4 Essential Foodie Experiences in Porto

One of my favourite things about Porto was how good the food and drink scene is – every day we found cute little bakeries, amazing restaurants and cool bars to hang out at, and if I went back there would definitely be a few places I’d be booking in advance. Luckily Porto is a small enough city that you can take the sightseeing at a leisurely place, leaving plenty of time to laze by the river or relax at a streetside restaurant, snacks on the table and glass of wine in hand. Here are a few of Porto’s signature foodie experiences you won’t want to miss. Continue reading

Hake at Iberica Leeds

An Evening at Iberica Leeds

Last Wednesday I was invited by Emma to be her plus one for an event at Iberica, a fairly new tapas restaurant on East Parade that’s drawn a lot of attention on social media for having the most beautiful bathrooms in Leeds. While I’d heard a lot of praise about the toilets, initial reviews I’d read of the food were not that enthusiastic, but a few weeks ago my Spanish housemate mentioned that she’d been with her parents and thought the dishes were excellent. I figured she ought to know, so I was thrilled to be able to try it out myself. Continue reading

Leeds Indie Food 2016 Wishlist

It barely seems 5 minutes since we were at Leeds Feast saying goodbye to the first Leeds Indie Food Festival, but it’s been a whole year and now it’s back bigger and better! There’s a fantastic calendar this year, showcasing Leeds’ best independents and covering such a wide range of themes that there really is something for everyone. It’s been hard to choose, but here are my top picks for this year’s Leeds Indie Food. Continue reading

Bangkok Street Food Vibes at Zaap Thai

Leeds is a pretty good place to be a Thai food addict – there are so many fantastic restaurants both in Leeds city centre and in the surrounding suburbs that you could go out for Thai every night for several weeks and never visit the same place twice (or have a bad meal!). But out of all of them, Zaap Thai might just be my new undisputed favourite. After a fairly average first visit I gave the place a second chance and am so glad I did, because now the food seems to get better every time I visit. I particularly love their starters – so much so that I am now more likely to order a tapas-style banquet of chicken satay, fish cakes and dumplings for my meal instead of a main.

Chicken satay at Zaap Thai Leeds

However the food isn’t the only reason I love Zaap. For me the thing that really sets it apart is the decor and the atmosphere – as soon as I step through the door I feel like I’ve been transported back to my time in Bangkok, perching at a kerbside table with a curry and a beer that cost me less than £1, simultaneously disorientated and intoxicated by the choreographed chaos going on around me. Unfortunately the prices at Zaap aren’t quite as low, but they’re as good as you’ll get in Leeds and the rest of the experience is fairly close. Continue reading

Review: Ox Club, Leeds

I’m calling this a review, but in reality it’s basically a love letter to what has instantly become one of my favourite brunch spots in Leeds city centre. Ox Club in Headrow House has only been open a few months, but it’s already made a huge impression on the city, and on me! The food is delicious, the decor beautiful, and to be quite frank any place that has a dedicated brunch sitting that runs until 3.30pm deserves all the medals.

The first time I visited was during Ox Club’s first proper weekend, when they were very kindly offering 50% off to draw in the customers. The consequence, of course, was that it was crazy busy, and we were lucky to get a table. However the waitresses were friendly and immediately dropped off a bottle of water at our table before taking our drink orders. This is one of the only places I am happy to order tea; usually I’m a neurotic tea fiend who truly believes that only I can make a tea exactly the way I like it…but Ox Club do a really good cuppa.

Avocado on toast at Ox Club, Leeds Continue reading

A Foodie’s Guide to Edinburgh

I recently made my first journey up to Edinburgh, and had a huge revelation. Scotland’s capital is a foodie paradise! I love food, and good tea and coffee, and amazing cocktails, and one of my top priorities when visiting a new city is hunting out all the best places to eat and drink. I scribbled down countless places when I was gathering ideas, barely got to half of them, and found some other gems while I was there that I hadn’t even heard about. Here’s my foodie guide to Edinburgh…

Spoon

If I’d been a student in Edinburgh, this is the kind of place where I would have spent all my spare time (and money). Hidden a floor above street level up a nondescript flight of stairs, Spoon is a haven of peace and quiet serving up delicious breakfasts, cakes and coffees in the kind of retro 70s kitchenware your Grandma used to own. It feels spacious yet cosy, with mismatched tables, chairs and sofas scattered around and thin curtains acting as partitions.

We went for breakfast, and chose a cooked breakfast and porridge with a generous splodge of strawberry jam. Both were lovely and filling, but my highlight was my hot chocolate, made dark and creamy with a deliciously smooth consistency. It was all I could do not to grab a book, order another and spend the whole day on one of their sofas…

Breakfast at Spoon, Edinburgh

Oink

Oink has a basic premise – just really simple, really tasty hog roast sandwiches. There are two shops in Edinburgh centre – we went to the Grassmarket branch for a quick warming lunch on our last day. Choose from three sizes, pick white or brown bread, add a topping of sage & onion stuffing or haggis, and a dressing of apple, bbq or chilli sauce, and you’re good to go! The shop is tiny so avoid the middle of lunchtime if you want a hope of getting a seat, and stop by an ATM on the way; it’s cash only.

Frederick’s Coffee House

Fredericks’s is what I want my living room to look like; the walls are a beautiful shade of blue-green that is perfectly matched to the quirky furniture, and the huge windows looking out onto the street let in tons of light. Framed artwork and chalkboard menus hang on the walls, and by the entrance is a white bar stacked with cakes.

I had porridge with fruit compote and a Japanese Cherry tea (their list of teas is amazing!), and it was one of the most perfectly cooked bowls of porridge I’ve ever had. Creamy and not too thick, the berries mingled in perfectly and was much sweeter than berry compote often is. The cherry on top was the bowl – glass with a bright blue paisley print. So pretty!

Frederick's Coffee House, Edinburgh

The Holyrood 9A

Love beer and burgers? Then you’ll love The Holyrood 9A. Even if you don’t love beer and burgers, you’ll still love the Holyrood 9A.  This bar is the perfect ‘pub with a modern twist’, combining dark wood and leather seating to create a relaxed and homey atmosphere. They specialise in craft beer and have a huge range to choose from, but also have some decent wines; my two glasses of Malbec went down way too easily! We didn’t stay for a meal but many around us were, and the burgers looked incredible. We did nibble on some onion rings and sweet potato fries, and if they’re any indication of the quality of the burgers, we really missed out.

The Hanging Bat

The Hanging Bat is another beer place – any beer fan is going to feel totally frustrated with the lack of insight in this post as I barely drink beer and know next to nothing about it. However the Hanging Bat is worth a stop whether you’re a beer nut or not; they of course stock a wide range of drinks and have a good bbq-themed menu featuring chicken wings, beer mac & cheese and a large list of hotdogs. It’s  a great place for an informal meal; the food came on a tray with everything packaged in cardboard boxes, and you don’t feel guilty eating with your hands and smearing sauce all over your face. They also serve their beer in very cute schooners, wisely engraved with a plea of ‘Please don’t take me, I’m spoken for’.

Food at The Hanging Bat, Edinburgh

Bramble

We only stopped by Bramble briefly for a cocktail, but I left with the feeling that if I was a local it would be one of my regular haunts. It’s hard to spot as it’s underground with no sign; turn right just past Urban Angel and just keep your eyes peeled for a bouncer standing on some stairs by a tailor’s shop.

The cocktail menu is pretty extensive and there are a range of options no mater what your drink of choice is. I chose a Mint 500 – gin, elderflower, apple and lemon juice, mint and basil – and it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say it’s one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. There’s not a lot of room inside so we ended up standing, otherwise we would probably have stayed longer!

Edinburgh Gin Distillery/Heads & Tales

As a massive gin fan, I couldn’t possibly go to Edinburgh without dropping by their gin distillery. I booked tickets for their Connoisseur tour online a few days before; this package costs £25/person and includes a tour and talk on the history of gin, plus a 5-shot tasting and a small bottle of gin to take hoe. A bargain in my opinion! Our guide was really informative and entertaining, and made the session really fun. The building is hard to find (ignore your smartphone map and just go to the Huxley), but really cool; it’s underground and the tastings are held in cosy brick-lined alcoves. According to our guide, it originally served as the coal store for the house above it.

Gin tasting at Edinburgh Gin Distillery

In the evenings the tour rooms are transformed into a bar called Heads & Tales, where the defining factor is their ‘GIY’ menu where you choose your preferred gin, flavour and glass and allow the bartender to mix you a cocktail based on your selections. I chose Edinburgh gin and rose in a champagne flute and got a prosecco and gin cocktail with a lovely fragrant taste. I also enjoyed a ‘Tea With the Queen’ from their set cocktail menu, with was Earl Grey mixed with Tanqueray and came in a teacup!

Cocktail at Heads and Tales, Edinburgh

Have you been to Edinburgh? Did you love it as much as I did? Share your favourite places in the comments!

Review: Archie’s Bar & Kitchen, Leeds

The latest addition to ever-expanding Granary Wharf is Archie’s Bar & Kitchen, a bizarre mix of VW camper vans and industrial decor in primary colours with an ‘under the sea’-themed dancefloor thrown in for good measure. I’ve been twice now, for weekend brunch and weekday night dinner, and for the life of me I can’t work out exactly what their deal is. That’s not to say I don’t like it – in fact I’m sure I’ll be returning again – but I’m pretty sure I’ll never get to the bottom of exactly what the decorators were going for. What’s life without a little mystery anyway?

I must admit I found the dinner menu to be slightly underwhelming – I think they were going for British classics crossed with the seaside, but I can’t be quite sure. I went for the brisket burger and it was nice, served with coleslaw and a generous helping of light, crispy chips, but if you’re craving a burger there are plenty of better options in Leeds. Apart from this, the party was already getting underway in the bar, making the dining experience a little loud.

But enough, negative, onto the brunch. Oh, the brunch. For a start it’s served until 2pm; I do love those non-judgemental restaurants that serve breakfast foods way into the afternoon. The restaurant was a little quiet when we arrived around midday but I think we were in the lull between breakfast and lunch as it soon got busy during our meal. We chose to sit at one of the high tables in the bar area, where food gets prepared in an adorable orange VW camper van.

VW camper van at Archie's, Leeds

The brunch menu covers pretty much anything you could want – breakfast and lunch foods, sweet and savoury. I have a real sweet tooth so I was ton between the banana pancakes and brioche toast with berries and pear. I opted for the pancakes which came in a stack of three with banana slices layered in the middle, drizzled with caramel sauce and topped with mascarpone and fruit.

Pancakes at Archie's, Leeds

The plate looked small when it arrived but trust me, it’s more than enough. The pancakes are light and fluffy but filling, and sweet enough that you can just about finish them, but probably wouldn’t want any more. And only £4 – bargain much?! I broke the sweetness up with a delicious fresh orange juice (and bits of sausage stolen off the boyf’s plate of cooked breakfast).

Fresh orange juice at Archie's, Leeds

The prices are good too – after 2 filling plates of food, a fresh orange and a mint tea the bill came in at just £18, and I stayed full for the whole day. A price I’m definitely willing to pay. Pretty sure I’ll be returning here to try out a few more delicious brunchy treats…