Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Ground House - Stirling (Scotland)

Stirling is a beautiful city. It's full of old buildings, cobbled streets, castles, monuments and you can see The Highlands on the horizon when you climb up high. It's a small city in comparison to some of the cities in England and definitely in comparison to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Stirling was the capital city of Scotland way way back in the past, it's often referred to as the ancient capital of Scotland, which will give you an idea of how long ago that was. Since then in terms of culinary offerings Glasgow and Edinburgh have far surpassed as they have done in size and population. Stirling seems to have quite a few tearooms and the odd chain restaurant thrown in there. I feel that I was lucky on my last visit to Scotland to happen upon a Henderson's Bistro, which was literally opposite to where we had parked. This time I struggled to find somewhere that grabbed my fancy for lunch. Due to it's historical connections it has a lot of tourists (namely Chinese/Japanese/Americans) and I was reluctant to fall in to a tourist trap. Local blogs, websites and (in desperation) Tripadvisor was of no use and so I would have to use the old method of happening upon a place to eat as I passed on the street. Shock. Horror. 

As we walked down from Stirling Castle the blue skies disappeared and the heavens opened, as is the Scottish weather. Trying to find somewhere for lunch became much more urgent before we became soaked through to the skin. No where was really jumping out of me, I was trying to use my tried and tested method of searching out good coffee which usually pairs with good food. I saw a sign for 'unique blend coffee' but it didn't look like the indies I'm used to and so I walked past, after going a little further in the rain and seeing no where better we turned back and went to The Ground House. 

First impressions were good when they had my favourite ginger beer, Bundaberg, and a diet version too! There was a good selection of sandwiches in the fridge and I had my eye on a meatball baguette until I turned around and saw their more extensive lunch menu detailed on the blackboards behind the counter. D and I stood there for a while debating over what to have, going backwards and forwards about what we fancied. In the end we decided to go for a two mains for £12 deal with me ordering a hot dog topped with chilli, sour cream, cheese, jalapenos with a side of tortilla chips. D ordered the chilli bowl which came with pitta bread and tortilla chips. It was a close choice over the pizza options for D. 

We took our cold drinks to a table and waited for our food and my coffee. The decor wasn't amazing, it felt like they had somehow got stuck in the early 00's, with leather covered table chairs and a few other dog eared bits of furniture. There were advertisements dotted around telling me that on a weekend this coffee lunch spot turned tables and became an open mike night, gig venue and general bar. This might have explained the dog eared furniture if it had been used a bit roughly in the later hours. A lick of paint an update (take a visit to Leeds' coffee shops, or even Edinburgh's independents) would definitely help this place out. 

My coffee arrived within a few minutes. There was an attempt at latte art which would leave me to presume that they don't have as high a coffee demand in Stirling as what they do in Leeds, i.e. they haven't had the opportunity to perfect it. You should never judge a book by it's cover however, what did the coffee actually taste like? Unfortunately the barista had scolded it and so this would have distorted the taste, when it cooled so I could taste the coffee better I found it a little bitter, perhaps down to the blend I can't see how scorching it would make it bitter but I am no expert. The staff were lovely and so I hate to be negative but a little more training on how each component can affect the coffee would be helpful, no one wants scorched coffee. 

The food arrived shortly after, both D and I were surprised by the portion sizes. It was the last day of our holiday, so why not go all out with the gluttony? 

It is what it is, it isn't gourmet dining, it is overloaded American type food. I loved it. I felt like a massive fatty whilst and after eating it but I enjoyed it immensely. Sometimes when it's pouring it down with rain outside and you're feeling sad because it's the last of your holiday you need some comfort food. 

D ran out of things to dip in his chilli before the chilli ended and I helped him out with some tortilla chips and all of my jalapenos too (my stomach has decided they don't like them much to my tongue's dissatisfaction).  

If the above points could be tweaked I'd return next time I'm in Stirling, as it stands at the moment I'd be reluctant to do so. At the moment it just feels a bit 'student like', or what student places were like when I was a student, students in Leeds these days (God I sound old) seem to have higher standards than we did, with their gourmet coffee houses and decent eateries in Hyde Park and Headingley.. 

If you're struggling to find it, it's opposite this building. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Broomhall Castle - Menstrie (near Stirling, Scotland)

I wanted to book a castle for D's 30th birthday last year, but unfortunately all the castles I'd looked at were hitting the £250 mark per night. This was a little more than I could budget at the time as we were in the process of buying our first house and everything else to put in it too.To make up for a 30th birthday of unpacking boxes I decided that D's 31st was going to be extra special and I planned a trip away to Scotland. I've been to The Highlands before but D hasn't and I just knew he would love it as much as I do. To make sure we saw as much as Scotland as possible we decided to stay in a few locations, it would also break up the long drive from Leeds. On the way back I was debating whether to stay in Edinburgh or Glasgow. I pondered briefly over Stirling. When D saw a picture of the Wallace Monument (he loves Braveheart) it became set in stone that we would stay in Stirling on the way home. 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Sociable Folk and The Good Luck Club - Wellington Place, Leeds

If you’re lucky enough to work in Wellington Place then Sociable Folk has probably already been your go to coffee hit for some time. An upcoming area that is undergoing vast (and quick) development it is forming in to quite the forward thinking business district. By this I refer to the grassed areas, deck chairs, the outside seating, the community services, yoga, knitting club and much more. If I was going to set up a business or move my business this would be one of the prime areas I’d look at.

Sociable Folk is a coffee house come café and is currently only open Monday to Friday, unfortunately weekenders haven’t yet found a reason to visit Wellington Place but once they do I expect it will be a nice place for a pre-town pit stop especially if you’re a resident of City Island.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Trinity Kitchen - May/June 2017 Street Food Line Up

This months’ rotation in Trinity Kitchen has to be one of their best line ups yet. Of course this is just my opinion and there are many of my favourites which are not present but there isn’t one place that I would shy away from or not be tempted by in this line up.

So what have you got to look forward to this time?

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Chef Zak at Cafe Lulu - Birkenshaw

Birkenshaw. It’s not exactly the place I would associate with gourmet supper clubs and taster menus but last Saturday evening that is where I found myself. In Birkenshaw, in a small café that was open  after hours specifically for a guest chef to come in and serve a gourmet six course Caribbean themed taster menu.

The café in question is Café Lulu, a breakfast and lunch place for locals that are housed in the basement underneath an Indian restaurant. It doesn’t exactly scream gourmet dining experience but I’m interested in unique and different experiences. When we arrived I was and stepped in to their basement and was pleasantly surprised. What greeted me was a very romantic setting of vaulted ceilings, exposed brick, twinkling lights and candle light. Never judge a book by its cover and all that.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Super Lunch Menu at Jamie's Italian - Leeds

I worked out the other day that I haven’t been to Jamie’s Italian for around 7 years. Those 7 years have flown by as I recall when it first opened, the long queues that went down the side of the building on Park Row for people to get in and the hubbub around it opening. It seems a lifetime away and I doubt that a Jamie’s Italian would cause the same excitement 7 years on. So why was it so popular back then? Was Jamie Oliver at the height of his popularity or was there just not that many exciting food places to go in Leeds? I don’t recall Carluccio’s getting the same treatment when they opened on Greek Street (recently closed).

Whatever the reason Jamie’s is still popular with Leeds Folk, perhaps not queueing down Park Row popular but popular enough that you need to book a table on a Friday night or face waiting in the bar for a little while.

Although Jamie’s remains a Firm favourite with weekenders Jamie’s is trying to bring in the mid-weekers with their launch of the new Super Lunch Menu. If you’re on a working lunch you want something speedy, not too heavy and not too pricey. Jamie’s offers 2 courses for £11.95 and three for £13.95, which incidentally is the same deal as Bill’s. So if you fancy something a little lighter (as Bill’s lay on the calories in most of their dishes) or perhaps something a bit more culinary specific i.e. Italian then Jamie’s is a good alternative.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Edison's Coffee - Sheffield

Sheffield is often a city that is overlooked, I feel. It’s strong industrial (steel) heritage has shaped it and nurtured it in to the city it is today but if you’re not from(or live in/near) Sheffield would you choose to go out of your way to eat or drink here?

Speaking to a few friends and colleagues alike they would say no, what does Sheffield have to offer? A few see Sheffield as a student town and with two universities it certainly does have a healthy student population. A few years ago (again my thoughts) Sheffield city centre went through a period of neglect after Meadowhall was built and all focus and footfall was redirected that way. When I was deciding on which university to go, I visited Sheffield and found the city centre very quiet and not a lot of buzz around it, my other comparison being Manchester however.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Le Pain Quotidien - Victoria Gate Leeds

Le Pain Quotidien has restaurants all round the world and in England they have a few restaurants down south. I would deem them fairly well established but they didn’t come to my attention until they landed in Leeds, more specifically Victoria Gate.

Le Pain Quotidien, or 'the daily bread' in English is a Belgian restaurant built on the foundations of a good bakery and serves only organic produce. In Victoria Gate the bakery sits on the ground floor with the restaurant above, for those unaware of its existence I can see how it would be very easy to skip by not realising that upstairs is a beautiful light dining room which is a perfect place to enjoy, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or possibly a couple glasses of (organic) wine and a charcuterie board.

I urge you to not just skip it by. Le Pain Quotidien is well worth a stop and a look in, let them tempt you upstairs, take a few minutes or hours out of your day to relax and unwind in their charmingly decorated rooms with antique mirrors, ornate flooring and balconies.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Opposite Cafe - Chapel Allerton Leeds

I’ve been to Opposite Café on multiple occasions but never got round to actually blogging about it, which is a massive error on my part because they are wonderful. This post in turn is not about a single experience here but instead a collection of my experiences here.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Giraffe - Manchester Airport Terminal One

Everybody loves going on holiday and if you’re going abroad your holiday usually starts at the airport. Whether it be 4am in the morning or 1pm in the afternoon most people are relaxing their belts and getting in to the holiday spirit.

I’m not one for ‘getting on’ the beer (or bottle of wine as I’ve seen before) at 4am in the morning but I am partial to an airport breakfast/brunch. Leeds airport is wank for this. Sorry for the rather uncouth language, but it sums it up quite perfectly to me. The breakfast options are limited and those that are available are expensive and quite frankly a rip off for the amount of food they serve you.

Manchester is a different story, depending on your terminal. Terminal one in Manchester airport is the closest us Northerners are going to get to Heathrow (which blows your mind if you’ve only ever been to Leeds airport). There are more shops that just Boots the Chemist and there are more food options than Burger King and the Airport’s own attempts at restauranteering. You won’t find many independents but you will find Giraffe.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Yo! Sushi - New Menu

Yo! Sushi isn't just about raw fish wrapped in rice and seaweed, if you had asked me a few years ago I would have thought it was. Others still think it is.

So what else does Yo! Sushi have to offer? Firstly there are plenty of vegetarian options, in the traditional sushi sense i.e. pieces of vegetable wrapped in rice and seaweed and in small hot dishes such as noodles. Not only are there hot small vegetarian dishes but there are also meat and fish dishes that come hot too, such as tempura prawns, yaki soba and chicken katsu curry. On top of all this you can get larger bowls of ramen and bento boxes for lunch.

I wrote about Yo! Sushi when it first opened in Trinity Leeds, it was my first experience of Yo! Sushi but it wasn't my last. As with most chain restaurants I had found myself in a rut, I knew what I liked and so I kept ordering the same time and time again. When Yo! Sushi invited me to come and try out their new menu it felt like a good opportunity to try and get me out my rut.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Pride and Produce - Garforth, Leeds

I grew up in Garforth (or G-Town as we called it as 'cool' teens) and to be honest there was never anything that exciting happening, not in food terms anyway. The most popular places to eat in Garforth include an Italian restaurant, the Aagrah Indian restaurant and a Miller and Carter Steakhouse/Pub, which I think may give you some insight in to its culinary offerings.

When I started this blog (in 2011) I was still living Garforth and I tried to review some of the places on offer as objectively as I could but I was never going to find the same standards of restaurants (cafes/coffee etc) as what I could in the city centre. However, when I moved away (typically) things began to change. Garforth got it's first latte art in the form of Cielo, the French bakery started to become more well known, the Italian expanded (not sure if this contributed but worth noting) and one of the many bakeries was replaced with a deli. A deli! How exotic for humble Garforth!

Pride and Produce moved in to town and brought with it avocado on toast, American style pancakes, locally sourced products and an evening bistro. There may be some in town who look on at it wearily and if you are a Garforthite and are still doing this, I urge you not to. Surprise yourself.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Revolucion De Cuba - Bottomless Brunch - Leeds

Prior to visiting Revolucion De Cuba (RDC) I was a bottomless brunch virgin. I've seen it gradually creep up the country from London Town and watched it grow in popularity in the North with more and more establishments jumping on the bandwaggon. When it comes to all you can eat I've never been a fan, mainly because I struggle to get my money's worth. I'm simply not as greedy as my belly thinks I am.

As brunch is almost certainly my favourite meal (it's a shame that it has to be restricted to weekends only, damn you full time job) it was almost a certified bet that I was going to eventually be bottomless brunching. 

Saturday, 15 April 2017

200 Degrees - Barista School - Leeds

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you may have seen my pitiful attempts at Latte Art, they are hardly masterpieces and more often than not replicate the sort of view you would see on a psychologists ink blot test.

Admittedly I have attended a barista class before now at Layne’s but Latte Art was a separate class to be followed by the initial introduction, so I struggled on. Always eager to more and thrilled to know that 200 Degrees' barista class included an introduction to Latte Art I gladly accepted an invitation to try them out. There are some overlaps between the introductory classes from Laynes and 200 Degrees however the latter structure their courses a little differently. There is still an introduction on bean-to-cup with additional classes marketed at intermediate and advanced. Despite not going in to as much details as my first class with Laynes I can see the benefit of structuring it in this way, if you're a complete novice and know zero zilch about coffee 200 degrees' introductory course would aimed at the correct level for you.