Sunday, 21 August 2011

Gotta Love Leeds Too – Part One

Although I was born in Sheffield and have spent all of my adult life here, I was actually raised in a small town outside Wakefield. So, for a long time, Leeds was the only city I knew.

As kids, I & my friends would take the odd trip to Leeds. We didn't go too often; the bus took about an hour and it wasn't exactly the cheapest place to be. But I liked what I saw.

Moving to Sheffield in 1998 to go to uni, I had a bit of shock. I had expected another Leeds but I didn't find one.

I stuck it out, met my husband, graduated and started work. By 2003 I was settled here and although I appreciate what other cities have to offer, I have fallen in love with Sheffield. It's my home and always will be.

Anyway, it's our wedding anniversary on Tuesday and as I can't get the the time off work, we celebrated it this weekend.

Being obsessed with food, celebrations are always based around a meal. Of course, here in Sheffield there are a fair few decent restaurants to choose from. But, this being a special occasion, we fancied a night away. Also a return trip to Anthony's was long overdue.

I booked the Marriott (due to a variety of offers, I paid about £27; an excellent price for a 5 star hotel!) and, of course, I booked Anthony's for dinner.

Thanks to Twitter, and mainly thanks to @TheFoodNut, @NorthernFood & @ComeDineWiRach, I was armed with ideas of things to do and places to go.

We arrived in Leeds at 11am, too early to check in, but in time for a quick snack before lunch. So we dumped our bags at the hotel reception and made our way to Commercial Street to track down Andrew Critchett and his 'Fish &' hut. Tweeting under @NoFishyBusiness I've heard a fair bit about Andrew and his mackerel baps!

Andrew was working on the stall and, as we were early, we missed all the queues and there was time for a quick chat. I was surprised to hear that Fish & have only been on Commercial Street for a week; it seems that they built their name up by attending festivals and the like. Already things are going well and I know that they often sell out by the end of the day.

There were fish and chips on offer as well as Andrew's infamous mackerel baps (using rolls from top Leeds restaurant Anthony's). However, it was gonna have to be the calamari for me.

The calamari rings were sliced thickly, and although the batter was thicker than I normally have, it was light and tasty; especially with the addition of chilli. The squid was perfectly cooked too and as it was sliced thickly it wasn't lost under the batter. Garlic mayo is a favourite accompaniment and there was plenty of it.

A portion was ample for us to share for a snack and I know that I'll be going back for when next in Leeds!

We then attempted a bit of shopping but as I prefer to shop alone, we quickly gave up and decided to go for a coffee. I remembered hearing about La Bottega Milanese on Twitter and we hunted it down, via a stop off at the Corn Exchange where Gav picked up a yummy pistachio doughnut from one of Anthony's stalls dotted around the perimeter of his Piazza.

We then found La Bottega Milanese. I had a macchiato, Gav had an espresso. Served with a shot of water and a tiny (but delicious) amaretti style biscuit, it was one of the best coffees I've had; even when taking into account those gulped in Italy.

Their website boasts 'At La Bottega Milanese we are crazy passionate about what we do, and we want to show what a real Italian Espresso bar has to offer. Our plan is very simple, give the exact experience as if you stepped into a bar in Milan.'

I think they've got it spot on; they even charge Italian prices as our bill came to £2!

We then took a wonder down by Brewery Wharf and built up an appetite for lunch. We had planned on going to Little Tokyo, but on passing Arts Cafe Bar (an old favourite) we decided to lunch there instead.

We've been here a fair few times, with friends or just as a couple. It has a really nice vibe about it and it's the kind of place that you could easily spend all afternoon in. The food has always been good and I like that they offer a light lunch menu alongside their a la carte dishes.

Gav went for the Yorkshire Plate; Wilson’s pork pie, ‘Yorkshire tasty’ cheese, ham hock & rabbit terrine, pickles & chutney, served with salad & bread (£6.95). Wilson's are well known for their pork pies round this end. They even make celebratory large pork pies, including wedding cakes. Knowing I'm a lover of the pie, it won't surprise you to know that I had one of these for my 30th birthday do!

Yorkshire tasty is often on our shopping list as it's available at Castle Market, so this was already a firm favourite. Ham hock & rabbit terrine was tasty and Gav was happy with his lot. The only criticism he had was the lack of any butter served with the enormous chunks of bread.

I had the chorizo & potato salad, baby spinach, poached egg & red pepper aioli (£6.50). It looked lovely and I eagerly tucked in. Heading for the egg first, I was disappointed to find that, although the yolk wasn't solid, it wasn't all that runny either. Shame. I love a runny yolk; don't you?

Despite the egg, I was really enjoying it as the chorizo was good and worked well with the egg and potato. Unfortunately, as I delved deeper into the dish, I discovered an absolute mass of aioli (sans red pepper). There was FAR too much; to the point that I was scrapping it off items of food before eating them. Unfortunately I lost most of my spinach thanks to this aioli.

I ate what I could and left a good dollop of aioli in the dish along with some sad looking, aioli wilted, spinach leaves. Gav and I joked that I'd had enough for the whole restaurant to share!

As the waitress took my plate, she asked how it was but unfortunately she didn't seem to care to hear the answer. I told her quite clearly that the gallons of aioli had not been appreciated and she muttered a quick apology, whisked up our plates and tottered off. No tip there then!

It's a good job that I've been here many times and this is the first time I've left unsatisfied; it means that I haven't been completely put off.

We then went for a quick wander around Kirkgate Market which is a nice space to be. Thanks to the glass roof and the floor of paving slabs, it feels like you're outside, especially as some of the stalls have shop fronts to them. I'm a real fan of our own Castle Market though; the layout of the stalls in Kirkgate was very confusing with food and non-food stalls all mixed up and all over the place.

Of course, no trip to Leeds could be without a visit to Harvey Nicks. It's pricey but I'm happy to buy the odd foodie item. This time it was Estrella Damm Inedit.

According to the website 'Inedit is the first beer specifically created to accompany food. It is born from the conviction that a beer that could be paired with the utmost respect to the best cuisine was necessary. That is its aim and its virtue, and that is what makes Inedit different, special and unique. Has (sic) been created by Damm brewmasters, heirs to a century-old tradition, and developers of highly appreciated beers, and by Ferran Adrià, Juli Soler and El Bulli’s sommeliers’ team.

We also picked up some Thai Green Curry Crickets.......

After nipping back to the hotel to check in, we went off to do what we do best and went for a couple of drinks at Blackhouse and Norman Bar. It was my first time at Norman and I was very impressed. Staff were friendly, as were the regulars (most of whom were sat at the bar chatting amongst themselves and with the staff). It was kind of like an old man pub, but in a contemporary setting and with fewer oldies. The vibe was great and we stayed here for a couple before heading back to the hotel for a snooze before dinner.

More on dinner later as that deserves a whole post to itself.....

The next morning we had a quick wander around the Farmers Market on Briggate. It's on the 3rd Sunday of every months, so we were pretty lucky to catch this. There was a decent number of producers out.

We grabbed our breakfast of sausage sandwiches and, not wanting to get weighed down with too much produce, we just picked up some pumpkin and Parmesan bread to take home with us (and I'm glad that we did; it's beautiful).

What a fantastic (albeit short) break! There was lots of foodie delights to be had and I know that I've only just touched the surface of what Leeds has to offer.

Look out for my Blogpost on our meal of Anthony's. It will be up in the next couple of days.


  1. What are those thai green curry crickets?

  2. If you are who I think you are Anonymous, you'll find out when you get back!