Monday, 19 July 2010

Pizza Express, Glasshoughton

A good friend of mine once said “There is no food that cannot be improved by adding cheese”. There is a something about this that rings true. A burger is improved by a slice, a ham sandwich is improved by adding cheddar and a steak can be complimented with a Roquefort sauce.

But some things MUST have cheese on them, and one of those things is pizza. So I ordered a Four Seasons, described as four different quarters: 1st with mushrooms, 2nd with pepperoni, 3rd with anchovies and the 4th with mozzarella, these ingredients are not mixed. What I didn’t realise was that this meant that the cheese was limited to the cheese quarter. So the rest of the pizza had tomato, topping and NO CHEESE. This is the first time I have been outsmarted by a pizza menu. Hopefully it will be the last.

Pizza Express is a good chain and their pizzas are usually lovely. The service is friendly and efficient. This was a goodbye meal for a work colleague so the company was excellent (we will miss you, B!) I just ordered the wrong pizza.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Thai Edge, Leeds

Getting home from work on a Friday night is a lovely thing. It should be No.1 on the “1000 Awesome Things” blog. Stepping in the house, stroking the cat and then having a glass of pinot before 6pm (a well brought up lady doesn’t indulge till after six on a normal day, it’s just not the done thing)*.

A often mentions the phrase “Singapore Vermicelli” on a Friday night, within about half an hour of getting home. This is A’s favourite dinner from Oriental Express, our local takeaway. Problem is, I want to go out to eat, so a quick internet search identifies “Singapore Noodles” on the Thai Edge website. Now, can I sell this idea to A?

So less than an hour later, we were sat in Thai Edge. I have never been here before but I know it has been in Leeds for a few years now. Decor involves lots of bamboo and Thai statues. Despite there being only a few diners in a fairly large room, they were all squashed together in one corner – about six tables of people, and we were sat amongst them. What is this about? Are they trying to give the impression of a “buzzy” atmosphere when most of the restaurant is empty? Is it to make the service easier? Whatever the reason, it seems rather strange to be eavesdropping on other people’s conversation as a result of the tightly packed tables, when there is plenty of room to spread people out a bit. We are not New Yorkers after all, yelling at each other over our steaks! We are English and this means we are a reserved, private people, uncomfortable with sitting too close to others.**

Thai Edge only serves house wine by the glass. It is French and ok. Most restaurants offer a range of wines by the glass these days and my heart always sinks when I can’t order a glass of pinot. We were not intending to stay long and A was driving so a bottle is a waste.

We were asked if we wanted our starters and mains served together, or as two courses. A said separately, but then I asked for it all to be served together. (Parking is expensive in Leeds). I was duly ignored and the courses came separately.

Starters were Deep Fried Vegetables (don’t think it was tempura batter, though) and Chicken Satay. Both were good.

A ordered the Singapore Noodles and I ordered the minced pork fried rice. These were served in the middle of the table for us to share. The verdict – Singapore Vermicelli is usually a bit spicy – this wasn’t. The minced pork wasn’t minced; it was just pieces of pork. I am not an expert on Thai so perhaps this is what minced means, but it was slightly dull.

We had to ask for chopsticks, the table was laid with forks and spoons. On the plus side, there were some prawn crackers on the table with a lovely sweet chilli sauce when we were seated. (Free stuff always impresses Leeds Food Leads).

Thai Edge is nice for a quick after-work dinner or if you just fancy some Thai food. I probably wouldn't choose it for a special occasion, but it is handy if you are around Millenium Square. We didn't have a reservation on a Friday but this was not a problem. They need to develop their wines by the glass options and perhaps spread the diners out a bit when the place is quiet.

*Please note this rule shifts to noon on a Saturday.

**See “Watching the English: the Hidden Rules of English Behaviour” by Kate Fox.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Little Tokyo, Leeds

Many of my blog entries seem to begin....”We were meant to be going to_______, but it was closed/full, so we ended up going to ________” I am aware it makes us sound a bit hopeless at organising/planning our dining experiences, and maybe we are! But I was not hopeless this morning when I printed out a voucher for 29% off at Yo Sushi (fantastic deal!) and headed off into Leeds to enjoy an hour of maki, hairy prawns and sushi rolls at the top of Harvey Nichols.

Except when we got to the top of the 4th escalator, we were faced with a boarded off area – “sorry for the appearance of this area, it is being refurbished”– What????? So they are doing up Yo Sushi in Leeds – I suppose it is starting to look a bit worn. Meanwhile, Yo Sushi head office are sending out e-mails to regular customers, inviting them to take advantage of their “ScorchYO” discount offer – something to do with taking the summer temperature at a given point in the week (i.e.29 degrees) and then having that number as the % discount for the following weekend– a nice idea, apart from the fact that our local Yo Sushi is closed! But like the troopers we are, instead of banging out a snotty e mail to Yo Sushi discounts department and billing them for the cost of the diesel and the car parking, we hatched a new plan. So I shall begin this post again......

We were meant to be going to Yo Sushi, but it was closed, so we ended up going to Little Tokyo. Can you see the theme developing? The thing is, once A gets his heart set on something he is going to eat, he cannot under any circumstances change direction. Japanese food was on his mind and that was what he was going to get.

Little Tokyo is a favourite of ours anyway – their sushi selection isn’t great but we ordered some nigiri and vegetarian rolls to share for starter.

We followed this up with bento boxes – literally a box with little compartments in it for the different dishes. A bit like the trays you might get in a prison but much nicer*. The bento includes a compartment for rice, tempura vegetables, salad, fruit, soy sauce and then whichever main dish you order – I had battered king prawns and A had fish balls. Both bentos were really good. I particularly like the tempura vegetables – aubergines, sweet potato, carrots and beans.

The place was busy for a Sunday. Maybe they were mopping up diners from the Yo Sushi fallout. There was a bit of held-hostage moment at the end, waiting for the bill, but it arrived – about £38.

And Little Tokyo has a coy carp pond inside, with a bridge over it. When you walk past, all the fish come to the surface with their mouths open. A nice touch.

*I have never been to prison, by the way, but I was an avid fan of Prison Break before it became crap.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Foodies Festival, Roundhay Park, Leeds

We went to the Taste Festival in Millennium Square two years ago and it was great! For some reason, it stopped – you can go to Taste London and a few other places but the Leeds version was no more. So imagine my delight when I found out that a different food festival was setting up in Roundhay Park for the weekend. And that free tickets were available online!

So off we trotted to Roundhay Park on Saturday morning (well, we took a cab – you can’t drive to a food and drink festival – it’s just wrong). Meeting up with Sarah T and N at the entrance, we were immediately approached by a man bearing gin and tonics with a slice of cucumber and ice – lovely and refreshing – a promotion for Hendrick’s gin.

The festival had lots of free tasting opportunities – we sampled beers (Thwaites Wainwright went down well with the lads), cheese, ham, vinegars, chorizo..... and even toffee vodka!

Deliciously Yorkshire stalls.....

There were also plenty of places selling food – we had fresh Whitby scampi (from Whitby Seafoods), steak pies and lots of other grazing opportunities. A great little place was selling Caribbean food, so the lads had curried goat and pork jerk –both declared excellent.

The main restaurants offering tasting portions of their dishes (£5-7 each) were Aagrah, Thai Edge, Moorish and Dough Bistro – we decided to try the latter having not heard of them before – they are based in West Park, far Headingley.

I had wild mushroom and creamed spring onion puff pastry tart (great tasting mushrooms).......

Sarah enjoyed seared fillet of long horn beef, marinated in soy, ginger, coriander and chilli. The lads had octopus, slow cooked in rioja. This restaurant apparently doesn’t have a licence, so you can take your own wine and they won’t charge you corkage! We are definitely going to try it at some point.

The Veuve Clicquot tent was selling small bottles of champagne (200ml) for £9. Sarah and I had a bottle each and a sit down. Our verdict was that this is not our favourite champagne – quite sweet with a not so lovely aftertaste. I am a much greater fan of prosecco at the moment!

Toast bar and bistro had a tent where you could buy pimms, wine and beer – all quite reasonably priced. Just outside was a live music stage where festival-goers sat on the grass and enjoyed the sun and the drinks.

In addition to all the stalls, there were chef’s theatre events – we tried to get into the Harvey Nichols chef session, but were a bit late eating somewhere else and missed it. We did attend the Yorkshire Post wine tasting event, however, with Christine Austin, the YP wine writer. An opportunity to try a white, rose and red, with a commentary about the origins of the wines. An excellent session.

We also attended a food masterclass with Alea Casinos – “Cocktails and Canapes”. We were shown how to make cosmopolitans and mojitos, along with some canap├ęs – these were handed round for us to taste (not enough to go round, though, which was a shame).

The overall verdict is that this was a great food festival – lots of opportunities to taste new foods. Caribbean food is something I have not tried before, so it was great to have a taste of jerk pork and curried goat!

The food and drink masterclasses, along with the chef’s theatre, are a great idea. You could quickly pick up free tickets for these events at the entrance to the festival. My only criticism is that it would have been nice to have a few more restaurants offering tasting portions for sale of their signature dishes. At Taste Leeds there were Harvey Nichols, The Star Inn, Malmaison and many others. At Foodies Festival, there were fewer, although it was good to discover Dough Bistro.

You could easily spend a whole day at one of these events. I intend to keep my eyes open for more food festivals in the future, so feel free to post suggestions in the comments box if you know of any!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

114 The Arch, Pudsey

I broke my golden rule of not going out on a school night on Wednesday, by going out on a school night. It may be the heatwave, the long days or just the fact that the summer holidays are looming, but we accepted an invitation to 114 The Arch from G and V, in order to celebrate their anniversary. Can I remind you this was a WEDNESDAY?

114 The Arch is at the bottom of Richardshaw Lane in Pudsey. It serves modern British food, and does so very well. When we arrived, a Pinot Grigio blush was ordered at the bar – I like this – it’s not quite a rose, and not quite a white.

We were quickly seated and menus provided. Rather than a single price for each Item, there is a set price for two or three courses, with supplements added on for steaks etc. I seem to be seeing this menu system in more and more places recently – Diva Italiana does a similar thing!

A and I ordered mussels to start with – an excellent choice. They were served in a cider and pearl onion mariniere and were plump and tasty. A bit of a different sauce to the wine, garlic, onion and cream sauce they usually come with. The dish was served with a thick chunk of wholemeal bread which was great for mopping up the sauce. In fact, I made the mistake of thinking this would be a light first course– just a few mussels, won’t fill me up – when in fact with the bread, it is quite a hefty starter!

Main course was chicken, roasted in sage, thyme and lemon butter, in a pea and asparagus cream sauce and Parisienne potatoes. In addition, vegetables and potatoes are served to the table. The sauce was particularly lovely, and the tiny Parisienne potatoes were like mini-roasties.

Other dishes around the table included pork with French-style black pudding (A was in raptures with this one!)

and also fillet steak, cooked to perfection, according to G.

I was too full for a pudding but sticky toffee pudding was ordered by G and V, which looked great.

114 The Arch is a lovely place to go for a special dinner, (or on a Wednesday!)and they do a Sunday roast which I would like to try sometime. The food is tasty and well presented and is reasonably priced for good quality food.