets.
Anyhow Phil has built a great place that does excellent dishes that are traditional and in a good way predictably consistent.
We get to the Foundry about once every couple of months and I stick to the same few dishes but my absolute favourite is the black pudding and bacon salad starter which is fantastic. I had a confit of duck leg as a main which would be a match for any Parisian restaurant. Honestly one of the most honest great meals I have had over the last 12 months.
My dining partners had, chicken liver pâté and moules for starters. Mains were rib eye steak, calves liver with bacon and beef wellington, not a complaint to be made!
Sometimes you just need to be fed well and The Foundry won’t let you down unlike my visits to Brasserie Blanc.

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G.

Paramount bar and Ponti’s Italian

    Jen and I were invited on a mums and daughters weekend in London to celebrate our friends 60th birthday (not allowed to mention her name). Some of the daughters had not seen each other for over 10 years so we were in for good fun… Snow forecast, we travelled down via East Coast UK which departed on time and as usual had a fun journey, a few drinks, crisps, sandwiches and biscuits all served with a smile from the friendly staff.

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    Tube tickets purchased we headed off to find our hotel, The St Giles on Bedford Ave, a 2min walk from Tottenham Court Road tube..ideally placed for theatres and shopping..room key in hand we walked into the room and straight back out again, the room was dated and smelt disgusting..reception were friendly and helpful and changed our room to a newly refurbished room and all was good… We met up with 2 of the party and headed off for a drink. Centre Point has a bar and restaurant on the 32nd floor called Paramount and is situated next to TCR tube entrance on New Oxford Street …very handy……Prosecco and Olives ordered so it was time for a chin wag..chit chat and banter across the table as mums and daughters caught up on gossip…we were only staying for a quick drink but the others arrived and 3 bottles plus other drinks later we thought it was time to leave to get ready for dinner..
    On a previous visit to London with the “older” girlies we had stopped off at Ponti’s Italian Kitchen on John Princes St just off Oxford Circus, the place had a nice friendly vibe so we decided to eat there again for Sharon’s celebration birthday…I booked a round table in the window weeks before and confirmed my reservation…on arrival, no round table available so I spoke to the manager, Nelson.. He apologised and within 10 mins had sorted the table for us..we ordered a bottle of Prosecco and a sparkling rose, no sparkling rose… Various starter were ordered, garlic pizza bread, king prawns in garlic and fritto misto all were lovely and well presented

    20130126-140046.jpg Mains included the usual, pizza, lasagne and pasta with meatballs…the only negative comment was that the meatballs were over cooked and hard…everyone else enjoyed their food…as if we had not had enough food some ordered desserts, I had read on the internet about the Bomboloni de ricotta, warm donuts with acacia honey and vanilla pod ice cream… sounded yummy…unfortunately they didn’t have any!! so I opted for the dolcini, a small dessert, in my case creme brulee with a coffee..very good but not what I really wanted…All of us commented that the food was good and the service exceptional, the bill was £30 per head which we thought was good value..

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    To round of the night we walked back to Paramount for a final glass or two and to admire the night lights of London, I must admit it is a stunning 360* view from the bar, note you do need to book in advance to get on the guest list…

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    Dx

A London, Shoreditch weekend

We had been meaning to catch up with some French friends who now live in Wimbledon and meet up in town with some others. Time is precious so we decided to try do it over two nights which at our age is a challenge but you know we like a challenge. We stayed in the trendy Shoreditch area for a change and The Hoxton Hotel came highly recommended, it did not let us down. A cool place where the crowd is eclectic and not up itself.
The first night we booked a table at Eyre Bros a Mediterranean foodie restaurant that has been around for sometime with a sister place in another part of town, all good pointers. The atmosphere is relaxed but smart and the food is well….. Mediterranean so a great mix of the best Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French dishes. Our French friends are stereotypically snooty about food but were impressed if not quite gushing. The service was excellent even when we wanted some “bar dishes” which the menu is clear are only served at the bar but they gave in!
A selection of tapas to start included the obligatory padron peppers (needed a bit more salt), squid, clams and spicy sausage (chistorra from Burgos)all very good. For mains we had a seafood and pork cataplana which was served in a big lidded pot and amazing. Have to say the cheese was a poor show and you know how the French love their cheeses so fell at last hurdle or we would give this place top marks. Finally it is not cheap particularly when you drink wine with the French!

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Saturday was a tad hard on the heads but we had a wander around Covent Garden and then over to Borough Market in the aft just for a mooch around. Tell you what, when you get off the tube at London Bridge the Shard is incredibly impressive. We had a snack at the street vendors, spicy BBQ pork soft wrap (bargain at 4 quid) for D and a piece of Cod for me, both were superb which is why this is probably the gourmet food central in the UK (discuss??).

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In the evening we had to go for a curry, Brick Lane is nearby but we actually went to Whitechapel just around the corner. Tayyabs is one of the original curry houses and hugely popular queuing out the door bring your own booze kind of place. The grilled meat starter plates were fantastic and the mains are traditional Punjabi dishes all very very good. Coming from West Yorkshire where we know our curries I have to say this is as good a place as any.

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Sunday as you would expect we skipped breakfast again! Don’t worry we had a late lunch before we jumped on the train back for a rest.
Lunch was at the Booking Office, restaurant of the fabulously opulent Renaissance St Pancras Grand, recently refurbished and Grand Indeed. This place brings back a bygone age of luxury.
I had a charcuterie plate to start with, bits of incredibly tasty meats including smoked duck, just amazing. D had the fois gras and ham hock terrine, melt in your mouth pure indulgence.

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Mains, D had a cottage pie and I had a rib eye (might add 28 day aged YORKSHIRE beef)both were faultless. As we had time to kill (probably just greed…) we had desserts of, what else, Yorkshire lemon meringue pie and praline cheesecake nom nom nom! 2 bottles of delicious Sancerre Rose between us meant a long leisurely lunch waiting for our train. Can’t finish this without mentioning that the service from our waiter Gregorio who was going back to a Brazil for a holiday was impeccable. By the way Saturday night has a live band and jazz music but be warned book early they are very popular. This place has to be tried at least once!

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G&D.