The Owl, Kirkgate Market

Home

It is ironic that I was quite comfortable during lockdown with my daily walk and two or three trips to the shops each week but since the restrictions have been lifted I feel that it is a great effort to go out and start socialising again. I am not afraid of becoming infected it is just that I have got into a routine which has seen me keep fit and lose weight but has become a bit of a rut. Somebody once told me that a grave is only a deep rut so I resolved to snap out of it and get back into the fray.


If I needed an incentive to resume my previous life, Eat Out To Help Out was just the catalyst required. Having paid tax for over 50 years I thought that the least the government could do was to bung me a tenner to go towards a decent meal but having perused the list of those taking part in the scheme I decided that I would ditch that strategy and put my ten spot towards a superb one instead. 


When I was a kid – now you know I am back to my old self – the only eateries in Kirkgate Market were a pie and pea stall and another selling tripe and vinegar. I loved them both but now the culinary range is vast and goes from greasy spoon to fine dining, as exemplified by The Owl, a gastropub run by Liz Cottam and Mark Owens who also have the amazing Home restaurant in Kirkgate. I was invited to the launch of Home which was held in the grounds of Harewood House as the restaurant was not yet open, and the food was terrific. Under normal circumstances I couldn’t afford to frequent places like these, which is another reason I threw caution, and my credit card, to the wind.


On arrival I was met at the door by Emily, who was to be my waitress. She politely asked me to use the hand sanitiser before entering, gave me a disposable slip of paper on which was a mobile phone number to which I was asked to send a text with my name, and then showed me to my table. I was asked if I would like to see the lunch menu or the one displaying the bar food. I opted for the former, I think that the title of this website explains why I did that.


I was given time to sit down and make myself comfortable before Emily returned to ask if I would like something to drink. She had brought a glass of water with her anyway. I asked for a Pinot Noir but was told that this was no longer available and had been replaced by a Montepulciano so I ordered that instead. Both of these wines are favourites of mine but can be of variable quality so I hoped for the best. I needn’t have worried, in fact I was cross with myself for doubting for even one minute that this place would serve anything which didn’t come up to muster, it was superb. I had already looked at the menu on-line and so I knew what I wanted which meant my stopping Emily in full flow whilst attempting to tell me what the catch of the day was. I must apologise for my rudeness. 


As I was taking the first sip of wine a bowl of beer bread arrived along with two small quenelles of butter, one seaweed flavoured and one Marmite. The bread was warm and delicious, as were the varieties of butter. My only problem was that the bread had a coating which was still sticky but Emily quickly saw my dilemma and brought me a finger bowl. 


For starter I had chosen North Yorkshire red deer tartare, blackcurrants and beets and charcoal oil. It attracted a £2 supplement to the fixed price lunch but I really had to try it. The combination of flavours was superb and the addition of pickled carrot added the extra dimension of acidity to the dish. The red deer was amazing and I couldn’t help but wonder as to whether it had come from the aforementioned Harewood Estate, via their Food Project. I was pleased to see that it had been chopped into pieces which could still be identified as meat. So many times I have had steak tartare cut so finely as to be almost mince and displayed as though it were a raw burger. This was satisfyingly chewy, although not overly so, and the flavour tremendous. It was also surprisingly filling.


The second course was another masterpiece: Herb roasted poussin, pearl barley stew, summer vegetable and truffle. When I saw this on the menu at home I didn’t know what to expect, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be presented with two incredible dishes in one course. It appears that kale is the summer vegetable as mentioned in the description as it was an element in the stew and presented crispy on the poussin. The bird was perfectly cooked, moist and tender with the herb seasoning having coated the outside to an extent so as not to overpower the meat. There were several small – obviously – pieces from different parts of the bird and the shaving of truffle along with some enokidake  mushrooms made up the dish. The accompanying stew of pearl barley, kale, truffle and lardons in a creamy broth was a meal in itself and a sublime combination of flavours equalling more than the sum of its parts. I had been initially supplied with a knife and fork with which to eat the course but there was no way on earth that I was going to leave any of the stew uneaten so the ever obliging Emily brought me a spoon to finish the job.


My good intentions of sticking to two courses were soon forgotten as I didn’t want this experience to end, and I had also seen one of my favourite combinations on the dessert menu, chocolate and cherries. The exact description was Cherry and chocolate cake, bourbon sauce and cherry ice cream. The cake was layered like a sophisticated Black Forest Gateau without the cream, and topped with a small chocolate truffle. It looked and tasted superb. The ice cream had a sour cherry tang which was just the thing to counteract the richness of the confection. The bourbon sauce, which had been ceremoniously poured between the two other elements, by guess who, certainly had a kick to it and added the third dimension. 


I ended with a black Americano which arrived with a petit four of fudge. It was made just the way I like it, being strong and flavourful rather than the weak concoction often served at even fairly upmarket restaurants. A wonderful way in which to end a memorable meal.


I was immensely impressed by my lunch today. Every element was damned nigh perfect. The food, the drink, the presentation, the attention to safety and the service. I am so pleased that I made the effort to clamber out of my rut before it got too deep.

The bill came to £30 after the Chancellor’s contribution so was still more than I would normally pay but you can’t put a price on perfection, salvation and a reminder of just how wonderful the good things in life are. 


Don’t miss my review next week when I will again be taking advantage of the government’s half price offer, although I have a feeling that Rishi and Boris will only be stumping up for 50% of beans on toast.


The lunch menu at The Owl is £24 for two courses and £27 for three and is served Tuesday – Saturday from noon until 3.00pm. Two of the starters, one of the mains and a dessert have supplements. The Montepulciano was £7.50 and the coffee £3.50. 

I would just like to add a point of clarification. Although I have met Ms Cottam a couple of times in the past, she was not there when I called today and the review was done, like all of the others on this site, totally incognito.


All photographs by Stan Graham

Advertisement

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

Owt

https://www.owtleeds.com/

Please note that since I wrote this article Owt has relocated to the magnificent Corn Exchange. Another reason you should give it a try.

I have learned a lot since I began doing my restaurant reviews but the one thing which has struck me more than the rest is that, as a rule of thumb, the nicer the owners, the better the food.


When a friend and I decided to call into Kirkgate Market for old times’ sake, her father once had a stall there as did my great grandparents, we had to try one of the newer establishments which have sprung up in the last couple of years. Not only does the food hall at the exit to the open market have a great choice of excellent eateries, but the delicacies on offer in the main part of the building have also moved upmarket –  literally.


Owt is one of these establishment which is situated on Fish and Game Row and, as its name implies, sells anything which is available and in season from the surrounding stalls so the menu changes on a regular basis with the fish dish being reviewable weekly. For my readers who are not from the County of Yorkshire, many of them are not even based in this country, the word ‘owt’ is a part of the local dialect and means ‘anything’. The main use would be in the phrase, ‘As tha gorr owt teat?’ Which roughly translated means, ‘Would you happen to have anything which would serve to satisfy my appetite?’ Na tha nors (now you know). 


As it was fairly early for lunch, being just turned noon, we were not exactly ravenous, just a little peckish so we decided to share a Fish Butty. This request was greeted with a cheery smile and we were asked to take a seat. A jug of water and two glasses were swiftly provided as were the coffees we had ordered at the same time as the sandwich. As the fish was cooked to order it arrived a few minutes later complete with the other elements described on the menu, viz Tartare Sauce, Lemony Slaw and  Triple Cooked Chips. The bread part of the dish was a large toasted bread cake and the whole shebang was garnished with chopped parsley. 


I suspect that the fish in the butty changes according to availability as it was not the normal cod or haddock but a tasty darker species, yes I know, I should have asked. The breadcrumb coating was wonderfully crispy and the fillet lay atop the chips and the base of the bread cake. The tartare sauce had the sharp hint of gherkin but it was much richer and creamier than normal so didn’t overpower the other ingredients, the slaw added a freshness being akin to sweet and sour. All in all, a triumph. Now then, here’s the rub, the butty came in at £7 which was good value in itself but the coffee was also included and, not only that, we were asked if we would like a refill. I mean, two coffees would normally set you back four quid which made this dish of fish and chips in a bun ridiculously cheap. Even though we split the sandwich we were both still provided with the beverages and water at no additional charge.


The owners were the most delightful people and couldn’t do enough for us thus reinforcing my initial statement. Oh, another thing I have learned since writing my reviews is that as well as the conventional five base tastes in food; salt, sweet, bitter, sour and umami, there is a sixth and one which I have come to be able to taste above all the rest, and that is love. It is present in several establishments in Leeds and at Owt it is the one thing which never goes out of season.

https://www.owtleeds.com/

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

The Reliance Bar and Dining Room

http://www.the-reliance.co.uk/

When I started this series four years ago I set myself some rules, most of which I have since broken.  Hey, what else are rules for?  This visit to The Reliance Bar and Dining Room has prompted me into abandoning all of them and just doing what the heck I like.

Two of the no-nos were that I wouldn’t do pubs and that I would always order from the lunch menu which, whilst they made sense at the time, are meaningless now because of the ever-changing face of the eating scene in Leeds.

Reliance has been on both my ‘to do’ list and bucket list for some time now as I pass it on the bus every time I enter the City, so today I decided to get off and give it a go.  The lunch menu looks stupendous, with a range of dishes to die for as well as equally impressive daily specials.  What they are really famous for, however, is the home-cured charcuterie which changes on a regular basis.  This being the case, I took a seat and, there being a choice of three meats, I had a portion of each at the very reasonable price of £3.25 an item.  I also had a glass of house red, a 2017 Allamanda Sangiovese at £4.85 for the glass.  As the sun was out and the temperature in the 20s, a lighter red with the cold platter seemed just the thing and so it proved to be – robust enough to handle the meat but not cloying. My mind was wandering and I thought that I could have easily been in a small bar in a Milanese piazza or a Sicilian osteria, an image quickly shattered by a procession of double-decker buses plying their trade up and down North Street.  Hey ho.

Annoyingly, the wine was quickly delivered so I had to stare at it longingly until the food arrived, needing as I do to take photographs of the whole ensemble.  Just watch now, my copy editor will put the food and drink pictures on the article separately!   Fortunately, the food was not far behind and appeared with a generous helping of focaccia and olive oil for dipping.  I must say that the portions of meat were more than adequate and the addition of a few silverskin onions and cornichons were a nice touch to add a bit of bite.

The meats were Fennel Salami, Chilli and Black Pepper Salami and Bresaola and all were excellent.  The balance of the meat and flavouring in the salamis were spot on, with the fennel providing a lovely liquorice tang to the one and the chilli and black pepper a quiet kick to the other.  These were so obviously homemade, and done so with care and love, as there was none of the chewiness which you get with even the best shop bought salami.  The bresaola was equally impressive and once again had wonderful texture, the meat being al dente to the point of seeming as though it had been roasted rather than cured.  For £14.70 this was a veritable feast rather than a lunch, an experience enhanced by the excellent service and friendliness of the staff.

I am just left with one dilemma now. How do I explain to my friends that I have been to one of the best pubs in town and not ordered a pint of cask and the black pudding?  A prime example of a reputation which has taken a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 1st July, 2019

Black Market

I have a set of self-imposed rules which I apply when I decide where to eat for my Let’s Do Lunch series. I drafted this list when I began writing the feature about three and a half years ago in order to be fair to both the restaurant operators and you, my dear reader.  Not to visit anywhere which has not been open for at least six months is a case in point, because it is reasonable to assume that the early days’ experience may differ for readers as the business finds its feet.

It is also not fair to the business as, even with the best preparation in the world, there will be teething troubles. Black Market is a case in point. It has been open for four weeks and I left wishing that my editor hadn’t asked me to visit.  Please don’t get me wrong: I can’t have any regrets about having one of the best lunches it has ever been my pleasure to consume, but I have to mention the inevitable teething troubles, too.

The first glitch was that Black Market doesn’t have its website up and running yet so I could not do my homework before I went. This was not too much of a problem as I often decide where to go on the spur of the moment, but I thought that it might put some people off. My suspicions were confirmed when I left the building and was taking the exterior photograph. A passer-by asked me if I had been there to eat and when I answered in the affirmative he said that he had tried to find out about it online but drew a blank. There is a Facebook page but that is not the same. I told him that it was brilliant and suggested that he give it a try.

The second problem was the menu. The bill of fare from noon until 6.30pm is a choice from ten small plates comprising meat, fish and vegetables. The deal is that you can choose any three for £18. The problem is that if you go for the most expensive three, the total comes to £25.40 so you are saving £7.40 but, should you opt for the cheapest three then it comes to £11.50 which potentially means that you are overpaying by £6.50. In practice this would not happen as when I looked at my bill the items had been charged individually and a discount applied at the end, bringing the cost down to the advertised £18 so I assume that should the total be less, that is what you would pay.  I did draw this to the owners’ attention and it is something that they are looking into. Enough of the negative stuff.  Let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about the good stuff – and it is really good.

All photographs by Stan Graham.

When I arrived my overcoat was taken from me and hung in the cloakroom. Not a big deal you may say but it is surprising how few times this happens and I have to drape it over the back of my seat, where it either falls off or trails on the floor. I was then given a choice of tables, which again was a good touch. I picked the nosy table where I could people-watch if I was struggling with the crossword. A litre carafe of tap water was brought whilst I perused the menu; I had been given the option of tap, bottled still or bottled sparkling. All good.

The items on the menu were varied and seemed to take full advantage of the seasonal availability. It being Halloween, we were in the game season and it was wonderful to see two choices in wood pigeon and guinea fowl. I stuck to meat for the third plate; steak. From the wine list I chose a Rioja (£6.20 for 175ml) which had a lovely liquorice hint, perfect for the meal to come. Before the meat arrived the waitress, whom I found out was one of the partners in the business, appeared with a board laden with home baked bread and home churned butter. There were three variations of each, the cornbread being the star of one half and duck liver butter being the best of the other, just better than the herb butter.

The small plates came out of the kitchen one at a time, about a minute apart, which was fine. First to be delivered was the Tri Tip Fillet with Mushroom Caramel, Horseradish Mousse. The steak was on the rare side of medium and perfectly cooked. It was tender and laid atop the mushroom accompanied by a generous knob of butter. I cannot remember when I have had such an exquisite piece of steak complimented by such flavoursome, but not overpowering, accompaniments. I was in carnivore heaven.

Second to the table was Pan Roasted Guinea Fowl with a Butter Bean Casserole. Once more this was perfectly cooked, with the seasoned skin being on the crispy side and the cassoulet beneath seeing the beans still having a bite to them, neither undercooked nor mushy. Another triumph.  Wild fowl tastes a lot like chicken used to do but with a bit of a stronger edge so can stand the flavour of the tomato sauce quite easily.

Last, but by no means least, came the Pan Fried Wood Pigeon with Fennel and Chilli Black Pudding, Sweet Tamarind Glazed Rhubarb. The wood pigeon was again on the rare side, as it should be, with a strong, earthy, game taste and a hint of liver pierced by the tamarind and rhubarb fruitiness. The home-made black pudding with the aniseed-like taste of fennel and kick of chilli was a masterpiece. I am running out of words to describe just how good this lunch was, so I will shut up and hope that you have the point.

The three dishes, along with the bread, meant that I was fairly full by the time my plates were cleared. I will digress here and say that, in addition to the those laden with food, I was provided with a warm, empty plate to eat from, thus saving me from having them and the glasses arranged around me like Phil Collins’ drum kit. Another good touch. I was toying with the idea of just having a coffee and catching the bus home, but I simply could not tear myself away from the place so I asked to see the dessert menu. I decided on Vanilla Sky (£7.95), advertised as Vanilla Creme Brûlée, Vanilla Syrup, Vanilla Cremeux and Tonka Bean Ice Cream. I don’t know about you but I always expect anything made with tonka beans to arrive in a huge toy truck. OK; it’s just me.

When it arrived it was not quite as advertised in that the creme brûlée had become a vanilla cream filled macaron. Just ask me if I cared. Everything was perfect and surprisingly light, leaving a lovely aftertaste. I finally had my de rigour black Americano at £2.35 whilst I convinced myself that all good things must come to an end and I had better get the bus home before the rush hour began.

As I was paying my bill I had a chat with the partners of the business, Justina and Jon, who like many others I have met recently, are passionate about what they do.  What sets these two apart is that Jon can certainly cook brilliantly and Justina is perfect front of house. All the signs for this new venue tell me that the two will make a great success of Black Market.

An abridged version of this article was first published by Leeds Living on 2nd November, 2018

The Swine That Dines

Please check on opening hours before calling. They have been altered since lockdown.

Now here’s a first; two firsts in fact. This is the first time I have done a second Let’s Do Lunch article at premises still run by the same owner, and it is the first time I have eaten in a restaurant named after me – how flattering!

My first visit was in January 2016, when the establishment had a dual identity, being called The Greedy Pig during the day  (All right, I have reviewed a place named after me before) and changing to The Swine That Dines in the evenings. The owner has now decided to use the latter moniker on a permanent basis as it has built up quite a following.  No surprise there, as the food was absolutely wonderful.

The lunch menu, served from noon – 3.00pm on Wednesday to Saturday, is adventurous but not in a show-off, look-how-clever-I-am kind of way; just a list of imaginative dishes served straight and honest but with a twist. I had quite a struggle working out what I would order but I narrowed it down to two choices and, as they are small plates which I was told would be just right for lunch, I asked for them both. The first to arrive was Mussels, Sesame and Mint Harissa. The molluscs arrived on three generously loaded skewers, having been cooked on an open grill, and had a wonderful barbecue flavour which did not overpower the delicacy of the seafood. I have written before about twice cooked mussels and how difficult it is to do this without their turning into rubber, but here they were done to perfection. They had obviously lost some of the moisture during the grilling process but still had enough to make them a pleasure to eat. The harissa added a hint of heat but again was not overpowering. The dish was beautifully presented and well worth the £6.

All photographs by Stan Graham

My second choice was seemingly old school, being GPK Scotch Egg with Piccalilli, again £6. If this sounds a bit steep for a picnic staple it wasn’t because it wasn’t. It wasn’t steep because it wasn’t the picnic staple we all know and love. The egg was perfectly cooked, being soft boiled, and the meat wrapping was enhanced with chorizo. Once again an ingredient had been twice cooked and served spot on, not as easy as it sounds. A perfectly soft boiled egg is difficult enough, so to then drop it in iced water to stop the cooking process, wrap it in the meat casing and deep fry it so that the sausage meat is cooked through but the egg keeps its soft boiled property with runny, hot yolk, is no mean task. The home made piccalilli was beautifully sweet and piquant, finishing the plate off a treat.

Although I had probably eaten enough I had to have a dessert, which again was a familiar item on a menu: Custard Tart, £5. This arrived as expected, with no twists or turns but with baking this good, who wants twists and turns. If you do then there is Leeds Blue Ice Cream with Poached Pear and Black Pepper, yes, cheese ice cream!

The Swine That Dines is a short walk down North Street but is well worth the effort. It is not licensed so I had a SanPellegrino Blood Orange drink at £1.50. You can take your own booze and there are three excellent watering holes within a few yards of the restaurant, so there are opportunities to have a drink if fancy takes you.

I cannot recommend this place highly enough as, not only is the food good, the philosophy is faultless as well. Fresh ingredients, skill, love and soul.

Article first published by Leeds Living 13 July 2018