Monday, 29 March 2010

The Black Swan, Helmsley

I have visited this hotel a couple of times before I began writing this blog, and felt I should pass on the general wonderfulness of this place and its restaurant.

Helmsley is a small market town in the North Yorkshire Moors, very close to Harome, village of the famed, Michelin-starred The Star Inn.

The Black Swan is a hotel right on Helmsley’s market square. It is the sister hotel to The Feversham Arms, and you can use the Feverham’s spa facilities if you stay at the Swan. I have never done this, however, as I am there for the food.

There are some great deals to be had at the Black Swan. We booked a “Thank fizz it’s Friday” deal last year. For £145 for two, we got a bottle of champagne in the room, a three course dinner in the restaurant, a nightcap and a full English breakfast in the morning. The second time we visited was for Valentine’s night this year, a late deal at a similar price, but including a cream tea on arrival in the afternoon.

The restaurant is outstanding. I don’t know why they don’t have a Michelin star. Last visit, we both had French onion soup to start (better than the one I had in Paris last year). Duck was the choice for main and then A had the cheese and I had the coffee themed dessert – a coffee tiramisu, coffee ice cream and a cold latte with a straw!

Breakfast is equally amazing. A full English brought to the table and a choice of cereals, pastries and fruit on a small buffet table. Clearly high-quality produce used at all times.

There is plenty to do in the area. Rievaulx abbey is round the corner, where you can do a good audio tour. Helmsley castle also has an audio tour and is really interesting. The stately home, Duncombe Park is in Helmsley, although I haven’t visited yet. There are some lovely foodie shops in the village.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Yo Sushi - Harvey Nichols, Leeds

We are regular visitors to Yo Sushi, after A discovered the joys of sushi on his travels in America a few years ago. In Leeds, despite a number of Japanese restaurants, there appears to be slim pickings on the sushi front. So Yo Sushi, upstairs in Harvey Nichols, seems to be the best bet.

Luckily, it’s good. So instead of a heavy Sunday lunch of roast beef and all the trimmings, we went for the lighter option of fish, rice and soy sauce.
Yo sushi is always busy on a Sunday. A short queue had developed but we were quickly seated on the bar stools. Most seating is at the bar, wrapped around the kitchen, where the staff make all the food in front of you. There are a few tables that can seat about four people on one side.

The conveyor belt of small portions moves around the room, and customers take them off when they see something they fancy. Plates are colour coded for price, which makes it easy to keep a track of what you are spending. The empty coloured plates are added up by the waiter at the end and you are presented with a ticket to take to the till on the way out.

Many of the cold dishes are already on the belt – sushi, sashimi, sushi rolls, maki, salads and desserts. You just lift them off when you see something rolling past that you like the look of. Hot food and drinks are ordered from the staff. There is a button in the bar you can press to switch a light on to make an order.
Also built into the bar are storage areas where you can find your chopsticks, ginger, soy sauce and wasabi (hotter than it looks – use sparingly). These mix very well with the sushi rolls.

We both ordered hairy prawns to start – my particular favourite.

We then proceeded to take plates from the belt...

Salmon skin rolls (A’s favourite)

Tempura prawn rolls

California rolls

Avocado maki

All very good as usual. I particularly like the maki, as they are small enough to put in your mouth whole. The bigger rolls I feel the need to bite into, often spraying rice down my shirt. I think the right way is to eat them whole too. Contrary to popular opinion, my dentist reliably informs me that I actually have a small mouth.

The only issue is that sometimes when we go to Yo Sushi, the belt is full of plates and we struggle to decide what to have. Other times we arrive to find the belt mostly empty, or full of desserts. I am not sure why this is – whether they have certain times of the day when they fill it up, or whether it is an issue of staffing. Maybe I should ask. This is not too much of a problem though, as if there is something you want that is not on the belt, you can just order it. Maybe it just appeals to my love of buffets, having lots of food floating past that I can look at.

Yo Sushi sometimes has special discount offers. They also have a “Blue Plate Mondays” promotion, where more plates are blue (i.e. cheaper). It is worth checking their website for the latest promotions before you go.

All Bar One, Leeds city centre

I have developed a reputation as a “lady who lunches” (despite having a full time job). This means Saturday lunchtime is often an opportunity to meet up with friends, have a gossip, down a fair number of pinot grigios, set the world to rights and have something nice to eat. This Saturday it was lunch at All Bar One with my friend, Psycho Psu (named for being a psychologist, as opposed to other interpretations).

I got a craving for prosecco around 1pm, so off to La Strada on Greek Street for a glass of the bubbly stuff. (£5 a glass).

Then it was off to All Bar One. Despite visiting this place several times, I have never eaten there, and the food always looks good when I am having a nose at what other people are ordering. Plus it’s a fairly busy place and does a good selection of wine.

We decided to have another glass of prosecco (£3.95 this time, should have gone there first!)

The menu is a mixture of tapas style small plates, sandwiches, salads and traditional meals. We decided to have two small plates to share for first course. We wanted the mozzarella and artichoke dip with pitta but it was off, so instead decided to share a plate of falafel and some goat cheese and red onion on slices of French bread. Both were very good – the falafel was moist (can sometimes be a bit on the dry side, according to Psycho Psu).

I had cod in tempura batter with fries for main. The fries were good but the cod was a little dry and chewy. A tiny portion of mushy peas on the side were runny and lacked seasoning. The company had a lamb burger (of which I ate a quarter), fries and tzatziki. I wished I had ordered that as well.

Pudding was chocolate brownie and treacle tart, both served with vanilla ice cream. Both very good. The meal was washed down with a bottle of pinot grigio, nice and cold in an ice bucket.

There was no held hostage moment at the end - the bill arrived promptly.
I do like this place – the food is reasonably priced and mostly good. I would recommend going for the tapas dishes to share, rather than a main meal. A lot of customers appeared to be doing just that.

Carmelo's, Pudsey

This is an Italian restaurant on Richardshaw Lane, Pudsey which I believe has recently opened. Not only was it Friday, it was pay day, so off we went with G and V for a nice dinner.

It’s a fairly small place that used to be the The Last Viceroy Indian Restaurant. Plenty of customers already in when we got there around 8pm. Customers came and went, not packed out, but not dead either. The menu is typical Italian - pizza, pasta and some meat dishes. There is also a specials board. Reasonable prices, with pizza or pasta dishes coming in around £7-8.

I skipped the starter, but the company had barbecue spare ribs and garlic mushrooms. Good flavour for the mushrooms. The ribs had a “secret” special barbecue sauce, which we believe included aniseed (beware if you hate the stuff, like me!).

Main courses included sea bass for G (good), Napolitano pizza for A (anchovies, capers and olives), chicken with a cream sauce for V, and I had linguine with chicken, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and a cream sauce – very tasty. Garlic tomato pizza bread ordered as a side with the main dishes was excellent.

Wine with the dinner was pinot grigio (the old staple). Very good at around £15 a bottle.

The service, in particular, is excellent – staff are very friendly and like a joke with the customers.

A slight “held hostage” moment at the end of the meal, waiting for the bill. I am just very impatient and after a meal, I like to get out pronto (usually for a cigarette!). In addition, A likes to stand up and have a stretch!!! We have been known to get up and pay at the bar or till when we have been kept waiting for the bill in restaurants. Not the case here, though. A short wait and then off to the pub over the road for an end of night whiskey.