Monthly Archives: June 2015

Dinner round at Heston’s

For a birthday treat we took a trip to London to experience Dinner by Heston in the Mandarin Hotel. We’re in London fairly infrequently, despite having lived here previously. This has been on my to do list for a while as the historical recipes do intrigue me, plus after we had booked it was swiftly announced as the 7th best restaurant in the world!

Based in Knightsbridge, it’s in a fairly high end part of town. The Mandarin Hotel itself is ornate, grand and full of glamour without being tacky. It was a classic muggy evening in London and we just wanted to be somewhere cool and light, of which there are not a lot of these kinds of corners in the hotel!

View of the kitchen from our table - no sign of Heston though!

View of the kitchen from our table – no sign of Heston though!

On arrival it was obvious that this was a seamless and slick operation. We started with cocktails in the bar. Seats were found for us in seconds, as were menus. The cocktails themselves were swiftly made and brought over before we had time to take breath. Had this been a cocktail bar in Leeds I daresay we would have fought for a seat for a while before deciding whether to stay or not, and the bar would take hours to get to you and make your drink! This was certainly not the case here. At £16 a cocktail these were not cheap but the list was fairly intriguing. I went for a bon vivant, which was a very grown up cocktail. Smoked vermouth and aged amontillado sherry gave the tobacco and leathery tones that I love in a drink. It came with a little skewer of stilton cheese dunked in it, which sounds odd but was a wonderful savoury pairing. Susie had a pretty little green concoction made with Japanese tea infused gin and matcha tea. Set in a bamboo steamer it had all the pomp and ceremony injected into it with the obligatory dry ice display! Plus the drink was tasty too! To accompany drinks we nibbled on nuts, seeds and berries anointed with truffle oil, moreish to say the least!

Bon Vivant


As soon as we had finished our drinks we were whisked away to the dining room. The main dining room is quite dark, however there is a corridor bit which lies next to the kitchen and which looks out on to Hyde Park. Luckily this was where we were sat, I may have found the dark area far too claustrophobic. We’d already dissected the menu on the train down and were fairly confident of our choices. The menu was a pretty little concertina with dishes on one side and stories of their historical origin on the other. For starters most of us went for the house dish of meat fruit. This was an amazingly realistic mandarin orange set atop a board with grilled sourdough bread. The orange was in fact a sphere of light and fluffy chicken liver parfait set inside a gel of mandarin orange. This was a taste sensation, light yet rich and nicely offset by the tangy gel. It was, however, a massive portion for one, but we wolfed it down. Our dining partner went for the salagamundy which had wonderful spicy aromas and woody bitter flavours from the salsify, marrowbone and horseradish – she was very happy! We noted that to supply the chicken oysters for this one dish alone would have required 2-3 chickens, so we’re not sure where the rest of the chicken goes!

Meat Fruit

Mains wise I hope we weren’t too boring but most of us went for the ribeye beef to share. This was a huge piece of Hereford beef, cooked medium and served with fries and mushroom ketchup. If I’m honest, the beef was nice but I’ve had better. The fries were well seasoned but nothing spectacular. The mushroom ketchup was the star of the dish, sweet and umami at the same time. A side of cabbage was stingy but again well-seasoned. Susie went for the Iberico pork chop. This was the thickest pork chop we’ve ever seen! She had a side of filthy mash with it, full of butter. It was creamy and comforting and I could have eaten just a bowl of that! She looked broken by the end due to there being so much food. As an aside, it’s worth noting that despite the prices and the Michelin stars, the portions are huge – you will not go hungry!


Only half of us went for dessert. The others looked crestfallen at having to turn it down, but they simply had no room after our meat fest! I went for the brown bread ice cream. This was a beautiful little quenelle of sour tasting ice cream. It came atop a massive wedge of salted butter caramel. Eaten all together, as advised by the waiter, this was stunning, if a little rich. I had to leave a lot of caramel once the ice cream had gone, plus I was reaching breaking point too! The best dessert I think was the marmalade pudding. This was a pretty little set cream made in a fun vintage jelly mould. It came spiked with bitter and sour elements from Campari and orange pieces. It was extremely tasty and refreshing and is what I would pick next time I’m dining there.

Brown bread ice cream

Marmalade pudding

Wines are particularly eye watering. Ranging from £35 to £4550! Majority are priced at the top end but we managed to select a very good Muscadet at £35 and a Beaujolais at £45 and this was more than enough to keep us watered throughout. The waiting staff were not snooty about us preferring tap water and they kept our glasses well filled.

Just as we thought we were fit to burst a secret course was brought out in honour of my birthday. I thought some of us were going to break down in tears at the thought of eating another morsel!! However this was a dainty little pot of earl grey infused chocolate ganache with a fine shortbread biscuit. This was beautifully floral and surprisingly refreshing but definitely the last thing I was going to eat that night!

Birthday ganache

The bill came in at about £110 a head, which given the high profile of the restaurant and its namesake I was pleasantly surprised. We paid a similar amount at Man Behind the Curtain (which was a completely different experience) and left a bit hungry! It did get me thinking though about what I want from a meal. And I think thesedays I’m more about trying lots of different flavours, textures and experiences in food, rather than just going to be filled up. There were some fantastic flavours in this meal, but perhaps not enough to get me really excited – that’s probably my fault for going for the beef! Having said that, if I can get a table, I would definitely return, but I would pick some different things from the menu.

New Dates Alert!

We’ve had quite a bit of traffic on the site of late so we thought we’d give all you supperclub fans some new dates to book onto! Bellies at the ready! We’ve got a range of foodie celebrations to tempt you with. These will go on sale on Wednesday 1st July at 7pm.

Events available will be:

Saturday 10th October – This will be one of our classic evening supperclubs in celebration of our 4th birthday. At £50 a head you’ll get our famous gut busting 8 course meal based on Nanban Japanese soul food with craft ale paired to four of the courses from a brewery yet to be confirmed.

Saturday 14th November – This will be a Middle Eastern themed afternoon tea based on Anne Shooter’s beautiful Sesame and Spice book. £25 will get you a range of stunning sweets and savouries as well as a welcome cocktail.

Saturday 5th December – Our Christmas event this year will be a lunch inspired by Ottolenghi’s new cook book Nopi. This will be lots of Middle Eastern inspired small plates, with a festive twist. £30 will get you 8 small plates and a welcome drink!

So keep an eye out on 1st July to bag your spaces. See you soon!

Spanish Surprises!

Last weekend we hosted our very first lunchtime event at the Manor! Using our forthcoming holiday as inspiration as well as some of our favourite Spanish cookery books, including Rick Stein and Claudia Roden, we served up a delicious array of pinxos, tapas and other flavoursome dishes. A wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

A welcoming glass of cool, crisp Fino sherry was swiftly followed by our canapés. First up were Dan’s mini salt cod tortillas, made with his home salted bacalao. Creamy egg bound together onions, peppers and salty fish, served atop a dollop of spicy Romesco sauce.

Pinxos swiftly followed, in the form of a mini pork skewer marinaded in Moorish spices – think cumin, fennel and coriander, griddled and served with mojo picon, a fiery sauce consisting of chillies and paprika.

Onto the starters and to cool things down a notch after the pork was a deliciously cooling bowl of gazpacho. The usual vegetables in a gazpacho were blended, seasoned and chilled until ice cold. Served in chilled bowls and topped with an array of vegetables and herbs, this was light clean, cleansing. Perfect to kick off the rest of the bigger dishes.

The next dish was Dan’s beautiful baked crab in cider, which isn’t actually baked at all! This is a surprisingly simple dish with deep and complex flavours. White and brown crab meat from Leeds market was simmered in a dry cider with garlic and tomato. This created a bisque like stew, without all the hassle! It can be used as a stuffing for spider crabs, or served up in bowls like we did!

Following on from the crab was a Spanish peasant dish of polenta with fried meats. Dan used different pork cuts from our favourite pork producer, Tancred Farm in Wetherby. Creamy softly cooked polenta came with bits of Yorkshire chorizo, deliciously smoked bacon, spicy black pudding, and a punchy sauce of smoked paprika and red wine vinegar. We do recommend Tancred Farm, they can be found at the Briggate Farmers market every first and third weekends of the month.

Almost full, but with still three more courses to go, our guests were served the final savoury dish, platters of crispy chicken thighs served on top of romesco sauce and then topped with a salsa / gremolata of almonds, onion, parsley, vinegar and olive oil. The salsa added a fresh, earthy dimension to the sour, sweet and salty flavours of the chicken and sauce. These were accompanied by lemony green beans, a Manor staple!

To perk up those tastebuds was a scoop of Dan’s luscious Malaga raisin and Pedro Ximenix sherry ice cream. A Spanish take on the classic rum n raisin, this was creamy and heady with rich sherry flavours.

And finally, wedges of apple cinnamon and cider cake were served accompanied by vanilla cream and pistachios. A cinnamon sponge, baked with layers of apple and soaked in a cider glaze. The juices of the apple created a sweet sauce to the cake, which I likened more to a baked sponge pudding, rather than a cake – soft, sweet and satisfying but not at all heavy and too stodgy.

Full and happy, this was, we think a very enjoyable and successful afternoon! We had a lovely bunch of guests and it was nice to have a mix of new and returning faces round the table. We hope they left full and happy. We’ll definitely host another lunch soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

Later that evening we even managed to get out to The Greedy Pig’s Swine that Dines supperclub event they host in their cafe, which we’ll share soon. A foodie day indeed for us!

The best gin in the world!

I often forget about Lazy Lounge due to its low profile tucked off Wellington Street. However as I was reminded this week it is one of Leeds’ most exciting independent bars due to the wide range artisan wines, beers and gins on offer. In fact at last count the gin selection was in the 100s! If you want something unique and tasty then this is the place to come. What’s more, despite being in the ground floor of a new build block of flats it actually has tons of character and atmosphere.

Anyway what brought us here on a muggy Thursday evening was a gin club dedicated to my favourite gin in the whole wide world – Warner Edwards. For those not in the know, Warner Edwards is one of the original gang who started the artisan gin movement about 2-3 years ago – other aficionados include Sipsmiths, William Chase and Edinburgh gin. Their aim – to make a premium, tasty gin in small batches. What I love about Warner Edwards is its oily, savoury-sweet quality that means you can sip it neat over ice!


Tom Warner gave us a talk about the history of gin. What I hadn’t realised was the different gin definitions. If the product is simply ‘gin’ then this is the lowest quality where spirit is simply macerated with botanicals. ‘Distilled gin’ is the next level, which as you’ve guessed, is where the spirit is distilled with botanicals. The best quality product is ‘London Dry Gin’ which is spirit that has been distilled to a high ABV with botanicals. Warner Edwards distil their gin to around 85% which is the highest known. This is distilled with a range of botanicals including their locally foraged elderflower, and then brought down to a drinkable 44% ABV by diluting it with spring water from their own farm. This all leads to a very smooth and quaffable product which has since won countless international awards.

What I was impressed by was the lengths the duo went to creating a top notch product. Years of research and experimentation lead to the creation of their range of tasty gins. It just goes to show, put the work in and you will reap the rewards. We got to try three of their gins, including the flagship Harrington Dry (my favourite). Their elderflower gin is a seasonal product whereby more local elderflower is added to the stills when the spirit is at 85% and at ultimate solvency to suck up all that fragrant flavour. The rhubarb gin is perhaps the most intriguing. After much experimentation the lads found that the best way of getting rhubarb flavour into the gin was by pressing raw rhubarb through a cider press and diluting the spirit with the resulting juice. The end result is deep and fruity without being cloyingly sweet, which is often a danger with liqueurs.

Lazy Lounge looked after us very well. Our £20 ticket included our gin lecture and lots of Warner Edwards tasters. A bountiful platter of good quality cheeses, meats and breads was brought out to soak up all the gin, my favourites being the blue cheese and slices of chorizo. They also tried their hand at putting Warner Edwards into some classic cocktails. The Harrington Dry made it into a lemony White Lady, whilst the rhubarb gin made it into a rhubarb sour which was lethally strong! These were a nice touch but if I’m honest I prefer to drink the gin unadulterated given that so much effort has been put into making such a stunning product. However we enjoyed talking to the owner who is very passionate about all things booze! He gave us a snifter of his favourite gin – ala Madame – which is distilled with tons of spices. It was firey with ginger and cinnamon and if I’m honest reminded me of the Aftershock of my student days!!

For more information on Warner Edwards check out – They do tours at their beautiful Northampton farm so that’s something I’ll certainly be looking into. The gins can be bought from their website and also from Latitude in Leeds City Centre.

STOP PRESS – Two spaces for this Saturday’s Spanish lunch now available!

Due to a last minute cancellation we have two spaces going spare for our much anticipated Spanish themed lunch. £30pp gets you 10 small plates of splendid Spanish pintxos and a crisp cool fino sherry! To grab these exclusive places simply email us on – first come first served!! Check out the menu below, I’m sure we can tempt you!

June 2015

June Menu – A Spanish Lunch

Hot off the heels of our American afternoon tea, we’ll be hosting our next event. Where does time fly? This will be another afternoon event, but this time in the form of a wonderful tapas lunch! In homage of our upcoming Spanish trip, we’ll be bringing the flavours of warmer climes to the Manor.

We think our guests are in for a treat and we’d love to know what you think!

June 2015

Dude Food Rules!

‘Dude Food’ has been taking the UK by storm for the past 18 months. For those not familiar with the term this is everything big, brash, American and, well, “blokey”! Think slow roast meats, sticky ribs, juicy burgers and deep fried, well deep dried anything! We’re not ones to pass on a trend so we pulled together a menu of our favourite filthy American treats and turned it into an afternoon tea. Well why not?! Chintzy crockery and deep fried food – a match made in heaven!

The welcome cocktail was a “Star Spangled Fizz”, consisting of vodka, lime, cherry juice and ginger beer. Sweet, sour and spicy this was a perfect way to warm our guests up for the feast that followed.

For savouries we turned up the volume, Ina style. Susie made a stunning Louisiana crab tart with the crumbliest pastry, filled with fresh crab, corn, spring onions and cayenne, all encased in just set egg. She also prepared my favourite – little sliders of moist beef, sautéed green chillis, melted Monterey Jack cheese and mustard. All encased in a cute freshly baked soft bun. Perfectly spicy, piquant and naughty! 

My offerings included the obligatory deep fried cubes of mac-n’cheese. I’m slowly perfecting this recipe and this time added extra cheddar cheese, extra béchamel and a pinch of garlic salt to add a different flavour layer. These golden beauties came with ketchup or mustard dipping sauces. I also slow roasted a pork butt (shoulder to me and you) in smoked paprika, muscovado sugar and cider for approximately 7 hours. This was when then shredded and combined with my homemade secret BBQ sauce before being served up in a soft bap with spicy slaw. Porky goodness!

For sweets we whetted guests appetites with a boule of popcorn ice cream to start things off. This bonkers recipe infuses custard with freshly popped butterkist and truly does gives a nutty, buttery popcorn flavour to the ice cream! Also served up was a very delicate Mississippi mud pie which I think added a touch of glamour to the cake tiers, looking more like French patisserie rather than American gluttony! This was a chocolate cookie base smothered in salted caramel, layered with chunks of chocolate brownie and then finished off with a set chocolate custard and whipped cream. A truly decadent treat that needed to be served in small portions! I also set my hand to key lime pie inspired cupcakes. These consisted of a light lime sponge, hollowed out, filled with a sharp lime curd and topped with toasted Italian meringue. Surprisingly light and full of flavour!

Susie’s bakes included the American staple, Red velvet, this time in the form of whoopie pies. soft, crumbly cakey sponges, with a hint of cocoa (and lots of food colouring!) sandwiched with a delicious vanilla, cream cheese and marshmallow frosting. Her other bake combined two, in fact three staple American ingredients. Chocolate, peanut butter, in the form of a peanut butter custard and jelly (jam!) all encased in the most un-American of sweets, the eclair!

This was a very enjoyable event to put on, although as we were off to Man Behind the Curtain later that evening we couldn’t eat too many of the leftovers until the next day! For this one we, on the whole, used recipes created by our own fair hands, I hope guests enjoyed them! It was nice to be let loose with only our own creativity guiding us, eek…

Next up is another daytime event. This will be a Spanish inspired lunch, in honour of the foodie Spanish holiday we have coming up. You’ll be able to read about our Mediterranean adventures on the blog in due course, as I am sure we will eat some things that we will want to write about!

Man Behind the Curtain – Review

Last month Leeds was given the title of capital of casual dining but in the same sentence was criticised for its lack of fine dining and Michelin stars. If anyone was going to lay claim to the latter it’s the Man Behind Curtain – the new(ish) resident above Flannels. Run by bonkers rock star chef, Michael O’Hare, this is currently one of Leeds’ most exciting eateries and featured in the Observers top 40 restaurants in the UK.

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We’ve dined here before, having enjoyed a leisurely Saturday lunch back in January. We enjoyed it so much we were keen to get back and bring a larger group with us to try out the evening tasting menu. For those who haven’t been above Flannels in any of its previous incarnations, it’s a funny old venue. Whilst Flannels is closed a door man hangs out in the empty shop to let you in and out and then you scuttle through the rails and clothes to get the lift up to the third floor. One wonders how on earth passing foot flow can happen when it’s so out of the way, but they must be doing alright as we couldn’t get a table booked until 9pm and we booked ages ago! The attic space is airy and covered in achingly cool art by ‘Scoph’ who is a friend of the restaurant. It’s very pop arty and felt a bit like an end of term show at the art college!

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Being a tasting menu there was not much perusing to be done other than on what we would drink. We felt the £45 price tag for 6 paired wines was steep and so opted to create our own flight using the reasonably priced wine list, staring on aperitifs of sherry and luridly coloured violet gin and tonics. I didn’t give the food menu too much notice because I wanted the surprise as each course arrived. In all there are 11 small courses, each arriving with its own inimitable arty presentation.

MBTC violet gin

For me the stand out courses were the introductory ‘snacks’ which included little pork scratchings pinned to a mini washing line in an edible bag and a delicate spoon of raw langoustine which was sweet and fresh. I think everyone’s favourite was the cod loin in squid ink. This mad dish was completely black and served on a black plate! It looked atrocious and yet had the most stunning textures and flavours. Soft cod was topped with crispy potatoes and seasoned perfectly with salt and vinegar. A very clever dish indeed as it played on the evocative qualities of taste associations – as your eyes have nothing to go on you have to rely on your sense of taste and smell to work out what on earth you are eating.

MBTC pork rind

The presentation itself deserves a mention. Each dish was served up with precision and careful thought had been given to what plate or vessel would be used – most of which were individually crafted. My favourite was the splat plate that the hake cheek came served on, which made the whole dish look like an Andy Warhol painting!

MBTC hake cheek

Criticisms are very few. My main observation was that, compared to the lunch we had experienced, the food did feel very small and lacked a main dish to tie the whole meal together. Having said that I personally did not feel hungry when I left but I did probably consume more wine than food! What was noticeable in its absence was the bread course which had been one of the highlights of the lunch we enjoyed, so it was sad not to see it here. The boys did rush off to get chips after we had left the restaurant. I didn’t need to partake and I think half the reason they did so was because they’d been joking about it all night and so had chips on the brain! This got me reflecting though about the kind of meal this kind of restaurant provides. It’s not a slap up meal, but it is a cultural experience. It’s not every day that one is going to spend in excess of £100 on a meal that leaves you a bit hungry at the end of the night. But whilst our stomachs might not be full, our minds were. They were full of the unique taste experiences, full of the colours and shapes of the art on the wall, full of the way the lighting played with the presentation of the food, full of the intriguing views over the rooftops of Leeds and full of the sounds of the impeccable play list.

MBTC pork

So all in all I am pleased that Leeds has somewhere like the Man Behind the Curtain, with its quirky and fun approach to food. I’m already thinking about who to go back with next so that I can start creating some new food memories. Maybe the Michelin star will follow, but who cares if not, Man Behind the Curtain is already rewriting the rule book on formal dining. In fact it’s totally ripped it up!!