Friday, August 04, 2006

Two Courses, Two Beers - £10

Thurs 03 Aug 2006

I've mentioned before a few outings to Spice Quarter (or, more precisely, Spice Bar) in Millenium Square. Last week we popped in for a drink after work and noticed the new bar menu. It offers a cut down selection of dishes from the four cuisines represented in the upstairs buffet (Chinese, Indian, Italian and Thai). What was most noteworthy about this was that Spice Quarter offers a starter and a main for the princely sum of £6. Given that bottled beer comes in at just £2 a throw, this means you could have a bit of a night out for just £10.

That's not bad for central Leeds. Actually, it's bloody cheap.

So - investigative hats on, we set off to sample what Spice Quarter had on offer. We both opted for dishes from the Indian selection, so we can't offer a spectacularly diverse view on things. For starters, one serve of onion bhaji, and one of samosas. Both these dishes normally come in at £2.99. I received three large bhajis which were actually pretty good. Andy's serving of samosas was less impressive - 4 small samosas, all rather heavy on the pastry. While we both enjoyed the bhaji and felt we'd be relatively happy had we paid £3 for it, opinion was divided on the samosas. I liked the pastry and not the filling, Andy liked the filling and not the pastry. Andy felt £3 was a bit much. He pointed out that at the market you can buy two large samosas for £1.70 - and said he would have been much happier to have two large triangular samosas (and so more filling) than four small ones. Both starters were served with an odd, spicy BBQ flavoured sauce. I think, especially as far as the bhaji went, I'd have been happier with plain yogurt, had mint sauce not been avaiable.

The main dishes on the menu all come in around the £4, which means you are saving a princely £1 but combining the two. Andy had a biryani and I chose the lamb rogan josh. The portion sizes were quite small (I think I had about four or five pieces of lamb in my rogan), but you do have to remember you're not paying a lot of money. The biryani had a very fresh, green smell that neither of us could quite put our fingers on. Andy enjoyed it, which is the main thing, and commented on how tender the meat was. My rogan josh, served with rice and salad, was also not too shabby. The sauce was actually quite spicy (though I'm not 100% it didn't come out of a better than average jar) and my meat was very tender too.

When it comes to Indian food I'm often lucky to even make a tiny dent in my main dish, so I actually really enjoyed the fact that I could eat, and enjoy, my whole dish. The rice did a great job of mopping up the extra sauce (though I could have done with a spoon) and the salad added a refreshing edge to the end of the dish.

I washed down my curry with Peroni (£2 a bottle) while Andy enjoyed pints of Cobra (slightly over 'budget' at £2.25).

Let's get this straight - for £6 you get perfectly edible food in perfectly adequate sized servings. You're not getting the best curry you've ever eaten, you're not getting enough food to serve a small country - but you are getting some pretty good value. If it's a late afternoon feed, or a bit of a meal prior to some beer drinking you can eat a lot worse and spend a lot more money.

After this - what next? Why, on to Sela on New Briggate, to enjoy some Staropramen and some live jazz in the form of the Jon Scott Trio. What a way to round off a Thursday night.

1. Spice Quarter, Electric Press, Millenium Square, LS2 3AD, phone: 0113 2469241
2. Sela, 20 New Briggate, Leeds LS1 6NU, phone: 0113 2429442
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