Salvos in Headingley, Leeds, holds a special place in my heart because Salvos is the first place I enjoyed eating an olive. I’d tried eating olives before but they just didn’t hit the spot; they tasted bland, dry, rubbery and, well, confusing. However, on a trip to Salvos for a special family meal to celebrate my graduation about four years ago I finally learnt to love the olive. We were waiting for a table in the bar area and were offered a bowl of plump, shiny olives to stave off the hunger and I surprised myself with what I considered to be my new measure of maturity as an olive eater. If truth be told, I’d probably not tasted a good olive before that evening; one of the things Salvos can always be relied upon for is quality ingredients.
When I was invited to sample Salvos new menu last month I didn’t hesitate to say yes, even though I now live a few hundred miles away rather than just round the corner – it’s a restaurant I hold in very high esteem and I’m not the only one. You may recall Gordon Ramsay hailing it as his ‘best neighbourhood Italian restaurant‘ on the F Word a few years ago and the fact it’s no longer MY neighbourhood Italian is a source of sadness to me and my pasta-loving tum.
These are the reasons behind a fully justified drive of 1 hour 30 mins each way to sample Salvos Leeds new menu along with some other bloggers from the area and the very welcoming owners, brothers Gip and John Dammone. Over the course of a few hours I was transported to food heaven as we sampled plates of pasta, risotto and starters from the menu and the passionate restauranteurs chatted about their dedication to sourcing high quality ingredients from Italy and locally in Leeds. As well as importing incredibly fresh buffalo mozzarella and sun-soaked vine tomatoes, Salvos use produce from Leeds’ market and from Crag House Farm and Swillington Farm and it tastes ruddy marvellous.
Understandably, thanks to my drive and overall excitement levels at 1) allowing myself to eat carbs on a week night and 2) being in Salvos for a bloggers event, I forgot to photograph some of the food. I know, I’m a bad food blogger, but here’s some of the food I did manage to snap:
My favourite dish of the evening was the risotto, which was cooked perfectly with the peppery Italian sausage standing up against a rich mushroom base. I couldn’t get enough of this and shovelled thirds on to my plate when no one was looking.
I’ve no doubt we received special attention on the evening as guests of the restaurant but I’ve been to Salvos in Leeds a handful of times before I was a food blogger and each and every time it’s been packed and I’ve been on the good end of friendly service. The restaurant itself is very family friendly – from the family that work side by side in the kitchen and on the restaurant floor to the little ones greeted with crayons at the tables. The decor is simple and unfussy but with plenty of character and the atmosphere is always buzzing. In short, it’s an institution that’s still bang up to date and a real asset to Headingley. Visitors to Salvos can expect good food and the prices on the menu reflect that – it’s not the cheapest place to eat by a long shot, but there is an early bird menu it’s always packed and in my opinion, the quality of the ingredients shines through. Before I left my hosts hinted at a possible new venture for the restaurant beyond their cosy salumeria just a few doors away. Distance means I might not be able to be first in line, but I’ll certainly be hotfooting in the direction of anything these guys put their name to, particularly if there’s some olives to be had.