Tag Archives: Restaurants

A Masterful Meal at the New Ellington

We had the pleasure of trying Leeds’ latest pop up restaurant this week and it was a very exciting meal indeed! The city’s very own Liz Cottam, who came fifth in this year’s Masterchef, has been looking for the ideal location to host her own restaurant. After much deliberation Liz confirmed her residency at the New Ellington hotel just a few weeks ago.

d05d7777-57e2-46ad-aee6-faf01856ab33

A beautiful venue, but a little off the beaten track, we were keen to see what plans Liz had for the place. We’ve dined with Liz before – she runs her own adhoc supperclub from her gorgeous house in Gildersome. Her atmospheric, panelled dining room is more Manor than the Manor – so maybe she’ll let us do a residency at hers whilst she’s busy at the New Ellington?!

The few times we’ve eaten Liz’s food I’ve always been amazed by her attention to detail with the intricate plating up – given she’s an amateur after all – and the lovely flavours she carefully and thoughtfully brings together. This translated well into her first proper restaurant service, with dishes that felt high end, luxurious and tasty.

First up at her launch meal we enjoyed a mushroom consume with mushroom puree, gnocchi and shavings of truffle. This was an umami smack in the face, if ever there was one, and the strong truffle certainly elevated the dish to a luxurious standard.

img_1190

Next up was Liz’s take on a very refined fish pie. Soft, buttered halibut was swimming in lobster bisque and topped with a crunchy potato crisp, delicate mash and pickled samphire. This was a decorative dish for the eyes and delicious on the palette, with comforting and warming flavours of the sea. I’d seen Liz show this dish off on Twitter so was thrilled to be able to try it.

img_1191

 

Liz’s main was a superb offering of lamb. First up was a piece of rolled lamb belly that had been slow cooked for 32 hours and topped with harissa spices and pistachio crumb. Her soft and tasty lamb loin was my favourite of the night – lovely, pink and juicy! This came with fennel, a celeriac puree and spicy rice cracker.

img_1194

Dessert was Liz’s take on a black forest gateau. A sharp cherry ice cream was paired with chocolate soil, nuts, cherry curd and cherries soaked in kirsch. At first it was deceptively underwhelming, but a taste sensation was created when everything was eaten together – very clever indeed.

img_1196

So Liz will be at the New Ellington throughout October, November, December. She’ll be doing private dining Monday to Thursday evenings, if you want to book out the whole of the (small) restaurant. In addition she’ll be doing Friday lunches priced at £25 for 3 courses and a 4-course tasting menu on Friday and Saturday evenings priced at £45.

I’ve often felt that Leeds does chains and cheap eats fairy well, but if you want a decent, independent, posh meal then I always struggle to know where to go. Perhaps Liz’s new venture could fill this gap? If you like modern, British cuisine cooked with passion and innovation then do give it go. What’s more, Liz intends to serve the dishes herself, so you’ll be able to get some Masterchef gossip along with your feed!

The New Ellington – York Place Leeds – BOOK NOW

Disclaimer
Our first meal with Liz at her home was fully paid for. For our visit to the New Ellington, we were invited as Liz’s guests and the meal was complimentary however all views are our own.

Midsummer House – Review

I grew up in Cambridge and so have always known of Midsummer House. But it was one of those places I never expected to go to, and was a bit intimidated by. It was the kind of place corporate business men took clients to show off a bit, not the place for locals to go for a meal, not even for a special occasion.

However 15-20 years on and Midsummer House has become far more accessible with Daniel Clifford at the helm as chef patron and a string of successful appearances on the Great British Menu. It was one of these Great British Menu appearances that got my attention and made me think, yes that food looks fun, I want to eat there! Plus it has managed to retain its 2 Michelin stars for the last ten years.

Midsummer House

As the name suggests, Midsummer House is a house and it’s based on Cambridge’s midsummer common. Cambridge is a funny old city with a number of protected commons, which are basically large areas of grazing land for wild cattle, which have the effect of making you feel like you’re in the middle of the countryside and not in the middle of a city. Midsummer House is located with the river Cam on one side and the common on the other. This sedate positioning means that cars cannot access the restaurant and in fact our taxi had to leave us at the edge of a footbridge to continue our journey by foot, which was quite nice and romantic.

The restaurant itself is surprisingly small, extended through the use of a conservatory and garden. As it was a lovely day the conservatory doors and windows were flung open giving us a feel of siting out in the garden. Our first canapés were delivered whilst we waited to see what would happen next. Little choux buns were filled with a truffle cream and looked just like mini chocolate éclairs!

Midsummer canapes

We started the meal with a glass of champagne which was brought to our table aboard a slightly pompous champagne trolley. This mechanical trolley magically presented the champagne from the depths of its cupboards, which was fun but a bit cheesy. The champagnes, however, were all dry and crisp and extremely refreshing. More canapés appeared including mini turnips in a pepper soil and smoked fish pate and a duck pate on a crumbly biscuit and encased in a pleasingly sharp redcurrant gel. Both were beautiful and full of flavour.

Midsummer canapes 2

Midsummer canpes 3

The menu is split into 7 courses or 10 courses depending how greedy you are. I was with my family who are not always big eaters and so I had to heartbreakingly agree to the 7 courses. This was tough as the courses we were giving up included the suckling pig and turbot with clams and squid ink pasta – devastating!

First up was a crab and pea dish, presented in a hovering little round bottomed dish. Full of crisp, green pea flavour and sweet, comforting crab this was a celebration of the British summer at its best. I was astounded by the superb flavours that had been captured in such a simple looking dish, and this was to start a theme for the rest of the meal.

Midsummer pea and crab

I had spied a little BBQ as soon as we had sat down and for our next course this was brought over to us by the head waiter on another little trolley. Inside the BBQ dome were a number of charred and wrinkly beetroot. These were sliced up with as much pomp and ceremony as could be mustered! The tender flesh was scooped out and added to our next dish of beetroot, goat cheese and quinoa. Beetroot is probably my least favourite vegetable but even I could appreciate its soft juiciness. The goats cheese was fresh out of Heston’s lab, frozen within an inch of its life in dry ice and steaming away on our plates!

Midsummer Beetroot

Midsummer beetroot 2

Next up was my favourite course – quail three ways! A beautifully rare and succulent quail breast was paired up with a sourdough toast finger spread with quail pate and a little deep fried quail egg. The meat was melt in the mouth, the pate umami at its best and the egg smoky beyond belief and full of skill, yum!

Midsummer quail

Midsummer quail 2

Our fish dish was probably the biggest scallop I have ever seen! Big, juicy and well caramelised. This came beautifully presented with granny smith batons and celeriac puree. Lovely little truffles were also brought along and liberally grated all over the scallop. What I noticed about this tasting meal was that every course was given its own importance, there was no dud dish and actually the sizes were all very generous

Midsummer scallop

Finally for the savouries was perfectly pink Cumbrian lamb. For me this was probably the least exciting course but this is mainly because it had such a tough act to follow after the high standard that had preceded it.

Midsummer lamb

Our first dessert was poached kumquat with tamarind sorbet. This did have the effect of cleansing our palettes and caused all manner of yum noises round the table. I felt there was a little bit too much kumquat for the size of the dish, to the point where it felt like I was eating a bowl of marmalade, but it was tasty nonetheless.

Midsummer kumquat

Our final dessert was a celebration of strawberry – who knew a simple strawberry was harbouring so much flavour! This included a little macerated strawberry, a ravioli coated in strawberry gel and a little cigar of strawberry. This was light, fruity and summery – just what we needed after a fairly rich meal!

Midsummer Strawberry

Coffees were not obligatory to enjoy the petit four. These were light little diamond doughnuts with caramel and calvados dipping sauces. The sauces were so good I was eating the leftovers with a spoon!

Midsummer petit four

And so that brought a very enjoyable meal to a close. Everybody agreed that they had been pleasantly surprised by the standard of flavours and the fact that we had been served generous courses and were perfectly full. Had I been offered the additional turbot and pork I’m not sure I could have fitted these in, so maybe 7 was the magic number?!

If I had any criticisms, and these are minor, it’s the toilet set up. For a medium sized restaurant (there’s at least 20 covers downstairs and a private dining room upstairs) there is only one male toilet and one female toilet, which is just not enough. I dashed to the loo just as the scallop was coming out and then had to queue, delaying the dish even further which I’m sure stressed the kitchen out. Also, whilst we were sat right next to a lovely open door that looked out on to the common, we were also right by the drains. So every now and then a lovely whiff of sewage greeted us. This wasn’t enough to cause us to ask to be moved but it does indicate that the restaurant’s toilet infrastructure is not quite right.

I was very impressed with the staff who were all very professional but also friendly and jolly at the same time, making the meal feel special. As we went to leave we were given a parting gift of a little box of chocolates. The chocolate work was obviously the hand of an expert as they were so thin. The insides were, again, superb flavours of pistachio and passionfruit. So if you want a meal where you’ll be thinking of and talking about the flavours long after then do try out Midsummer House – just avoid the private dining room (it looked soulless to me) and don’t sit too near the drains if the doors are open!

Basque Beauty

I was originally booked into Arzak, in San Sebastian, over two years ago. But having lost my passport I had to forego this trip until a new passport was in place. As a result me and this restaurant had some unfinished business! Before I launch into the Arzak critique, I will simply say this – if you love food and drink then you need to get yourself to San Sebastian. A pretty, sedate little town with about 10 restaurants and bars per resident here! Need I say more, it is a foodie paradise! Also a very mild micro climate means that it’s not overly hot in summer and never freezes at winter. Combine that with humidity and you have the perfect conditions for growing beautiful produce, all year round!

WP_20150711_20_40_08_Pro

I was initially intrigued by Arzak when it appeared on Masterchef UK back in 2009 (the year Mat Follas won). Run by an enigmatic father and daughter chef combo the colourful and wacky looking food had me hooked! As well as three Michelin stars it’s also been in the top 10 of the best restaurants in the world for the past decade or so, although it’s slipped out this year, replaced by San Sebastian’s Murgaritz (which is next on my list).

WP_20150711_20_48_03_Pro

Nestled in a residential suburb of San Sebastian (technically a different village in the old days) – to say our journey to Arzak was epic is a slight understatement. A lot of walking and an overground train later and we arrived slightly sweaty and pink faced to be greeted by our calm and professional waiting staff. When I come on to the food you’ll see that I found it hard to differentiate what 3-star Arzak is doing compared to 1 and 2-star eateries I’ve been to. However if anything gets them the third star then it’s the staff. Warm, friendly, professional and always in control.

We went for the tasting menu as that seemed to be the best value for money way of eating, plus there was still an element of choice within this menu. I started will a cool, crisp Fino sherry which was served in a nice, large portion. Our snacks, as ever, were the treats which highlighted the most innovation from the kitchen, and created opportunity for the chef to show off. They included beer marinated mango, served in the bottom of beer can and scooped out with the world’s longest spoon; a little bottle of gazpacho with a ‘cork’ of melon and ham; and a bright red prawn wanton that was crunchy and sweet. What was evident from this course was Arzak’s style of playing with colour and subtly confusing the brain about what you are actually about to eat.

Arzac gazpacho

Arzac mango

The first starter was foie gras – this is fairly popular in San Sebastian given that it’s part of the Basque Country. This was a play on a popular pinxtos dish that we’d had earlier in the day but much more refined. The pate was smooth and rich and came with sweet apple and crispy potato.

Arzac fois gras

For the fish course we had a choice of mackerel or lobster. I, of course, went for lobster. When an ipad was placed before me I was very confused! It had images of the sea playing. The beautifully presented lobster dish was then put down on top of it on a glass tile. This was a fun way of serving and the sea scene quickly turned to a roaring fire when I had finished the lobster! The fish itself was served with sour ‘acidic’ flavours to cut through the sweet flesh. I thought you got a lot of lobster for a tasting menu which was pleasing.

Arzac lobster

The next interlude was a wacky ‘space egg’ which was a slow cooked egg surrounded by dots of brightly coloured sauces. For me, this was more style over substance but it was fun nonetheless and a bit of a two fingers up to very formal dining restaurants, who probably wouldn’t serve something so zany!

Arzac egg

The last fish course was seared tuna belly with a purple corn sauce. This was stunningly beautiful on the plate and almost a shame to eat. I was expecting a miso style sauce, which would have made this dish perfect. However, as with a lot of Basque cooking, the sauces are all quite sour which can take a bit of getting used to.

Arzac tuna

The meat dish had a number of options – lamb, pigeon, beef or anything else we cared to dictate to the kitchen! I went for the beef as it was charcoal cooked and I had seen the charcoal oven in the front yard on my arrival. This was a healthy chunk of beef cooked very rare but lovely and soft. It was speared with a ‘bone’ of liquorice root that I enjoyed chewing down on and sucking. The hop sauce that the beef came with was a little watery, however when green tea dust was grated over it an intriguing smoke was created. All very visually stunning!

Arzac beef

Desserts were fun and actually left us not knowing what to expect at all. First up was a chocolate course. This included a giant chocolate truffle that had a chocolate sauce poured on it to dramatically melt away the outside. This wasn’t the prettiest of dishes however the richness of the chocolate was perfectly naughty. Also brought out was ‘square moon’ – a cube of chocolate filled with fruity sauce and a passionfruit pouring sauce. We thought that was it until yet more cutlery was put down! This time the offerings were even weirder! A chocolate shell was made to look like a black lemon, which is a tiny little dried lemon, and filled with citrus cream. Finally there were little ring donuts which were actually carob shells filled with an anise cream. The style of the restaurant seems to be to create hard shelled desserts that break open to reveal soft interiors – it got a little bit samey by dessert four, but fun nonetheless.

A picture of San Sebastian as my dessert pictures were particularly crap

A picture of San Sebastian as my dessert pictures were particularly crap

And so that was it! Interestingly our waiter came to ask if we were full enough or whether we wanted more. I was actually perfectly full, without being nauseous as one can sometimes be after a tasting menu. However the Britishness in me immediately said that I was full and it would have been interesting to know what would have happened had I required more food – what on earth would have come out?! We did have the obligatory coffee and petit four. These came in a pretty little bird cage. Although disappointingly these were yet more hard shells/ liquid centres, as experienced in the desserts. The mousse filled chocolate was very moreish though.

Arzac petit four

Spanish restaurants don’t do tap water and so we had bottles of still. These were very reasonably priced however, so not really an annoyance. Wine-wise we opted for a light local red which came in the form of a 2012 Rioja Crianza – Predicador to be precise. This was perfect for the majority of our courses. Bizarrely it seemed to be the magic porridge pot of the wine world as it lasted for the whole 3 hours of our meal!

This is probably the third most expensive meal I’ve ever had, after Noma and L’Enclume. If I’m honest then I think the food at Noma and L’Enclume is superior to Arzak – in terms of innovation, taste and presentation. Perhaps this is why Arzak has slipped out of the top ten of late? However the service at Arzak was second to none and I’d go back again just for that. What’s more, on the way out our head waiter was disappointed to hear we’d not met the chef and swiftly brought out Elena Arzak to meet us. We discussed Masterchef and then she walked us out to our taxi, which was all rather lovely! Personally I’d hate to be featured in the world’s top 50 restaurants as it opens you up to a world of scrutiny, critique and expectation. When you’re a little provincial taverna you probably just want to get on and make good food without the world watching.

Leeds’ best new restaurant

I’ve got a major tip off for you all and I’ve agonised for ages about whether to go public with this, as if I do then it probably means I’ll struggle to ever get a table again! I concluded that I’d be selfless and let you all know that I’ve found Leeds’ best new restaurant…

The Greedy Pig is an unassuming greasy spoon on North Street (near the Reliance and Hansas). By night it becomes the Swine that Dines. The Greedy Pig has been independently run by Scots Jo and Stu since 2011. They started to dabble in a monthly supperclub last year, which I attended the other week. They’ve taken the plunge to start the move away from bacon sandwiches and lunchtime fare to establish their Friday evening small plates club.

How it works – they open between 6pm and 9pm every Friday. There’s no bookings so you just turn up when you’re hungry. A giant blackboard displays the plates of the day. There are about 10 tapas sized plates to choose from, which includes desserts and bread from Leeds bread co-op. You order what you want, settle down with your BYOB, and await the tasty treats to arrive at your table!

Our menu

Our menu

We greedily ordered everything on the menu, except the bread and the tabbouleh salad, and shared it. Now I’ve had the pleasure of eating Stu’s food before so I was expecting good things. However the standard and quality of what was presented to us last night was out of this world. The plates were generously portioned, expertly presented, full of clean and clever flavours and all extremely exciting. Here’s a quick overview of each one:

A summer salad of crunchy green beans and radish was bound together with a deliciously creamy and piquant duck egg dressing and toasted sourdough bread. This was veg at its most exciting.

Swine beans

Salt hake came firm and fleshy atop a generous mountain of buttery potatoes and greens.

WP_20150703_18_42_06_Pro

The pork ribs were so meaty I failed to find the rib bones for the first few bites! They were perfectly cooked with crusty bits of marinated meat to chew down on. Sour tasting mushrooms seemed an odd accompaniment but extremely moreish and tasty.

A leek, walnut and feta croquette was an unexpectedly large rocket (roquette?!) of crispy outside and soft and tasty filling. This had a clever salad with sesame oil which really contrasted against the creamy filling.

WP_20150703_18_53_45_Pro

The kid faggot I nearly didn’t order as I’d had similar at the supperclub the other day. However I am glad I did – this was my favourite! A giant dumpling of smooth kid goat meat and offal (it was shoulder and heart last time I believe) came atop sweet and creamy carrot puree and oozing with a rich and meaty gravy. Not the best dish for a hot day but comforting and full of flavour – gimme more!

WP_20150703_18_53_33_Pro

Our final dish was the majestic porchetta. A beautifully coiled piece of pork was beautifully marinated and cooked to perfection, it truly was melt in the mouth. The flavours were so complex I needed to have them explained to me. Apparently the meat is given both a wet and dry rub in a myriad of herbs and spices that include sage, garlic, coriander and chilli. It was served with soft braised fennel and shavings of raw fennel to give different textural elements. This was another favourite dish.

WP_20150703_18_53_49_Pro

And so we took a pause here, absolutely astounded at how good the food was but yet in disbelief that the dining room was still so quiet. A steady stream did arrive and leave as we ate but there was room for more. In summary, you need to get yourself here, we cannot let this fantastic food go to waste! I really don’t think Jo and Stu appreciate how good they are, it’s the tastiest food I have eaten in a very long time.

As we enjoyed our wine I reflected a bit on the venue, which probably wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a very no nonsense, humble, honest venue. I personally love this as it means all focus and attention can be on the brilliant food. The informality is such a contrast to the fine dining style food, I love it! It truly is Leeds’ ultimate casual dining venue.

Desserts were not advertised on twitter so I was excited to see them added to the blackboard on arrival. We stuck to our trend and ordered both to share. A prune and Armagnac tart was bitter from chocolate ganache and sweet and sour from the prunes. It had a light and creamy ice cream and salted caramelised almonds for texture. Jo’s pastry was almost like a crumbly shortbread biscuit.

Swine tart

An elderflower posset was perfectly set and creamy. I couldn’t get much elderflower if I’m honest but the stem ginger shortbread biscuit was out of this world – buttery and crumbly. I loved spooning the posset onto the biscuit for a perfect combination.

WP_20150703_19_40_41_Pro

And so at this stage we declared ourselves full, having eaten nearly the entire menu! And now for the biggest shock of the entire night. Our bill came to less than £20 each. Now I know this doesn’t include booze, as we brought our own. But this meal was by far better than the one I’d enjoyed at Heston’s last week and was a fraction of the price. I love a bargain but the guys could easily charge more for the top quality food they serve. I’m guessing the low prices won’t be around forever, which is another reason to get yourself down there!

So I hope I’ve been able to convince you to get yourself down to North Street next Friday and every Friday after that. You won’t regret it. I just hope Jo and Stu save me a seat when everyone’s queuing out of the door! They don’t have a website yet so I recommend giving them a follow on Twitter – @SwineThatDines. You can thank me later!

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.

WP_20150530_23_48_23_Pro (640x360)

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!

WP_20150530_23_56_35_Pro (360x640)

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!!

Pintura Review

It’s been a while since we’ve done a review of a Leeds restaurant, we’re too busy eating elsewhere! Anyway we had an impromptu trip to Pintura last night, to welcome in the weekend, and the food was so good we thought we’d tell you all about it. Pintura is one of the newer additions to Trinity and is a Basque style tapas bar. We’ve been before when it was soft launching and whilst it had a few teething problems the food was undoubtedly top notch so we didn’t think twice about returning.

Upon arrival you are invited to have a drink in their stylish gin bar. The gins are certainly plentiful but it was sherry for us. Susie enjoyed a clean crisp fino full of salty nutty aromas whereas I went for a mazanilla which is slightly nuttier and sweeter. It was a perfect tipple for a sunny evening, although for some reason the sherry isn’t kept behind the bar so you have to wait quite a while whilst the bar staff go and hunt some down.

When we were ready to sit down for dinner we were taken to a lovely leather booth, full of retro charm. The table was amply sized for the two of us, which is always a bonus when many tapas dishes are being ordered! Whilst we sat and perused the menu we nibbled on little spicy sausages with a homemade ketchup dipping sauce. These were a bit chewy but full of flavour. For our starter we had a platter of meats and cheeses. We had this as part of the soft launch but what was presented was far bigger than what we had enjoyed last time! The meats included a wonderful smoked duck, air dried Basque ham and Iberico. The cheeses included manchego, a blue and a very stinky one that went excellently with the quince jam. I loved all the little garnishes like pickled chillis, toasted walnuts, gherkins and mini pickled onions. We were quite full after this platter!

Pintura Platter

The theme for our tapas element was PORK! This came three ways – black pudding; pork belly and pig cheek. The pig cheek was probably our favourite. This came soft and salty with a beautifully spiced, sweet cauliflower puree and crispy pig ears. The black pudding is always a winner especially with a crispy fried runny egg. The pork belly was our least favourite – a large slab of belly that was overly salty and a bit flat in flavour.

Pintura potatoes and pig cheek

Pintura black pudding and pork bellyAlso in our spread were little roast potatoes, roasted in smoked duck fat. The fat did indeed give a beautiful smoky flavour, however the potatoes were flabby instead of crispy, which was disappointing. Our fish dish was a special of hake which came perfectly cooked with a piquant ratatouille style sauce. Our veggie dish was a Basque style runny omelette which comes in its own cute little frying pan. This burst open to reveal runny egg and caramelised onions.Pintura ommelette (640x268)

Pintura hake

In terms of drinks we of course enjoyed a Spanish red – Luis Alegre Rioja. This was very easy drinking, fruity with a bit of a liquorice kick. We didn’t have room for dessert after our tapas feast so instead we had… more wine! This time we had glasses of Carpess Crianza Tempranillo. This was deep, spicy and full of dark fruits like dark cherry. I thought the wine list was very good. Lots of Spanish options as well as world wines, and our wine ranged from £20-£30 a bottle. The list looks like it has been put together well without any duds. Our only criticism was the time it took for wine to be brought to us. Our final glasses took at least 20 mins to arrive after ordering them. It was served at a beautiful temperature so maybe they were warming it up!

All in all our huge feast, wine and sherries came in at a not insignificant £50 per person (including tip). However I left feeling nicely full of food and wine so I feel this was good value. The meat and cheese platter was £15 alone and if I’m honest, given its unexpected size, we didn’t really need it. So, if like us you’ve run out of inspiration about where to go for tea in Leeds then do give Pintura a go. It’s a very relaxed and informal environment and food and wine is of good quality. Just make sure you ring your wine orders ahead if you want to have them with your meal!

Timberyard Review

It’s been a while since we’ve done a restaurant review, and that’s not because we haven’t been eating out, more that general business and laziness has compromised our ability to keep our writing up with our eating! I’m going to put a stop to that and make a concerted effort to review my upcoming mouthfuls as there are some exciting ones on the cards. What’s more, it’s a fantastic way to keep a food diary. I love reading back on all the lovely meals I’ve enjoyed, even if no one else does!

So the object of my affections today is the lovely Timberyard in Edinburgh. Now I’ve been to Timberyard about four times, with a decent meal experienced every time, so heavens knows why I haven’t written a review yet. It’s a family run place on the cusp of the old and new town (although mainly in the old town near the Grassmarket). It takes up a rather unassuming slot on Lady Lawson Street but upon entering it opens up into the most unexpected, huge warehouse area. It has sympathetically maintained the character of the building’s industrial background but has brought in elements of the Scottish countryside with animal skins and skulls. The food has echoes of Scandinavia and the staff are achingly trendy. So trendy in fact that they have already got rid of their Hoxton beards – you can tell from the pale chins that have been left behind!

Timberyard

We were sat down right at the back, which was perfect for us to have a view of the entire dining room, and could just about peek into the wondrous kitchen. Nothing is normal at Timberyard so when inspecting the cocktail menu for an aperitif there were no familiar drinks and even a simple gin and tonic came with a bit of pine tree in it! I excitedly opted for a salty sea dog which I guess is a Timberyard take on a martini. It was my kind of drink – packed with lots of gin, vermouth and then salty elements provided by bladderwrack seaweed! It truly was out of this world – deep, musky and smoky, like a good whisky. Richard’s gin and tonic stumped us a bit. He opted for a beautiful Botanist, a dry gin made on the Isle of Islay (most famous for its peaty whisky). His ‘tonic’ came in a chemistry lesson style flask for him to add himself, which he duly did – all of it. He had a look of confusion when he took his first sip as it turned out the flask was filled with water instead of tonic. So essentially he had a nice big glass of gin, pine tree, and water! We wondered if this was the poncey way of drinking an Islay gin and no one had told us. But when the bill came it did say ‘tonic’ so we are still confused!

Timberyard Menu

Menus took a while to arrive which panicked us somewhat that we were automatically doing the 8 course tasting menu, something our stomachs wouldn’t have been able to comply with as we’d had a late lunch. We perused whilst munching on some of their warm and freshly baked sourdough. Not the best bread I’ve had but the bits you get to spread on are top notch. A choice of whipped crowdie, which is a sour cream cheese, or smoked bone marrow which was served in a bit of bone! The smoked marrow was my favourite, topped with piles of ground black pepper, mmmmm is all I can say!

Richard and I are probably becoming far too similar these days as out of the whole meal, for all three courses, we picked the same things. How it works at Timberyard is that the menu is split into small bites, starters, mains and desserts. Small bites are essentially a large canapé. We opted to have three courses of savoury as the desserts didn’t really float our boat.

Our small bite was an umami packed duck heart, liver and mushroom concoction. The duck heart was served savagely speared by a piece of yet more pine tree! I chewed into it like an offally lollipop. It was soft but meaty. Hidden beneath this was a mousse-like liver pate dusted with a cep powder for the ultimate umami hit. I was glad there was still some sourdough left to mop all of this up with. For a small bite it was certainly a generous portion.

Timberyard duck heart

Winewise we went for the L’indigene from Languedoc, a 2011 Syrah/ Grenache. It was very light and powerfully fruity so we thought it would be sympathetic to our upcoming fish and meat courses. A few glasses in and we suddenly noticed the sulphurous qualities of the wine. Upon reading the bottle our worst fears were confirmed – BIODYNAMIIC!! Those of you who read any of our Copenhagen reviews will recall the fall out we had with biodynamic wine which can often be very challenging and taste a bit ‘off.’ Anyway, prejudices aside this was actually an enjoyable wine but I could only have managed the one bottle! Is this why biodynamic wine exists do you think? To prevent binge drinking?!

Our fish course looked deceptively simple. A soft and creamy fillet of sole with all sorts of goodies including prawns, cockles and artichoke. It was full of different textures, some raw, some cooked. A very comforting dish that also felt strangely decadent.

Timberyard sole

Our final course was the smoked beef, which did not disappoint. The beef came in a thick slab and was so rare it was practically raw and yet a perfect temperature and texture. I didn’t get the smokiness if I’m honest. It was also quite a soft dish – succulent beef, rich gravy, cauliflower puree, mushrooms. It could have done with a crunchy texture, such as a chip, but that would make me a heathen in the food heaven that is Timberyard!

Timberyard beef

So I was full enough not to want a dessert, although I may have got a cheeky little pot of salted caramel ice cream from the shop opposite for the walk home! What I liked about this visit to Timberyard was that the meal was completely different to what I had last time as the menu is constantly changing. I’ve been going for about two years now and am not yet bored, in fact I am constantly surprised by what they produce. I can’t wait for next time!