Tuesday, 31 May 2011

All Bar One, Millennium Square, Leeds city centre

All Bar One on Millennium Square has replaced the old Ha Ha Bar and Canteen, the scene of many a school friends’ lunch in the past. So for Sarah T’s birthday, we decided to meet up for some drinks and food on a Friday night. A slightly earlier start was had by the birthday girl and SH as they could get to Leeds after an early finish at work. No such luck for me and H. We were “spending the afternoon with tongue stuck to roof of mouth for want of prosecco” as H eloquently put it, but we both made it in a little later.

The layout of the new All Bar One is pretty similar to the old Ha Ha. The place has had a bit of a redecorate though, and looks better for it. We were shown to our booth and decided to order a bottle of prosecco, to toast the birthday girl. Sadly, they had run out of our favourite Italian fizz so we were offered a bottle of champagne at the same price, which was a pretty good exchange.

We decided to stick with the small plates menu – perfect for picking but not too much to finish you off and send you home with a too-full belly. We chose the duck which came on mini-tortillas with cucumber and hoi-sin sauce. This is the All Bar One take on Chinese crispy duck with pancakes and they do it very well. It is served on a plank of wood which all adds to a very good presentation.

The tempura chicken looks quite heavy and yet the batter is very light and it is served with a good dipping sauce – always a winner for me.

For the vegetarian in our midst, hummus with pitta bread hit the spot.

We ordered some other small plates as the evening progressed – that’s the beauty of this type of eating. It generally suits my tendency to graze and also makes sure you don’t get too full! I can never understand how some people can go out and have a full curry and then go out drinking till the early hours. Bizarre.

All Bar One does about three different types of Pinot Grigio, and they had sold out of them all when we were there. We had a Pinot Grigio/Riesling instead and it was okay. Bit of a shame, really, as I always think of All Bar One as having a wide selection of wine. The waiter said there had been a do the night before and they had sold out of a lot of stock. (The service, by the way, was excellent).

It wasn’t a very pleasant evening weather-wise but I imagine the outdoor area on Millennium Square will be more used when the sun comes out (of should I say if....?)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Engine House Cafe, Holbeck Urban Village, Leeds

We seem to be becoming regulars in this part of Leeds! A loves the Midnight Bell, as he is a fan of Leeds Best beer, and we have enjoyed the Sunday lunch at the Cross Keys. So last night we decided to try one of the restaurants round the back of these two pubs. Looking at the menus online, it was a choice between The Foundry and The Engine House Cafe. After much deliberation, the Engine House won. This was partly owing to it being a bit cheaper (and we are getting to the end of the month) and partly because I wanted to try their burger!

So we booked a table for 7.30 but set off a bit earlier so we could have a drink on the patio round the back of the Midnight Bell (and A could have a couple of pints of his favourite beer). We turned up at the Engine House promptly at 7.30 and we were shown to our table.

I was a bit concerned about the lack of Pinot Grigio by the glass on the online menu, but the wine list at the restaurant was slightly different so my wine choice was available (although served in a bowl-like glass which I would argue was more for red wine than for white!)

We decided to share a starter of deep fried king prawns with garlic mayonnaise. Four large king prawns were served with some lettuce leaves. We both noticed what good quality prawns they were – very meaty and covered in a crispy batter.

For main, A ordered the rib eye steak which came with chips and a peppercorn sauce. This got the thumbs up from A, particularly the sauce which contained whole peppercorns and was great for dipping the chips in, as well as eating with the steak.

I got to sample the burger. This was made of 80% steak mince and 20% pork belly. There was a choice of toppings and I went for bacon, mushroom and cheese. I asked for the bacon to be trimmed of fat as my heart always sinks when I order bacon and it has loads of rubbery rind on it – a Leeds Food Leeds pet peeve! My friend, the GemBear, refers to it as “twangy bacon” – a very good description, I think.

Anyway, there was no twangy bacon on this burger. It was a large burger patty with just the right amount of topping. My only criticism was the bun – it was a bit “Morrisons – six bread rolls for the price of four”. Which is great for sausage sandwiches at home, but I expect a better quality for a burger bun in a restaurant! It was a shame because the burger itself was outstanding.

The burger was served with home-cooked chips, salad and a salsa for dipping – all excellent.

A considered a pudding. There isn’t a pudding menu and instead the waitress just reeled off the options (she must have an excellent memory). The pudding options change regularly and sadly there was no crème brulee on last night, which is A’s favourite, so we decided to give it a miss, although the options did sound lovely, and I would have ordered one if I had had room!

The service in general is great – the people who work there are really friendly and the customer service is top-notch.

I would definitely recommend the Engine House Cafe. I would like to try their breakfasts which were listed on a chalkboard on the wall. The restaurant itself is fairly small with exposed brick and a slightly industrial feel, which fits in well with the theme of the area. They have a small outdoor area where it would be lovely to sit out on a sunny day.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Kendells Bistro, Leeds city centre

Kendells has been “on the list” for some time and after our recent trip to Paris, we felt it was about time we sampled the French-inspired flavours of its menu. I left it a bit late to book and was only able to get a table for 5.30pm, but being rather lightweight, we don’t mind an early dinner. It means I can go to sleep early!

So we turned up at the Playhouse district of Leeds at around 5.15 and nipped into the Wardrobe for a quick drink. This was the venue of many a work night out in the past, but I haven’t been for some time. It hasn’t changed much and I must make a point of trying out their menu again sometime.

Anyway, after a very speedy glass of prosecco, we went next door to Kendells and were quickly seated. Although it only opens at 5.30, the place started to fill up pretty quickly, probably with the pre-theatre crowd.

The menu is on a large blackboard on the wall of the restaurant and they have a special deal before 7pm which is 2 courses for £15.95, 3 for £17.95, with a choice of about five different starters and mains. The a la carte is more extensive with some really interesting dishes, including frogs’ legs!

We decided to go with the special deal and for starter I had oeuf en meurette. This was a poached egg with lardons, onions and toast served with a red wine sauce. It was well presented and a very pleasant, light starter.

For main I had a salmon fishcake which was served with smoked salmon on the side. The presentation was excellent, with a serving of mash, and a small tower of broccoli and cauliflower which was so well designed on the plate it was difficult to identify at first! Although my inability to see may have been partly owing to the dim lighting in the restaurant.

No pinot grigio on the menu, sadly, so Gembear and I sampled the Grenache, a pleasant rose. I gave pudding a miss as I was pretty full – the portions, although beautifully presented, were not small.

We will definitely visit again. There were a few things on the menu I would like to try. Service is pleasant and efficient and although a fairly big room, the decor is cosy and rustic.