Last year when I wrote about the Pink Shed, the first thing I said was how lucky I felt to dine there. I'm going to say the same thing again this year - and hopefully next year, as well. I am so lucky to have the opportunities that this blog brings - and it's times like this that it really hits home. Just 700 people will be able to dine at the Pink Shed over the next two weeks, with some of Leeds' finest restaurants showcasing their wares - there may still be a few errant tickets if you can pop over in your lunch hour, so if this piques your interest then it's worth a try!
Last year the Pink Shed was slap bang in the middle of Trinity, causing quite the stir. This year, however, it's tucked away in the corner of Trinity Kitchen - a little bit more mysterious but no less in demand. It's also undergone a bit of a transformation - where last year we were seated in a sleek and stylish room, this year we found ourselves in the Pink Shed's back garden surrounded by blooms and candles. It was still just as beautiful - this lot definitely know what they're doing.
As before, the restaurant which will be serving food at your sitting is kept a secret until you step inside and the menu is set - so this isn't one for the faint-hearted or the fussy. The foodie, however, will be in heaven. We certainly were as were presented with the fare that La Casita - a relatively new tapas place based in Ilkley - had to offer us. Starting with sangria (what else?) and nibbles, we were presented with a smorgasboard of delights for hours - there was so much food and every dish was delicious.
I love tapas-style eating - where you get a little bit of everything; it satisfies my curiosity and my greed, and it keeps menu envy at bay. My particular favourite dish - indeed, the favourite dish of everyone dining - were the ox cheeks. You could barely pick them out of the bowl they were so tender, falling apart at the touch of a fork and melting in your mouth.
But honestly, every dish was a sheer delight. Other than the ox cheeks, we were treated with salt cod croquettes served with aioli and the tiniest poached quail eggs - a beautifully soft dish with a generous flavour; aubergine caviar flavoured with cumin and served on delightfully crunchy toasts; English asparagus (my favourite) with wild mushrooms and yet more tiny poached eggs and a blue cheese and pear salad which was light and yet so very more-ish.
Of course, as is often the case with Spanish cuisine, the meat really shone through - we were served delicious slices of Iberico ham with a fresh tomato salsa, carved in front of us and some beautiful cured beef, something I've not tried before but which will most certainly be something I look out for on menus in the future. All of these dishes, incidentally, are currently on La Casita's menu - so get yourself to Ilkley if you want to try it for yourself.
As before, my evening in the Pink Shed felt wildly decadent - an endless stream of delicious dishes (so much so that we couldn't finish it all) and generous helpings of alcohol (sangria, and a beautiful pink cava - bubbles always feel luxurious, don't they?). If you can get hold of a ticket, I urge you to do so - otherwise, you can keep up with the goings-on inside using the hashtag #pinkshed. It's all part of the Leeds Food and Drink Festival (so exciting!) so watch out for what else is going on in the next fortnight. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for next year - I'm excited already!