Last week was lovely for several reasons, one of which was the Coffee and Cocktails Fusion Experience event at La Bottega Milanese, a collaboration between Bottega and The Maven as part of Leeds Indie Food 2016. Hosted at the Bond Court branch on Wednesday night, it gave a select group a chance to listen to the wisdom of Alex Galantino, owner of La Bottega/coffee king, and Nino Antonino, owner of The Maven/master mixologist. Continue reading
Review: Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen at The Hedonist Project
This is just going to be a short appreciation post about my new favourite haunt – The Hedonist Project’s latest incarnation, Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen. I love their idea of a ‘permanent pop-up’; a bar that always exists in the same place but can look completely different from one visit to the next, but their winter venture, a Whisky Parlour, was unavailable to me due to me really, really hating whisky. Gin, on the other hand, is my drink of choice, and I’m already hooked on Old Tom’s. Continue reading
A Night Out at Cocktails in the City Leeds
Last week I spent an evening at one of the most highly-anticipated events of the month – Cocktails in the City. I wasn’t able to go last year so I was really excited about attending this year, even though I ended up feeling so burnt out from a busy week I called it a night early and didn’t take advantage of half the stuff that was happening. Oops. However I did get to try four really amazing cocktails from some of Leeds’ best bars, and spend an evening in the Town Hall, which is one of my favourite buildings in Leeds, so I’m still calling that a win! 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…
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…
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!
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’.
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.
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!
Have you been to Edinburgh? Did you love it as much as I did? Share your favourite places in the comments!
July in Pictures
So, what have I been up to in July? Unfortunately not writing as many blog posts as I’d have liked; I’m trying to get to two a week but this month has passed in a blur of work, moving house (twice) and planning exciting trips. Not that I’m complaining, I just need to get myself some self discipline. I’m great at keeping up-to-date with the content calendars I create at work, but somehow I’m a lot more slack here…
So, July’s whirlwind has included two new houses, first visits to a few places around Leeds including Northern Monk Refectory, the new Gusto restaurant on Greek Street and the latest Five Guys branch, and many, many cocktails! Let’s take a look at how it looked through my camera lens…
My August has already got off to a great start – I’ve successfully co-hosted my first blogger event at work (more on that to come!), tomorrow I’m jetting off to Croatia, and we’re only 3 days in!
Have a wonderful month everyone…
Hotel Chocolat’s Summer Party
On Tuesday night I attended Hotel Chocolat’s summer party at their Roast & Conch Restaurant in Leeds. The event was held to promote the restaurant’s new summer menu, as well as showcasing some of their cocktails and new stock, and in exchange for my £15 ticket I was plied all night with cocktails, canapés and delicious chocolates. However I couldn’t help but feel that the night fell somewhat short…
I arrived with my friend just after 6pm, and we were greeted by a member of staff who took our tickets and directed us into the cafe where cocktails were lined up on the bar. We had the choice of a praline martini-type tipple called a praline soother, or a summery rum punch. After a lot of deliberation I chose the soother, which was deliciously cream without being too rich.
As we sipped our drinks we started to wander around the cafe. One table had a range of dishes from their menu laid out for show which was interesting; I never even knew that Roast & Conch did brunch! They all looked delicious but annoyingly none of them had labels to show what they were. I was perked up, however, by a delicious carrot cake chocolate!
By the time we’d finished our cocktails, taken the necessary selfies and browsed the food display, it was nearing 7pm. This was where our issues started. Aside from being handed a few tasters by waiters bearing platters, no staff had come round to chat to us or let us know what was going to happen throughout the night, and truth be told we felt a little lost. We wandered upstairs, but were only met by more guests and food that, however beautiful it looked, we couldn’t eat. My one solace was a slice of salted caramel brownie, that I will definitely be sneaking back to the cafe for fairly soon. Probably more than once.
We floated around for a while longer, had a few more free drinks and some chocolate samples, but ultimately left around 8pm. When my friend heard about the event from a sales assistant at the store she was given the impression that there were going to be lots of things going on, but after two hours we had eaten all the chocolate we could stomach and were, to be honest, a little bored. Speaking of freebies though, we did get a pretty beautiful goodie bag, featuring a chocolate lolly, delicious fruit bombes, and some mojito chocolates with more of a kick than your average cocktail.
As someone who currently spends a large portion of her working week planning events, I felt frustrated because I felt like the organisers had missed so many opportunities to make the evening into more than just a night of free food and drink. There could have been chocolate-making demonstrations, cocktail masterclasses, food and wine pairing workshops, chefs talking guests through the dishes on display…but instead it was just your standard night at a bar, with more free stuff. A lovely night, but at £15 a ticket I felt short-changed. Thanks for the freebies Hotel Chocolat, but next year let’s see some fireworks!