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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!)
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.