Sunday, 25 April 2010

Paris Brasserie, Rodley

Paris Brasserie used to be Oliver’s Paris and reopened its doors late last year. It is in a 19th century building just off the ring road in Rodley. Despite it being Saturday night, we managed to secure a table for four when we called in the afternoon. So off we went with our dining companions, the Robster and GemBear.

We had a drink in the bar and were quickly seated at our table. A significant part of the dining room is in a conservatory, making it very light and airy when the sun is still up.

The menu is a mix of traditional dishes (Steak and Ale Pie, Gressingham Duck), French classics (Moules marinere) and steaks. In fact there were so many wonderful dishes, we found it hard to decide what to have. In the end, I went for one of the specials for first course – Battered frogs legs. This would be a first for me, so I was quite excited to see what they were like. And the verdict is...... not a lot of meat, as you would expect, and rather like chicken.

The Robster chose Scallops with pancetta and pea puree, which he enjoyed. He commented that the pea puree was particularly good.

GemBear chose the goat’s cheese and onion in filo pastry. It was a good sized portion but it held no fears for GemBear. Again, thumbs up for this dish.

The individual fish pie for main course contained white fish, salmon, scallops and king prawns. The amount of fish was substantial in a creamy white sauce. However, I am not convinced that chilli should be included in the sauce – it’s all a bit Jamie Oliver – chilli obsessive.* Mashed potato and cheese topped the dish off well, and vegetables were served on the side. The baby carrots were particularly tasty.

The boys had rib eye steak, which they described as a bit dry. This is unusual for rib eye which is usually marbled with fat, making it a moist cut. A range of sauces are available with the steaks (including the strange sounding Monkey Gland Sauce)** but the boys decided to have it without. The dish came with fries, onion rings and mushrooms.

Pudding was warm cinnamon doughnuts with milk chocolate sauce and ice cream. These were good, with a crispy texture from frying. Cappuccino and Lattes were also ordered.

Service is friendly and a little slow. The food isn’t slow to arrive, but it felt we were left quite a while before our dessert and coffee order was taken. There is a bit of a “held-hostage” moment at the end, waiting for the bill. This is not a big deal, however, as you want to make a night of it at the Paris Brasserie, given that it is fairly isolated. I think we would have felt a bit cheated had we been in and out in an hour.

Overall, I would recommend this restaurant. There is an early bird menu which looks like good value and the evening menu is varied. Another bonus, for the boys, is that they serve Leeds Best beer – nice to see Leeds Brewery ales becoming more widely available.

*A suggestion for a boring evening - Try the Jamie Oliver drinking game – every time he includes chilli or olive oil in his cooking on TV, down a drink.

**I have googled this and found it is of South African origin and includes fruit chutney, red wine, port, ketchup, curry powder, Tabasco, Worcester sauce, pepper, garlic, onion, chillies, mustard powder brown sugar and vinegar – so no monkeys are harmed in the making of this sauce.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Portofino, Leeds city centre

Shopping in Leeds is made more bearable by lunch. Often, this involves a walk away from shop central and out into the peripheral areas of Greek street, Millennium Square or the Calls. Portofino, however, is very conveniently located on Albion Place, one of the short streets that links Lands Lane with Albion Street.

My two lunch partners arrived first and were sipping the first Pinot Grigio of the day. I quickly sat down but had to ask a waiter for the same, as no offer was forthcoming. My partners whispered that they had been left without drinks when they arrived too, and had to request them. Not a great start.

The menu is extensive. Lots of pasta and pizza choices, meat and fish. Portofino also does an express lunchtime special for £7.95, which contains a number of main menu dishes. We chose to go a la carte, however.

We decided to forgo a first course although the “antipasti” on the menu looked very tempting, particularly the Funghi Al Forno (field mushrooms baked with ratatouille and dolce latte) at £4.95.

My vitello alla parmigiana (£14.95) was a breadcrumbed veal fillet topped with tomatoes and mozzarella, with a generous spaghetti Napolitana on the side. I have a weakness for breadcrumbs or batter so this was a good choice.

My dining companions both had the chicken and chorizo salad special, again a generous serving with big chunks of chorizo.

Pudding was sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. Again, a very sizable portion.

Also, the cheese selection, which included brie and a blue (not stilton but not sure what it was). This can be served in an individual or sharing portion.

Lunch was accompanied by two bottles of Italian wine – a Pinot Grigio and a Soave (because they had run out of Pinot!)

Overall, Portofino is a great place for a traditional Italian lunch. The red and black interior is modern without trying too hard. Portions are generous and meals are well presented and tasty. Service is generally swift and efficient. Outside, there are tables set up ready for the warmer weather and it will be interesting to see this area filling up in the next few months.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

East, Pudsey

We weren’t supposed to be having a curry but ended up in East after an aborted attempt to finally visit Diva Italiana in Booth’s Yard, Pudsey (It was still closed for the Easter holidays). East is a modern Indian restaurant on Richardshaw Lane that we have visited several times before. It is spread out over two floors, with three “lounges” for drinking and a good outdoor raised terrace out back, with seating and umbrellas.

On arrival, we headed straight upstairs to one of the lounges for a drink. Although not technically open yet (it was 6.30pm) the barman happily served us our drinks and we took a seat on the terrace. After ten minutes of looking at the sky and trying to establish whether it would rain, we went down to the restaurant to get a table.

We were quickly seated and menus provided. The East menu contains the familiar dishes – Bhuna, Korma etc – and some house specialities. Popadoms and pickles were brought to the table as we made our selections.

Starters were very traditional – I had mushroom bhajis (£2.95) and A had seekh kebab (£2.60). Both very good.

We decided to get two mains – Chicken Biryani (£7.95) and Hydrabadi (chicken and lamb in a medium sauce - £7.95)). We had two keema nan breads on the side (£3.20 each).
Main dishes came in bowl-style plates and because we wanted to share them, we asked for additional plates to eat from. These were swiftly provided. Chicken Biriyani was a new one for me and was our alternative to ordering rice. It is a tasty rice dish with a sauce that comes separately and is poured on the dish at the table.

The keema in the nan is more like a lamb spread which I have come across before, but I prefer the minced filling you get elsewhere which I believe has more flavour.

Two nans were clearly too much and we were offered a doggy bag for the one we didn’t eat.

We weren’t offered the hot towels at the end of the meal which I believe I saw other diners using.

East is quite a buzzy restaurant and it can get quite loud on a weekend. It seems to do parties and celebrations very well and there is always a large table of people having a “do” whenever I have visited. There is a pianist in the corner who provides background music and also a round of “happy birthday to you” when required.
The food and service are very good. Strong competition for the ubiquitous Aagrah.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

The Greyhound, Tong village

There isn’t much in Tong Village – a garden centre, a hotel, an ice cream shop and the Greyhound pub. It is a lovely little oasis in the desert of the sprawling estates and suburbs of north-west Leeds. It was the last day at work before Easter, so we decided to go out for a tradional pub dinner at the Greyhound to celebrate.

This pub is a very popular place and they have recently built an extension to their dining room. Many tables were reserved when we got there but we managed to get a table for two as none of the other diners had arrived.

A pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord and a Pinot Grigio were ordered at the bar and we were quickly seated. The menu is typical pub food and the menu is extensive – a range of steaks, fish dishes, and the staple steak and ale pie. There are also some menu boards on the wall with filled Yorkshire puddings on offer along with a “sweets” board. I can’t remember the last time I heard that word to describe pudding but it has a lovely 1970s ring to it.

The pub is a nice old-fashioned place with lots of dark wood, tankards on shelves and brass horseshoes hanging around the fireplace. Our order was taken – Beer-battered fish and chips for A (£9.40) and Scampi (£7.95) for me.

The beer-battered fish came with the skin removed, clearly freshly cooked to order. Chips appeared to be of the frozen variety but nice nonetheless.

A good portion of scampi for me with the biggest pile of mushy peas I have ever seen. A side salad was also served.

“Sweets” were offered but declined. The large portions make it difficult to imagine getting through three courses here.

There was a held-hostage moment while we waited for the bill. A eventually went over to pay at the restaurant till. I had some wine left in my glass so it may have been the staff didn’t want us to feel rushed.

This is a great old-fashioned pub that does lovely traditional food. Tables outside make it a top place to sit out in the summer.

I have just remembered what else there is in Tong village – “Tong Feline Retreat” where Frank has his catty holidays!