Burgamoré

https://www.burgamore.co.uk/

In the horseshoe shaped section of Trinity Centre by the Everyman cinema is Burgamoré an Italian Street Food restaurant, and a first venture into the business by the Leeds company. Still basking in the glory of being asked to be a judge in the Northern Heat of the 2021 British Street Food Awards, I thought it appropriate that I give it the once over.

From the outside it could be part of a national, or even multi-national, chain much like its neighbours, than the stand-alone independent restaurant it actually is. I thought that it would be interesting to see how serving food in a permanent static venue would differ from doing so out of the back of a van at a food festival or other outdoor event. We all know how much better fish and chips taste when eaten out of the paper whilst walking along the seafront at Scarborough than being served on a bone china plate in a posh gaff, would the same be true here.

The interior designer has decided to go for the full blown restaurant vibe rather than opt shabby chic to make the feeling more basic. The tiles on the walls and exposed extractor ducts scream Industrial but the floor tiles are more opulent but offset by the adjoining bare varnished floorboards. The tables are uniform wood as are the dining chairs although the latter are painted in different colours and mismatched. This is contradicted by a deep buttoned bench seat along one wall. Very odd but it works. There are also tables outside if you enjoy watching the world go by or instilling food envy into those who have opted for the corporate, accountant-controlled menus of the competition.

Anyway, I am not here to look at the fixtures and fittings but to taste the grub, which, should it be between 11.30am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday, is on offer at 2 courses for £13.95 or 3 courses for £16.95. I opted for the former made up of a main course and a dessert. The bulk of the menu comprises various riffs on Italian classics, pizza, pasta, risotto and salads, along with a selection of burgers – obviously.

My choice was the USP of the restaurant, which sounds more like an episode of Friends than a meal, The One In The Black Bun. It is a classic burger in a black brioche bun with Nduja sausage, salami, Buffalo Mozzarella, rocket, tomato salsa and spicy mayonnaise. I did have to smile whilst making my choice as it seems that the Italian theme has embraced Yorkshire culture in that their Fish Burger is Goujons of battered cod on a bed of minted mushy peas, baby gem, watercress and chunky tartar sauce, although I would have thought that haddock would have been more authentic.

As always, my first job was to slake my thirst and the beverage of choice was an Italian brew which was new to me, Menabrea, at £5.45, which I must say was excellent.

Before long the star of the show appeared in all its splendour. I had cranked the bill up by £1.50 (rather than the usual £2.95) by adding a portion of fries to the dish, just in case the burger proved to be of a less than filling size. Sod’s law prevailed and it turned out to be more than adequate in its own right but, hey, any excuse for some fries.

The bun gets its colour from charcoal which is added to the dough making it look as though it has been burned in the toaster, when you think about it, burning the bun would have the same effect except that it would have ruined the taste. Charcoal powder has no flavour, odour or aftertaste and so its only purpose is to colour the food, which it does spectacularly well. OK, so it is a gimmick but nowadays you have to separate your offerings from everyone else’s and this is as good a way as any to do that. I did find, however, that it seemed to make the bun a little lighter tasting than a normal brioche. Another bonus is that charcoal, unlike the squid ink in black pasta, doesn’t make your mouth look like the the entrance to a coal mine.

The combination of flavours in the filling was very well balanced. The thick meat patty given a spicy kick by the nduja, salami and mayo with the salad ingredients and salsa adding a fresheness to the whole thing so that it didn’t become cloying.

The fries were done just right, thin and crispy but not so much so that they shattered when you tried to stick your fork into them.

There were no less than fourteen desserts on the menu although a couple were off when I called but a dozen isn’t bad. Still, it’s quality rather than quantity we are interested in and the Amaretto Cake was sublime. It was a large oblong of two layers of sponge soaked with Amaretto liqueur and filled with cream. The sides were decorated with crushed macaroons and the whole shebang topped with rosettes of Chantilly cream and more macaroons, this time whole. It was artistically placed upon a plate decorated with chocolate sauce and powder, this time not charcoal, and was worth the intake of every single calorie.

It was a tad lighter than it looked but you still knew that you had had a dessert. My black Americano at £2.55 was a good complimentary accompaniment.

What I liked about Burgamoré was that they have gone wholeheartedly into the restaurant business and not tried to turn a street food cart into a static premises. The number and variety of dishes on offer could not have been served from a trailer so they are now catering – literally – to a different market. I wish them well as it is good to see a local independent establishment competing cheek by jowl with the big boys. I wish them every success, they deserve it.

Finally, I was pleased to see that the well deserved 10% Service Charge added to the bill was mentioned on the menu, so it wasn’t slipped in sneakily at the end, as seems to be the practice with an increasing number of food outlets nowadays. Well done for being upfront and honest.

Opening hours are Sunday-Thursday 11.30am to 8.00pm and Friday and Saturday 11.30am until 10.00pm.

All photographs by Stan Graham

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Tapped

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Tapped is a word I associate with pubs inside City Station rather than outside, although I haven’t been asked for spare change even there since the terminus’ refurbishment. The Tapped I am concerned with today is the pub/microbrewery/pizza house on Boar Lane just off City Square where I recently whiled away a very pleasant hour or so having lunch.

Although the inside is fairly basic, being a large room with not much in the way of frippery, the welcome from the bar staff was warm and jovial, and the service top notch. As the social distancing rules had been relaxed I ordered from the bar as I wanted advice as to which beer was not too potent but still flavoursome enough to handle the pizza I had seen on the website menu before setting off. It was a delicious old-style bitter at 3.8% but, due to the constantly rotating ales it is no longer on offer so I am afraid that you will have to furnish your own libation specification, which I am sure that you would have done anyway.

There is an extensive range of drinks on tap, who’d have thought it, including various casks and kegs covering porter, IPA, weissbier, fruit beer, cider, perry, lager and pilsner. You don’t have to be a brew drinker to enjoy the place as there are plenty of wines, spirits and soft drinks with coffee also available.

Once I had ordered I took my seat where I was provided with a packet of bread sticks to ward off any hunger pangs before the main event arrived.

The pizza I chose was the Tre Carne (Three Meats) comprising Cotto Ham, Pepperoni and N’Duja Sausage on Mozzarella. All pizzas are available in 12″ and 18″ versions, mine being the former, costing £11.00. Having delighted the large devil on my left shoulder I ordered a salad to appease the small angel on my right one. It contained Wild Rocket, Parmesan, Cherry Tomatoes with an Olive Oil and Balsamic Glaze, and a bargain at £3.50.

When the food arrived I was surprised by the size of the salad which could have sufficed as a light lunch in itself and was utterly delicious. I was also impressed by the provision of a side plate to give the choice of eating the pizza from the full round or separating the segments to eat individually or with a bit of the salad.

When it comes to pizza I am not a lover of a thick base, preferring the thin and crispier Roman variety, this was just a tad more substantial than that, but nevertheless was lighter than I expected and not in the least bit stodgy. I now have two favourites.

The combination of flavours in both the salad and the main were perfect. The salad having the freshness of the vegetables – alright, I know that tomatoes are fruit – contrasting with the sweetness of the glaze and the tang of the cheese. Similarly with the pizza, the spiciness of the pepperoni and n’duja tempered by the ham and mozzarella.

There are no desserts shown on the menu but there is far more than enough in the main courses and sides to satisfy all but the most rapacious of appetites.

So, should you fancy a pint and a pizza for lunch then this is the place as both are excellent and, although sounding a bit basic, the choices cater for all tastes. I can report that there was never a hint that anyone would ask me if I could spare some money, except when it came to the bill of course.

Sarto

https://www.facebook.com/sartopasta/

Before you read this article please be aware that, unlike previous reviews, it was not done incognito as I was honoured to be the first person asked to review it in October 2019 for my other site tyke-it-to-the-limit.com As the aim of the-eat-is-on.com is to be a guide as to where to have lunch in Leeds I felt that I should include it as it is both great value and the food is excellent. I have been back at my own expense on several occasions since I wrote the original article and the standard has been superb on each occasion. Bearing that in mind please read on.

Another day, another Day. There seems to be a never-ending string of Days to celebrate something or other, this time it is World Pasta Day but it was purely by coincidence that I was invited to call at Sarto, the eagerly anticipated new collaboration between Laynes Espresso and The Brunswick, to see what I made of it. 


As my lead-in would suggest, the establishment specialises in pasta, but not just any old pasta, this is fresh, home made and as good as it gets. It is not only the pasta which is top notch however, the other ingredients are specially sourced wherever possible from local producers, they only go farther afield when there is no suitable alternative, so most are as fresh as you could get without eating in the field. This would not have been a very good idea on the day I went as it was absolutely chucking it down so it would have taken you all day to finish the soup!  


I am struggling to find the correct word to describe Sarto, it is a laid back dining room with a combination of long tables with benches, more conventional smaller tables with four chairs, and high seats at the counter should you wish to observe the skills of the chef and his happy band of helpers in the open kitchen behind. Although casual and relaxed in atmosphere, the food is meticulously prepared and presented. The philosophy is that less equals more with some of the dishes comprising  just three ingredients. 


The menu is divided into three sections; Snacks, Pasta, and Sweet. You will notice that the word ’Sweet’ is in the singular as today’s offering is Tiramisu, which I don’t particularly like, or should I say, didn’t until I tried this one. I think that it is good touch to label the small plates as ’Snacks’ because it signals that it is OK to have one on its own without feeling that they are part of a bigger meal as the term ’Starters’ would have suggested. They are very reasonably priced at between £3 and £6 each. 


I ordered a glass of House Red wine which came in an authentic rustic Italian style tumbler. Somehow drinking from the correct vessel seems to enhance the flavour and although I am sure that this glass did just that, I doubt the contents needed too much assistance as it was sublime.

My host, who has eaten here three times already, even though it has only been open for four days, opted for Baby San Marzano tomatoes, ricotta, pomegranate and marjoram which came surrounded by olive oil, and was served a couple of slices of bread with which to mop it up, at £4.50. As his dish was delivered first I was getting food envy before we had even started but I need not have worried as mine was even more spectacular. He said that his tasted amazing.

My choice swiftly followed and was Beetroot, Knockraich Crowdie, radish, walnuts and balsamic which also comes in at £4.50 and was worth every penny and more. The presentation was spectacular without being too arty and the taste was to die for. The earthy flavour of the beetroot was offset by the creaminess of the cheese and the subtle heat of the radish. The walnuts gave a different texture and the fourth flavour. Each component tasted excellent in its own right but when sampled together became more than the sum of their parts. An inspired melange. For anyone not familiar with Crowdie it is a soft lactic cheese meaning that it uses natural bacteria to convert it to curds without the need for rennet. It has a wonderfully rich flavour and this version from Knockraich Farm in Stirlingshire is even more so as they use whole, un-homogenised Scottish milk with nothing added. 


I normally don’t mention the service until the end of my reviews but I think that here is the best place for this one. The beauty of Sarto is that you can go at your own pace so that you decide when to catch the eye of the waiting staff for your next course rather than their turning up as soon as your knife and fork hit the plate from the previous one. That meant the four people at the table close to ours could finish their lunch and get back to work well within their allotted break time whilst we, and a couple of ladies who had obviously been getting drastic with the plastic in the Victoria Quarter, could take our time and stretch out the occasion, which is what Friday lunchtimes are all about. 


On requesting our Pasta course we were introduced to the stars of the show. I had Rigatoni, lamb shoulder, sheep rustler and mint to keep me entertained whilst I watched my fellow diner polish off his Fettuccine, beef chuck ragu and Old Winchester. Once again the prices were great for Leeds centre, ranging from £7 to £9.50. My rigatoni was perfectly al dente just on the right side of chewy. You can’t really do dried pasta like this as it has to rehydrate which means that it becomes overdone or still has a dry sawdust texture in the middle. The topping was as simple as you could get, except it wasn’t. The lamb had been slow cooked so that it was still in small lumps rather than minced. Lamb is perfect for this method as it not only falls apart after cooking but also absorbs any flavours in which it has been marinated. Pork and beef just seem to get coated which is why I suppose they are normally minced. The appropriately named ’sheep rustler’ cheese which was grated on top had a flavour which complimented the lamb and pasta rather than overpowered it as parmesan might have done. It is unusual in that it is made from ewe’s milk rather than cow’s, hence the name. Mint leaves added to the taste both in flavour and aesthetics. Once again, the four ingredients punching far above their weight. I am reliably informed that the beef was equally as good, the empty plate saying more than a thousand words could. 


As I have previously said, the tiramisu was sublime. It is obvious that I have had bad experiences with this dessert in the past because I have always found it far too rich and heavy. This example was subtle and light as a feather, melting in the mouth. At £4 a steal.


When we had finished eating I had a word with the co-owner, Dave Olejnik who told me that the pasta is made from Petra organic flour which is only produced in Italy. It is made by crushing the grain thus maintaining the wheatgerm giving it flavour and a healthier quality. I must admit it did taste different from other pasta I have had, hardly surprising as Sarto is the only restaurant in Leeds to use it. Dave also said that because it is made fresh it only takes forty seconds to cook which is why I got my al dente kick. I was also told about the effort being made to help the environment by sourcing their wine through Vinnaturo Ltd who import it in boxes, bags and kegs thus reducing CO2 emissions by about 80% compared to transporting heavier glass bottles. Sarto also have a nifty way with their spirits. They dispense them from bottles but only buy the first one, after that they wash the bottle and refill it from pouches in which the next batch is delivered. The pouches are then returned to the distillery who clean them and reuse them for subsequent orders. Brilliant.


I would like to wish all those concerned with Sarto the best possible success because not only do they are they environmentally aware but they serve brilliant food, which is what it is all about. 


I wonder what Day it is tomorrow!

All photographs by Stan Graham

Stuzzi

http://www.stuzzi.co.uk

Sometimes I find food to be really complicated and I’m at the time of life when I don’t want to be bamboozled.

It’s enough of a challenge nowadays remembering whether I should call a member of the distaff gender a woman, lady or girl without causing offence, let alone worry about what I should call a small plate of food. Don’t say tapas because that only applies to certain places in Spain – in others they are pincho but in the Basque region they are pintxos, so you are walking on eggshells there. Italy is no better, where they can be aperitivo, cicchetti or stuzzichini. Why can’t they do what we do in Yorkshire and call small plates of food you buy with a drink pork pies.

To be fair, I have spent many a happy hour, literally, in Venice, topping up with free cicchetti when ordering a drink, but the more elaborate ones have to be paid for as do the ones at Stuzzi , a contraction of stuzzichini, the Harrogate favourite which has now opened a branch in Leeds.  It is situated at the bottom of Merrion Street but there is also an entrance in the Grand Arcade.

I suppose it’s the Italian influence, in that if you are wining and dining someone you shouldn’t be, you can slip out of the opposite door should their spouse arrive unexpectedly. Knowing the Italians, the spouse would probably be with someone they shouldn’t be as well.  OK that is la dolce vita taken care of.  What most of the names of these small plates have in common is that they are based on the word for toothpick, as that’s how they were traditionally skewered.

If I know where I am going to do a review I usually try to look at the menu on line to gain a feel for the prices and also to save time and dithering when faced with too much of a choice.  Stuzzi doesn’t have a website but keeps customers up to date via facebook and twitter, hence no menu. There is a good reason for this, which is that the food on offer changes constantly, so today’s selection might not be available tomorrow. I did glean, however, that there is a summer lunch deal of the day’s pasta and a glass of wine for £10 so I called to give it a whirl. As you will have gathered, even the pasta changes on a daily basis, so I was none the wiser but guessed that the choice would be so limited that I would not have too much of an attack of the dithers.

On arrival, I was greeted by two charming young women/ladies/girls (I have probably still got it wrong), one of whom said that I could choose my table.  No sooner had I sat down when she arrived with a wine bottle filled with water which was very welcome, the temperature being in the high twenties outside.  I was asked if I had eaten there before and when I replied in the negative I was given an explanation as to how to order and the size of each dish, which was very helpful.  I told her that I was there for the lunch special and she directed my attention to the two pasta dishes at the bottom of the main menu which comprised one vegetarian offering of Orecchiette tossed with ‘Pipi e Patati’ – Roasted red and yellow peppers, chilli, fresh basil and potatoes finished with Planeta olive oil, or the carnivore’s option of Homemade parsley tagliatelle, tossed with a slow braised ox cheek and red wine ragu. I went for the meat.  Just to illustrate what a great deal this lunch special is, the pasta were £8.50 and £9.50 respectively, so you were getting a 125ml glass for either £1.50 or 50p.  My ten bob red was Nero D’Avola and very nice too. Nowhere near as nice as the pasta though.  Fortunately, I was also provided with a knife, fork and spoon so didn’t have to twirl the tagliatelle round a toothpick.

I can honestly say that I have never had such a great plate of tagliatelle, the homemade strands beautifully flavoured with parsley and the ox cheek was in large pieces and so tender that I could separate it using just my fork.  I would love to know what it was marinated and cooked in as it was beyond delicious.  The dish took about ten minutes to arrive, suggesting that the pasta had been cooked to order, which is what it deserved, and it had then been amalgamated with the ragu, as is the correct way to serve all dishes of this type. You do not pile the sauce on the pasta like a topping, unless it is spag bol of course, in which case you can do what you like as it is a pretend dish.

Whilst eating I perused the rest of the menu with which I had been presented and found the dishes to be very innovative, seemingly influenced by the various regions of Italy rather than slavish copies.  It is at times like this that I wish I had a dining companion as it would have been great to order three or four dishes to share and have a cross section of the food on offer. I am sure that my antisocial persona is not really of any interest to you so I will move on to dessert.

There was a choice of five ‘proper’ desserts, as well as a homemade watermelon granita, three gelati sourced from Bocca Di Lupo in Soho, and cheese. As already mentioned it was boiling outside, and, as I was sitting under the glass roof, inside as well. I ordered the granita (£3.50) as I wanted something cold and homemade, a black americano (£2.25), and asked if I could move to a shadier table – shadier in the light sense of course, not the one near the door for the quick exit.  The granita cooled me down just by looking at it as the glass had been kept in the freezer and so was frosted and cold to the touch.  I didn’t have much hope for the flavour of watermelon ice but it was superb, fruity and intense. I was asking myself how many watermelons had to be reduced to get this tang. The coffee was Italian, so also intense and strong, just as I like it.

Since I moved to Harrogate a few years ago people have been telling me that I should go to Stuzzi and I find it ironic that I had to wait for them to open in Leeds before I did so. I’m just sorry that I ignored the advice as I now know what I’ve been missing.

The service was superb, as is the room, which has retained the beautifully tiled arch window overlooking Vicar Lane. Like those who had my wellbeing at heart I would urge you to pay Stuzzi a visit.  I doubt you will get better food and wine for a tenner this side of Sicily.

Please be aware that you will have to wait until Wednesday for your treat as Stuzzi is not open on Monday or Tuesday.

Review first published by Leeds Living on 25th July, 2019

Pizza Fella

https://pizza-fella.co.uk/

The phrase ‘less is more’ springs to mind when reviewing Pizza Fella, the restaurant on Vicar Lane.  I pass the place fairly regularly so thought that it was about time I called in to test their wares.

Not only does the less is more philosophy apply to the decor but also the food, which is what makes this place stand out from a lot of the others.

This is the second time in a week I have come face to face with a stripped back pizza.  The last one was ordered by a friend of mine at another establishment, but today I had one all for myself.  I realise that the cuisine of Italy is as varied as anywhere else and so dishes with the same name vary from region to region, as happens in this country when, if moving from Cornwall to Devon, the way in which you eat a cream and jam scone differs fundamentally. Pizzas are a case in point, where the base and the toppings are changeable.  In Rome, the base is thin and crispy, whereas in Naples it will be lighter and thicker.  There are then the American abominations with a further range of combinations such as the Chi-town ‘deep pan’ base, which is as stodgy as you can manage.  Then there are the toppings, the Italians keeping it simple with locally produced delicacies, whilst Americans pile them high with everything they can lay their hands on.  Until recently we were not much better – witness the great pineapple debate of a few years ago, but thankfully there are now more authentic versions being produced in the UK and in Leeds in particular.

The decor at Pizza Fellas is stripped back, with basic tables and chairs or longer benches from which you can sit and watch the world go by. The menu continues this theme, with the pizzas themselves not having names but numbers. Most of the choices have a maximum of six toppings, two of which are the basic fior di latte and tomato, the vegan options dispensing with the former.  I was dining with a friend, so we had a bowl of nocellara olives dressed with extra virgin olive oil to start with, and at £3.50 there were ample for two. The other starters were either salads, not really suitable for sharing, or bread based, meaning that with the pizza we would have had more carbs than a Ferrari. I had a glass of Nero D’Avola at £4.75 for 175ml, whilst my friend had an Italian Cola (Baladin) £3.00.

For the main course, we had a Number Four at £9, which had the addition of portobello mushrooms and thyme, and a Number Eight with nduja, balsamic onions and fresh chilli at £11.  A note in the menu says ‘We make our dough on site using 4 ingredients – caputo flour, Yorkshire water, salt and yeast. We then let the dough prove at room temperature to create a soft, light, easy to digest pizza.  We hand stretch the dough and cook in our wood fired oven for 60-90 seconds to create a soft and floppy Neapolitain pizza.’ A minute doesn’t sound a lot of time to cook dough, but the oven is so hot that it is fine.  My companion and I both agreed our pizzas were excellent.  The nduja, a spicy, spreadable sausage, strategically placed in dollops on the cheese and tomato, carried a fair bit of a kick and livened up the pizza no end.  The base was just as described and meltingly delicious. It would have been a tragedy to have piled it high with unnecessary toppings, thus masking the subtle taste. For the same reason, I was also pleased to see that the tomato didn’t cover the base completely.

Desserts were similarly straightforward – a Tartufo Lemo with an unctuous gooey lemon filling, and my Affogato, both £4.50. It is ages since I have had Affogato, which is vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso. They are served separately but the idea is that you pour the coffee over the ice cream. Because I was taking photographs, the espresso had cooled down a bit too much so I didn’t get that hot v cold battle going on in my mouth but it was good nevertheless. A black Americano at £2.30 completed the meal. I sometimes wonder how I ever get to sleep. Fortunately, I don’t seem to be affected by caffeine.

Finally, the service kept up the minimalist theme with the waitress, Alexandra, delivering everything in a pleasant, efficient way.  She was attentive without being overbearing. What made her a cut above the rest was that she was always scanning the room, even when not taking or serving orders and so you could instantly attract her attention should you need anything. There is nothing so annoying as wanting your bill and all of the serving staff are in a huddle or looking everywhere but towards the customers, especially at lunchtime if you have to get back to work. Well done indeed.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 3rd June, 2019

Livin’Italy

A few years ago when I was in fairly handsomely rewarded employment I spent a year living in Candle House, the round building in Holbeck Urban Village which looks like a stack of pizzas.

It was a great place to live, only a couple of minutes’ walk to City Square and the train station, another couple of minutes’ drive to the motorway system and with a fine selection of bars and restaurants on the doorstep. My favourite haunt was Vineataly where I would call for coffee and a bite should the mood take me. They had to change their name after another establishment of the same name got a strop on and it became Livin’Italy and styled itself as a Bar, Italian Kitchen and Deli.  Fortunately, the casual vibe didn’t change.

All Livin’Italy photographs by Stan Graham

The reason I mention the above, apart from having to start my article somehow, is that I had arranged to meet an old, sorry, former, workmate for lunch and as they were coming by train I thought that this would be a good place to revisit. By using the new South Entrance to the station you come out in the dark arches about twenty yards from Granary Wharf, so before we knew it we were waiting to be seated. We were found a table for two in the upstairs room which, like the ground floor, is decorated in industrial chic style. They have also moved the Italian racing red motor scooter up here and it is displayed in the front window. Even though it was pushing two o’clock when we arrived the place was still fairly full with diners, and the buzz of conversation gave it a wonderful atmosphere.  I wasn’t going to write about the visit as I thought that someone might recognise me from the days when I was a regular, but the staff had changed and the boss, Alessandro, was on holiday. On thinking back, it is over six years since I moved away so it is not surprising no one knew me. Not only has the staff changed but the menu has too and is now much more expansive.

I began with Nduja, on crostini bread, topped with Stracciatella, a creamy mozzarella, then dressed with Rocket leaves (£7.50). Should you be unfamiliar with nduja it is a spreadable type of salami with added spices and a heavy kick of chillies, so approach with caution if you are not into hot tastes. If that is the case you may prefer what my friend had, the Bruschetta Pugliese which is Friselle crostini bread topped with an abundance of cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and dressed with fresh oregano and basil.(£5.95). The combination of fresh tomatoes and basil is a marriage made in heaven and this was divine.

For our main course we chose from the Meat and Fish section of the menu.  My choice was Braised Tuscan Sausage in Borlotti Beans served with char-grilled sourdough (£11.95).  The taste was amazing and comfort food par excellence. The seasoning of the sausage turned the humble banger into something very special and the beans in their sauce were a million miles away from the canned variety, still having some bite to them rather than being cooked to a mush.

I accompanied the food with an excellent glass of House Montepulciano at £6.95 for 175ml. Tuscan Sausage was also my partner’s choice but this time in a burger which contained smoked cheese, crispy pancetta, salad leaves and  a side of roast potatoes and spicy sauce. This came in at £10.95. As the dish was rather large the bun was stripped of its contents and unfortunately had to be left, but the sausage etc. was said to be very good; so good in fact that I wasn’t offered a taste!  I was told, however, that I was welcome to the bun. Cheers mate. With no room left for dessert we decided to bid arrivederci to Livin’Italy and made our way back to the station.

It is always a gamble returning to somewhere you knew and loved after all this time, but it was far from disappointing in this instance. The only disappointing part is that I can no longer afford to live in this, now salubrious, part of town with its huge range of facilities. On second thoughts, I am probably getting a bit long in the tooth for la dolce vita.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 11th October, 2018

Simpatico

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This lunchtime saw me take a trip to Simpatico, which is a pizza restaurant in Queen’s Arcade.

We are so lucky to live in a city where the Victorian architects were so forward thinking as to build these wonderfully ornate structures in order to protect shoppers from the ravages of the Northern climate. I often wonder what they would think of their being used as ‘outdoor’ seating to accommodate diners at the plethora of cafes, delis and restaurants which have sprung up over the past decade. I am sure that their progressive outlook would mean that they would wholeheartedly embrace the change. I know I do, as they add a Continental vibe to the city and make great places to people-watch whilst eating, whether those being scrutinised are wearing summer clothes or snow boots.

Had it not been for the County Arcade I would probably not be writing this article, as that is where my mother and father met, he being the manager of the Mecca Ballroom which used to occupy the premises now trading as the Reiss ladieswear shop, and my mother a regular at the Saturday night hops.

All photographs by Stan Graham.

Simpatico sells Pizza Al Taglio which means pizza by the slice, and offers a different slant on the normal version as the dough is made from whole grain, spelt and other cereals. It has a high hydration and is left to prove for 72 hours, which gives it a totally different texture from either the traditional Roman base which is thin and crisp or the Chicago version which is the thickness of a duvet. The result is a very tasty, if odd, combination. The bottom of the base, if you follow my drift, is very crisp, but the top layer is a bit like sourdough with the air bubbles creating a light bread texture. They are cooked in special ovens shipped in from Moretti Forno in Rome. The result is a base which could quite easily be eaten just as it comes and be delicious, which would make my job a lot easier than it has turned out to be because I am now about to tackle the topping.

From the range available I opted for the Ham and Balsamic at £3.95, which was wonderful. The homemade tomato sauce and cheese topping were enhanced by thicker than normal strips of fresh ham and cherry tomatoes dressed in a rich balsamic sauce. Nothing very clever, but when you are dealing with such good ingredients I don’t think that you need to mess about with them too much. ‘What is so difficult about that?’ you may ask.  Well, because fresh ingredients are used, the toppings change on a daily or even hourly basis, so if you turn up wanting a slice of what I have just described you could be disappointed. On second thoughts, you will probably not be disappointed as I am sure that whatever is on offer will be just as good.

The advice on an information card in the restaurant is two slices for lunch and three for dinner. I just settled on the one as I had seen suppli in the display unit and decided to give one a try.  Suppli are rice balls coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. They are a lot like the Sicillian Arancini but normally contain a filling of tomato sauce and cheese rather than ragu and peas. The suppli sold here are larger than I have seen in Rome and pear-shaped, only in appearance not result. The chunk of Mozzarella in the centre was wonderfully stringy and it is this which gives them their Italian nickname of ‘telephones’ as, when they are cut in half, the cheese which joins the two parts together makes it look like an old corded phone. It is only a matter of time before Apple bring out a ‘smart’ version at a grand a pop. The taste was again very good, with the cheese making itself known rather than just being there for effect. A snip at £3.50.  I could not let the opportunity of a glass of red go begging so I had a very pleasant house Merlot at £4.50 for 175ml.

The service was extremely good, with the young lady behind the counter informing me that the suppli would take about 4 minutes and did I want the pizza straight away or to wait and have both dishes served at the same time, which I thought was a nice touch. There were potted basil plants on the tables, which gave a good atmosphere and could also be used to enhance the flavour of your lunch should you so desire.

Simpatico is Italian for ‘nice’ or ‘friendly’ but in this case, it means both.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 22nd August, 2018

Dough Boys

I don’t think that I have ever eaten so well as when I was a penniless student in London in 1969.

I had a bedsit in Maida Vale which I couldn’t afford and would hitch-hike up the M1 back to Leeds every couple of weeks to get my washing done by good old mum. On the weekends when I didn’t make a laundry trip I would use my underground season ticket to get to Harrods or Fortnum and Mason sometime during Saturday morning. In those days the food halls of both stores would display plates of free samples on just about every counter so I would drift up and down the aisles picking away at the various cheeses, meats, fruit and veg, eventually opting for dessert at the patisserie and a few small cubes of cake. Obviously, the quality of the food on offer was exemplary and the forays were the highlight of my week, so much so that I would sometimes make an extra sortie in the evening after classes.

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Will all of you hip eateries who think that you discovered ‘small plates’ please take note: I have been enjoying them for almost fifty years. I wish I hadn’t just put that in writing. Where did they go? Anyway, the reason for this nostalgia trip is that I have just dined at Dough Boys in Belgrave Music Hall and, had something similar been in business when I was a student, I would not have needed to scavenge from upmarket department stores as the food is not only ridiculously cheap but also excellent quality.

I have been promising myself a return trip to Belgrave Music Hall since my review of Patty Smith some months ago. For those of you who missed that article, I am sure that you have a doctor’s note excusing you, and have not been to this particular establishment. It is a large hall which doubles as a music venue with a long bar against one wall. Two eateries act as bookends to the bar, one being the aforementioned Patty Smith and the other the also aforementioned Dough Boys.

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The first sells burgers and the second large pizza slices. Both supply paper plates and disposable cutlery so are more like take aways. Dough Boys’ menu is small but perfectly formed with six regular variations and a ‘Special Pizza’, details of which are displayed on a board by the counter. Don’t bother to look for the Hawaiian, Quattro Stagioni or even Margherita as here, they are much more inventive than that. The dough is prepared from scratch on a worktop in full view of the customers (always reassuring) and the finished article is removed from the oven and displayed in a heated glass display unit which doubles as the counter. Normally this would lead to the base going soggy and the topping drying up but such is the popularity of the place that they do not remain on the counter long enough for any harm to come to them.

From the menu, which has three meat and three veg options, I thought that I would do a thorough review and order two pieces. The first one was the Sausage Fest comprising Prosciutto, Spianata, Belgrave Black Pepper Sausage, Marscapone and Caramelised Onions at £3.40. My second choice was Baa No More containing Middle Eastern Spiced Ground Lamb, Pine Nuts, Pomegranate, Pecorino and Baby Red Chard, £3.20. As you would expect the bases were identical in texture and taste, being light as a feather, beautifully melt in the mouth fresh and cooked to perfection. If I have one small gripe, and it is a very small one, it is that the toppings were concentrated in the middle leaving the crust naked. That said, it was good to sample the pure crust to get its full flavour. The quality of the ingredients used for the toppings was phenomenal and I enjoyed every bite of each one. The combination of flavours had been well thought out and melded so well that I had the accumulated effect whilst being able to identify each one separately.

Before I ordered my feast I had taken the precaution of calling at the bar for a medium glass of house red wine at £4.20. When I came to pay for the pizza I thought that I had been affected by its bouquet as I was told that the bill came to £3.30 in total. Normally small print on documents means bad news but here it was quite the opposite in that it stated that between noon and 7pm Sunday to Thursday and noon and 5pm on Friday and Saturday your first two slices of pizza are half price. Sorry, I have another gripe – it actually refers to noon as being 12pm and there is no such time as 12pm or 12am. OK, that’s it.

May I suggest to any cash strapped students, or anyone else for that matter, that before you concoct some scheme to eat as cheaply as you can, give Dough Boys a try. At this price and with this quality, you can’t go wrong.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 24th April, 2017

Veeno

http://www.theveenocompany.com/veeno-leeds-wine-bar/

Veeno has relocated to 5 Wellington Place since my review

Now here’s a concept. A wine bar which serves small plates of food. OK, put so crudely there may not be much to separate Veeno from several other establishments in the City. What does differentiate this place from the rest is that the wine comes from a single vineyard in Sicily, Caruso and Minini, which is owned and run by the family who are the proprietors of Veeno. I suppose that this makes it the wine equivalent of a factory outlet store, but it is much more sophisticated than that. Unsurprisingly the emphasis is on the wine but there is a complimentary range of appetisers, or spuntini, as they are properly known. They comprise Italian meats, cheeses, bruschette, along with salads, focacce (panini) and piadine (thin flat breads). Each dish on the menu has a suggested wine to accompany it. If you are going for lunch they suggest that you have a couple of sputini. I can go along with that but I just had the one glass of wine. I ordered a large standard house red. This was a pretty dumb thing to do as, because they own the vineyard, they are all house reds! On the menu they are categorised in levels of quality so I had the cheapest one figuring that if this was all right then the rest would be as well. The wine turned out to be a Nero D’Avola and Merlot blend which was more than all right, it was excellent and good value at £4.60 for 250ml. For lunch I thought that I would sample the Salumi house platter, a board bearing a selection of four types of sausage and ham at £8.95.

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The meats were very good and were different enough not to become monotonous. My only criticism is that there were also two slices of bread which seemed to have been cut some time earlier. When I had finished the meats I decided to take the advice on the website and have a second dish. This was Bruschetta Nduja at £3.70. the menu described this as ‘spicy, spreadable pork sausage from Calabria’. I am so glad that I chose this as it was a revelation. The sausage was indeed spicy but although it had a kick this did not overpower the taste of the meat. Veeno is a welcome addition to Leeds and well worth a visit. The staff were extremely pleasant and knowledgeable, as they should be given the provenance of the food and drink they sell, but they also had a passion for their products. I would suggest that if you are planning a visit you have a quick look at their website first to get some idea of the concept. There are many tasting options for both food and wine and although it may help to be familiar with these first, should you walk in ‘cold’ you will be expertly taken through the menu by the staff.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 29th June, 2015