Cantinho do Aziz

A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I would pop along to Holbeck Urban Village to take some photographs at Round Foundry, so I took my usual route through the Dark Arches and Granary Wharf to Water Lane.

Wharf Approach was closed to traffic, so it was lucky I don’t have a car, and some work was going on by the pavement, but the chap driving the small vehicle digging up the road was good enough to move his ride so that I could get past.

When I had done my job I set off back and rather than disturb the workman again I returned to City Square via Neville Street, which I crossed at the Hilton Hotel. I relate this story as, had I not taken this circuitous route, I might never have known of the existence of Cantinho do Aziz which is situated in a railway arch at 1 Sovereign Place, just off the main road where the bridge crosses it. I try to keep my ear to the ground when it comes to Leeds eateries but, although it was established a year ago, this one had slipped under my radar .

All photographs by Stan Graham.

As you might have deduced from the name, this is a Portuguese restaurant and as authentic as you can get. There are two branches, this one in Leeds and the other in Lisbon. It doesn’t doesn’t stop there, though, as they cook dishes from the other Portuguese former colonies of Brazil, Mozambique and Angola. The full menu looked very interesting, with about a dozen dishes I would have liked to have tried, but in this series I am limiting myself to the lunch specials, which again proved a poser even though there were only five options plus soup. I passed on the Peri-Peri Chicken, which would have been the obvious choice and instead went for Aziz Steak Sandwich which contains Stir Fry Beef topped with Fried Egg, Salad, Olives, crisps and a ‘Unique Portuguese Delicious Sauce’. How could I resist?

When I went inside I was ushered upstairs to some extra seating, which was just the job as it was very windy outside and sitting by the door might have been a bit of an adventure. When I took my seat and ordered I was asked which soft drink I would like. I eschewed the fizzy stuff and went for a bottle of still water. Two of the other tables were occupied by a couple of young men at each, one of whom had ordered the Peri-Peri Chicken, so I asked him if I could take a photograph of it for your benefit and he agreed. The portion was massive. The guys on the other table were halfway through the same dish and were visibly affected by the hot chilli sauce which comes with it, their paper napkins doubling as face towels and tissues.

I sat smugly awaiting my much tamer choice. It may have been tamer but it was no smaller, the beautifully soft bread containing more than enough of the advertised ingredients. The beef was extremely tasty, as were all the other components.  The egg yolk was still a little runny but the white was fully cooked. Just before Christmas I had been to an upmarket steak house and had their fillet steak sandwich which cost about three times the price but was no better than this. My smugness soon disappeared when, along with the plate containing the sandwich, a small pot of red sauce was delivered which I recognised as being of the same ilk as that given to the chicken chaps. The owner said that it was on the hot side and gave me the condiment dish containing some regular tomato ketchup which I put on the chips conspicuously enough so that if any of my fellow diners happened to look, it might seem as though I was relishing the, well, relish, which was so much affecting them.

After going round the plate and dissecting some of the sandwich so that I could sample the flavours of each component separately, I could resist it no longer and dipped a chip lightly in the chilli sauce. Kabooom!! I once underestimated the potency of some wasabi paste in a Japanese restaurant in Oslo which proved to be a near death experience, and this was right up there alongside it. It was lethal. I took a gulp of water and went back to the sandwich and the chips bearing the ketchup.

I am a man and I still do not understand the things which make us do the things we do, so when the sound of my Adam’s Apple sizzling had subsided, I had another taste of chilli, or should that be unique, Portuguese, delicious, sauce-covered chip. I don’t know whether my taste buds had been totally destroyed or merely anaesthetised, but it was much better, in fact it was quite tasty so I had a bit more. Suffice it to say that the remnants of the worst cold I have had in many a year disappeared almost at once. The owner came upstairs to ask me how the meal was and I said it was great but the sauce was a little on the nuclear side to which he replied that they do it either with or without chillis. Please learn from my experience if you are not one to abuse the Scoville scale of chilli heat. I must say that if I return here I will still have the hot version as it was very good after the first hit.

You might be wondering why I haven’t quoted any prices yet.  Well, I thought that I would leave you wondering about that. The lunch deal is £5 or £6 for the chicken including a soft drink. Some bars in Leeds would charge that for a Coke alone.

I decided that I needed to order something sweet to go with my usual Black Americano because I had seen a plate of my favourite cake in the world behind the counter when I came in, Pastel de Nata. These are the traditional Portuguese egg custards but made with puff pastry rather than short crust. It arrived warm and was just as good as the ones I eat about a dozen a day of when in Lisbon. The coffee was £1.75 and the pastel £1.50. For the sum total of £8.25 it was brilliant.

I had a chat with the owner whilst paying my bill and he told me that it is a family affair: his brother runs the Lisbon restaurant, which is where he was born, and the women doing the cooking here were his cousins. One of them comes from what is now quite a large town on the coast just outside the capital called Cascais. It was the first place I ever stayed in that lovely country back in the late nineties, and although not wishing to sound like a representative of the Portugal Tourist Board, if you ever have the chance, give it a try. It still has the charm of a fishing town but is now just as swish as anything the French Riviera has to offer.

With the thought of the warm Mediterranean lapping against the harbour wall, I donned my scarf, gloves and thick sheepskin jacket to face the teeth of a February gale in Leeds. I still wouldn’t swap.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 13th February 2019


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