5 New Places to Try in Leeds

5 New Places to Try in Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

We can’t go a week in Leeds without something new and exciting opening its doors. I’ve lost track of the number of cafes, bars and restaurants that have opened their doors in the last year, and I certainly can’t keep up with visiting them all. Trying new things is often usurped by visiting old favourites, and the best of intentions to visit new places (or even old places that I haven’t got around to yet – Kendells and Zucco, I’m looking at you, boos) often get scuppered. I do, however, keep track of all the places that I want to go to (read: want to eat all the things at) and I know I’ll get round the them eventually! This list is actually a mixture of new places I’ve been to that I’ve not had a chance to write about before, and ones where I’ve heard amazing things from people in the know. 

The Turk’s Head 

5 New Places to Try in Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

One of Leeds’ oldest pubs, Whitelock’s, has just transformed its old function room into Leeds’ newest cocktail bar. Lord Whitney have been responsible for the makeover, so you know it’s going to be good, and the list of drinks they’re serving up is incredibly impressive – with craft beers and unusual spirits taking centre stage. This little gem is tucked away in the heart of the city centre, and I can’t wait to visit! 

Headrow House 

Anyone who’s anyone has made Headrow House their new venue of choice in the city centre, and it’s easy to see why. There’s pretty much something for everyone, from the delicious dishes being served up at Ox Club (read my brunch review here) to the rustic beer hall next door serving up their own brews, to the cocktail bar upstairs with a ‘Club Tropicana’ vibe to the uber-cool roof terrace which will no doubt be rammed as soon as the sun starts shining. Definitely one to add to your ‘must-visit’ list! 

The Hedonist Project 

5 New Places to Try in Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

You may remember the pop-ups next to Sandinista last year run by these guys – Hogarth’s Gin Joint and The Rum Shack. Now they’ve found a permanent home on Lower Briggate, and you really must pay them a visit. Their concept changes seasonally, so you don’t have long left to enjoy the whisky vibe they’ve got going on at the moment before they switch everything up. Right now, you can settle into a booth and be served exquisite cocktails that are unlike anything else in Leeds, so you really don’t want to miss this. 

House of Koko 

5 New Places to Try in Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

Chapel Allerton regulars may remember this place as ‘Grinders’, but they’ve since been taken over by new owners and given a whole new look and feel. Ally has already raved about House of Koko, and I’ve spotted them over on Lil’s Instagram so I really must get myself down to try their interesting looking menu and browse the shelves of local produce. Plus, from the looks of it, there are Instagram opportunities for days! One for a lazy Sunday brunch sometime soon, for sure. 

The Cat’s Pyjamas

We went to The Cat’s Pyjamas in Headingley over the Christmas break, because what better thing to spend your Christmas pennies on than curry? Right? It’s a sweet little restaurant over two floors with a pared back decor that reminds me, unsurprisingly, of Bundobust, if you’ve been there. They’ve got a great range of craft beers for people who are in to such things (oh, how I wish I was!) and a menu of interesting and unusual curries. I had a prawn curry which almost blew my head off, so do watch out if you’re not a fan of spice, but everything we had was delicious and I’m sure we’ll be back with a group so we can mix and match some more of their curries! 

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My Current Favourite Places in Leeds

I have written about a lot of places on this blog, and tweeted about even more. Although my list of restaurants and bars to try in Leeds never goes down, I’ve made my way through a lot of them. Some I love immediately. Others I grow to love. Some I love for a while and then abandon when something shiny and new comes along. But there are some that are recurring favourites, revisited time and again – whether that’s for convenience (the fact that some are very close to my house is not a coincidence…) or simply because they’re just too good to ignore (Pinche Pinche satisfies both of these criteria). That’s not to say that I don’t love and wouldn’t recommend those places which haven’t made this list, but these are the ones I find myself going back to time and time again. 

1. Café 164

This cafe is located very conveniently right underneath my office and I am ever glad that it is! Everyone who works there is absolutely lovely, and they do a very good sandwich if you’ve forgotten your packed lunch. Plus, you can pick up an art print in the attached gallery, which is just a fun bonus. 

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2. Pinche Pinche 

My forever favourite restaurant in Leeds. Get the fish tacos. And the maragaritas. And the ceviche. And the lamb quesadilla. And the sweet potato fries. And the churros. And the tequila. And basically everything on the menu because it is JUST SO GOOD. 

3. The Pit, Chapel Allerton 

For quick after work drinks and hungover recovery. It’s a staple of our social life, and one of my favourite places for burgers in Leeds. Except I never get the burgers – I always have the Philly Fries because those things are like crack. 

Bunting at The Mustard Pot

4. The Mustard Pot 

The best beer garden in the city, and the perfect place to spend basically the entire summer. Pimms, bunting and every other English summer cliche, all in a very gorgeous pub that does a decent Sunday dinner and a good pub quiz. So happy to live around the corner from this beauty. 

5. Pintura

This tapas restaurant only opened a couple of months ago, but I’ve already been more times than old-standing favourites. It’s just addictive. Beautiful interiors, an extensive gin menu and delicious & surprising tapas. Not the cheapest, but definitely a good shout for girl’s night or a nice date. 

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6. Cielo Blanco 

Can you tell that I like Mexican food? This is a great option for a mid-week dinner – get the ‘street food’ option and order a whole bunch of dishes between you so you can try as much as possible. I love the fish tacos and the sweet potato fries. The caiprinha are pretty tasty, too. 

7. Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen

Going for a drink in town? This is always the first place I think of. It’s achingly cool, you can grab a slice of Dough Boys pizza with your drink, and the roof terrace is the perfect place to hang out. There’s usually something fun going on there at the weekend, too, so we find ourselves returning all the time. 

wine at seven arts

8. Seven Arts 

Another local bar, and a non-profit one at that. Seven is super relaxed and a lovely place to grab lunch if you’re hanging out in Chapel Allerton. In the summer they open up the windows so it becomes an inside-outside sort of space, which is lush. 

9. The Hungry Bear

A new one for me, but one I’ve been back to a couple of times recently – if only for their short ribs, which are totally more-ish. They serve hearty meals and beers they brew on site. This restaurant definitely deserves more recognition! 

10. Wasabi 

Not a cool hipster independent, but somewhere I eat at least once a week. Their sushi is good, and perfect for a lunch time treat. I could eat sushi every day, and I’m very glad that Wasabi has made it to Leeds! 

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Get Baked Presents: The Joint

Drinks Menu at The Joint Leeds

At this stage, the opening of a new burger restaurant in Leeds is hardly news; we’ve been inundated over the last couple of years and a new kid on the burger block just doesn’t stir up the same excitement as it once did. That is, until The Joint, a new venture from the guys behind ‘Get Baked’, a takeaway serving up decadent desserts and juicy burgers from the back streets of Meanwood. Whilst they present themselves as chilled-out stoners, I’m pretty sure some business masterminds are working their magic behind the scenes; their launch has had some serious buzz and their new home has been decked out with no expense spared – and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happy by accident. Maybe it’s just that their burgers are *that* good – their takeaway is always busy and everyone raves about the food (although the delivery time is less than ideal at over an hour…). Either way, something’s working for them. 

Burger at The Joint Leeds

Burger at The Joint Leeds

We skipped opening weekend, pretty sure that it would be rammed full of students and headed for a leisurely Sunday lunch the week after instead. Whilst there’s no doubt that this is student central – it’s right next to the Uni, so you can’t expect less – it was surprisingly quiet and our large group was very kindly accommodated as we rearranged the furniture so we could sit together. The decor has that dirty, grungy vibe with neon signs, industrial fittings and ostentatious chandeliers littering the place. It’s achingly cool, that’s for sure, with peeks of the original church building coming through next to the pop culture references and in-jokes. I’m showing my age when I say that it made me yearn for my student days, now sadly behind me, when you could spend all afternoon in the pub under the guise of ‘studying’ – this is the perfect place for it. 

Chicken Wings at The Joint Leeds

The menu is suitably dirty – burgers with lashings of hot sauce and covered in crisps and cheese, chicken wings covered in maple syrup, chips with all the trimmings you can imagine. It’s tough to choose – it’s all so tempting. This isn’t a place to go the week before your wedding dress fitting; unless you’re me and you have no impulse control. I went for the Cactus Jack – fried chicken, fried onions, hot sauce, crispy lettuce and cheese – but I think between us we tried almost everything on the menu. True to form, behind the gimmicks and the jokes, the burgers were beautiful: juicy, tasty and totally satisfying, in that greasy, I-shouldn’t-eat-for-a-week way. The fries were triple-fried, and are best shared if you’re both going all out burger-wise. 

Dessert Menu at The Joint Leeds

Sundae at The Joint Leeds

Of course, as if that wasn’t enough, we had to have a go at the desserts as well. Not for the faint-hearted, two of us struggled to get to the bottom of one of their sundaes, and whilst Paul managed his, he was in a food coma for the rest of the day (a very happy food coma, I might add). A slice of apple pie, caramel sauce, ice cream, whipped cream and toasted marshmallows all in one massive bowl. It’s so wrong, but so right. 

In fact, that’s pretty much the whole vibe of the place – so wrong, but so right. I have no doubt that I’ll be back; those burgers really are just too good. 

Sundae at The Joint Leeds

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New Menu at Pinche Pinche

Drinks at Pinche Pinche, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth I make no secret of the fact that Pinche Pinche is my favourite restaurant in Leeds. The food is delicious, the service is friendly, it’s close to my house and I’ve never spent more than £40 a head on three courses and as many drinks as I wanted. So it was with excitement and trepidation that I received an invitation to come down and try out their new menu; fajitas, enchiladas and burritos were out, small, tapas-style plates were in. I have always loved their food, so I was sad to see some of my favourite dishes go but definitely intrigued to try the new ‘antojitos’, which they’ve been trialling as specials for months in order to perfect the new menu. 

Chile Con Carne at Pinche Pinche, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

Thankfully, everything else about the place is recognisable – the colourful decor, the cheerful ambience, the lovely staff – and it was a warm welcome that we received as we ducked out of the cold rain and into the restaurant. Gone was the extensive folder of dishes, replaced by a single sheet detailing everything they have to offer – from quality tequilas and cocktails to nibbles and bigger plates. Even the drinks menu has been pared down to a selection of carefully chosen beers, wines and cocktails. The Tommy’s Margarita is their signature drink and comes highly recommended from me – you can taste the quality of the tequila and the slight sharpness of many margaritas is replaced by a pleasant tang and a sweetness that is dangerous on a Friday night. 

Prawn and Cod Ceviche at Pinche Pinche, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

We chose our dishes, with eyes bigger than our stomachs, and were overwhelmed when they all arrived at our table. There were some familiar hints from the previous menu, but there’s no doubt that these dishes were more exciting than those that came before. I won’t give you a detailed breakdown – I’ll let you try them for yourself – but I have to sing the praises of the Prawn & Cod Ceviche – a light, fresh dish that’s unlike anything else on the list. If I was to go again, there’s no doubt that would be the first thing I would order, swiftly followed by the Surf & Turf Tacos, which came with a very more-ish Mexican tartare sauce, and the Marinated lamb with Oaxacan cheese Quesadillas, which combined two of my favourite things – tender, slow-cooked meat and melted cheese. 

Surf & Turf Tacos at Pinche Pinche, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

After our feast, we were absolutely stuffed – three dishes is more than enough each, and with no dish more than £6.50, it’s a bargain of a meal. Of course, I can never resist the churros and had to find space for them, whilst Paul opted for the Crema Mexicana – a Mexican-style crème brûlée flavoured with orange. The churros are always delightfully crunchy, with a soft centre, covered in a sweet chocolate sauce, with a darker, more bitter sauce for dipping which creates a gorgeous contrast of flavours. I only managed half of mine after over-indulging on the main courses, so you could share them if you’re less greedy than me. 

Food at Pinche Pinche, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

I know that there will be some that are unhappy with the changes at a beloved local restaurant, but I really applaud what Simon and his team are doing  – it’s hard to move away from a formula that’s working but this is an exciting change and one which makes Pinche Pinche an interesting dining experience. We’ve been taking visiting friends there for years, and now we’ll have to start all over again so they can try the new menu! 

Churros at Pinche Pinche, Leeds // Amy Elizabeth

 

Disclaimer: We were invited to try the new menu at Pinche Pinche for free, so our meal was complimentary on this occasion. However, I have paid for many meals at this restaurant and will continue to do so with the new menu – this is truly my favourite restaurant in Leeds and I genuinely recommend you check out those churros! In fact, we actually approached Pinche Pinche to cater our wedding, that’s how much we love it. Sadly that’s not to be (sorry, wedding guests!) so you’ll just have to go yourself and see what I’m talking about. 

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The Woods, Chapel Allerton, Leeds

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(Photo Credit: The Woods)

I love that I can call Chapel Allerton home. In my humble opinion, it’s definitely the best part of Leeds and it has everything I could possibly want – from a butchers, green grocers and cheesemongers right through to perfect pub gardens, friendly bars and delicious restaurants. However, despite a bustling social scene and plenty of punters, there’s one building right slap bang in the middle that hasn’t had much luck. Previously Angel’s Share and The Hummingbird Kitchen & Bar, it’s stood empty for a long while. That is, until The Woods moved in.

The Woods, Leeds

We were invited down to try out what The Woods has to offer – and although it’s only been a week since the opening, there are already big plans afoot. Set over three floors – bar, restaurant and canopy – they already have a packed programme of events. As well as the food and drink on offer, there’s also a 4k cinema screen which will be showing classic films for kids and adults alike, space for live music and even some exercise classes which you can get involved in. The decor is stripped back and clearly Scandi-inspired – I love the bright yellow bar downstairs and the log-burning fire. It’s bright and airy, with big windows looking out over Chapel A – and of course, the outside terrace, which, judging by the amount of people there on a Wednesday night, has sorely been missed this summer.

Strawberry & Basil Cocktail at The Woods, Leeds

Lumberjack Cocktail and The Woods, Leeds

There’s an impressive range of drinks on offer – Paul was particularly taken with the Brooklyn Summer Ale – and the cocktail list includes both the classics you would expect and a few unusual creations inspired by ‘The Woods’ theme. They’ve carried the theme through to the menu as well – the food is wood-fired and the main courses are hearty, which is perhaps a little at odds with the lightness of the venue (or maybe just because we visited on one of those really close, sticky days we’ve been having). I was impressed with the wood-fired pizzas – always a winner in my books. There was a range of unusual toppings on the menu, and you can mix and match your own if you can’t find exactly what you want. I opted for garlic mushrooms, artichoke, lemon and pecorino which was a really lovely flavour combination – both light and filling at the same time, if that makes sense. You’ll have to try it and see what I mean.

Pizza at The Woods, Leeds

Pizza at The Woods, Leeds

However, I’ll be honest and say that some of the other things we tried were a little average. Not bad but certainly not blow you away good. Paul had the Yorkshire lamb shoulder, which although flavoured well with garlic and rosemary was nothing particularly special. I’ve heard similar feedback from friends who’ve visited so my advice would be to stick to the pizzas if you visit. Whilst I’m here, it’s also worth mentioning that the service was friendly but slow – both in the restaurant and at the bar – but having only been open a week I wouldn’t worry about it. They’ll find their feet no doubt.

Lamb Shoulder at The Woods, Leeds

Cured Meat Board at The Woods, Leeds

Other places are doing meat well, but I’m sure I’ll be back for some of those pizzas – at around £8 they’re a good accompaniment for some post-work drinks or a Saturday lunchtime tipple. I’m also keen to try out their brunch menu – my commitment to brunch is very real and their brunch menu definitely has some interesting dishes to try. There’s also a pile of fresh croissants and cakes by the bar which are very tempting indeed.

It’s a lovely spot, right in the centre of the action and I’m very glad to see this bar open again. If you can grab yourself a seat outside, you could easily while away a summer evening nibbling on pizza and sipping on cocktails. Isn’t life grand?

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Bundobust, Leeds

bundobust 1

There are plenty of new drinking establishments popping up all over Leeds at the moment. Whether that’s the influence of Trinity, the slow climb out of the recession or just good luck, it seems that there’s a bit of a trend for bars with decent food offerings developing. Rather than having separate restaurants and bars depending on whether you want to eat or drink, new places have been borrowing from the street food movement and creating substantial, high quality menus which fit into the relaxed, simple vibe of a bar. It makes sense really – it can only be a good idea to intersperse session drinking with some decent grub, it’s cheaper than a full meal at a restaurant and it adds an element of flexibility to your night out. No longer will a handful of crisps shared from a greasy packet do when it comes to bar snacks – now it’s all about gourmet street food-style dishes. The added benefit of which, you can enjoy your street food without having to actually, you know, stand in the street. A definite plus if you’ve ever experienced the Leeds weather.

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bundobust 5 Enter Bundobust – a new craft beer bar with an Indian street food kitchen, the brain child of a collaboration between Bradford’s The Sparrow and Prashad. You may have seen their bright orange tent at various foodie events around Leeds over the past year, but now they’ve set up shop in a permanent residence on Mill Hill – just off the bustling Boar Lane and close enough to the station that you can drink a swift half and grab a bowl of food before your train home after work. It’s a formula that’s worked well for Friends of Ham and despite Mill Hill being one of the less salubrious areas of the city centre, I think that Bundobust could be the diamond in the rough that this street has been looking for.

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The venue is stripped back and unpretentious. Chipboard style benches, walls made of old doors and cushions made of rice sacks – there’s no fancy frills here but it’s welcoming and friendly. There’s an impressive outside space with plenty of seating and a roof – perfect for the changeable weather of Leeds. It’s a little bit quirky – behind the bar are fast-food style screens proclaiming ‘no beef’ – just proving how different this ‘fast food’ is from the junky places that usually have these screens.

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I’ll be honest and say that the beers on offer were a little over my head – despite Leeds’ love for craft beer I have yet to find one that doesn’t make me shudder. I am a wine and gin girl, but Paul enjoyed the beers which he sampled from the taps – particularly the unusual Mango & Habanero flavour. This is a place for those serious about their craft beer, and it’s clear that these guys know what they’re doing. The beers have been picked to compliment the food – this collaboration is all about showcasing the best of both.

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But what about the food? There were just a couple of dishes on offer at the preview night but there will be around 12-15 when they open. As with all the trendiest places, the menu will be changed regularly to keep things interesting and move with the seasons. Whilst the mung bean curry was very good with plenty of flavour, the ‘bhel puri’ totally blew me away. It was pure perfection in a cup – crunchy turmeric noodles and samosa pastry with puffed rice, fresh tomato and onion and a tamarind chutney. The marriage of flavour and texture was out of this world and I’ll definitely be going back for more. I like that their food is a little bit different from what you usually can get at a bar, and it’s vegetarian which definitely sets it apart from the usual meaty fare which is commonplace at the moment. This place is definitely one to watch, so get yourself down there from Friday 11th to experience it for yourself!

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COSMO Leeds

cosmo 2

If you’ve ever tried to organise a group meal out, you’ll understand the trials and tribulations of trying to please everyone. Whether it’s concerns over cost, special dietary requirements or just plain fussiness, trying to get people together can be a bit of a nightmare. If you are tearing your hair out, then allow me to make a suggestion: COSMO. Billed as ‘Pan Asian and World Banquet Dining’, COSMO houses many cuisines under one roof so no matter what you fancy, you can find a bit of it here. The answer to your prayers? It just might be.

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COSMO 1

Arriving at their Boar Lane restaurant, you feel as though you’ve stepped into an upmarket hotel lobby; I’m not sure if this is intentional but it makes sense seeing as you’re about to travel the world, culinarily speaking. We were lead down the stairs into the bustling restaurant below, which whilst aesthetically in keeping with the entrance was rather a surprise – there was a buzz of activity belied by the peace upstairs. This is not the restaurant for a quiet, intimate meal – you have to get stuck in to the atmosphere, catching up with your dining companions between trips to the many buffets.

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COSMO 7

A buffet restaurant may turn up the nose of the average foodie, but although this was not fine dining, each dish that I tried was delicious – and very filling. Don’t come here to express over quenelles and parfait, but to have an enjoyable evening where everyone can have what they fancy at a reasonable price. Sometimes, you have to put your airs and graces behind you for a slap up meal.

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There is almost everything imaginable on offer – I was particularly taken with the crispy duck and pancakes (one of my favourite dishes), the sashimi (another personal favourite) and the teeny tiny desserts on offer. Everything I tried was tasty, and despite being the traditional ‘takeaway’ style fare, it wasn’t greasy or MSG-y. I fact, there were sections where you could watch your food be cooked freshly in front of you – dinner and entertainment all in one!

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By the third plate, I was totally stuffed – and annoyed that my stomach is too small to fully take advantage of the all-you-can-eat nature of COSMO. I didn’t get round to the Mediterranean section or the Brazilian BBQ, but I was assured by fellow diners that both were delicious! The buffet-style restaurant is not new to Leeds, and I have certainly stuffed my face at other establishments of this style, but COSMO is definitely the nicest one I’ve been to. The decor is sleek, the staff efficient and friendly, and the food fresh and tasty. For something fun and a little different at a reasonable price, I don’t think you can go too far wrong with a trip to COSMO, particularly if you are dining with fussy eaters or kids.

Disclaimer: I was invited to dine for free at COSMO restaurant in return for a review, but I wouldn’t hesitate to return (mostly to try that Brazilian BBQ!). As always, I would never recommend a restaurant to you that I wouldn’t happily eat at myself! 

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Hollins Hall x River Cottage

hollins hall

Hotels are funny places, aren’t they? It’s the lack of permanence, I think. I’ve stayed in a fair few, from luxury to budget, but rarely have I dined in one. On previous occasions, my visits to hotels were to enjoy the surrounding area rather than the hotel itself, with the hotel just providing a convenient base for my travels. However, it seems that I have been missing out on a vital part of the hotel experience.

I was invited to dine at the Marriott’s Hollins Hall to try out their new menu, born of a partnership with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage and designed to celebrate and support local and sustainable food. It’s not often that I would drive a half hour out of our way to try a restaurant, but the promise of something unique – and sustainable – was enough to tempt me.

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As you drive up to the main entrance, you get some stunning views of the building – a truly stunning place, which no doubt has seen a few picturesque weddings in its time. It was pitch black by the time we arrived, but a sneaky peek out of the window allowed a glimpse of a pretty garden with plenty of chairs and tables for outside dining. Once inside, it was decorated much like any other luxury hotel – there are just some fabrics which bely your surroundings. It was all very sumptuous, as I’m sure you can imagine.

As lovely as the hotel itself is, the purpose of my visit was in fact the menu. Seasonal, sustainable, local – it was everything it promised and more. Not perhaps one for the fussier eaters, there were some wonderful dishes on offer that foodies are likely to go wild for. Given the feel of the hotel, I was expecting the prices to be similarly lavish – but a main course was just £16.00, not too pricey for the quality on offer. My favourite part, but one which it was difficult to take a picture of, was the chalkboard above the fireplace detailing the local suppliers used to create these dishes.

parsley salad with crab and soft boiled egg

The starter was really the standout piece for me – a light, fresh parsley salad with crab and a soft boiled egg (cooked to perfection). I’m not usually one for starters; if there’s a choice I’d usually rather have a dessert than a starter. However, this was truly beautiful and I would make the trip just for this dish.

steamed whiting

The other two dishes paled in comparison, although that may be because I was suffering from severe menu envy. True to form, I ordered the fish dish – steamed whiting with mussels and thyme in a delicate chowder. Whilst it was certainly delicious, the soup in particular was beautiful although the fish itself could have used more flavour, I couldn’t get over the fact that it wasn’t the Swillington Farm slow-cooked beef brisket in red wine jus which was sitting opposite me on Paul’s plate. He gave me a piece to try and I practically went green with envy; at the end of the meal, he proclaimed that he could eat that meal every day and never be bored, so tender was the meat and rich the flavours.

side dishes

Whilst side dishes don’t often get a look in, the ones on offer at Hollins Hall deserve a quick mention; it’s not often that Paul proclaims vegetables to be tasty, but the roasted carrots were dripping with flavour and went down a treat. The chips were boiling hot – so be careful if you order them, I almost burnt the top of my mouth! – and although crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, were a little bit chunky for my liking. Personal preference, I hope you understand.

vanilla panna cotta

At dessert, I suffered similarly menu envy; when we’re trying somewhere for the first time, I like to order something different to Paul so that we can get a taste of a couple of different dishes. Whilst he opted for the rich chocolate cake with cider brandy cream and ginger snap, I went for the vanilla panna cotta with spiced apricots and biscotti. Again, mine was delicious, the panna cotta particularly, but the chocolate cake was a standout dish.

chocolate cake

The River Cottage collaboration has only just been launched, and Hollins Hall is the test restaurant, with plans to roll out the concept across Marriott’s other top hotels in the coming months. This is just but a taste of what’s on offer, as the menu is subject to frequent change in order to maintain the seasonal feel to the menu.  

Chris Griffin, Head of Education at River Cottage, says:  “This is an exciting project for River Cottage because of the substantial changes we can help Marriott make in procuring and cooking food.  The new menus embrace our SLOW philosophy – Seasonal, Local, Organic and Wild – and we are delighted that local food heritage is being celebrated at each hotel.  This is the first phase of a project that we hope will grab the attention of the hospitality industry.”

I hope so, too!

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{Review} Fuji Hiro

Fuji Hiro is the worst best-kept-secret in Leeds. You would walk past over and over again and never know that inside held culinary delights you have only dreamt of. It’s just not the kind of place you would think to try. Except that everyone in Leeds raves about this restaurant; its reputation definitely precedes it as one of the best budget eateries in the area. So I imagine if you are a Leeds resident, you already know what I am about to say…

The opposite of my last review, Bibis, this restaurant is all about substance over style. Basic, plasticky tables and chairs. No decoration to speak of. Menus in plastic wallets. If you weren’t already expecting a brilliant meal then you would be rather put off, I’m sure. Although, there is a list in the menu of the great reviews and awards that Fuji Hiro has rightfully received.

There isn’t much of a drinks menu to speak of, but this place is all about the food. Everything you would expect to see, and more, is on the menu. We elected for three starters because it was just too difficult to choose – chicken yakitori skewers, tempura prawns and beef gyoza.

What can I say? It was as delicious as I was expecting. If not more. The gyoza were the unexpected highlight of the whole meal, so definitely get some if you go! Most gyoza I have had have been in a crispy batter, but these were in a softer, more pliable batter. I was expecting them to be a bit bland because of the pale colour, but they were beautiful and I could eat them with every meal quite happily from this point onwards. Although the tempura prawn was more bread-crumbed than tempura-d, they were still absolutely delicious as well (and massive!).

Paul then went for the beef chilli men, which is basically heaven on a plate for a man who loves simple, spicy food with a lot of meat! And I went for the yaki soba, which I have always wanted to try – chicken, prawns, veggies, thick noodles and sesame seeds. It was gorgeous. Beautifully flavoured, not greasy as noodles in restaurants can be, perfectly cooked, piping hot and delicious. The only problem was, there was far too much! After all my starters I could barely get half way through the noodles, and had to unzip my trousers a little way! But, they put the rest in a takeaway pot for me, so it wasn’t wasted! That’s my only warning to you – be prepared for the big portions!

And there you have it. No frills, delicious food – and a meal for two with all the trimmings for £50 (although you could spend less if your eyes are not bigger than your stomach like ours!). This is the perfect time to gloat about knowing ‘this little place’, and watch as your dining companions go from incredulity to delight.

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Pinche Pinche, Chapel Allerton, Leeds

After the foodfest that was Leeds Loves Food (and after not doing any food shopping for over a week…) we decided to take a trip to Pinche Pinche in Chapel Allerton, Leeds. I’ve been wanting to go for a while, and having a go on their soft shell slow-cooked lamb tacos at the festival was more than enough motivation! I was not disappointed. I know that I am enthusiastic about many things, but please take my positive review seriously here, because you too will not be disappointed either.

Photo by Pinche Pinche 

The restaurant in beautifully decorated (sort of how I’d like my house to be!) with brightly coloured walls and lots to look at. It was quiet when we went in, but we were there at an unusual time and I understand it can get rather busy! Understandably, as it is reasonably priced and absolutely delicious.

The service was excellent, attentive but not overly so. We had margaritas to start, and then I had the prawn enchiladas and Paul had chicken quesadillas. Both were perfectly cooked, although I was a little taken aback by the habenero salsa that Paul had smeared all over his when I went to take a bite! He was very pleased, he hates when he orders the spicy option and it comes out milder than the stuff we make at home! I, wimp that I am, opted for the salsa verde which wasn’t spicy at all so fear not if that’s not your cup of tea! We also had some tortilla chips (which were beautiful) and dips, a lime and tequila dip which you could have drunk it was so good, and some spicy pineapple mayonnaise. My enchiladas were exquisite and the prawns were beautifully cooked – I’ll be trying to recreate these at home but I’m not sure they’ll be quite as good!

For dessert Paul had an orange shortbread with vanilla ice cream, and I had the strawberry Natillas (a Mexican custard a little like creme brulee – my favourite!) We ate them too fast for me to get a picture, however!

The whole meal (including tip) came to £50 for the two of us – which I thought was very reasonable given that at least £20 of that went on alcohol! You could definitely eat here for cheaper though, if you avoid the cocktails! All in all, an excellent meal – five stars from me (out of five, obviously!)

*Plus this means that I’ve started crossing stuff off’ve my 50 Things To Do Before Summer is Over list!

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