Butler’s

My normal modus operandi is to take a bus into Leeds and let the day take me where it will. This week I was asked to venture out of town to sample the food on offer at Butler’s in the newly opened Number One Kirkstall Forge. The building is an office block with six floors, actually there are seven but that’s another storey! It is a couple of miles outside the City Centre and meant a train ride to the newly opened Kirkstall Forge Station, so I whipped out my Senior Railcard and off I went.
The day turned out to be a nostalgic experience as, in 1976 I joined the civil service and after a year’s training I, along with others on my grade, was ‘invited’ to sit a ‘Computer Aptitude Test’. As (bad) luck would have it I passed and was duly transferred to a large computer installation where I was ensconced in an almost completed office and told to await the delivery of a computer. Luckily I was not alone so the days were spent talking about how great things would be once the monster machine arrived and we were allowed free rein.
We were a very small number in a very large building, with no catering facilities apart from a kettle and toaster. Fortunately, there were several decent hostelries nearby where we could take (very long) lunches. Eventually, a staff restaurant was opened and we were able to dine a lot more healthily, and soberly, which was a good thing as by then the machine had been delivered, installed and signed off, meaning that we had to start reacquainting ourselves with the world of work.
Whilst the decor and facilities of One Kirkstall Forge are far more advanced than the 1970s computer centre, the overall ambience was very similar. Both buildings are just far enough away from the nearest amenities to make it a pain to venture out, especially in bad weather, but both so under occupied that there is a limited menu. Eventually, the computer centre was home to 1,500 employees so that the staff restaurant had a distinct buzz about it – not to mention a bar – and I am sure that in the fullness of time and after the construction of the proposed other office blocks on the adjacent plots, Kirkstall Forge will be the same. The big difference is that Butler’s is open as a stand-alone bar/restaurant, whereas our place was subject to strict security and outsiders were not admitted without the appropriate clearance. I apologise for the long ramble but it would be very unfair of me to review Butler’s as the finished product when it is so obviously a work in progress. As you would expect, the decor is ultra modern and very sophisticated, with a selection of formal dining tables, high breakfast bars and coffee tables surrounded by comfortable armchairs. Staff meetings seemed to be going on all around me with those not speaking to a human being face to face, emailing them via computer. I mentioned earlier that the menu was a little limited but it had a lunch section so I went for that.

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The Special of the Day was Black Pudding and Sausage Roll with Salad or Chips for £5.00. It being January and I being a rebel, shunned the healthy detox option and went for the fries. The roll was made in-house and the pastry was spot on, as was the peppery black pudding within. The chips were also cooked to perfection, crisp outside but fluffy within. This came as a bit of a shock as the roll was taken on a plate from the glass heated display unit on the counter to the kitchen and immediately returned with the chips so I assumed that they too had been prepared earlier and kept warm. If that was the case they didn’t taste like it. I accompanied the food with a large black coffee at £2.50. I must say that I was a bit taken aback when I asked for ketchup and was given a sachet for a further 20p. It must be said that the portions were not over-generous so I returned for a piece of carrot cake, £1.80, which was a touch on the dry side but not disastrously so.

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It is very difficult to give a verdict on Butler’s because I am sure that as its catchment area for clientele grows so will its menu. The only non-office personnel I can envisage using it are those waiting for a train at the station next door, and as they are only every hour, that may be a fair number, or should that be fare number.

I wish them well and hope that the staff employed in the area are there a little longer than I was.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 12th January, 2018

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The Wardrobe

Please note. Only open Friday-Sunday

https://www.thewardrobe.co.uk/

I would like you to take a trip with me back in time to Houston, Texas on Sunday 1st February 2004. I am sure that you will all remember it as being Super Bowl XXXVIII between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots. OK, you may not be an American Football fan but I am certain that you will recall the half-time show during which Justin Timberlake ripped Janet Jackson’s top, thus exposing her right breast. Being the USA there was a deafening outcry from the section of the population who believe that women shouldn’t have breasts, but if they must have them they should be kept well out of sight at all times and that this incident only went to prove that the whole world was going to Hell in a handcart. The PR people went into a flat spin and said it was a complete accident, although I can’t work out why Ms Jackson would be wearing a nipple shield under her bra if she had resolved to keep it on. The point of this stroll down Memory, or should that be Mammary, Lane is not to add a hint of salaciousness to my article as a cheap marketing attempt, it is to remind you of the origin of the term ‘wardrobe malfunction’.

If Messrs Timberlake and Jackson think that they suffered a wardrobe malfunction in Houston then they should have been with me in Leeds this lunchtime. I witnessed several malfunctions by the Wardrobe. Don’t worry you can carry on reading as the only exposed breasts you encounter belong to a chicken.

I am no stranger to two-hour lunches, especially on Fridays, but they were invariably planned. Today’s just happened. The Wardrobe is a bar/diner/ music venue and is a very large space broken up by the arrangement of the furniture and being split level. I took a seat at a window table so that I could watch the world go by and have an uninterrupted view of the room. There were very few other diners and I was soon approached by a very pleasant waitress who asked me if I would like a drink whilst I was perusing the menu. I ordered a large Montepulciano at £5.80. This arrived within a couple of minutes by which time I had decided to try one of the specials on a supplementary menu attached to the main one with a paperclip. It read ‘American Mac’n’Blue. Mac n Blue Cheese, Southern Fried Chicken, Candied Bacon topped with Spring Onion.’ £11.00. As there seemed to be quite a lot of potentially bulky ingredients and I was there for lunch, not a recording of ‘Man v Food’ I pointed to the item and asked the waitress how big the portion was. She made a shape with her hands indicating it was about as big as a small soup bowl so I said that I would have it. It was over twenty minutes later when a bowl of mac n cheese arrived. I informed the waitress that the dish was missing quite a few components and she said that she thought that that was what I ordered. I pointed again to the supplementary menu, she apologised and took the dish away. Another twenty minutes or so later something approaching what I had ordered appeared.

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The only difference between the original offering and this one was the three small chicken goujons, some crumbled blue cheese and chopped spring onions resting on top. Why they could not have been added straight away is beyond me. The waitress did say that it was a new chef and someone was having to tell him what to put on it. Perhaps a copy of the menu in the kitchen may have done the trick. Whoever was telling the rookie what to put on top could do with a refresher course as well because I realised after a couple of forks full that there was no bacon in the topping.

Had I noticed straight away I would not have sent it back again as by this time I was starving and also having trouble resisting the wine so I could photograph the full glass with the meal. I did inform the waitress, who apologised and said that they would not charge me for the wine and give me a discount, which turned out to be 15%, on the main course. By the time I had eaten the main course I had been on the premises for over an hour and apparently become invisible to the waiting staff. I took my time finishing the wine and eventually beckoned someone over to the table. Still the place was virtually empty, most of my erstwhile fellow diners having finished and left. I ordered a black Americano at £2.00 and the vanilla cheesecake £4.95. The coffee arrived fairly quickly as it was the waitress who made it behind the bar but it was the normal twenty minutes or so before the dessert joined us at the table. I was wondering how plating a piece of cheesecake could take so long but when I tasted it I found it to be slightly warm which indicated to me that it had possibly been defrosted in a microwave.

The most annoying thing about all of the above was that the food was really very good. Mac’n’cheese can get a bit boring after a couple of forks full but the imaginative choice of toppings turned it into something special. The tang of the blue cheese and the sharpness of the spring onion contrasted so well with the unctuous, thick cheese sauce and pasta. I imagine that the saltiness of the bacon would have added an extra dimension but I will never know. The dessert was beautifully presented with fresh strawberries, raspberries, chocolate sauce and a pot of runny caramel. We all know Sod’s Law, which states that if something goes wrong everything will go wrong, but I shudder to think what would have happened had the place been even moderately busy.

To thank you for staying with me through this review I will save you having to use Google. The New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 32-29.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 10th March, 2017

Nation Of Shopkeepers

Well, my luck had to run out sooner or later. Of all the reviews I have done so far I have not had a bad meal. I had a Chinese which was not great but not a bad one. Unfortunately the lunch I had at Nation of Shopkeepers had only one thing going for it and that was Stacey the waitress. I have said before on this website that I judge a place on how they handle the situation when something goes wrong although this doesn’t excuse a bad experience, only mitigates it. Well, my luck had to run out sooner or later. Of all the reviews I have done so far I have not had a bad meal. I had a Chinese which was not great but not a bad one. Unfortunately the lunch I had at Nation of Shopkeepers had only one thing going for it and that was Stacey the waitress. I have said before on this website that I judge a place on how they handle the situation when something goes wrong although this doesn’t excuse a bad experience, only mitigates it. I had decided that I was going to have a burger when I next did lunch as I have ignored them so far. I looked on the websites of the contenders and saw that Nation of Shopkeepers did a fair range and they also sold fried pickles, a delicacy to which I had become addicted when staying with friends in Kentucky. When I entered the premises I went to a table to peruse the menu and, after deciding on the pulled pork with smoked chipotle sauce and a side order of the aforementioned pickles (£2.95), I went to the bar to place my order. As I approached both members of staff disappeared for some time. I am used to people walking out of places when I walk in but not those who are paid to talk to me. Eventually, Stacey appeared and took payment from another customer for his meal. She then came over to me, apologised for keeping me waiting and took my order. She checked with the kitchen as she thought that there was no pulled pork, which transpired to be the case so I substituted the Ruby Jean’s burger (£9.95). I did this as the eating section of the premises is called Ruby Jean’s Diner so I thought I would sample her speciality. My usual house red, of unspecified origin or grape variety (£4.85 for 250ml) was chosen to wash the food down. I paid and took my seat.

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As I dine alone, my habit is to take my iPad and do the Telegraph crossword to while away the time. Speaking of the time I looked at the digits on the top of the screen which read 13.26, I then looked at my food receipt which showed that the order was placed at 12.52. I was just about to place a missing burger report with the local police station when Stacey arrived with the food. I had one of the onion rings which were held in place on top of the bun by a wooden stake and had a fried pickle from a separate basket. Both were hot and obviously freshly made. The same applied to the fries which were next to be sampled. I noticed that a piece of bacon was hanging out of the burger and off the plate so I tried to prevent its escape. When I touched it I found it to be stone cold, not just tepid but cold. Stacey was passing en route from another table and I told her about this, she said that she would get me some more and was off like a shot. I thought that I had better check the other components and found them all to be hardly warm. When the hot bacon arrived I brought up the fault with the rest, another apology ensued and the whole plate disappeared. A full replacement was delivered within five minutes and a refund of the price of the burger arrived with it. This time all was fine but I was so hungry that I had been nibbling away at the large portion of pickles and my appetite had been somewhat dulled so most of the meal was left. As far as the meal went the pickles were far too strong and only consisted of gherkins, sweet and sour pickled cucumbers may have been better as would have been a variety. The description of the burger on the menu was ‘smoked bacon, emmental, mushrooms and onion rings’. The patty had a charcoal fired taste to it which was good but it was too well done for my liking. On the first attempt the emmental was cold and unmelted but on the second it was warm and drizzling down the side. The bacon was a good thick rasher and the mushroom – singular – topped the filling off. The top of the bun was held in place by the wooden stake and the onion rings, as already pointed out, were balanced on top. As burgers go the second one was average, the first should not have been allowed to leave the kitchen. A look at the bacon and cheese should have been enough to indicate that all was not as it should be. The 34 minute wait for a staple of the menu is also unacceptable at lunchtime. On the upside, the music was good and I had plenty of time to do the crossword although if anyone knows what 17 down is……

Article first published by Leeds Living on 30th October, 2015