Tag Archives: Reviews

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Poppyseed Pop-Up!

We ventured South this weekend to Sheffield to try out an exciting new supperclub run by Marie from Poppyseed dining. We met Marie and her husband Steve at the Swine that Dines at the start of the summer and were instantly charmed by their passion and interest in food, which meant their supperclub could be nothing more than excellent! Marie has a Bavarian background and upbringing and this is food that I don’t have a lot of experience of and so the thought of lots of warming Alpine treats was exciting, especially in the run up to Autumn!

Poppyseed itself is a small affair with just six guests around the table, but given that Marie does all the sourcing and cooking herself I don’t blame her at all for this. This month’s menu was based around the food they had experienced on their recent holiday in the Italian Gran Paradiso national park. This is right on the Alpine cusp between France and Italy and is not a place I am familiar with but which I’ll certainly look into now. This was Italian food but not as you know it!

On arrival at Marie and Steve’s school conversion home we were greeted with delicious glasses of berry spritz which was homemade berry liqueur topped up with prosecco. This was very light and refreshing. Our canapés included mini puff pastry tarts topped with succulent and salty pork rillettes, which were an absolute porky dream! Also on offer were mini puffs with Marie’s homemade ricotta! I’ve tried to make ricotta before but it doesn’t work with homogenised supermarket milk so Marie must have gone to some effort to source raw milk straight from the farm. Finally we were treated to warm grissini with a salty and herby yoghurt butter with basil.

Poppyseed canapes

Our fellow guests were very lovely to chat to and had been to Poppyseed before so they were able to explain what the rest of the meal was likely to be like. Our first starter was a lovely little salad of braised figs, hazelnut and lardo brought back from Italy. This was a light and lovely introduction to the flavours of Alpine Italy. The ingredients were simple yet well sourced.

Poppyseed salad

Next up was an intriguing suepa, a new dish to me! This was a cross between a baked bread pudding and a soup, if that makes sense?! Layers of homemade rye bread and fontina cheese were baked in lashings of beef broth. The broth was light and clear and could have been served as a consommé. This was warming and comforting yet over so rich!

Poppyseed starter

For our main course Marie had cured a lovely piece of beef from Whirlow Farm. This was then slow cooked with red wine and mushrooms and served up with soft polenta and caramelised onions. This dish was a bit more familiar to us. The clever curing of the meat meant it fell apart easily yet was firm at the same time. The sauce was thick and rich and almost sharp from the red wine, helping it to cut through everything. We enjoyed leftovers poured all over rye bread, mmmm! There’s no picture for this as we all dived in and devoured it before it was too late!

After a small break our dessert was a cogne cream which is essentially a rum and chocolate set custard. This was probably my least favourite course as I could have done with a chocolate that was a bit more bitter and a cream that was a bit more alcoholic, as after all the strong flavours of the night this got a bit lost. The star of the dish, however, was a scoop of refreshing pear sorbet on top. I think the pear is often forgotten about so it was good to see it here.

Poppyseed dessert

If you dine at Poppyseed do try their coffee. Marie sources unique single bean coffees from a guy in Sheffield who scours the likes of Madagascar and Tanzania for the best coffee plantations. It is some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted from a cafetiere. Petit four were homemade fruit pastilles that were flavoured with elderberry! These were deep and plummy. The final flourish was a little spoon of honey caramel which was a very light and tasty nougat.

Poppyseed caramels

Marie’s passion for sourcing good quality ingredients is very strong and influences her supperclub throughout every single course, from the main event to the little touches such as the canapés and the coffee. This makes it extremely exciting and enjoyable to dine at because you know her heart and soul has been put into absolutely everything. How she can make any money with using such top notch fare is not clear!

For us, Sheffield was not the easiest place to get to and from on a Saturday night without a car, but if you don’t mind driving or can convince someone else to then I do urge that you give Poppyseed a go. You won’t be disappointed by the beautiful ingredients and the warm and friendly hosts!

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!

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

Ribeye

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.

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!

gin

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 – www.warneredwards.com. 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.