Thursday, 30 December 2010

Piazza by Anthony, Leeds

I have visited the Piazza several times in the past, but have also been turned away due to a lack of tables a few times. A had never been, and after a couple of glasses of Prosecco in Veritas, we decided to make our way down to the Corn Exchange and give it a whirl for a late lunch.

We were asked if we had a reservation when we arrived. It was a Wednesday lunch and we had only just decided to eat there, so a definite no was the answer. The waiter looked a little alarmed, and then said she would set a table up for us. Thirty seconds later, another waiter turned up and said he would take us straight to a table. Eh? So we followed him and were quickly seated.

The menu is fairly long and varied. It looked like it had changed since my last visit so I gave it my full attention. We decided to share the charcuterie platter to start, followed by lamb cutlets. I ordered a glass of my favourite white Pinot Grigio, and settled in for a pleasant lunch.

The charcuterie platter was a mix of meats, cheese, olives, coleslaw and bread – a good combination.

For main, the lamb cutlets came with a crushed potato and pea mix – my favourite part of the meal, in fact. The cutlets were served pink, although A commented that one of his definitely had a raw element to it.

I had asked for another glass of Pinot when the starter was cleared away, but it didn’t appear. Mains were served and still no wine. So I asked a passing waiter if it was on its way. It wasn’t. Then it was but it was a glass of blush. So that went away and then the white Pinot arrived. I don’t mind the odd service error in a restaurant – it is not life and death. No one is removing a kidney or landing a plane. But I have to say I have noticed a bit of a shambolic feature to the service in the Piazza before. At the end of our meal, it was a long time before our plates were cleared away and partly for this reason, we couldn’t be bothered with a pudding. In fact, we didn’t even wait for the bill and went to the till to pay, as we felt we had been left way too long.

Despite this, it was nice to get out and about after the Christmas break. Apart from the Pinot incident, I would recommend Piazza for a pleasant environment and good food at reasonable prices. Although the lamb was slightly too pink, I have had great meals here before.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

New Mason's Arms, Oulton

As it was my sister’s birthday and as the whole family were on holiday / not at school / retired, we were taken out to the New Mason’s Arms pub today in Oulton. (With the exception of A, who is none of the above!).

This is a nice traditional pub that provides a good bar food menu. Mum and Dad had booked, so we arrived to a table set up with Christmas crackers and festive napkins. Some fabulous looking prawn cocktails kept whizzing past to other diners, but we decided to stick with a main course only. (I am in the habit of falling asleep if I eat too much at lunch).

I ordered lasagne which came with a side salad and chips. The lasagne was good, clearly home made with generous beef mince and a just-right cheesy sauce. The chips were the star of this meal, however. Chunky and home fried. Wonderful.

The rest of the family ordered a variety of traditional pub lunches. A hearty plateful was duly delivered and we were all very full by the end of it. R had treacle pudding with custard for pudding which again, was a generous portion.

The place was busy for Tuesday lunchtime in the suburbs, but as holiday season had started, it seemed that everyone was treating themselves to a hot pub lunch in a traditional and pleasant environment.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Roundhay Fox, Roundhay, Leeds

We visited the Roundhay Fox today for Sunday lunch. A sign greeted us at the bar to say they were low on choice of beer due to the weather. I am guessing they haven’t been able to take deliveries because they had run out of white Pinot Grigio too, so I ordered a rose and A had the only beer on offer – Tetleys.

We have had Sunday lunch here before, and it was very good. They have an extensive menu and the place is packed out. Lots of families seem to dine here – I am guessing following a brisk walk around the park. We missed out on the walk bit, however, dumped the car outside and went straight in.

For starters, we ordered tempura chicken with a sesame dip to share. It was great – a lovely crisp batter and the dip was just the right level of sweetness.

For main, we both had the Roast Beef. We had to wait a while for it, the service was rather slow, perhaps due to the number of diners. When it arrived, we were offered a range of sauces and A chose some horseradish. I just like it with gravy (and the Fox gravy is high quality!)

The roast potatoes and vegetables were great. The parsnips appeared to have been slightly battered and fried, also good if you are into parsnips (it’s the one vegetable I have never got on with). The Yorkshire pudding was ok. The beef, sadly, was tough and gristly – I left a fair bit of it. This is a real shame as the last time I had the Sunday roast it was great. Perhaps just an off day and a lack of deliveries affected the quality.

The total bill came to just over £30. Fair price for what we had.

The Roundhay Fox has a nice outdoor area, which is great in the summer. It is all currently covered in a thick layer of snow (like everything else in Leeds!) Today, they had a log fire burning in the pub, which is great with the current temperatures and I should imagine a welcoming sight for the hardy walkers of Roundhay Park.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Wagamama, Leeds

A big steaming plate of noodles is just what you need after a hard week’s work so last Friday night we paid a visit to Wagamama.

Who am I kidding? ..... A few glasses of Pinot Grigio are just what you need after a hard week’s work but supplementing that with some noodles is not a bad idea! We started the evening in the Radisson hotel bar, where I drank the place dry of Pinot. I only had one, it just happened to be the last glass in the last bottle. Ah well, we wouldn’t be staying long as we were meeting one of A’s work colleagues visiting from America to go somewhere else for a drink and possibly some food. And hotel bars are notoriously expensive.

As a Leeds food blogger of some months now, I rather embarrassed myself by drawing a blank when asked by our visitor where was good to eat. I seem to be doing this a lot recently which is strange as I have had some really good meals in Leeds city centre. My excuse is that I hadn’t really thought it through, having raced off to the supermarket after work and then raced into Leeds to get there for seven. Luckily, A suggested Wagamama, a great choice!

The restaurant is a series of long bench tables, so there is an air of community to the eating experience (or communism*, if you prefer). No meat and potatoes here, though. Instead, the menu is a selection of noodles, rice dishes, and those watery-soup noodle bowls (called Ramen, I believe). These never look that appealing to me so I ordered some chicken gyoza followed by Yaki Soba – chicken, prawns, some vegetables and thin noodles.

The chicken gyoza were lovely – steamed dumplings with a dipping sauce. Sadly I had already laid into them before remembering the photo....

Yaki Soba is a generous portion but is quite light and so easy to clear your plate. I added a little chilli oil, which is available on the table, just to spice things up a bit.

Another bonus is that Wagamama** has added Pinot to the wine list – I always had to have a Rose on previous visits which doesn’t quite float my boat.

I like the way the waiters take your order and write your dish numbers on your place mat. I like the way they bring the food out in any order without rigid rules about courses (a touch of anarchy*). I like the way you can hang your coats up in a line on the wall - a bit like being in primary school. I like the way you can eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. I also liked the food and the company.

*Please note references to political ideologies within this post are purely accidental – next time I may be reviewing a Liberal lunch, a Marxist breakfast or even a Tea Party.

**Wagamama has a motto: “positive eating + positive living”. I can just imagine a load of marketing apprentice-types sitting around a boardroom table brainstorming this wonder of a catchphrase. What I want to know is, what is negative eating? On second thoughts, probably best not to think about that!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Deer Park, Roundhay

A gets sent to America now and then to work. In fact, this seems to be happening more and more frequently. He returns home with jet lag, 200 Superkings for my good self and some strange American sweets. This time it was Skittles –Tropical Flavour, which apparently they don’t do over here.

Anyway, it was Sunday morning. A got up at half two in the morning and was snoozing on the sofa when I surfaced around eight. So I waited, watched the X factor on Sky Plus from the night before, and waited some more. Finally, a few loud coughs awaken the slumbering A, and I mention that a) I’m starving and b) it might be nice to go out for Sunday lunch.

So that’s how we ended up at the Deer Park in Roundhay. I had heard that they were doing it up and that it was now a restaurant, so we thought we would give it a try.

On arrival, we were quickly seated. The place is done out with a definite “Deer Park” theme, in that there are some rustic tables and some of the chairs are decked out with animal fur-type rugs. Very modern and airy decor.

The menu is extensive and includes a wide variety of dishes. A Sunday lunch menu was also provided, along with a specials menu. A lot of deliberation went into our order, as there was so much choice.

In the end, A ordered the roast beef Sunday lunch. The waiter asked him how he would like it. Apparently, you can order it rare, and they will cut slices from nearer the centre of the joint. If you want well done, you will have some of the outer slices. It is quite unusual to be asked how you want your beef for Sunday lunch so we were quite impressed by that. A ordered rare.

I decided on beer-battered fish and chips which were served with a lovely pea puree. A generous portion of fish was clearly freshly cooked, with an excellent crispy batter.

The Deer Park used to be a pub, from what I understand, but is now much more of a restaurant. I asked the waiter if people could come in just for a drink and it seems that the entrance area is set up for that purpose with lounge chairs. Outside there are chairs and tables set up for alfresco drinking, which I am sure will be busy during the summer. I do hope that the Deer Park is welcoming to drinkers as well as diners in the future. Apart from the Streets of Leeds, the area seems a bit bereft of pubs.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Veritas Ale and Wine Bar, Leeds

Veritas is behind the Town Hall and after reading about it on The Good Stuff blog, I decided to give it a whirl for lunch. Entering the front door, you are immediately faced with a deli-style counter, where a lot of the meats, cheese and quiche are available to peruse. It looked very tempting and ended up forming the basis of our lunch.

We ordered a bottle of pinot grigio blush, after which I noticed they do prosecco by the glass. I like a glass of fizz so will make sure I order one next time. The Pinot was lovely, however, and was the perfect light lunchtime wine.

For starter I had fried wild mushrooms on garlic toast. I love this dish and often order a version of it for first course. Veritas do it very well, a nice mix of a variety of mushrooms, rather than your bog-standard supermarket variety. Psycho Psu had the carrot and coriander soup.

There are a variety of main courses on the menu and a list of sandwiches. Veritas also do a range of sharing plates – Charcuterie platter, Yorkshire mixed platter and others. If you prefer, you can choose your own from the deli counter and you are charged per item. We chose the latter option and wandered over to the counter to take a look. The woman there was very knowledgeable about the food, explaining what everything was and where it came from. We picked salmon quiche, smoked salmon, parma ham, goat’s cheese, pate and pickle. The plate is then made up and brought to the table with fresh bread.

This was a great grazing opportunity. Sometimes you don’t want a full-on meal at lunchtime, and the sharing platter fits the bill perfectly.

For pudding, we ordered a lemon and lime mousse/parfait. I can’t actually remember the name of it but it had a dense mousse-like consistency, a bit like crème brule, but not!

Veritas do breakfasts and afternoon tea. They also have an “After Eight” menu which are sharing platters for drinkers to nibble on after 8pm. I like the idea of having food to pick at when out drinking for the evening. It seems much more civilised than my pub-going days of scampi fries and pork scratchings. But then I also think that the pub was more civilised when you could enjoy a Berkeley superking with a drink (sigh).

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Pentre Mawr Country House, North Wales

A weekend camping in Wales in October is not appealing to me. In principle, I like the idea of being around nature, cooking beans on a gas stove and eating them from plastic plates. But as soon as someone reminds me of the toilet situation, it all falls apart right there. Images of the last episode of The Inbetweeners and “digging a trench” flash through my mind and that’s the end of that.

“Glamping”, however, I can cope with. We booked a weekend at Pentre Mawr Country House, not to stay in their lovely guest rooms but in the luxury tents in the grounds. These are large canvas structures, with bedroom, living area and bathroom (all plumbing provided). They also contain TV, DVD, heating, lighting and a hot tub on the patio outside. This is camping I can live with.

Evening meal was taken in the House itself. Sitting in the drawing room with a pre-dinner drink and menus, we were made so welcome by the hosts that it felt like we were friends of theirs from over the valley who had just popped in for drinks after a day shooting pheasant in the grounds. Sadly, this is clearly untrue as we had driven two hours from Leeds and braved the horrendous M62 so were ready for a nice drink and dinner.

The drawing room.....

Dinner was taken in a number of different rooms. Before our starters, an amuse-bouche was served. This was lentil soup served in a small coffee cup. Lentils can be rather bland but this had a delicate spicy flavour.

For starter, we both ordered smoked haddock in a wine and cream sauce, which was excellent. Lots of bread was provided for mopping up the sauce.

A sorbet was served between starter and main to "cleanse the palate". I am never sure about serving something sweet at this point in the meal, even though it tasted great.

I had to order Welsh rack of lamb for main course. There were fields full of sheep all over the place on the drive through Wales so I felt I had to give it a go. It was fantastic, and a really generous portion. It was served with a potato gratin and vegetables.

We were stuffed after two courses, so asked if we could have our pudding “to go”. The owner gave us a tray of our choice of pudding to carry down to the tent and we ate it later. Bread and butter pudding was probably the best I have ever tasted.

After pudding, cheese and coffee is served back in the drawing room, but we missed this on the first night. Our second night, though, we managed to eat all three courses and stayed for cheese. We were joined by one of the owners’ dogs and one of the cats (they have three of each and two horses). The dinner on the second night was equally good.

The service is excellent and the owners clearly have long experience of running a hotel. There are loads of little touches which make the place so brilliant. Polo mints are left in the hall for guests to feed to their horse in the next field. The three dogs love a bit of football on the lawn. Bucks fizz is served at breakfast. Afternoon tea is served when you arrive to check in. A golf buggy is used to take you to your tent if you have a lot of luggage.

We were very lucky to stumble across a food festival in Conwy when we went to visit the castle. Loads of Welsh produce, a beer tent, a champagne and oyster bar – I was in my element. We bought and ate some pies on the sea front. I do love a pie.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Ego, Leeds

The regular school friends’ lunch kicked off again at All Bar One last weekend. This seems to be becoming a habit but they do a lovely reasonable prosecco and the seats outside are perfect for an alfresco drink. It was surprisingly sunny for the first weekend in October, so the mood was good.

The number of e mails that go back and forth when planning these get-togethers are enough to fill anyone’s inbox. One of sad things we do is list agenda items – there are loads of things to catch up on between school friends’ lunches. This time I went one step further and actually wrote them out. No one can say I am not prepared. But the problem is, I usually get home after our get-togethers and think “Oh I forgot to ask about....” or “We never discussed.....”. It may be old age setting in (one of our number is forty in December) but I like to make sure we have covered everything. So the first half hour consisted of “working through the list”. Some co-lunchers commented that they felt it was “like being at work” but I drew the line at typing up the minutes.

Anyway, agenda items covered, we moved on to Ego. This is a Mediterranean restaurant that is part of a chain, and we arrived to find only a couple of tables taken (it is open all day). We were promptly seated and menus provided.

We ordered a bottle of pinot, which was pleasant and good value. For starter, Sarah T and I shared an Italian plate – prosciutto, salami, baked mushrooms, Sicilian arancini and parmesan. I love these Italian sharing platters, but I always feel you need bread with them, which has to be ordered separately. The same thing happened at Jamie’s Italian. I must remember to order the bread in future.

H had the mussels, which came in a big earthenware bowl. I tried one. It was nice.

For main course, I had moussaka. I developed a bit of a taste for this during our first trip to Greece in the summer, and have made it a few times myself. It arrived in the oven dish it was cooked in, so was sizzling away. The lamb mince had lots of flavour with plenty of aubergine in the layers. The strange thing was that the waiter managed to remove Sarah T’s wine glass* just before the main course arrived, even though we had ordered another bottle. She had to ask for a replacement after a bit of a wait, so had no wine with most of her main course.

The moussaka.....

We were asked if we would like desserts so we said we would take a look at the menu. These were quickly provided and we were left to peruse the options. Some time passed. And passed. Then the bill arrived. No pudding order taken. Strange. So we decided not to bother, paid up and left.

It all sounds rather Nancy Drew “The mystery of the disappearing wine glass” or “The mysterious case of the missing dessert order”.

Anyway, case unsolved, we sloped off to The Blackhouse over the road for wine (and the cheese plate in my case – I love a bit of cheese with wine). Again, a lovely outdoor area with patio heaters, although H was worried about her hair setting on fire and my cheeks became rather rosy (nothing to do with the copious amount of wine I had drunk).

The food is good in Ego. A great menu with lots of choice – you can go Italian for starter, Greek for main and French for pudding. A real eclectic mix. The service is rather strange though. Case closed.

*There is an important take-home message here – don’t take a wine glass off a woman pushing forty. The consequences could be very unpleasant.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Stroom, Pudsey

The last time I went to The Stroom was a few years ago. I remember it well as my friend the GemBear had just had her eyes lasered and kept disappearing to the bathroom to put drops in! I seem to remember we used to think it was a bit pricey (the food, not the laser eye surgery which apparently is worth every penny).

The reason this event sticks in my mind is because I have been thinking of getting my eyes done too. My optician keeps banging on about it when I visit for a check up. Apparently they do it on the lower ground floor of my optician in Leeds. I joked that they did it in the basement so that you can’t hear the screams, but he didn’t seem to find me amusing.

Anyway, back to The Stroom. They have changed their pricing policy to a “two courses for £15 and three courses for £17.50” with a range of supplements for steak and the like, and it seems to work out at much better value. The wine list is also very good, with a lovely Pinot Grigio blush at £13.50, which was duly tasted and ordered. This was a last minute dinner with G and V, and they very kindly let me choose the wine, as I seem to dislike more wines than I like.

I had the goat cheese with beetroot carpaccio and toasted pine nuts to start. This came with leaves and cherry tomatoes, and it was a good portion. A very pleasant start to the meal. (Is it just me or is beetroot having a bit of a renaissance?)

Main course was the special – a fillet of plaice in butter with potato and salad. This was a really pleasant dish. There is a lot of scraping of meat off bone going on here, and a few bones pulled out of the mouth, but it was worth it.

Main courses are served with new potatoes and vegetables, as part of the price so there is no need to order side dishes unless you want something in particular.

Pudding was the cheese plate – stilton, cheddar, Lancashire and Brie, with biscuits, a bowl of chutney and salad. The picture isn’t great because I had got stuck in before I remembered to take it.

The service was excellent. The waiter was very patient with us in the bar as we tried to make our minds up about what we wanted. He was also keen to let me taste the wine before we ordered it. G had a chat with the chef on the way out who was happy to talk about the food which is a good sign!

I recommend a visit to The Stroom (opposite the cenotaph in Pudsey) – good value, a nice wine list and excellent food.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

City Cafe, City Inn, Leeds

I haven’t blogged my dining out for a while. This is partly due to it being the holiday season, and being away, and partly due to being a lazy mare who “just hasn’t got round to it”. So last Saturday, we decided to try City Cafe at the City Inn. It’s a bit tricky to find – under the dark arches, down through the dark tunnel and then out the other end. There sits the Hop pub (had a drink, nice) and the City Inn.

I have read about the City Cafe – in fact Jay Rayner did a review a month or so ago in the Observer. My dining companion was Psycho Psu and we decided to make the best of the last few days of summer by sitting outside. The tables were actually outside the hotel bar, and we were brought a bar menu, but we asked for the restaurant menu as it was this we were here to try. We didn’t go in the restaurant inside but it looked quiet for Saturday lunchtime. Given its location, this is probably not that surprising, although there were plenty of people sitting on the terrace.

The cheapest Pinot Grigio was £27 (memories of Petrus came flooding back). It was actually a blush, which is one of my current favourites, so with a bit of a wince, we ordered it. *

For starter, I ordered Roast wood pigeon and onion tart. This is not so much a tart, as a piece of thin pastry that the pigeon sits on. Wood pigeon is a new one for me and I found it fairly gamey with a similar flavour to liver! The dish came with a piece of bacon, a quail egg, and pea puree. There was quite a lot going on on the plate, in fact, but I kind of like that! Lots of flavours and textures in one dish.

Psycho Psu had Smoked mackerel with ham hock potato cake. She reported the fish good, but the cake was rather lacking in flavour.

For main course I ordered the Herb crust rump of lamb. This was served with a “lamb cannelloni” which turned out to be a sort-of pancake, stuffed with shredded lamb. I liked it. The dish also came with greens and the now-obligatory pea puree.

Psycho Psu had paella, with seatrout, mussels and chorizo.

I couldn’t resist the cheese plate, to follow the meal. The portion-for-one at £3.50 is much more realistic and better value than your average cheese plate which I would say normally comes in about £6-7. Brie, cheddar and Yorkshire blue were served, with oatcakes.

Psycho Psu had the Chocolate and pecan tart with banana ice-cream. This worked really well with a mix of flavours.

We finished with an Espresso Martini each – they weren’t on the menu but the barman obliged! In fact the staff as a whole were excellent – really good, friendly service. This place is a bit out of the way, and when I think of hotel food, I often think of crap warmed-up or deep-fried food eaten on a plastic table, but the City Cafe and the City Inn is nothing like that. An interesting menu, a lovely setting by the canal, and great service. It really is worth a visit.

*There is a great Pinot Grigio blush on offer in Asda at the moment – 3 bottles for £12. This deal has got me through the summer!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Fig, Alea Casino, Leeds

Having attended the “Alea Casino - Cocktails and Canapes” session at the Foodies Festival a few months ago, we agreed with Sarah T and N that there was a visit to one of their restaurants in the offing! So we finally got round to it last Friday night.

Having not had my usual trip to Vegas this summer, I felt it was important to play a bit of Blackjack before dinner, and this is what we did. It was fun and I broke even!

Fig was very quiet, there was only one other table filled. It was explained to us that this is a quiet time in casino season – everyone is on holiday! Despite the emptiness of the restaurant, however, we didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable. Maybe it was the fact I had already had a few pinots, or the good company, but a “right good laugh” was had by all!

The service was impeccable. A very pleasant and obliging waitress sorted our orders and brought our food. I didn’t get her name but she is an asset to Alea!

For starter, I ordered Parma ham “two ways” salad. This involved parma ham as you would expect, plus parma ham possibly grilled or oven baked – a nice idea.

Sarah T had the gazpacho – chilled tomato soup. She gave me a taste and it was lovely. It came with what seemed like a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich, which she wasn’t expecting. The rest of us helped her with eating this, however, so no problem!

For main, I ordered Moules Mariniere, which came with bread. Very good mussels in a nice cream sauce. The meal was presented on a wood platter, with an empty bowl for shells, and a water bowl for hand cleaning. It’s nice to have everything you need in one place!

N ordered prawns which he enjoyed. Not just a body eater, N, but a head and tail eater too! I imagine the chefs were rather surprised with the leftovers to his meal, as there was just a bit of shell left – waste not, want not!

The puddings looked great but we were itching to win back the price of our dinner (ok, sure!). So it was back to the Blackjack table. I actually ended about £60 up, but shared my winnings with A, as he has bailed me out of some bad losses in Vegas before.

Alea casino – not quite Vegas, but a cheaper substitute. Fig – lovely Mediterranean food with great service. A good night out, all round!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Petrus, London

Our second dining outing in London was Gordon Ramsay’s Petrus, situated in Belgravia and a bit of a nightmare to find! After a morning of wandering around the London Science Museum, trying to avoid screaming children and do some “learning”, we were looking forward to a peaceful, serene lunch in pleasant surroundings.

When we arrived at Petrus we were quickly seated and menus provided. The restaurant was quiet and we all admitted that we felt a little uncomfortable – it is very upmarket, and I felt that my choice of wearing a checked shirt made me look like I had come to mend the boiler rather than attend a Michelin star restaurant! My thinking was – who dresses up for lunch? Well some people do, apparently, especially in Belgravia. Also, the staff were very attentive, which in some ways is great (impeccable service) but in other ways makes me feel slightly uncomfortable (I’m just not posh enough for this!)

Anyway, Psycho Psu, Miss Babs and I all felt that as the lunch progressed, we started to relax a bit. It’s not like we eat with our hands and wipe our mouths on our sleeves. We may have broad Yorkshire accents but we can appreciate an amuse-bouche with the best of them.

The wine list is incredibly long and about 99% of it was out of our price range. So we ordered a Sauvignon Blanc at around £26. The reason I had chosen Petrus, however, was because of the £25 set lunch menu (three courses) -an opportunity to sample Gordon Ramsay food without breaking the bank.

The amuse-bouche was a pea puree with a tiny crouton and goat cheese balanced on top. This was an amazing colour and flavour, and may well have been my favourite part of the meal. For first course, I ordered lobster and salmon cannelloni, which was just one small tube of pasta, crammed full of the seafood. Fantastic! I don’t have a picture of these two courses, sadly, because at this point I still felt a bit weird about getting my camera out.

Second course was chicken with confit leg, creamed leeks and caper juice. (I finally plucked up courage to get my camera out at this point). Sides of pomme puree and baby carrots were served with this dish.

For starter and main there are only three choices for each course on the set menu, but we all easily found something we liked. For pudding, however, there are a lot more options and I found it really hard to make a decision. Before pudding is served another “freebie” was brought to the table – a tiny ice cream cone filled with lemon mousse – fabulous.

I decided on Hazelnut parfait with a chocolate centre and praline crust – it was incredible!

Psycho Psu had a crème brulee, which she said was good. Miss Babs ordered a raspberry dessert which looked fantastic and she reported it tasted as good as it looked.

Finally, as the bill arrived, so did a silver bowl with dry ice billowing out of it. When the fog cleared, there were three tiny lollies, white chocolate coated and vanilla ice cream centre. A lovely surprise for the end of the meal.

Along with all this food we had two bottles of water and a bottle of wine. With the free gift tasting portions, this is actually a six course meal but it is in no way overwhelming and although we were satisfied, we were not stuffed! The final lovely surprise was the bill – it only came to £45 each. Considering all we had eaten, the fact this is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and it has a Michelin star, this is amazing value. Once we got past our initial “blimey, this is posh” feeling, we had a very memorable meal. I would definitely go again. And probably wear a smarter shirt!

Le Caprice, London

A few days in London means an opportunity to try a few top restaurants. The first was Le Caprice on a Tuesday evening. This is a sister restaurant to the Ivy, and despite it being Tuesday, it was packed when we got there for our reservation at 9pm.

The maitre d’ informed us politely that our table hadn’t been vacated yet (my understanding was that Le Caprice has a strict 2 hour policy on vacating tables for the next sitting) but never mind, we were offered the wine list and proceeded to order the cheapest one we could find! (This was a pinot gris at about £26, but for some reason they brought us the pinot grigio at £31). I didn't realise until the bill came so just paid for it!

Le Caprice serves food at the bar as well as at tables, which means that if you are waiting, there is really nowhere to go. We started at the reception desk and ended up practically in the cloakroom, and weren’t seated till after half nine. The staff were incredibly friendly, polite and apologetic, however, so that compensated a little.

I ordered Garden pea soup to start – served hot or cold – I chose hot! Very green, very flavourful and great with the Sourdough bread that was brought to the table.

My main course was the famous Le Caprice salmon fishcake – a huge cake, more salmon than potato, covered in a hollandaise sauce and on a bed of spinach. We ordered a range of sides – fries, salad and green beans.

Dining companions Psycho Psu and Miss Babs had calves liver and squid respectively.

The portions were pretty big for a fancy restaurant. All the food was excellent. We couldn’t manage pudding, although this was partly due to the late hour we ended up eating.

We didn’t see any famous faces, either. The place was packed, however, and very loud! It’s not cheap, but it's what you would expect to pay for a well known restaurant in London. There is a service charge added to the bill and a cover charge of £2 each (I have not seen this outside the US before) so it can really bump the bill up.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Punch Bowl, York

We decided to go to York for a bit on Sunday, as we had a free day. I was hungry when I got in the car to set off, so was eager to eat fairly quickly. We came across the Punch Bowl on Stonegate, which was a lovely traditional pub. A sign outside advertised their pie selection. I can’t resist a pie so in we went.

I ordered steak and ale pie – the biggest I think I have ever seen. It came with mash, broccoli and carrots and a side jug of extra gravy. Hacking through the lovely thick pastry, the chunks of beef and onion were cooked just right in a dark beer gravy – melt in the mouth!

They have a “pie board” with a list of options on the wall – about six different types – the Ham Hock and Pea suet pie looked good too!

A had the small fish and chips portion. Two big portions of fish were presented, with chips and mushy peas. Pretty good.

It was extremely busy in York with lots of tourists and shoppers. There seem to be lots of flower boxes and displays around the city centre, making it very pretty. We also popped in the Golden Fleece, supposedly one of Britain’s most haunted pubs. They have filmed an episode of Most Haunted here and apparently they lay on ghost nights, which sound like a right good laugh!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Deeva, Farsley

A. has a strategy with big menus. He can’t be bothered to read through them so only reads three things and picks from them. Some Indian restaurants have extraordinarily long menus. So it is refreshing to turn up at Deeva, a fairly new Indian in Farsley, and find a nice simple menu – a choice of 12 starters, 7 starter specials and 10 curries with a choice of meat or veggie.

Drinks were taken at the bar, a lovely pinot grigio was on the wine list and the barman actually offered me a taste before he poured it, which I thought was a nice touch.

The popadoms were brought to the table with the usual dips. Lovely to pick at whilst perusing the menu.

I decided to forgo a starter, as I am in the habit of leaving lots of curry uneaten. The dinner guests (A, Robster and Gembear) had Shami kebab, lamb chops and chicken tikka respectively. All reported to be excellent.

Chicken tikka.....

I ordered Lamb Korma, pilau rice and keema nan. I like a creamy curry so Korma is often my first choice. All the food was excellent and I can report that this may be the first time I have ever cleared my plate in an Indian restaurant. The keema nan had lovely chunks of mince in it, rather than the lamb paste you get in some restaurants. The lamb in the korma was tender and the sauce full of flavour. All the other dinner companions were delighted with their dishes too.

Deeva has an open style kitchen, so you can see the chefs hard at work. The service is friendly and efficient, our second round of drinks was quickly delivered and the bill was presented with no held-hostage moment. An all-round excellent experience. Go!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Delfino Blu Boutique Hotel, Corfu

We went on our first beach holiday in years, last week. Normally I can be found propped up at a blackjack table or slot machine in Vegas for a week in the summer, but this year we decided to do something different. I booked Delfino Blu owing to some fabulous reviews on trip advisor. Also, I have never been to Greece, and it was on my list. Flying out of Doncaster, Thomson airlines was a pleasant surprise, with a movie to watch on the three hour flight. I am used to sticking with the budget airlines for European flights so this was a bonus!

Delfino Blu is a boutique hotel in San Stefanos on the north west coast of Corfu. It is a small place, with only 14 rooms, and this means that you get lovely friendly service. We ate in the restaurant at the hotel twice for dinner, with seats on the terrace and an amazing view of the sun setting over nearby islands.

For our first dinner, I chose garlic mushrooms to start,

We both had moussaka for main course, which was excellent.

Service was attentive and friendly. They bring out some lovely bread and dips to start with, and the aubergine dip was fabulous – must try to make it at home!

Second dinner was disappointing. I ordered meatballs in a yogurt sauce followed by a spaghetti with olive oil, pine nuts and garlic. I like a simple spaghetti dish, without too much sauce, but sadly this was completely tasteless. I had to add salt to it, which I would never usually do. A ordered the mixed grill – chicken, sausage, beef burger, lamb chops, steak – all served on a pita bread. Except it wasn’t. And when we asked the waiter, he said it didn’t come with pita - a clear contradiction of what was clearly written on the menu. Unfortunately, the meat was all cooked to within an inch of its life, so not a great dinner.

The restaurant sells itself as fine dining, with a lovely setting and view. The latter part is true. Sadly, the food does not live up to expectation. There are a range of other restaurants in the resort where we had much nicer and cheaper dinners. In fact one of the best was a place called Ozzie Oils, run by an Australian called Kerry, serving Australian food (yes, I know we were in Corfu, but we did eat plenty of Greek food as well). The Australian meat pie with mash, however, was probably one of the best meals we had!

Despite our reservations about the food, the hotel setting is beautiful. An amazing view of the sea from the balcony, coupled with a lovely room and friendly staff. A short walk down the steps of the hotel leads you to a sandy beach where the hotel reserves sunbeds for its guests. Delfino Blu offers accommodation only and I would definitely take this option over B&B or half board.