I recently made the rather life-changing decision to move away from Leeds. One of the sadder consequences of this is that I’m now too far away from many of my favourite places to eat. Plus, packing up and cleaning my flat was a real bitch, which I only made bearable by finishing off the remaning Havana Especiale I found in the back of the cupboard mixed with Asda smart price lemon juice, it’s like a Mojito for the Jezza Kyle massive, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, enough of my secret moving motivator juice because moving really wasn’t all that bad. I’ve got a huge list of new places to check out in my new neighbourhood and, before I left Leeds I got to say goodbye to everyone . Of course, that meant lots of ‘goodbye’ meals in strategically chosen fabulous restaurants. One of those places was Hansas, which I reviewed last week and another was the king of French restaurants, Kendells Bistro.

As a multiple award winner, if you’re  a Leeds local Kendells is unlikely to have passed you by. It’s got a fantastic  – and having now tested it, I can confirm – well-deserved reputation. It’s often touted as a romantic venue, which may put us single people off. But, it is a great place to take a date and it is romantic, but in a non-oppressive way. When people say Kendells is romantic they mean warm, welcoming, typically bistro-esque, romantic like the romantic poets romantic. Visit Kendells and  you walk into a French culinary landscape complete with commanding boards of specials, groups of friends laughing and drinking lashings of wine, twinkly lights and scintilliating food scents.

The very romantic Kendells Bistro, Leeds

Kendells Bistro, the perfect place to date anyone

I visited Kendells with my former housemates to say a proper au revoir . We decided to choose the Menu Price Fixe and opted for the two course deal for £16.95. Though there were three of us, I limited my photography to the fodder of myself and my nearest diner because it’s become a terrible faux pas to photograph your food recently and I only had my iPhone on me and didn’t want it to land in the Merlot. Food was prompt to arrive and generous in portions. There was a good selection of options on the fixed price menu but my starter choice of roasted beetroot and goat’s cheese tart was a no-brainer, I love the combination.

Goats cheese and beetroot tart

Goats cheese and beetroot tart with some very poor photography

My nearest former housemate dearest chose bacon salad, which featured chunky lardons from a clearly generously proportioned pig, croutons and an oozing egg too. She did say the lettuce was a bit challenging because of the stringy leaves, but overall there was a good range of textures, flavours and a good mound of food.

Bacon salad and poached egg

Bacon salad and oozing poached egg

When I eat French I like to eat duck, because I think the French are pretty good at embracing ducks fattiness and rich flavour and it’s not something I cook at home. After the starter I knew the Confit de Canard I’d chosen would be good, but I didn’t realise how good. There were three separate sauces on the plate so i tried not to let them collide, but I needn’t have. They all worked together perfectly. All of the elements of the dish worked apart, but there was clearly a lot of thought in this dish beyond – rich meat, good veg and garlicky sauce, it was divine duck.

Duck, parsley and garlic potatoes, red onion salad and walnuts

Confit de canard, parsley and garlic potatoes, red onion salad and walnuts

To my right, my homegirl tucked into this pretty bird, complete with creamy tarragon sauce and a pleasing pile of pasta.

Stuffed supreme of chicken with tarragon cream sauce

Supreme de volaille à l' Estragon with pasta

 

The fixed price menu offers brilliant value – the portions were good and we were pleased that we’d opted for two courses rather than three, though I did order a coffee to prep myself for more packing when I got home. Despite there being a time limit on this early bird deal we weren’t rushed for the table. And, when we collected our coats at the desk we were even walked to the door. It was these little things that made the staff at Kendells that balanced mix of attentive and genuinely friendly without being too in your face. You feel a bit pampered without being pressured, just like a good date.

I’m often asked where my favourite restaurant is in Leeds, or where I’ve had the best meal. It is hard if you’ve been to a restaurant only once to rate them as consistently brilliant. With Kendells I got the gut feeling that  you’d be gastronomically pampered each and every time you go in there. I’m so glad I made it to this fantastic place before I moved because enjoying the flawless food and glorious company was the perfect way to say goodbye to Leeds.

I love meat, yeah I do. But I’ll tell you a little secret, I’m actually equally happy gobbling veg as long as it’s cooked well and it ain’t beans. Recently I had some vegetarian food that was cooked to absolute perfection and had me convinced I could go veggie if I really wanted to. That meal was at the ever-so-fabulous Hansas.

Award-winning Hansa’s has won accolade after accolade and yet in my five years in Leeds I hadn’t made it there. Try telling meat-loving dates that you want to take them to vegetarian restaurant and unfortunately sometimes they threaten not to put out and so it was put on the to-do list until eventually, it was done.  I’d heard over and over just how fantastic it was and simply had to go before I left Leeds and thank the lord of lentils I did.

On our midweek trip we were greeted by Hansa herself into a world of  soft lighting and instant snacks (crispy, spiced, battered veg of some kind). The restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol, which I didn’t mind a bit after a season of indulgence and I happily ordered a pineapple juice and the waitress offered to bring us a jug of water too (nice service). We arrived very early but there were other diners in there, including a couple who confessed to being regulars unable to stop coming back. At first, we did think the restaurant was maybe a little quiet but half way through some musicians came in and started playing music. This really is a restaurant with everything, except of course meat and alcohol, but the truth is it really doesn’t need it.

I was dining with my friend Catherine, who thankfully isn’t shy of trying new things, in fact, we tend to share meals when we eat out because we both look on the menu and want everything. On this occasion we shared a starter and went solo on the main course.

Hansa's Delight and Patra

Hansa's Delight and Patra

Up first was Hansa’s Delight (£3.95) – a juicy beef tomato stuffed with spiced paneer masala and deliciously dipped in light batter, served with tomato and tamarind sauce and Patra (£4.25), tropical colocasia leaves pasted with curried batter which are packed with onions, sweetcorn, mustard and sesame seeds. As you can see from the photo we split the goods between two plates, so I can assure you the initial presentation was more impressive. Both starters were flawless – the juicy tomato and silky paneer contrasted beautifully with the light, crisped batter.  The tamarind and tomato sauce was the perfect balance of sweet, sour and spice. The Patra was, dare I say it, really meaty in texture. It brought to mind some kind of wonderful vegetarian black pudding, with succulent, chunky veg combining with a little peppery heat in every bite.

chickpea kofte and potato curry

Rich and lovely chickpea kofte and potato curry

For my main course I opted for Bhagat Muthiya (£7.25), which meant crisp, flavoursome chickpea koftas bobbing in a lightly spiced and very fragrant curry sauce. One mouthful in and I was feeling ever so smug with my choice. It was colourful, it was filling and it was flavour-full.

Aubergines topped with onions, masala spice and ground peanuts

Aubergines topped with onions, masala spice and ground peanuts (Ringan na Ravaiya)

Catherine opted for the Ringan na Ravaiya (£6.95). The aubergines were large and ahem, meaty, without a hint of slime. They came topped with a masala spice, onions and ground peanuts. Catherine did mourn the fact her selection didn’t come with a traditional sauce, but she said the mix of flavours hit the spot and because I’m such a wonderful, giving person, I let her steal a few spoons of mine (that will give me brownie points for extra tries of her food choices in the future).

Our carby curry accompaniment of choice was bread, in the form of Puri (£1.25 for two pieces) and Batura (£1.50). The latter fried bread had fenugreek baked into it. In hindsight we probably could have gotten away with ordering only one lot of bread and had we, it would definitely have been the Batura, which proved a tasty mopping tool.

Batura

Fried bread with fenugreek, perfect to mop up my curry sauce with!

Greed and our mutual curiosity  about vegan puds led us to dessert. We ordered Sweet Sev (£4.75) to share, sweet vermicelli in ghee, with sultanas, almonds and plenty of cardomon. I was full to the brim but the sweet nectar that was masala tea loaded with a little brown sugar. I was also a tad giddy about the fact there was no risk of dairy after-effects.

Hansa’s is real gem in what is now a fairly hefty crown when it comes to Leeds’ restaurants. The range of flavours and attention to detail in mix of textures in the food I ate there is unrivalled by any meal I’ve eaten in any other restaurant. Oh, and it’s damn good value too. Hansa also organises trips to Gujarati, where her style of cooking originates and cookery demos. If I hadn’t left Leeds a mere four days after eating here, I’d definitely have been signing up. As it is, without a doubt I’ll be eating more vegetarian food in 2013 and actively searching out vegetarian restaurants in the North East. All recommendations are officially welcome!