Power, Corruption & Lies


Don’t worry, this is not a critique of the US election, or politics in general for that matter, but one of a cocktail bar in Call Lane which also does a pretty good lunch.

I had wanted to try something a bit different once the lockdown was lifted and so decided to trawl through the places offering half price goodies under the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. I have already reviewed a lot of them on this site which cut down my choices somewhat. Added to that, a lot of eateries on the list only open in the evenings or are situated out of town, so that narrowed the field even more. After discounting the chains and those with enough branches to be borderline multiples and have their main outlets in London, my options were dwindling rapidly. From those which were left I opted for Power, Corruption & Lies which seems to be more of a bar than a restaurant, but, nevertheless, came up trumps. Sorry – I said that this wasn’t going to be about the US election.

Sadly, the place was almost deserted when I arrived, although there were people sitting outside enjoying the food, drink and sunshine. It was a little after the conventional lunchtime, whatever that is nowadays, so I hoped that they had been busy earlier on.

I was greeted by a charming young woman who showed me to my table and took my order. They are obviously taking the current situation seriously, as obviously they should, there being a hand sanitiser dispenser on the reception desk and others on each of the tables.

The menu is far-eastern inspired but given a western spin. It is quite short at the moment which could be due to the new opening limitations or because it is mainly a cocktail bar on the Call Lane Trail. The dishes are split into categories: Snacks, Xiaochi, Bao, Dim Sum and Sides. I asked as to the size of the portions and was given the rundown leading me to order a Snack as a starter, a Xiaochi as a main and a Side. This worked perfectly.

My snack/starter was Chicken Karaage at £4.50 which came with Hoisin Ketchup and Szechuan Aioli. The chicken was perfectly cooked, the batter was crisp and the meat moist and tender. The Hoisin Ketchup was just what it says it is and the Szechuan aioli a slightly spiced mayonnaise but with not too much garlic. They both made excellent dips for the bird.

I ordered Crispy Chilli Beef from the Xiaochi which came in at £8.50, and accompanied it with a Side of Steamed Rice for £2.50. According to Google, the word Xiaochi means a dish which is the size of those served from Taiwanese street food stalls. That is obviously of no help whatsoever if, like me, you have never eaten from a street food stall in Taiwan. I think that the photograph is a better indicator of what to expect from this part of the bill of fare. Please excuse the bleaching out of the rice on the shot but I was sitting by a window with the sun streaming in.

If the chicken was good, the beef was magnificent. I love the taste of chilli beef but this is the first place I have ever had it where it actually lives up to the description ‘crispy’. Whether it be from my local Chinese take-away or much more salubrious establishments, I have always found it to be flaccid. This has not affected the taste but has done nothing for the texture. Here, however, there was a resistance to the teeth from the batter which was just right. The beef itself was cooked perfectly too. If I have any gripe it is that the broccoli was a bit overdone and lacked crispness, ironic really.

As it was a sweltering day I had a half of Jisaku Pilsner (the house brew) for £2.60 to keep me cool and it was far more suited to the occasion than a glass of wine would have been. As previously stated, I have never been to a street food stall in Taiwan but I doubt that they would be quaffing Pinot Noir with their Xiaochi.

I was very pleased to see that they do not do desserts as I was pleasantly full and wouldn’t have wanted to cross the frontier into the land of bloat. I did loiter long enough to partake of a black Americano for £2.50 in order to put off venturing out into the hot afternoon for as long as I could.

Power, Corruption & Lies is a very pleasant place in which to have lunch and, if I were forty years younger, I would imagine I would very much enjoy the evening vibe. It was made more so by the 50% discount which meant that the bill came to £13.66 including service charge.

One final observation. As the global pandemic continues to rage on and countries are reporting a second wave, I could not ignore the sentiment of the first groovy tune to come over the sound system when I took my seat, it was the wonderful REM serenading me with ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, And I Feel Fine’. By the time I left, it was the perfect description of my lunchtime.

All photographs by Stan Graham


Noodle House


Currently take-away only

I have never had an inclination to visit the Far East, although in a previous life I did go to Hull quite regularly, so I’m not in a position to compare the food on offer in Leeds with ’the real thing’.

I would venture to suggest, however, that the dishes on offer at Noodle House in Merrion Street are about as authentic as it gets.  My reason for saying this is that when I called I was the only person of occidental origin in a room which was full except for one small table. Obviously an omen.

Chinese food is probably the first exotic food that anyone of my age tried, what with the post-war proliferation of Chinese Restaurants, followed some years later by take-aways.  Although Noodle House is nothing like the 1950s version of oriental exotica, the memories came flooding back.  Yes, there is yet another reminiscence coming, so please feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs should you so choose.

I started at Leeds Central High School in 1961 and became pally with a boy.  The School was a single sex establishment placed frustratingly next door to a girls’ school, Thoresby, and for some inexplicable reason we would go for a Chinese meal on the last day of each summer term.  Our restaurant of choice was The Golden Ring, just across Merrion Street from Noodle House on the balcony crossing the top entrance of the Grand Arcade.  They offered, as did others of their ilk, a Businessman’s Lunch, with three courses for four shillings (20p).  There were very few choices and we always seemed to have Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup, Chicken Chop Suey and Banana Fritter for dessert, which came with translucent yellow custard.  The height of sophistication.

Five years later, I was at Park Lane College, which in those days was half a dozen Portakabins in the playground of a Victorian infants’ school, rather than the monolith it is today.  One of the other students was a Chinese lad whose father owned, you guessed it – Golden Ring – so off I went with him for a sentimental journey.  Instead of climbing the stairs to the restaurant, we descended into the cellar where there was a Chinese youth club with people playing table tennis and reading Chinese comics and newspapers.  I was stunned.  As an aside, the now long-gone ABC Cinema on Vicar Lane, or Ritz as it was previously known, would show Chinese films in the early hours of the morning when all of the restaurants had shut.  As they were purely film shows with no catering, the patrons took bowls of their own ice cream to accompany the flick; a strange sight at 2.00am!

Okay, you can come back now!

There is a reason for these reflections in that Noodle House is much more like the Youth Club at the Golden Ring rather than the restaurant.  As I mentioned, it seems to cater mainly for the Asian community with no comprehensive explanation as to the dishes on the menu.  The very charming lady who, sensing that this was my first visit, took me through the basics of ordering, i.e. go to the counter, place your order, sit down and you will be called when your food is ready.  Unfortunately, she did this quite speedily and, combined with a broad accent, it meant that at the end of the tutorial I was no wiser than at the beginning.  I got the bit about the menu being split into noodle and rice dishes and the noodles subdivided into soup and stir fried, but that was on the menu so I returned her smile and looked as though I knew what I was doing.

As it is called Noodle House, my choice in that department was made for me, and as it was mid twenty degrees outside I thought that soup was not appropriate, so I went to the stir fried section.  My years of experience of ordering takeaways drew me to No.42 Special Noodle Ho Fun.  Special usually means that they put the full range of meats etc into the dish and I have never been known to refuse fun of any description, so this seemed to be just the thing.  There was a choice of five sauces:  Satay, Curry, Maggie, Thai and the one I went for, Spicy Hot.  To drink, I had a bottle of Lemon Ice Tea which was predominantly labelled in Chinese but fortunately had a small translation on it.  The total for this was £8.60, so if I had got everything disastrously wrong it wouldn’t break the bank.

Whilst I was placing my order I got my first bout of food envy as a couple of plates of the most amazing looking pieces of meat were being put on the counter awaiting collection by the fortunate recipients. These were followed by a chicken dish which I wished I had ordered.  Never mind, I must concentrate on the positives – mine was just as likely to turn my fellow diners’ eyes green when it arrived.  When it was ready, the chap behind the counter shouted ‘Mixed Chow Mein’, so I ignored him but he then addressed me directly to let me know that it was mine. There goes my lunchtime of adventure then, chow blooming’ mein.  I could not have been more mistaken as the dish contained food which was as far removed from the take-away version as it could possibly be, especially in the quality department.

As expected the noodles, which still had a bit of bite, were accompanied by a selection of goodies, including chicken, pork, beef, prawns and what at first I took to be octopus but in fact turned out to be tripe.  It is years since I have had tripe, which I loved as a kid but again this was nothing like I have ever tasted before.  Superb.  Sadly, the photographs do not do the dish justice as, unlike the meat I saw earlier, it is not very spectacular, but the taste more than made up for the looks.  The meat and noodles were done to perfection and the portion more than ample.  The spicy sauce was hot without being overpowering, but the addition of a couple of spoonfuls of the home made chilli sauce from a container on the table provided some further heft.  I am not a heat addict but like to try everything on offer, so I just put it on a small section of the dish.

I had meant to call here a few weeks ago but I found out the hard way that they close on Wednesdays, so should you fancy a visit then please avoid that day.  I will also give you a tip in that the chap behind the counter spoke pretty much perfect English, so I would suggest that you have a word with him as to what to have.  A bigger tip would be to look as if you are perusing the contents of the drinks chiller cabinet which is next to the counter and if you see something spectacular come out for another diner, point to it and tell him that is what you want.

I still have no real desire to visit the Far East and even less so now that I know that there is a part of it very conveniently situated in Merrion Street.

Crown Buffet


When I heard that Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham-Carter were going to be in The Crown I just had to pop along to see if I could catch a glimpse.

Not for the first time in my life, and probably not the last, I had got the wrong end of the stick and the aforementioned ladies are apparently on the cast list of a Netflix programme of that name rather than the Chinese restaurant in Gower Street.

I had been told by Leeds Living’s copy editor that the dim sum is highly rated, so I thought that I would give them a go. The sign outside the premises proclaims it as being Crown Buffet, which would have normally had me fleeing in the opposite direction but, as I was eschewing this for the snack section, I entered. Crown is old school Chinese, not in its concept but in that it is situated in an old school which was opened in 1875 and served Leyland, one of the most deprived areas in the City at that time. Thankfully, things have bucked up more than somewhat nowadays and it is a hub of industry.

My first experience of dim sum was in 1982 when my favourite Chinese restaurant, Sang Sang, moved from Lower Briggate to the Headrow, where it expanded its menu to incorporate these small portions. At the Sang Sang, now long gone, they were served mainly on a Sunday and partaking of them was the perfect way to while away the afternoon before shops were allowed to open on that day. It also meant that parking was free and unrestricted on yellow lines.

Dim sum is small portions of food which are normally served either steamed or fried and include things which are a little different from the norm. That being the case, I decided to order one steamed, one fried and one odd. From the fried section I opted to have something fishy in Deep Fried Squid Rings at £3.80, which were excellent.  If overcooked, squid and octopus can have the texture of elastic bands, but these were coated in a breadcrumb and fried to perfection so that they were crisp but the filling retained its tenderness. There was some dipping sauce which gave the rings a bit of oomph and which I used to lubricate my second choice, Roasted Pork Bun at £3.50. The buns were fantastic, very thick but light and filled with a dollop – excuse the technical term – of pork stew. They were delightful but could have done with something to alleviate the dryness of the bun, hence the utilisation of the dipping sauce.

Back in Sang Sang days I had noticed a dim sum which always intrigued me but which I never got round to ordering. Today, however, as I was not paying, was the perfect time to experiment, so along came the Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce, £3.50. They didn’t come of their own accord you understand; they were cooked and on a plate. The waiter, who was extremely helpful, gave me a crash course on how to eat them. It is not a very elegant process as you pick them up to get the meat off the bone. It is also not very straightforward as there are several small bones and they must not be swallowed. The black bean sauce meant that the flavour of the meat was somewhat masked, but I found them to be glutinous of texture, being more skin than flesh, and, as one would expect, not exactly filling. They are a delicacy and so eaten on special occasions rather than for sustenance.

The waiter told me a joke about a High Ranking American at a state banquet who was given chicken feet and picked up a knife and fork. Etiquette decreed that everyone else had to follow his lead, which led to mayhem as you can’t eat them with western cutlery and the Chinese didn’t know how to use a knife and fork anyway. Those Yanks, eh! I am really glad I tried them but will probably not be rushing back for seconds. The sauce did come in handy once again for the pork buns.

Although there is a range of drinks on offer, both alcoholic and soft, I went for my favourite brew of tea, the subtlety and dry taste of which complement Chinese food no end. I had to try a dessert and was thinking about being adventurous yet again by having the Papaya and White Fungus Sweet Soup, but my waiter buddy steered me towards the Chilled Mango Sago Cream with Pomelo at £3.60. I would like to thank him for this as it was delicious. I was one of those kids at school dinners who loved sago pudding so this was a special treat and the chunks of mango gave it a brilliant texture.

When I had finished lunch I introduced myself to the waiter and had a chat with him about Sang Sang, which he remembers fondly, and also the buffet, of which I saw no sign. He said that they now do an à la carte buffet, meaning that people choose their dishes from the menu and smaller portions are cooked to order so that they are not left lying around in a bain-marie for hours on end. Chinese food, especially stir fry, needs to be served and eaten as soon as it leaves the pan, so this is a great way to do things. The diners are more than welcome to order extra portions or more dishes if they wish. I should imagine that this also cuts down on the dreaded waste of food. I am always appalled at ‘all you can eat buffets’ when people pile up their plate and then leave half of it because their eyes are bigger than their bellies. Well done Crown on getting this right.

I do recommend the restaurant for its friendly staff, well cooked food and extensive menu but I would just like to inform the waiter that it is my job to do the jokes, Sunshine!

Article first published by Leeds Living on 30th March, 2019

Let’s Do Lunch at Crown Buffet


According to their website the word Tattu is a corruption of Tattoo and Tatau, an ancient eastern word meaning ‘to make a mark’. The first thing which makes a mark is the decor. On entering the restaurant, customers are met with one of a series of huge faux cherry trees in full bloom seeming to span the whole of the room. My coat was taken by the manageress who met me at the door. She gave me a choice of table, which is always a nice touch for lone diners who need a bit of passing interest as we don’t get lost in meaningful conversation. As I was sitting down I was asked if I would like some edamame beans and when I replied in the affirmative I was offered salty or spiced. I opted for the latter. I spurned the cocktail and wine lists as I had seen a couple of beer pumps on the bar, so settled for a half of Asahi and a glass of tap water.

This week I fancied going somewhere a little special. I had heard about Tattu and so I thought that I would give it a try.

All photographs by Stan Graham

I unpacked my trusty iPad, accessed the Telegraph crossword and settled down to be pampered. The beer and water arrived in short order so I started tapping away at the screen. This was an activity which had to cease when the edamame beans arrived. They were fresh, warm and still in their pods, which was great except that the spicy sauce had been poured over the top meaning that I spent some time podding them and getting my fingers covered in the bright red sauce in the process. I don’t know what the purpose of doing this was as it couldn’t permeate the double layer of pod and skin in which this particular bean is encased, so the only way to taste the sauce is by either licking the outside of the pod, or your fingers should you decide to liberate the beans first. I employed a mixture of the two, the waiter having brought me a second napkin to wipe my hands, although a finger bowl may have been a good idea as I needed to wash my hands before the starter arrived. I needn’t have bothered because I had ordered Crispy Pork Belly to begin the meal.

The pork belly looked spectacular and was delivered in four square-based pieces thicker than I have ever been served before. The reason that my hand wash was unnecessary was that they were impossible to pick up using chopsticks so my fingers were employed again. I am sure that I could have eaten them in the traditional Chinese manner had they not been overdone. It seemed as though the belly had been cut into segments before being heated, or probably re-heated, meaning that they were fairly solid rather than tender and unctuous. They were very tasty and the crackling on top was light and crispy but the overcooking let the dish down. I held each piece by the crackling part and ate them from the bottom up. Once I had bitten into the meat part the inside was just right so why they didn’t cook the meat in one piece and then cut it into four is beyond me.

When the starter was delivered to the table I had informed the waiter that I was in no hurry and to give me a break between this and the main course. The interval enabled me to tackle the remaining edamame pods and mess up the second napkin even more. After just the right amount of time the waiter asked if I was ready for the main dish of Crispy Shredded Chilli Beef and I said that I was. When I had ordered this I was asked if I would like steamed rice or vegetables. I chose the former and a couple of minutes later the ensemble arrived along with a second half of beer.

The beef came on a bed of tomato, chilli and garlic along with onions and dried chillis, which I was advised by the waiter to approach with caution as they were very potent. As someone who will do whatever I am told not to, I took a small bite from one of the dried chillis and became so grateful that I had ordered the water. I am no wimp when it comes to hot food but this was off the scale so, discretion being the better part of valour, I decided to leave them at the side of the plate. I once again had a suspicion that the dish had been cooked some time earlier and re-heated as the beef was nothing like crispy and was, once again, simply an overcooked dish.  Its flavour was a bit sweet and sourish, the dried peppers being the only thing to separate it from the run of the mill version.

I am sorry to be so critical but this is not a cheap place to eat and, after reading the ‘Our Story’ section of their website, I would have expected something a little more inspired. The front of house staff were impeccably mannered and very pleasant, although the same could not be said for those working in the kitchen from which came the sound of a continuous argument raging the whole time I was there. I had visions of the oriental versions of Gordon Ramsey and Marco Pierre White having an ‘artistic difference’ regarding some ingredient or another. I may not have been too wide of the mark as, when I asked the waiter what the kerfuffle was about he said that they were developing a new menu. I think that they should get the current one right before moving on.

The expense was increased not only by the two halves of lager and the edamame beans, which I suspected were not included, but the steamed rice also came as an extra. This meant that, with the discretional 10% service charge added, the bill for the £22.50 two-course lunch option came to £35.20. Three courses would have cost an extra five pounds. There is also a Dim Sum Lunch available with two dishes being £13, three dishes £18 and four £22. I prefer to share dim sum which is why I went for the more conventional option.

I must say that I was disappointed with the food mainly because it was so nearly right but not of the quality for this price range, although the rest of the experience was very pleasant. Sadly the tatau for me was of the wrong kind.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 15th October, 2018

Mans Market

I set off to
 Leeds with a specific establishment in my sights but when I arrived I found to my surprise that they don’t have a restaurant, just a bar, so that was that. I took a stroll around the business area of the City but nothing screamed out at me.

The problem was that I was looking for something fairly substantial as I was going away for a few days’ holiday, sorry, research, the following day and I figured that if I ate big at lunchtime I could get away with a sarnie later on, thus saving cooking and washing-up. As I was going to Istanbul, the prospect of Mediterranean food didn’t appeal. By the time I had stopped dredging my memory for likely places I had reached Wellington Street and then it hit me: Man’s Market in West Point. I have read about this place for ages and always meant to give it a try so what better opportunity could there be.

All photographs by Stan Graham

Man’s Market is a Chinese restaurant of the Hong Kong variety situated in the Whitehall Road end of West Point. Entering the establishment felt like going into a sleazy cellar in the Orient and I fully expected to see a high stakes Ma Jong game going on with a group of opium smoking old men huddled round a table in the corner. The lighting was very subdued, the effect of which was accentuated by my reactolite glasses being darkened by the bright sunshine outside. Once past the bar, the lighting improved, as did my glasses, and I was greeted by a young man who told me to choose any table and he would bring me a menu. Fortunately my premonition was wrong and it proved to be a shabby chic room, sans gamblers or smokers, so I had no reservations about my fellow diners.

I was still removing my jacket when the waiter arrived with the bill of fare and asked me if I had eaten there before. I responded in the negative so he went through the procedure with me. There are three cards on the table, each bearing a different legend. The first one, which also doubles as the drinks menu says ‘I’m Thirsty’, the second ‘Feed Me’, and the third ‘I Wanna Go’. The idea is that you write what you wish to order on the back of the appropriate card and then clip it to a rope suspended above the table to attract the waiting staff who take your order to the kitchen. When you want to pay the ‘I Wanna Go’ is suspended and the bill arrives, I mean the invoice, not the police, unless you are threatening to leave without paying I suppose. I enquired as to whether there was a sign to say that I wanted to go to the toilet which produced a laugh and an apology for detaining me. The waiter asked if I wanted a Prawn Cracker, which I did, and it was awaiting me on my return. I was mulling over the choice of words whilst washing my hands, as I have never been served a single prawn cracker before. I have now. It was enormous and came with a chilli dip. Unlike some of the small versions, this one had quite a kick of fish flavour and went well with the dip.

Roast duck with char siu

The menu is split into different sections and there were two options for lunch. The first was the Box and Beer section and the second the Express lunch comprising the former but with the addition of a Dim Sum plate. I opted to go for the Express Lunch. From the Box and Beer Section where there is a choice of eight dishes, all at £6.50 and including a 330cl Tsingtao beer.  I chose Roast Duck with Char Siu upgrading to egg fried rice from boiled rice for 50p. Noodles were an extra £1. Even though I was eating in the restaurant the food came in a box with a groovy handle on the side, and whilst cute, it was unfortunately not very photogenic so I apologise for that. I buy food to eat rather than photograph, and this was excellent. There were three pieces of duck which had been coated in soy sauce and roasted until extremely tender.  They were absolutely delicious, as were the three pieces of char siu which were braised caramelised pork in a batter. The meats were on a bed of vegetables and the aforementioned egg fried rice. At £7.00 this was an absolute bargain in itself but when the Dim Sum plate of Pork War Tip Dumplings were added at £3.45 it was an absolute steal. The Dim Sum had been steamed and then deep fried which gave them a wonderful texture but were delivered some time after the box and I was pretty full by the time they came ,so dessert, which seemed to comprise solely of ice cream, was out of the question.

Pork war tip dumplings

I have no hesitation in recommending Man’s Market to everyone but with one caveat. When I was asked if I wanted a prawn cracker before having looked at the menu, I assumed that it was complimentary, as are popadoms in some Indian restaurants, but when the bill arrived £1.00 had been added for it. When I arrived home I looked at the menu and the prawn cracker was indeed listed at £1.00, but it would have been better had this been made clear when I agreed to one. It is not the price, as it was well worth it; it is the principle.

Be aware that the opening hours for lunch are noon until 2.00pm Monday to Thursday. On Friday and Saturday Mans is open noon to midnight, although it is not made clear on the menu what constitutes ‘lunchtime’ on those two days.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 9th July, 2018