Power, Corruption & Lies

Home

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

Advertisement

Mommy Thai

https://www.facebook.com/MommyThaiLeeds/

I have been meaning to call here for quite some time now and once even got inside but, having arranged to meet someone and with only half an hour to spare, I walked out when I saw the size of the portions! Today I was back to being Billy Nomates so time was not a factor. 


I read about Mommy Thai in an article in The Times a few months ago so decided to give it a go. I am pleased that I did but I must say that I left a little disappointed. They have a great value lunch deal which is served every day between noon and 4.00pm at £7.95 for two courses, in my case a starter and a main. This being a Thai establishment, however, they are both served in the traditional way on the same plate and at the same time.


The atmosphere is definitely Thai cafe with basic tables and chairs. The posters on the ground floor walls add to the ambiance, as does the upstairs decor, which is where I dined. I took my seat at a small table for two, but given the size of the plates, or small trays as they really were, a pair of diners would be pushed to find enough horizontal space as was proven by the couple on the next table who I let impinge on mine to rid themselves of the cutlery tin and pickle carousel. For one, it was perfect.

 
A charming gentleman arrived to take my order which comprised Steam Pork Dumplings with fried garlic and dumpling sauce for starters and Kra Pow Moo Krob, thankfully translated as crispy pork, holy basil, chilli  garlic, long bean on top of rice. (Add a fried egg for just £1) it continued, so I obeyed. I also got a bottle of Singha Beer to go with it all. The crispy pork dish was from the Foodie’s Menu rather than the normal one so I was informed of a further £1 surcharge. I didn’t mind this because at least I had been told before I ordered, unlike my experience at a Vietnamese place just round the corner a few months ago. What with that and the egg, the meal was £9.95, still good value for what was promised, the beer adding a further £3.50, again not out of the way.


Thankfully the bottle swiftly arrived and was perfectly chilled without being too icy. It was joined after a few minutes, and a couple of small sips, by the food. As I mentioned the whole shebang came on the same dish and looked delicious although when viewed from one angle there was a gap on the plate making it look as though there was something missing. I checked to make sure that this was not the case and, having satisfied myself that it was all present and correct, dug in. The dumplings were amazing, lovely and moist packed with minced pork which still had texture to it. The sauce was superb and the fried garlic topping crisp as a contrasting texture. Sadly the same could not be said for the ‘crispy’ pork which was in no way crispy, just overdone and chewy to the point of being almost leather like and only tepid. The taste was really good and meant that I finished eating the meat but the damage was done. The odd piece was on the tender side and therefore much better but crispy means crispy and, as there seemed to be very little fat content I fail to see how they hoped ever to make it so. The heat, or lack of it, seemed to indicate that it had been kept warm also preventing the promised texture. The rice was bog standard boiled and the egg on top was borderline rubbery. I have had fried eggs on Thai food before so I know that it should have been better than this. 


I am not normally one to shy away from dessert, even if I have somewhat overindulged in the mains but the only three puds on offer were also based on rice this time so I passed. 


All in all I was very disappointed, ironically because the things which were done well, i.e. the dumplings and the rice showed what the kitchen was capable of thus highlighting the failure of the egg and pork. I hope that this was just an aberration and that everything is normally wonderful but that is why I write these articles incognito, so that I get the normal experience. It must also be pointed out that this is a cash only eatery so please make sure that you have the necessary readies when it comes to settling the bill. There is a small sign to this effect by the till but it is better you know before you call.


As is usually the case, everyone else’s choices looked far more appetising than mine, but I dare say that they all thought the same about the pork. Looks can often be deceptive, take me for example, I am not really fat and bald once you get to know me.

https://www.facebook.com/MommyThaiLeeds/

Thai A Roy Dee

http://www.thaiaroydeeleeds.com/

Many, many moons ago every village, town and city had half-day closing, which meant that shops and other businesses would shut at lunchtime on one day a week.

The reason was that, as they only opened from 9.00am until 6.00pm, they could work with one set of staff putting in a five and a half day week.  The consequence was that if you travelled around the country you would need to know what the local half-day was or risk going to an appointment and finding the place shut or not being able to pick up something for dinner.

In Leeds, Wednesday was the designated half-day. To complicate things even further, there was a posh department store called Schofield’s, which was a privately owned business and very pioneering.  They demolished their old store and built a big new one on the Headrow where the Core is now, which stayed open on Wednesday but closed all day Monday.  They were also the ones to introduce late night shopping to Leeds on Thursdays.  Once stores started opening six days a week, then having late nights and ultimately trading all seven days, they needed to hire extra people to work on a rota basis.

The reason I begin with this piece of history is that I set out to review an eating house in Leeds only to discover that it closes all day on Wednesday and so the memories came flooding back, not least because Wednesday was the blooming day I had chosen to pay it a visit!   Undaunted, I turned to Plan B and, realising that I didn’t have a Plan B, went to the nearest place I hadn’t reviewed before, Thai A Roy Dee on Vicar Lane.  Serendipity.

The outside is not very impressive and the inside is a bit basic as well, but the food and service are wonderful.  I was seated at a small table and given a menu.  Thai is not my first language and it took me a while to work my way through the menu, so when the waiter arrived to take my order I was still musing over the choices.  He was happy to let me take my time to continue perusing and smiled when I asked for a further five minutes.  Obviously, the minute he had left I decided on my dishes and a charming waitress came back to take my order.  I could not believe the deal here.  They have a Happy Hour menu which runs from noon until 5.00pm (they obviously cross the time zones) and is £6.95 for a starter, a main course and rice or chips.  Amazing value.

The menu is divided into starters and main courses but, as is the way with Thai restaurants, they both arrive together, in this case also on the same plate.  My starter was Chicken Satay served with peanut sauce and pickled vegetable, and my main Pad Pad Nor Mai, which is stir fried special red curry paste with bamboo shoots and lime leaves.  As with all of the main dishes, you choose what you want to add to the sauce from a list of chicken, beef, pork, tofu or vegetables.  I had the beef and jasmine rice.  It doesn’t matter that everything comes at once as the curry was in a porcelain bowl with a lid which trapped the heat.  I was so far into the Thai mode that I eschewed alcohol for one of the Special Thai Cold Drinks, Longan Juice made from dried longans sweetened with syrup for £2.00 and delicious it was, too.  The berries were floating on a small iceberg which made them very Instagram friendly but, as the ice melted, they sunk to the bottom of the brown liquid, making the glass resemble a laboratory sample, but the flavour intensified with their dunking.  I tried one of the floating berries which was a bit chewy.  Later I asked the waiter if one should eat the berries.  He smiled and told me that they were edible, but the look on his face said that only a total plonker like myself would actually try.

The satay was delicious if unspectacular to look at.  It is chicken skewers when all said and done, but the meat was lovely and tasty, being cooked to perfection.  The peanut sauce tasted as it should and the whole lot was very satisfying.  The curry was the star of the show, with large pieces of beef mixed with the bamboo shoots and perfectly cooked green beans, which still had a crunch but were cooked enough to heat them through and soften them a little. There were plenty of red chillies to give the dish a kick as well.  This item was identified on the menu with two chillies out of a possible three to indicate medium heat, but while it was on the hot side of medium it was not so much so as to obliterate the taste of the meat and vegetables.  The lime leaves and Thai basil gave that distinctive fragrance and flavour associated with the nation’s cuisine and the rice again was perfectly cooked.  The red curry sauce was the consistency of ghee or oio but it had a red colour to it – obviously – and was totally delicious when spooned over the rice.

The cooking and price made this one of the most outstanding meals I have had for a long time and I heartily recommend it.  A cafetière of coffee, enough for two cups, was only £2.00 as well.

In those dim and distant days I used to curse the half-day closing tradition but today I could not have been more pleased to be a victim once again as I doubt if Plan A could have beaten the non-existent Plan B.   I will try again soon and find out.  I had better not go on a Monday, though, in case they have taken a leaf out of Schofield’s book.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 7th July, 2019

Zaap

I have travelled all over Europe and North America but have never had the urge to visit the Far East. I am a city boy at heart and love the buzz of places like London, New York and Berlin but I don’t think that I could handle the culture shock of Beijing, Bangkok or even Tokyo. The only thing which would entice me is the food. My first encounter with Thai cuisine was about twenty years ago when the menu seemed to consist entirely of red or green curry, neither of which inspired me to travel half way round the globe for second helpings. In hindsight this was probably the watered down version of Thai food, sometimes seemingly literally, to break we Westerners in gently. The same thing happened in the fifties with Chinese food when all you could get was chop suey, chow mein or sweet and sour.

Recently, however, Thai eating houses seem to have gone more hardcore. They have also developed a sense of humour when naming their businesses. This used to be the preserve of ladies’ hairdressers with names like ‘Curl up and Dye’ and ‘Hair Conditioning’ but recently in London I came across a restaurant called ‘Thai Pin’. The prize for the most inventive name, however, must go the one I saw in Southern Ireland. It is situated just outside Cohb in the town of Midleton. Cohb was the last pick up point for the ill-fated transatlantic liner which sunk on its maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg in 1912. I was in Midleton to visit the Jameson’s distillery, for research purposes obviously, when I came across a restaurant with the brilliant name of ‘Thai Tanic’.

Enough of the waffle and on to the review. I have passed Zaap several times but it has always looked packed so I have given it a miss. This week I was a bit earlier than usual and there were some empty tables so I went in. I was led to a table, passing a parked tuk-tuk en route. The fare on offer is the now ubiquitous ‘street food’ and most of the items were a complete mystery to me. There was a range of snacking dishes and some items which were more substantial.

zaap2.png

From the latter I opted for pad ga-prao, described as ‘stir fried minced pork or chicken with basil and jasmine rice’. There was also the option of adding a fried egg so I went for the pork and the egg (£7.60). Wine did not seem very appropriate with Thai street food so I had a Singha beer at £3.50. It came ice cold; perfect. As I had been seated next to the open kitchen the Telegraph crossword remained undone as I could not take my eyes off the intricately choreographed ballet, which meant that the many cooks could rush about from place to place in the kitchen without bumping into one another. Amazing. Speaking of amazing, the food was absolutely phenomenal. The fried egg was perched on a mound of jasmine rice and the stir-fried pork sat alongside. What was not mentioned on the menu was the green beans which were in the stir fry and absolutely perfectly cooked, hot but still with a crunch. The taste of the pork was like nothing I have ever had before in that it was spicy but with a background sweetness. The rice was delicious and the fried egg was, well, a fried egg. The service was also excellent.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 4th December, 2015