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…

Prosecco at Gusto, Leeds Strawberry and passionfruit mess, Gusto LeedsPraline Soother, Hotel Chocolat Summer PartyMe and Emma, Hotel Chocolat partyFive Guys burger, LeedsLatte at Love Rouge Bakery IMG_20150722_183158Cocktails at The Alchemist Screwball cocktail, The AlchemistBreakfast as Northern Monk RefectoryScrewball, Roundhay Park

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…

Review: Love Rouge Bakery, Headingley

If you live in Headingley and have a weakness for cake, you’re probably familiar with Love Rouge Bakery. If you’re struggling to place the name, it’s the almost painfully adorable cafe tucked away next to Dare, with a fabulous vintage interior and a random musing about cupcakes chalked on a board outside. You’ll have walked past it a million times, and possibly drooled on their window upon catching sight of the cakes.

Cupcakes at Love Rouge Bakery, Headingley

You may not have guessed this yet but I’m a big fan of the cupcakes from Love Rouge; there are so many different flavours and they always look so beautiful! Chocolate & peanut butter is one of my favourites; I’m of the personal opinion that everything is a little bit better with a schmear of peanut butter on it. What I didn’t know is that they also do a pretty awesome breakfast menu, which was revealed to me a few weekends ago when I went for a girly catch up with a few friends.

Love Rouge Bakery, HeadingleyLove Rouge Bakery, Headingley

I put in my usual coffee order of a latte; I’ve only recently started drinking coffee and still need a lot of milk to make it taste good to me. I’m also more than a little seduced by late art and Love Rouge are fantastic at it – on this occasion I got an expertly drawn rose on top of my froth! Also note the incredibly cute cup and saucer…

Latte at Love Rouge Bakery

We gazed longingly at the cakes in the counter as we queued up to order, but all reluctantly agreed that 10am was a pretty unacceptable time to eat cupcakes. Instead I went for American-style pancakes – a short stack of thick, fluffy pancakes topped with crispy bacon and a generous drizzle of maple syrup. I’m fairly convinced they contained my recommended calorie intake for the whole day, but I have absolutely no regrets; they were delicious. I only wish they looked more appealing through my camera lens – my friend’s Eggs Benedict was a lot more photogenic…

Pancake breakfast at Love Rouge Bakery, Headingley

I love going out for breakfast and Love Rouge has definitely been added to the list of go-to options. All that’s left for me to do is drop by to test out the lunch menu, probably with a cupcake for dessert…

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…

Chocolate display, Hotel Chocolat Summer Party

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.

Praline Soother, Hotel Chocolat Summer PartyPraline Soother, Hotel Chocolat Summer Party

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!

Food display, Hotel Chocolat Summer PartyFod display, Hotel Chocolat Summer Party

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.

Desserts at Hotel Chocolat Summer Party Desserts at Hotel Chocolat Summer Party

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.

Hotel Chocolat Summer Party goodie bag Hotel Chocolat Summer Party goodie bag

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!

Review: Gusto, Leeds

Last week I managed to score a great deal; my colleagues and I were offered the chance to go to the new Gusto restaurant on Greek Street for the soft launch and enjoy all the food we wanted…absolutely free! Of course we would have been mad to turn this down, so we booked our table and headed town for what would become a very, very long lunch.

We had to pay for our own drinks, but as we were getting an entire meal free of charge we didn’t mind splashing out on some rosé prosecco to kick us off. At £25 a bottle between three of us it doesn’t break the bank, and also meant we didn’t go back to work sloshed for the afternoon.

Prosecco at Gusto, Leeds

We were seated quickly and our waitress immediately arrived with menus to run us through the specials. It was a busy lunchtime and some of the starters had already run out when we arrived at 1.30, but luckily nothing I wanted to order. We were offered some nibbles while we looked at the menu which we accepted, and a server brought over focaccia bread with oil and balsamic vinegar, olives and sun dried tomatoes. The tomatoes were a little bland and could have benefited from a drizzle of olive oil, but the focaccia was delicious – my ongoing struggle to not fill up on bread before a big meal continues!

Focaccia at Gusto, LeedsAntipasti at Gusto, Leeds

I ordered tomato and basil bruschetta to start, followed by a medium rare fillet steak with roasted tomatoes and fries. The bruschetta topping was gorgeous, the fresh tomato soaked in oil (if you hadn’t already realised, yes I am a bit obsessed with olive oil), but the bread base was quite hard and brittle. It would possibly have been easier to eat if I’d abandoned my cutlery, but Gusto doesn’t really feel like a finger-food kind of place…

My steak was pretty delicious, chargrilled on the outside but the perfect ‘rare side of medium rare’ on the inside, and flavoured with a splash of garlic butter. However I would comment that there are plenty of better places to get a good steak in Leeds, and if I came back to Gusto I’d probably go with a pasta dish and save my money for a specialist steak restaurant.

Steak at Gusto, Leeds

We were all pretty full by this point but the dessert menu was a strong list, tempting most of my table. I caved to peer pressure and decided on a chocolate and coffee mousse, but when I came to order I found it was sold out. I was initially disappointed, but when my second choice – a strawberry and passionfruit mess – arrived, I found myself thanking my lucky stars for all the people who had scoffed the mousses. The mess was perfect; flaky meringue filled with a light, fluffy cream and drizzled with fresh strawberries and passionfruit. Its flawless presentation was just the cherry on top.

Strawberry and passionfruit mess, Gusto Leeds

Gusto definitely has its work cut out; I had a good meal and the suburban branch in Cookridge does well, but it will be interesting to see how it fares in the more competitive environment of city centre. It’s a tough scene – stalwarts Bibis and Salvo’s (Headingley) have been dominating the Leeds Italian scene for years, while newer independents such as LIVIN’italy and Ipsum Vinoteca are enjoying brilliant success. Chains have their place in any city, but with Zizzi, Carluccio’s and San Carlo already at home here, Gusto may struggle to distinguish itself from the crowd. Welcome to Leeds Gusto, hope you can handle it!

June in Pictures

Oh hey first half of 2015 – where’d you go?! June was a good month – I went to Dublin to visit friends, booked a holiday to Zadar for August with my girls, and signed a contract for a new house which I will be moving into with my housemates in August! It was the month my little brother returned safe and sound from his 4-month travelling adventure in South East Asia and New Zealand, and the month I made a significant step forward in one of the relationships in my life…although we’re not going to go into that.

I also saw the fabulous Rise & Fall of Little Voice at the Playhouse, tried and failed again to like whiskey at the Jameson’s Distillery, and of course had lots of delicious food in this grand old city of Leeds. Let’s see where my camera went…

Thai Edge at Leeds Food & Drink Festival Maven gin garden at Leeds Food & Drink FestivalGlendalough, Dublin Cemetery at Glendalough, IrelandCocktails at Black Market, DublinKayaking, DublinDublin Whiskey tasting at Jameson's Distillery Cocktail at Jameson's DistillerySteak at RarePizza at Ecco, HeadingleyGelato at Ecco, Headingley

That was my month! What went on for you in June?

Review: Rare, Leeds

Saturday night was a bit of a departure from the norm for me. I love eating out but generally prefer street food or casual bar settings to the ceremony of formal restaurants, so I was almost surprised to find myself dressed in an LBP (little black playsuit) and heels, rocking up at upscale steak restaurant Rare to claim my booking. It probably goes without saying that I’m normally a ‘show up and hope there’s room’ kind of girl…

I’ve had my eye on Rare for a while but have kept postponing a visit, in large part due to a wish for it to be an occasion and in small part due to fear that it might not measure up to expectations. I have a love/hate relationship with steak whereby if it’s perfectly cooked it’s one of my favourite things in the world, but if even slightly overdone I find it tasteless and dull and have zero interest in even eating it. A big risk to take when steak is the priciest thing on most menus.

Rare Leeds-wine

Before we took our seats we were introduced to the steak board, a huge chalk board detailing the special cuts available. The hostess talked us through each cut really well, and throughout the night I found all the staff to be helpful and knowledgeable about the menu. Rare has clearly invested a lot of effort in the level of service they provide; our waitress was friendly and attentive without being overbearing, and our food was served promptly with just the right break between courses.

For my starter I chose the Tamworth pork belly ribs, and honestly I think this might have been the highlight of my meal. The meat was so tender it practically fell off the bone, and the sweet sauce was perfectly offset by the red cabbage and beetroot pickle that accompanied it. My friend went for the black pudding hash brown, and though he said it was delicious I’m pretty sure he was jealous of my ribs. Needless to say I was unwilling to give away more than a mouthful…

Rare Leeds-pork belly ribs

Next came the main event. My friend opted for the 450g porterhouse from the steak board, while I went for the more reasonably-sized 300g rump steak on the standard menu. I needn’t have worried about the quality; the waitress listened indulgently as I detailed my wish for a steak that was ‘the rare side of medium rare’ and I got exactly what I asked for. Browned and slightly crispy on the outside but pink all the way through the middle, the meat sliced easily and was juicy, tender and full of flavour.

Rare Leeds-rump steakRare Leeds-porterhouse steak

We accompanied our steaks with a side of chips and an avocado, papaya and mango salad. The chips were delicious but it was the salad that I really fell for; I struggle with meat-dominated meals so a side salad is essential, and the fruit provided a refreshing respite from my steak. Unfortunately my meal got the best of me and I had to call it a night with just a few mouthfuls to go; I laid down my knife and fork cursing my tiny stomach.

Rare Leeds-avocado salad

I had worried that I’d be unnerved by the stuffed cow occupying the centre of the restaurant, but I loved the understated décor, exposed brick and candlelit ambience of the basement space (although my friend, who got the seat facing the cow, did comment that it was looking at him). Our two starters, two mains and two sides plus a pot of peppercorn sauce and a beautiful bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon brought the bill to around £100; not the kind of expenditure you’d want every week but one I was happy to pay as a one-off for the quality of food and experience we had. My bank account won’t allow me to return any time soon, but my first visit definitely won’t be my last.

Yorkshire Post Food and Drink Show 2015

Today marks the end of the fantastic Leeds Food Month, and I said goodbye to it in fitting style at the Yorkshire Post Food and Drink Show, visiting twice over the weekend to make sure I got a bite of everything I wanted! I started on Friday, heading over just 90 minutes after it had opened (along with half my colleagues) to treat myself to lunch in the sunshine away from my stuffy office.

After a circuit and a half of the stalls and a lot of dithering, it was pointed out to me that half my lunch hour was already gone and if I didn’t choose soon I’d be going back to the office empty-stomached. I followed my heart to Thai Edge and enjoyed a delicious helping of duck with cashew nuts for just £4.50, topped up with a few free samples of chicken satay while I was waiting in the queue!

Yorshire Post Food and Drink Show - Thai Edge

Conscious that Friday sugar cravings were sure to kick in at some point during the afternoon, I went back for dessert, making a beeline for Northern Bloc for a scoop of ginger caramel ice cream. I also dropped by Tarte & Berry, a Yorkshire-based team of sisters pedalling some of the best brownies I’ve ever tasted – I split a salted caramel and a white chocolate + raspberry with one of my workmates and they were so rich it took me most of the afternoon to get through them. Rumour has it they’re living in Trinity Kitchen during June and July and I doubt I’ll be able to keep myself away!

Yorkshire Post Food and Drink Show - Tarte & Berry

The necessity to conform to the rules of professionalism kept me away from the drinks tents, so when Sunday arrived in sun-soaked glory I knew a second visit was in order. Arriving around 4pm having skipped lunch I had a serious case of the munchies, and opted for a fruity hot dog from the Yorkshire Hot Dog Company; pork sausage topped with a chunky apple and cranberry garnish. My friend opted for a box of starter goodies from Chaophraya – tempura prawns and vegetable spring rolls!

Yorkshire Post Food and Drink Show - Yorkshire Hot Dog CoYorkshire Post Food and Drink Show - Chaophraya

Stomachs lined and craving gin, we were drawn to The Maven’s beautiful Hendrick’s-themed Gin Garden, complete with fake grass and rose-bordered entrance gate. My friend stuck with the classic G&T, while I was distracted by an Elderflower Collins that turned out to be the perfect choice.

Yorkshire Post Food and Drink Show - The Maven Gin Garden

This month has made me so proud to be a Loiner – there’s been a lot of debate recently about the quality of Leeds’ food scene and whether it will ever measure up to London, and I think Leeds Food and Drink Festival coupled with newcomer Leeds Indie Food have shown that there is indeed life outside the capital. Cheers, guys!

May in Pictures

Another month down – I can’t believe how fast 2015 is disappearing! I just looked back at my last monthly round up and was struck by the similarities; again I’m watching the rain pour down outside my window after a few lovely days of sunshine and wondering when the weather will get the memo that it’s now June and therefore officially summer.

May has been an exciting month – between my trip to the awesome TBEX conference in Costa Brava, Leeds Indie Food 2015 and a busy work schedule I’ve barely had time to stop! I’ve helped launch my company’s first ever blogger outreach campaign, booked a trip to Dublin that is now less than a fortnight away, and I’m deeply immersed in We Need To Talk About Kevin, which I’ve finally got around to reading. I also think I might be starting to like beer, an intriguing development.

And that’s been May! June is set to be pretty awesome; Leeds Food and Drink Festival is coming to a close this weekend in Millenium Square, as already mentioned I’m escaping the country for a long weekend to visit some friends in Dublin, plus my little brother is returning from his four-month trip through South East Asia and New Zealand next week and I’m more than a little excited to see him! But before we get onto that, let’s recap a pretty marvellous May…

Edible Art ShowAway From The Flock at Edible Art ShowTutti Frutti at The GalleryBundobust Leeds curryTBEX opening partyTBEX tomato bread tutorialMe at TBEX boat partyLaynes Espresso coffeeBeer and ice cream pop up partyPatty Smith's burgerClaw Hide Surf n TurfLeeds Feast

‘Til next time! How did May treat you?

Review: Bundobust, Leeds

Bundobust is easily one of my favourite bars in Leeds; the atmosphere is great, the drink selection vast, and there’s a remarkable variation in clientele that makes it impossible for anyone to feel out of place. But for all my visits I’ve only ever snacked on the odd dish here and there; it was only recently that I went for a proper meal and got to sample a decent portion of the menu. The vegetarian aspect has always been a problem; I have no issue eating veggie but on several occasions I’ve met resistance from stubbornly carnivorous dining partners. Just a few weeks ago I took a friend along who, upon realising the menu was meat-free, glared at me as if I had committed an act of great treachery, finished his beer and announced we were going for burgers.

Bundobust Leeds curry

Last weekend I had a dinner date with my parents, and after singing Bundobust’s praises for weeks finally convinced them to give it a try with me. It was busy when we arrived but as we got our drinks a table became available and we swooped in, claiming it stubbornly with our beers. I’m not a huge fan of beer (the most I can generally stand is a light European lager) but Bundobust do a beautiful mango beer that I’m a little in love with, plus the glasses are super cute!

Bundobust egg bhurji

We weren’t in the mood for an absolute feast so we ordered five dishes between three of us, opting for veg rice stir fry, onion bhajis, Bundo chaat, egg bhurji and dhal lentil curry. I felt pretty god about our choices; the dhal, while not the most appetising of colours, turned out to be spicier than I expected and packed a real punch, while the onion bhajis came with a gorgeous red pepper chutney that I scraped eagerly out of the bottom of the tub.

Bundobust onion bhaji

Our rice dish was packed with fresh vegetables that kept it from being bland, and the bhurji was a real surprise; I generally can’t stand egg in any form but somehow this didn’t taste or feel anything like egg. The texture was light and fluffy, and it came with a side of flatbread to make tiny egg sandwiches (it also came in handy mopping up the bhaji chutney)! My only regret was not ordering a second batch of chaat – it’s my go-to snack and favourite thing on the menu, and it soon became apparent that it was everybody else’s favourite too.

Bundobust Bundo chaat

Despite originally worrying we hadn’t ordered enough, I felt unexpectedly full by the time we’d finished, which was slightly disappointing as I’m intrigued to try the Indian ice cream dessert. However if you’re feeling particularly hungry I’d err on the side of caution and order at least two per person; there’s a good chance you’ll end up with more just through the sheer impossibility of being able to choose what to have. There’s still about half the menu I haven’t tasted yet; I’ll soon be returning to rectify that…

Review: Whites Deli, Headingley

Weekends are made for comforting hangover breakfasts and long, lazy lunches, and Whites Deli might just be becoming my favourite supplier! Just 10 minutes walk from my house, I’m lucky enough to be able to call it my local; I’ve dropped in a couple of times since moving to Headingley and been impressed both times by the atmosphere and the food.

This weekend I dropped by with my family – we originally went in just for a coffee but I grabbed some menus and it took minimal effort to persuade everyone to upgrade to a food order. Although it was way into the afternoon we couldn’t come to an agreement on what meal we wanted to eat, and as a result ended up with 2 breakfast sandwiches, a lunch dish and a snack from the nibbles menu. This along with 4 drinks came to a very reasonable £24, and both food and drink were served promptly.

Coffee Whites Deli

I’d ordered avocado and tomato on sourdough bread, and I was ecstatic with my choice! The avocado was the perfect consistency, and the tomatoes on top were firm and sweet. I also ordered a glass of the freshly squeezed orange juice which I fell in love with the first time I visited; it really is super fresh as the staff make it to order, and each sip is like biting into an orange.

Avocado on toast Whites Deli

Another of Whites’ strengths is their aesthetic; they’ve really got their look down to a tee. The whole cafe is so inviting and I love the slate that all the meals are served on. Cold drinks are served in mason jars, hot drinks are accompanied by a tiny bottle of milk, and previously when I’ve ordered tea it came loose leaf in a pretty glass teapot.

Orange juice Whites Deli

I also felt improvements had been made – although I loved the food on my first visit for breakfast, there were just two staff members attending to a full cafe and the service was slow as they were obviously overrun. I had to change my order twice as they’d run out of so many ingredients, and though the staff were doing their best you could sense things spiralling out of control.

Luckily that seems to have been rectified; there were plenty of staff, service was fast and although they had run out of a couple of things it was a big improvement on my first visit. They are now also open on evenings, hosting live music events and offering a tempting cocktail menu that I’m dying to try out. It takes something special to be successful in a town as full of cafes and bars as Headingley, but Whites may just be in with a chance.