Saturday, 22 May 2010

Diva Italiana, Pudsey

We booked a table at Diva Italiana for a Friday night, dinner with G and V. Having read good things about this restaurant I have been keen to try it for a while.

The restaurant is tucked away down Booth’s Yard in Pudsey, and sells itself as a traditional Italian-owned trattoria.

They have a small outdoor patio so drinks were taken here, on one of the hottest days of the year so far (at last!). So Peroni beer and Bellinis were served all round. I went with the traditional peach bellini but V went with the watermelon bellini, served in a tumbler, with gold leaf topping. We all had to stick our fingers in poor V’s drink to see what the gold leaf tasted of. Nothing is the answer, more for decoration than flavour!

We were seated upstairs promptly at 8pm. I had already checked out the menu online but it was slightly different when we arrived – more decisions to make! The menu contains pizza, pasta and a range of meat and fish dishes plus a few specials were explained by our waiter. A huge selling point for this restaurant is that the pasta is made in-house, using imported Italian eggs and I was determined to try it. It also says on their website that if you want something special not on the menu, like Lobster or Dover Sole, to let them know in advance and they will cook it for you.

They also bring bread to the table and everyone gets a plate with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. I am always impressed by this gesture, as many restaurants expect you to order bread and it is put on the bill.

A and I chose to share the antipasti plate for starter. It seems to change depending on what is in the kitchen on a given night – we had a selection of ham, mushroom and tomato bruscetta and a tomato flavoured rice in breadcrumbs (I am sure this has an Italian name but am not sure what it is!). Overall, this was a lovely light starter and feels very traditionally Italian.

G had the goat’s cheese in pastry starter and V had the mushrooms in a puff pastry basket. These were good although V commented she had hoped for more flavour from the mushrooms.

For mains, I chose the tagliatelle with sea bass. Time to try the homemade pasta! It was excellent. Small chunks of sea bass with olive oil. A nice dish, not over-sauced so you can really appreciate the pasta.

A had salami pizza which was good. He ordered some chips to go with it.

V ordered lasagne, which she commented she wouldn’t normally order as she can make it at home. This was great lasagne, though, with many layers of pasta. It looked very similar to the one I had in Venice a few years ago – lots of pasta and not too much meat.

G had suckling pig – no photo of that, but G said it was outstanding, and passed on compliments to the chef!

The lasagne......

We also had garlic pizza bread to go with our mains. There is a handy metal frame that they place in the middle of the table to balance it on!

V and I had pudding. Another chance for me to have panna cotta, which I also had at Jamie’s Italian last week. It was good but a bit of an overkill on the strawberry sauce.

V had the cheesecake, which also looked homemade and very tasty.

We managed to get through two bottles of reasonably priced pinot grigio with the meal, and the lads got through a fair bit of peroni.

I would highly recommend this restaurant – it is probably Pudsey’s best kept secret. The place was full on a Friday night, and this is not surprising. The food is very authentic and service is efficient and friendly. The bill came to around £40 each, but that included a lot of wine and food. You could have a much cheaper meal here, however, if you don’t drink as much as we do, or take advantage of the early bird special.

A side issue - G is on a mission to find Banoffee pie in Leeds - he says he is always disappointed when it doesn't appear on a pudding menu. Any ideas, post a comment!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Jamie's Italian, Leeds city centre

Because this is a “big name” restaurant, the plan was to go in and sample everything that is on offer - starter, main, pudding, wine, martinis (both before and after).

To set the scene, I had already been shopping and bought two pairs of shoes, so the “take home message” was that I was willing to spend a fair bit today on lunch.

Psycho Psu was the lunch companion and a good one to sample a new restaurant. She manages to put away three courses without wincing, and regards anything less than a bottle of wine with lunch as the wimp’s option.

The restaurant is busy, as it only opened last Sunday. There is an open kitchen when you walk in, where a lot of chefs grapple for space. Lots of shouting and movement – a busy kitchen. Luckily we were seated on the ground floor near all the action. There is further seating upstairs.

Once seated, we ordered the grape and cucumber martinis to start which came very well recommended from the waitress, a friendly young woman who was very knowledgeable about the menu. These arrived with a slice of cucumber on the rim and were very refreshing – a clear taste of grape juice.

The menu is typical Jamie Oliver (lots of chilli and olive oil) – a few of the dishes seem familiar from either his TV shows or his cookbooks. Starters are dominated by antipasti – meat and vegetarian. Psycho Psu ordered the meat “plank” and I ordered the mushroom bruscetta. I found it slightly strange that the mushrooms were served cold on the bruscetta – I expected them to be warm. The antipasti was good, though, with salami, parma ham and cheese. It really needs to be served with bread which you had to order separately. We quickly ordered it. They have this strange presentation style where they bring two full tins of Italian tomatoes and balance the antipasti plank on them. We didn’t get to keep the tins.

The antipasti plank.....

The mushroom bruscetta....

We both decided on pasta for main course, although the mackerel special was tempting. I had Truffle Tagliatelle and Psycho Psu had the Carbonara. My tagliatelle was good. The Carbonara was thick tube pasta, slightly different than you would expect. Psu said the bacon made it really salty but generally pleasant. The only criticism was that the food was warm, not particularly hot, and not warm at all by the time we had finished.

The Truffle Tagliatelle.....

The Carbonara.....

We ordered a green salad on the side. The general agreement was that it was too drenched in yogurt and mint dressing....

The pudding menu is very tempting. Lots of lovely desserts on offer. The panna cotta was outstanding, with strawberry coulis on the side. The chocolate and hazelnut cake was tasty. We thought it would be a chocolate sponge, but it was actually plain, with a chocolate topping. Not what was expected, but good none the less.

We ordered an espresso martini to go with the puddings. These were lovely, with a foamy topping and a couple of coffee beans. A bit more alcoholic that your average coffee.

Overall we had a good experience at Jamie’s Italian. Service was a little slow at times. When we ordered bread to go with the antipasti, it took a while. (There is a bread “area” where waiters cut it up ready to serve). However, our friendly waitress was knowledgeable about the menu and clearly was interested in our enjoyment and experience of the food and drink.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Brown Cow and Dragon, Crossgates

This is a pub I used to go to for birthday dinners as a kid. It was a Beefeater or something back then, so it was prawn cocktails and scampi in a basket all round! Now it is still a pub but with a Thai restaurant upstairs. This was the venue for Sarah T’s birthday, and we were a group of nine.

The menu is extensive. I am no expert on Thai food but the options looked great. The obligatory Pinot Grigio was on the menu at a reasonable price so that was duly ordered first.

I chose Tempura vegetables for first course. This is a favourite of mine from visits to Japanese restaurants. The portion was huge, and included broccoli, carrot, mushrooms and onions. The batter was light and the dish came with a side dish of sweet chilli sauce.

A ordered spare ribs, which he quickly polished off. Lovely tender meat.

For main course, I ordered a chicken dish with black mushrooms and spring onions. This felt similar to a Chinese dish, so I had coconut rice on the side, for a more significant nod in the Thai direction. The rice was very sweet, but went well with the chicken.

A ordered Singapore Vermicelli. This is a favourite of his from our local takeaway – a mix of very thin noodles, pork, chicken, prawns and veg, with a bit of a spicy flavour. He pronounced it better than the one we have from the takeaway, high praise indeed.

Everyone in the group had drinks, first and main course and the bill came to £25 a head, including tip, which we thought was good value.

We didn’t stay to sample the pub downstairs, as there were drinks waiting back at the birthday girl’s house. I understand they have a limited Thai menu downstairs, with a more typical pub grub menu.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Bar 166 & Bistro, Horsforth

Bar 166 is at the top end of Town Street in Horsforth and we decided to try their Sunday Lunch today. The bistro was closed for a function, so we sat in the bar with a few customers finishing off their breakfasts, which looked great and are served til 1pm. The Sunday menu has the option of one course for £9, two courses for £11 or three for £14, which is really good value. We decided to go with just one course and ordered the traditional roast dinner - beef, lamb or a bit of both were the options.

Both dishes came with a large Yorkshire pudding, potatoes and gravy.

The beef......

The lamb......

The vegetables came in a side dish and were carrots, broccoli and mange tout.....

The food was excellent - just what you want from a Sunday lunch. The starters and puddings looked great too but we didn't want to overdo it, today.

Service was very friendly and polite. With a glass of Pinot Grigio and a beer, the bill came to around £25.

A lovely place to sit, read the papers and enjoy good food.