Thursday, July 19, 2007


Fri 13 July 2007

You might have been forgiven for thinking that the vast amounts of mashed potato at the Windsor Castle might have slowed down the family eating machine, but it was not the case and Friday evening found us looking for some dinner.

After a considerable degree of indecision, some walking around and some faces verging on cross, we headed back to L'Accento, a small Italian that we'd walked past originally without even considering.

It's a small restaurant and, thanks to a group containing one rather strident woman, was also quite noisy - although we did rather suspect that it might not always be the case!

Service was efficient but friendly and the staff worked their way around our complicated order: no starters, but two starters and a main, more bread for mopping up sauces, two spoons for pudding and so on. We ordered the pumpkin ravioli with sage butter sauce, the linguine con vongole (linguine with clams and chilli) and the pan fried calf's liver.

There was a bit of disparity in the size of the two starters: there were 2 large pumpkin ravioli, swimming in their lovely sage-butter (that's one portion of extra bread then!) but the bowl of linguine was huge by comparison! The pasta was al dente, the clams were juicy and there was just the right amount of chilli. The main course calf's liver was also generous, served with plenty of spinach and loads of sauce (that's another extra portion of bread). We washed all of this down with a bottle of Gavi.

Despite the loud lady, we were tempted to go for another bottle of wine, but opted instead for coffee, two glasses of the Sicilian dessert wine and a shared afogato. Afogato is the greatest ever cheat's dessert: vanilla icecream, with espresso poured over it. In this case, the icecream was also sprinkled with crumbled amaretti, which was a fantastic addition.

We came out having spent around £30 a head, which is not mind bogglingly cheap, but also not outrageous - perhaps just a tad on the pricey side. This is not the type of place you're going to spend hours over a meal, and it may be a little noisy for a romantic meal for two, but the food is good and there's plenty of variety.

I've also had a look at quite a few user reviews on the web for the restaurant and it seems that opinion is divided. This just means you have to go along and try it out for yourself!

1. L'Accento, 16 Garway Rd, London, W2 4NH, phone: (020) 7243 2201
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Windsor Castle - Kensington

Fri 13 July 2007

Down to London for the weekend to meet my parents and indulge in altogether too much eating and drinking.

First stop was the Windsor Castle in Kensington. This is a very cute pub. Cute is an apt word to describe it: it's pretty, has a lovely beer garden and a dark, traditional interior with tiny doorways to squeeze through. And a good range of drinks for everyone: wines by the glass, lagers and real beers.

So, glass of London Pride in hand (Harviestoun's Bitter and Twisted, Staropramen and New Zealand sauvignon blanc other popular beverage choices) I inspected the menu. It's reasonably standard pub fare at perhaps slightly inflated prices. The portions are, however, exceptionally generous. After some considerable umming and aahing I opted for the venison and sloe gin sausages and mash (three sausages, a massive pile of mash - and it was £9.90 ...). Mum had a risotto (spinach and parmesan) and dad had roast belly pork with colcannon - although the kitchen appeared to have run out of colcannon, as it was a truly monstrous pile of mash.

The food was all competent: the sausages had a fantastic flavour and the mash was OK, mum felt the risotto was a bit stiff and, colcannon disappointment aside, dad enjoyed his pork - the crackling was super crackly and it was good moist meat. But competent doesn't really make for a memorable meal and certainly doesn't justifying paying almost £10 for sausage and mash.

As you can tell, we left feeling a little ambivalent. Would I come here again? Yes, I would, but it would be to drink, not eat - after all, the beer garden is still lovely!

1. Windsor Castle, 114 Campden Hill Road, Kensington, London, W8 7AR, phone: 020 7243 9551

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Spanish Omelette

Wed 11 July 2007

I'm always baffled by the various spellings of 'omelette' one finds out and about. The OED sticks with 'omelette' and since it's a French word (funnily, also spelled 'omelette') that's what we're going with henceforth.

Semantics aside, a couple of months ago I won a copy of Cupboard Love by Tom Norrington-Davies. Aside from a read when I received it it hasn't been used so it was time for a quick exercise in the new kitchen.

We decided on the Spanish omelette, pretty much because we had all the ingredients to hand. As usual, I was a little flexible with the recipe - Norrington-Davies goes a bit mad with the olive oil, and while I'm hardly one to blanch at generous use of anything fatty I'm not keen on pools of oil sloshing around my frying pan.

While I was finishing off some moving, Andy was left to scrub, slice into 5 mm slices and par boil about 6 potatoes (some Jersey Royals - the recipe asks for 4 large potatoes). When I was back in the kitchen, I finely sliced three onions and gave them a good long sweat in some olive oil. When the onions were done, I mixed them in with the potatoes.

I lightly whisked 6 eggs and then mixed the potato and onion mix into the eggs. Some more oil went into the pan and, when it was good and hot, in went the eggy mix and down went the temperature. I left the pan on the stove for about 10 minutes before putting it into the preheated oven (yes, metal handle on the pan) for about 7 (this is very precise - it was so I could try out the 'minute minder' on the oven!).

Norrington-Davies' big tip is to leave the omelette in the pan to cool for about 10 minutes before you start eating it. He says this helps to prevent sticking and he is absolutely spot on. My pan is a lovely, stainless steel, decided non-stick number, but the omelette still came out very easily.

Because I hadn't seasoned the eggs before cooking the omelette, dinner was completed with a sprinkle of salt and pepper - and then hailed a success.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Over Excitement

Tues 10 July 2007

With the house moving itself out the way, and just cleaning and unpacking to go, we dragged ourselves back to my old flat to do the floors. My redirection clearly hasn't kicked in quite yet and so there was some mail too. An invitation from Le Cordon Bleu to the graduation dinner for the Professional Certificate in Gastronomy and a letter from DK Publishing.

Back in April, I mentioned that DK in conjunction with the Fairtrade Foundation was running a competition to find recipes for a fairtrade cookbook. Well - I am thrilled to say that my entry (for Japanese style duck breasts with aromatic rice - not published on Eating Leeds as it had to be an unpublished recipe and I'm always unsure where blogs stand) is one of the winners and will be published! The book is not going to be published until late February next year - so you all have to wait to buy it!

I'm very over excited (still) and I am going to be unbearable until the launch party in February next year!

Back down to earth and back to Leeds ...

Sourrain mentioned in a comment that Yo!Sushi are having a rainbow offer: 6 plates, one of each colour for £10 (normally £17.50). The offer is valid until 31 July and you do need to print out the voucher. It's also only available at the Brunswick, Leeds, St Paul's and Soho branches.

The Leeds Food and Drink Festival is running from Aug 8 - 12. Lots of activities during the day but a few evening ones too including sushi making, food and drink matching and a Gujerati experience.

Over on Paper Palate, you can read my latest two reviews: Australian Gourmet Traveller and the Women's Institute 650 Favourite Recipes.

That's enough trumpet blowing from me for a while!
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Little Tokyo

Wed 4 July 2007

Last night, after a predinner drink at Milo, we headed to dinner at Little Tokyo. We're big fans of Japanese food but somehow have never managed to eat here. We didn't have a reservation, which, for just two of us wasn't a problem: we were shown to a downstairs table but there are also pits, allowing people with the flexibility and inclination to sit cross-legged while not inconveniencing others.

The menu is quite long and making a decision took quite a while. In the mean time, I was drinking a Kirin and Andy was enjoying a super chilled Asahi, which the restaurant has on draught. We opted for a serving of gyoza and a half sashimi set to start, and followed this with a ton katsu bento box for me and a beef teriyaki bento box for Andy. I also ordered my obligatory bowl of miso shiru.

The gyoza were fantastic: they were really fat, well filled little dumplings, crispy on the bottom, hot, juicy and served with a dipping sauce laced with ginger. We were very happy. The sashimi was also very good: 3 pieces of salmon and one each of tuna, prawn and a white fish (I can never pick the white fish). The sashimi was served with a very healthy portion of wasabi and it didn't take us long to work out way through it.

After the starters we held very high hopes for the main courses and were, unfortunately, rather let down. The bento boxes consisted of portions of salad, tempura, rice and the main course. The salad was rather drowned in its dressing and the rice was not the big, fat, sticky grains of Japanese rice we were expecting. The tempura was OK, but the batter was not the ethereal, pale, fragile tempura batter and the sweet potato, we both felt, really didn't work. At least the vegetables weren't over cooked. My main course (ton katsu - pork, battered and fried) was quite disappointing. I've been spoilt and had it cooked for me by a friend many times before, so I was hoping for a piece of pork fillet, light and crispy but it wasn't so. It was more a pork mince, formed into patties and fried in a similarly heavy batter to the tempura. I did eat it all but I was rather disappointed I did. Andy's beef teriyaki suffered in a similar way: although the flavour was good it was drowned in an over sweet, sticky sauce. The miso was fine, although I was surprised that it was served in a shallow bowl with a spoon. I think part of the reason I love miso is because it is usually served in bowls that are a perfect shape for your hand, that come with little caps to keep the heat in.

Having said all of that, we did have a very pleasant meal (with some very bizarre entertainment in the form of a Robocop mime and a lip syncing Elvis - apparently I looked terrified) and we would go back again. But we won't be having the bento boxes.

1. Little Tokyo, 24 Central Road, Leeds, LS1 6DE, phone: 0113 243 9090

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Roast Dinner

Sun 1 July 2007

The new 'no smoking' rule appeared to dampen very few spirits at North's birthday party on Sunday afternoon, and even the rain couldn't stop the beer drinkers from being happy.

We weren't in for the long haul as we'd invested a whole £9 in a 1 kg piece of beef (topside) on Sunday morning. I'm not sure if this is expensive or not because I don't really absorb food prices and I don't do roasts that often.

Our piece of beef came from a Highlander, bred near Wakefield by the Gascoignes. Highlanders are the very pretty, shaggy cows. It turns out they also taste rather good.

Our piece of beef was given very simple treatment (cooking times as advised by Delia Smith): 20 minutes on 240C followed by half an hour (15 minutes per pound) or so at 190C. The end bits weren't quite as rare as I would have liked, but by the time we got through to the middle (for sandwiches the next day!) it was a pretty good colour. We served the beef with roast potatoes, roast onions, roast carrots and steamed beans. And Yorkshire pudding (which rose most impressively). Andy also added some hot water to some brown granules and called it gravy (yuck!), while I bemoaned the lack of horseradish sauce.

I'm always bemused by people who think roasts are tricky: the only trick is to not over cook whatever you're eating. Other than that, you don't really need to do anything other than turn the oven on.

The Highland Cattle Society has a list of breeders, and you can buy the meat in a variety of locations.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Happy Birthday North!

Sun 01 July 2007

Yesterday was North's tenth birthday! We'd put in the hard yards during the week, working our way through the beer card and we nipped in yesterday afternoon to collect our goody bag and have a couple of drinks to celebrate.

The bar was busy and decorated with Belgian flags. There was even a pile of new tables, and, to accommodate the newly ostracised smokers, there was a brazier and tent in the back lane.

The goody bag was fantastic: a pork pie, a bag of pork scratchings, a bottle of Duvel and one of Anchor Steam beer, a Duvel glass, some Vedett mints and an Orval bottle opener. The bloke sitting next to us was noticeably jealous!

Friday night saw us try out a relatively new venue: Verve on Merrion Street (next to Reform). Apparently the bar is 'eating by day, rocking by night'. Andy was impressed as not only were they offering Staropramen but also Franziskaner on draft. We managed to swing a couple of seats in the large open window and actually spent the rest of the evening there. The music was good and the bar became busier as the evening wore on. Perhaps the clientele is a little more glamorous than that at some other bars, but you definitely don't have to have your best party gear on. We'll definitely be heading back - and we might even check out its day time food offerings.

1. North, 24 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NU, phone: (0113) 242 4540
2. Verve, 12-16 Merrion Street, Leeds,

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