Friday, 28 January 2011

The Bankhouse, Fulneck, Pudsey

A bit of a last minute decision to eat out on Saturday evening led us to the Bankhouse pub in Fulneck, Pudsey. After a long month with payday still a week away, we wanted some cheap and cheerful pub food.

The Bankhouse has a lovely beer garden with views over the Fulneck valley. In the summer, it is a fantastic place for sitting out and enjoying a leisurely pint. In January, however, you definitely need a seat inside so we booked a table for 7.30. (They don’t require reservations but it is a good idea as it gets busy, especially for Sunday lunch).

The pub is a lovely traditional pub and serves a good range of real ales. As we walked in, we had a bit of a wait at the bar as there were quite a few customers in. We let the bar staff know that we had booked and were pointed in the direction of the “restaurant bit” which is a small area to the right as you walk in the main entrance. We weren’t really shown to our table so we just figured out ourselves which one it was.

The menu is typical pub grub. We shared starters of deep fried brie and chicken dippers (we wanted the pate but it was off). For main, I had the lamb shank (one of the specials) which was served with bubble and squeak, leeks and peas. The Bankhouse is not mean with the gravy, thick and delicious and plenty of it! The lamb was tender and fell off the bone.

A had rib eye steak. He said it was okay but realised it was probably a bad move to order steak in a pub – he asked for medium rare but it was served more on the other side of medium. Pubs tend to be good at the scampi and chips and roast dinner-type meals. But a steak is better ordered in a restaurant.

G had the steak and ale pie which was homemade and served with some really good thick chips.

V ordered the salmon and mushroom tagliatelle. It was quite a strange mix – lots of salmon, mushrooms and other stuff, not much tagliatelle. Pasta dishes seem easy to get right but there is actually a fine balance to be created between the pasta and the other ingredients. It is interesting as the dish was more balanced in favour of the more expensive ingredients, whereas the cheaper pasta was a bit on the lean side.

Despite this, I have to say that the Bankhouse does good pub food in a pleasant atmosphere. They have a good selection of ales but sadly the wine leaves a lot to be desired. As regular readers know, I am a Pinot Grigio fan. Sadly, the Pinot at the Bankhouse was the worst I have ever tasted. I would argue it tasted more like a Chardonnay (which I hate) and I couldn’t drink it. An easy thing to rectify – Pinot is not expensive and there are plenty of lovely reasonable brands out there.

The pub had a band on after nine. They were great but too loud for us. With the possibility of conversation at an end, we called it a night.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Arts Cafe, Leeds city centre

I have blogged the Arts Cafe before here when we went for Sunday lunch. On a Saturday, they serve a lunch menu and you can also choose from the a la carte. Having had a look at the menu online, I was keen to give it a try. The chef has been in place since last March and comes from Hazelwood Castle. The menu still contains some of old favourites such as the Fish Plate, the Yorkshire Plate and the Arts Burger. But there were quite a few new options on there too, and it took some time to make up my mind!

Some of the new starters looked promising and I was particularly taken with the description of the smoked salmon and crayfish sushi nori. When it arrived, it was a generous portion of three sushi rolls, with some thinly sliced cucumber and wasabi crème fraiche. A bit of a change to the pickled ginger and wasabi that you usually get with sushi but it worked well and the plate was nicely put together.

My dining companion, Psycho Psu, ordered the Smoked Haddock Chowder with leeks, potato and spinach. It probably had a thicker consistency than she expected but had good flavour.

For main, I ordered the Arts club sandwich. Made with thick granary bread and a good mix of chicken, mayo, pancetta and lettuce, it was served with fries on the side. It is nice to be able to mix and match from the a la carte and lunch menu.

We went a bit mad on the puddings. Fig and lime bakewell tart with blackberry crème fraiche was a nice traditional pudding with a bit of a twist.

Orange cream posset with mulled winter fruits came with a cinnamon and walnut cookie. A little too much fruit and not enough posset, was our opinion. The cookie was great.

A cheese plate rounded off the meal. A good selection including Wensleydale with cranberry and brie, the cheese was accompanied by a nice choice of crackers and tasty chutney.

There are a fair few other things on the menu I would like to try so another visit should be on the cards soon. Once again, the Arts Cafe remains one of my favourite places to eat in Leeds.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Aglassto, Leeds city centre

After reading about it on Leeds Grub, I was determined to give Aglassto a try. It is quite difficult when you don’t work in Leeds city centre to keep up to date with the latest openings in the city. But due to this place seemingly focusing on wine, I couldn’t resist much longer.

On entering the bar, we were immediately welcomed by the barman, and invited to try some wines we were interested in. I had read online that they offered an English wine, produced in Kent, and so was quite interested to try it. Not to my taste, sadly, too fruity - a shame because I would really like to support the British wine making industry. Psycho Psu tried a Spanish white rioja, which I thought was lovely. So I ordered that. Psycho Psu was sorely tempted by the Sancerre by the glass on offer, so we were sorted.

Aglassto is a small bar, with rustic wood and a feature traditional fireplace. An old upright piano is the first thing you see when you walk in and I love the thought of people plonking themselves down and banging out at tune. Sadly my musical talents are limited to knowing the lyrics to the complete works of Abba (in English and in Spanish – go me!) but this is not going to cut the mustard in public!

We could quite happily have sat at the bar drinking wine all day. The barman was outstanding – he really knew his stuff and was a friendly bloke. In a discussion about music, I commented that the only new music I have really got into in the last five years was the Mumford and Sons album (due to great age, getting into any music post-1993 seems like such an effort these days!) Some minutes later, the lovely banjo and guitar of Mumford and Sons was playing in the bar. Now that is service!

Okay, so we didn’t have food – Aglassto does a range of tasting plates and sandwiches. Okay, this is a food blog and maybe I shouldn’t be mentioning my wine drinking sans food. But, bloody hell, Aglassto is good at what it does and is well worth a post. I will eat something next time.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Joseph Benjamin, Chester

A Saturday road trip over the Pennines meant that by noon I was sitting in a bar in Chester, drinking the first Pinot of the day and celebrating the 30th birthday of the GemBear. This is an important milestone (not the Pinot at noon, that can be quite normal for a Saturday). It is a milestone because I have spent far too long hanging around with a twenty something, when I am pushing forty. The GemBear has also achieved the milestone of finally getting a taste for wine (Pinot Grigio blush, of course) as opposed to the alcopop fizzy sugar water of her twenties.

So it was good news all round. It was even better news when we arrived at Joseph Benjamin, a restaurant and deli run by two brothers named Joe and Ben. We were a party of six and enjoyed a drink in the bar before being shown to our table.

The menus were short, but we all found something we liked. To start, I ordered garlic bread. It was quite a large portion and was probably more suited to a sharing plate than a starter for one. So I shared it!

A had hot smoked salmon with quail’s egg which he said was beautiful. N had a pheasant and chestnut salad which I took a photo of as I thought the presentation was excellent...

For main, I ordered the sausage and mash. There were four sausages served with a really creamy mash. The sausages were award-winning, from the butchers next door, and they were pretty tasty. A side of order of vegetables added a little health to the meal but the side order of chips was unnecessary as the mash was substantial.

A few dining companions had pudding and everyone had coffee. The chocolate brownie looked particularly tempting...

Service was pleasant and the server was happy to answer questions about the food.

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Cross Keys, Holbeck Urban Village, Leeds

After a few days of living like hermits, A and I decided to leave the house as the temperature was finally above zero and we felt like some dinner. The Cross Keys beckoned, so we booked a table for that evening.
We have had Sunday lunch here before so thought it would be interesting to try the evening menu. Turns out, it wasn’t just interesting, it was fantastic!

When we arrived, we were seated at a table in front of the wood burner – a crackling warm fire on a cold December night was just what was needed. We decided to share the duck liver pate for starter. Smooth and almost creamy, it was served with toast, shallot chutney and pea shoots.

For main, I ordered the salmon fillet, cooked beautifully with a crispy skin. Served with parsley mash and creamed winter greens, all the flavours complemented each other perfectly.

A had the slow-cooked duck leg with sweet root vegetable puree and a port sauce. Chunky chips were a lovely side dish.

Both main courses were well presented, full of flavour and it seems that real thought has been put into the Winter Menu. Other mains on offer included Rabbit casserole and Venison. We will definitely go again!

I ordered a pudding of Pear and Almond Tart, which came with a whisky custard. The tart had a pastry case filled with sponge cake. I have made something similar at home. Of course, this was better!

Drinks were Pinot Grigio for me, and real ale for A. The service was friendly and efficient. I really feel you couldn’t ask for a better meal out in Leeds.