I’m going to start this post with a gush warning – I always try to give a balanced and objective account of my Eating out Adventures and keep the superlatives to a stomachable level, but there’s a pretty solid chance that this blog might turn into a full on gushing waterfall of praise for my new food crush Hepworths Deli.

For those who haven’t yet stumbled upon this new kid on the deli block, Hepworth’s is situated just off Leed’s main street Briggate in Thorntons Arcade. Through the day it’s proprietor Joe Hepsworth concentrates on selling salads, platters, sandwiches and other deli delights, but as of August 16th Joe – who also runs catering firm Hepworth’s Kitchen – has also launched a pop up restaurant, giving a select number of diners the chance to experience his higher-level culinary skills.

Like most food bloggers, I tend to use catching ups with friends as a bone fide excuse to eat out, particularly if there’s somewhere new in town that I’m plotting to try.  On this occasion the new place to eat+old friends equation was a real winning formula, so much so that my two former housemates and I have decided to try and schedule a catch up every time Hepworth’s holds a pop up restaurant evening and here’s why…

For just £20 per head we were served a sensational five course fresh summer menu, which can be viewed here. Upon arrival at the small (but surprisingly light and airy) deli, we were greeted by a very friendly waiter who talked us through the menu, opened our BYO red wine choices (ooh I do love BYO), brought us some water for the table and promptly presented us with our first course, this beautiful amouse bouche:

Pea Veloute mint oil and peashoots amouse bouche

Despite not usually being a fan of peas – they are the only thing I don’t eat aside from beans – I polished this off very quickly. The fresh mint oil perfectly cut through the sweet and creamy pea flavour, though rich, the small serving meant it was just enough to introduce a range of flavours without leaving us too full for the treats to follow.

Ham hock terrine, spiced apple chutney toasted brioche, petit salad

For my starter I opted for the ham hock terrine and chutney, which as you can see, was presented beautifully with the aid of some very pretty red amaranth (something I’m now trying to search out and use myself as it added great colour without a strong taste). The terrine was meaty but not overpowering in flavour and tasted great with the light brioche and sweet, fruity chutney.

Panfried mackerel, Thai salad

The panfried mackerel looked equally as attractive, and since it was consumed by one of my fellow diners in around three minutes – presumably tasted equally as good, too.

Panfried bass, lime quinoa, coriander dressing

Since I plumped for the meat starter I followed with the fish main course. I really love citrus flavours and often use lemon or lime juice in place of vinegar, so the lime quinoa was a proper treat for me, though the sweet tomato salsa on top of the fish stopped things becoming too sour. The fish was soft, moist and simply seasoned, another winner!

Braised beef, spiced carrot, red wine jus

I was pleased with my choice of main, but I couldn’t help but be a little jealous when I spied the main my friend Laura had picked – the mash alone had me salivating! Thanks to the generous portion she received I was lucky enough to get the chance to sample both the mash and braised beef; the shin was melt-in-the mouth perfect and the mash as creamy and smooth as it looked (I’m replaying eating it right now, Mmm!)

Strawberry shortbread cheesecake

When dessert arrived there was a collective table ‘oooh’ and it’s not hard to see why. The disconnected strawberry shortbread cheesecake featured homemade shortbread crumble, strawberry ice cream, cream, purple basil and strawberry pâté de fruit and was a real adventure on a slate. The sweet and intensely fruity jelly of the pâté combined with basil made me audibly ‘mmm’ several times, to the point where I zoned out completely and had my own ‘When Harry met Sally’ moment, enjoying every lingering mouthful to the point I almost didn’t realise that my ice cream was starting to melt.

Once I regained composure we were able to indulge in some after dinner coffee and have a quick chat with the chef himself. When Joe revealed he was only 26, I felt a little ashamed of my worldly achievements to date, to have so many culinary strings to his bow (the deli, dinner party catering and now the popup restaurant) and to be seemingly handling them all so well is quite a feat. In the days since I have intermittently been determined to learn the art of patisserie, sign up to a French language course, or at least learn sugar craft.

Before departure, my fellow diners and I all left our email addresses and urged Joe to put us at the top of the mailing list for Hepworth bistro events. I often consider Leeds to be unrivalled for the good mix of quality restaurants on offer in a relatively small city, but the pop up restaurant fills a new niche entirely – restaurant quality food with an ‘at-home’ atmosphere, topped off with a cosy setting. For these reasons I’m predicting tables at future events are going to book up very fast indeed, I just hope I’ve said enough to get some kind of preferential treatment.

Over the last few years Sous le Nez has repeatedly been recommended to me as a place of tasty eats, but the fact its location was a bit of a mystery meant it took quite some time for me to get round to paying this cozy little eatery a visit. It was during a trip to the nearby Restaurant Bar & Grill that I finally spotted this subterranean treat situated under Quebec House on Quebec street, right under my nose…ba-boom-ch! And from this point onwards I was looking for an excuse to finally pay it a visit and carry out this review.

I should probably come clean and admit that during the five whole days I spent in Paris last October most of my meals were sourced from the local Lidl or purchased from snack stands at a music festival. On this basis, it would be a bit of a stretch to claim I was any kind of French cuisine expert, that said, I was thoroughly aware of  a purposeful French undercurrent when I eventually wandered down the steps into their bar area on a busy Thursday evening to celebrate bagging an exciting new job (whoop!)

The bar area was truly bustling with people enjoying after work drinks or dining from the bar menu and so I was a little disappointed when we were led through to a less ambient dining area where the tables were just a little too close together for my liking. The menu was French inspired with a few English twists, a little like the accent of our eager waiter, who slipped between a French and broad Leeds accent rather jarringly! We decided to dine from the Menu du Soir, which at £24.95 for three courses and a half a bottle of wine is cracking value and one of the restaurant’s virtues previously extolled by my friends.

Pleasant and plentiful is my summary of the dining experience, with a generous amount of freshly baked bread and naughty but nice portions of lovely rich salted butter offered up during the short wait for our starters to arrive. I opted for the chicken liver parfait with piccalilli and toasted brioche. Which looked something like this (only not quite so grey – thanks iPhone!)

The parfait was velvety smooth, which contrasted well with the sharp piccalilli that could only have been improved by more crunchy cauliflower. The brioche was buttery, fluffy and soft, but curiously untoasted – which was a shame as I think it would have made for a better mix of textures.  For the main course I plumped for pigeon, char-grilled chorizo, bubble and squeak and thyme and rosemary jus, which if you squint, vaguely looked like this:

As a sauce lover I was suitably pleased to find my plate laden with the saucy jus and the pigeon and chorizo did not disappoint this fan of salty meats. However, the hefty portion of bubble and squeak was found a little lacking as it could have benefited from a little longer in the pan to crisp up it’s skin, again for a better range of textures. The buttered seasonal vegetables (green beans, new potatoes and carrots) that were served as an accompaniment were also a little on the soggy side.

When it came to desert time I doubted (just for a second) my ability to work through three such generous courses, but the glazed lemon tart with orange sauce and chantilly cream looked too good to miss. Imagine this, but more colourful:

In the end I greedily consumed every last crumb as to waste such beautiful pastry would surely have been a crime and as the tart was anything but a slight slice, I did feel a little bit bloated for my troubles.

Overall, Sous le nez didn’t disappoint and I can see why it was repeatedly recommended as a venue for good value group meals. However,  as a date venue it didn’t quite hit the mark for me – perhaps we were in too early to catch any romantic French vibes.

 

 

 

 

Over the four fabulous years I’ve lived (and eaten)  in Leeds The Olive Tree restaurant in Chapel Allerton has made its way firmly to the top of my list of favourite places to eat.  The fact I used to live just around the corner from this compact but gorgeous Greek eatery undoubtedly gave it a good leg up the ladder, but the consistently great menu, generous portions and value for money have helped it keep its position and made it more than deserving of a ‘proper’ review.

The Olive Tree is one of those places that is so reliably good that you want to share it with everyone, which is why I found myself there early on a Friday evening a few weeks ago introducing yet another Leeds friend to my favourite find. The restaurant is of course by no means a hidden secret – it’s been the only Greek restaurant to make the Good Food Guide for the past four years, but because it’s a little out of town, those who live in the city centre can sometimes miss out if they’re not giving a little push in its direction.

So, having a convenient excuse to be there and being in possession of a tastecard that promised 50 per cent off the food bill, I set to work greedily ordering my favourite Greek dishes. Service can be a bit rushed at times at the Olive Tree (probably because they are so busy) and as I’ve come to expect this I’d set my heart on the Whitebait (£5.95) followed by the Arni me Feta (£15.95), long before I’d set my foot through the door – nevermind when the waitress came promptly to take our order. My dining partner went for a double whammy of lamb with Keftedes (£5.85) and Kleftiko (£14.95) and we selected a side of spinach with mint and garlic (£2.45) and a nice bottle of red.

During our very brief wait for starters to arrive we were presented with some warmed pitta slices, which we tried not to yum up all at once, as from past experience I knew I would need to save space for my hearty main course. When starters arrived my high expectations were once again met – the Whitebait was light and crisp and the tiny fish plentysome and not at all greasy. The fish was served  with a refreshing Tzatziki and lemon slice – tasty and simple. The meatballs my fellow diner had opter for were declared the ‘best’ he’d ever tasted and the standards for our tasty mains were thus set.

Whitebait and Tzatziki

The smell of the lamb mains were a delight for our meat-mad senses and we tucked in to the cinnamon, oregano and garlic fragranced joints in near silence. As forks were inserted, the meat compliantly dropped away from the bone, it was moist and utterly mouthwatering and the  hint of cinnamon was perfectly complemented by my salty feta and slightly sweet salsa.

Arni me Feta

 

As has unfortunately become fairly routine on my trips to the Olive Tree, I was unable to finish my main course – though it’s worth knowing that if you do find finishing a struggle the staff will give you some tubs to take away any leftovers. I’m yet to sample the desserts – savoury fiend that I am I always opt for a starter. Still, it’s something to aim for as I’m sure I’ll find another excuse to go back soon!

 

 

 

After the grumpy drizzly weather of the last few days it seems like LeedsLovesFood  2012 was many moons ago rather than last weekend! Thankfully, I rediscovered the sunshine and joy-filled event when I finally hacked into my camera to retrieve the photos from my second day at the festival (yes, I’m so greedy I went twice because I simply couldn’t eat/buy/carry enough in one single trip).

This blog is a bit of a photo celebration of the wonderful things that I and my very lovely companion, Maria, munched through on our visit on the last day of the festival. I cannot express how much foodie fun I had during my first experience of LeedsLovesFood, it was great to see (and taste) all of the yummy Yorkshire delights and to be reminded of the brilliant restaurants and bars we have here in Leeds, too. What has now come to be known as my ‘sensational snacking Sunday’ has resulted in me adding a few local venues on to my ‘to visit’ list and reignited my love for a few old favourites.

The first festival treat to make it mouthward was some satay from Sukothai, the meat was moist and delicious and the sauce a peanutacular delight.
This was of course nothing less than I would expect from what is one of my favourite restaurants in Leeds, I’m only slightly embarassed to admit that Sukothai being based in Chapel Allerton and Headingley was probably one of the main reasons I put off moving into the city centre for so long.
As I walked along no fewer than six people stopped me to ask where I’dbought the succulent snack (they smelt and looked THAT good). This briefencounter reminded me it’s  about time I took a trip to the north of the city
paid and my foodie respects to them.

Next up was a sweet treat from the Littleroundcakecompany, though I didn’t actually eat this on sensational snacking Sunday but two days before on my solo Friday visit. Here I purchased a beautiful baked Lemon cake, which tasted more like a mini traditional British pud than a cupcake, but tickled my love of citrus flavours nonetheless. I’ll be keeping an eye on their blog for baking inspiration.

 

Back on to the savoury snacks and the next stop was Pinche Pinche for a chicken taco. The hot, fresh salsa on the top alone made it a worthy choice, though I did prefer the pulled lamb version I munched on my Friday trip. This selection once again reminded me I’d been neglecting another one of my former favourite restaurants, who have a whole new menu since I last visited, I think second trip north is now on the menu!

 

 

Despite being ‘hanging’ (her own words) from a night of alcohol-fuelled adventures, my festival companion eventually tried to tackle some of the tempting tastes around her. Maria settled on some sushi from the Chino Latino stall, which looked (and apparently tasted) great. The hungover one’s choice of food and decision to eat using chopsticks very brave and provided entertainment to rival the professional cooking demonstrations at the main stage.

I’ve never eaten at Chinos but rate their bar staff as making some of the best (if not the best) cocktails in Leeds and Maria made some positive noises when she finally got the food to hit her mouth, so I may look at something other than the cocktail menu when I pop in there next.

Finally, tired from our we washed down the food with some refreshing champagne cocktails from Epernay, it was a hot day after all!

Despite the hangover, Maria made room for an Epernay champagne cocktail