Another random collection of Yorkshire eats, drinks and doings
by Slug on February 20, 2013
One of the delis in our village has branched out and opened a tapas restaurant in the place next door so we just had to try it out a month or so after opening. Unfortunately it displayed something of the flattering wings of a fledgling but overall we were reasonably impressed with the food offerings.The Deli, Bubble and Squeak, is something of a Huddersfield institution (if such a thing exists in a small northern town) offering something for ladies who lunch and a tidy array of good shop made frozen meals for those who can't be bothered to cook. When they opened the empty shop next door to turn it into a restaurant I knew that if they paid the same attention to detail to it as they did the successful deli then they would be onto a winner. The service downstairs was superb; although we hadn't booked they could rustle us up a table and the host invited us to sit at the bar, have a large glass of red (served in very large and expensive looking wine glasses) while we perused the menu. I was keen to have Tapas which looked like you would get a good meal for perhaps £12-£15 a head, but my beloved was set on the two for deal of steak with a free bottle of wine for £25. Anything for a quiet life...One of the downsides of having a parade of shops built in the 1830s is that the restaurant is set in a small terrace house with a small dining area downstairs and a narrow set of steps upstairs. We were happy with our seating arrangements but the poor wait staff were darting up and downstairs like yoyos. Our steak arrived fairly small but perfectly formed. We had asked for it to be served rare and it arrived perfect, with a side salad where it was clear some effort had been put in along with some fairly standard fries. The meat and salad in particular was good quality food. On the downside our meal was served on a "hot rock", an insanely hot piece of stone surrounded by a couple of dishes for the sides. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent our perfectly cooked rare meat was turning into a medium cooked meal and would soon become well cooked, before eventually become charcoal. At first I started focussing in on the meat before it moved too far away from my perfect, but then I resorted to popping it on top of the chips and then whipping it onto the hot plate when I wanted to cut it, or wanted chips. I know I'm getting old but there is a reason why generations of people eat food on a plate. By the end of the meal I felt quite exhausted and not to say hot – that hot plate pumped some heat out. The wait staff also mumbled about the choice of tableware explaining it had to sit in a corner on its own to cool for a couple of hours before they could gently wash it. I declined the cheese and biscuits on the sweet menu for fear it arrived on a complicated slate. Service for us was good, but I felt sorry for the staff delivering dishes of extremely hot and dangerous if dropped pieces of rock and plates and plates of bits of food in tapas bowls. As the evening drew on, the staff looked more and more hollow eyed and the service times dragged.Summing upThe quality of the food was as I might expect but the concept of hot rocks and tapas bowls in a tiny one up one down restaurant seems like a major flaw. I will return to sample the tapas and to see whether the restaurant have worked out how to serve their food more effectively. Personally I find that china plates work well for me. But what do I know?
by Slug on February 24, 2013
We drive through the West Yorkshire village of Sowerby Bridge on any number of occasions, and cannot help but notice that the Indian Restaurant on the main Wharf Street, Syhiba is always crammed to the gills whatever night we drive past. Thinking we must be missing a treat we took a deliberate decision to have a stop and to sample their wares. The inside of the restaurant is nicely furnished but as a former shop I’m not sure I really liked the big shop windows which allows passersby to gawp at you while you are masticating a huge mouthful of chicken saag and garlic naan .Although it was busy, we were shown to one of the two of three vacant tables very quickly and offered a menu. The Syhiba is a bring your own alcohol place which of course brings down the bill considerably. However, they do offer soft drinks or you can have a free jug of tap water if you prefer. As we were on the road it was a strictly soft drink experience for us.Starters looked pretty standard and as my beloved had been filling her face all day, we compromised on a couple of poppodoms and a pickle tray to start. The pickle tray arrived with two yoghurt sauces (one mint the other plain), a nice onion dip and mango chutney. There were lashings of sauces and certainly one would be enough for 4 people. For the main course we chose a family garlic naan, which again would truly be enough for four people and a chicken and spinach for my beloved and a chicken chilli balti for my good self. I liked the chillies being served in halves which meant I could moderate how much chilli I actually wanted. I just chopped in one half into small bits and stirred it into my curry, and it was hot enough for me, without giving me hiccups. The curry was very freshly cooked and I particularly appreciated the slice of fresh lemon to squeeze into the dish (I usually cook my curry with lemon). Our meal was certainly plentiful. Although pig me also used some of garlic naan to use up some of the lovely dips. Given that the restaurant was so busy, I was impressed with the speed and attentiveness of the service we received, and they even cleaned the table of stray bits of garlic so we weren't sitting in a bombsite while we organised our bill and reposed a moment with a glass of water. To finish a hot towel (a one off disposable) and a chocolate was offered with the bill – a keenly priced £21 for two. To sum up, Syhiba is a good quality Indian Restaurant with good service and keen prices (particularly if you bring your own alcohol. Although Sowerby Bridge has quite a range of restaurants and bars these days I can see why Syhiba is the choice of many and why the place is always popular.
I don't visit Leeds that often although it is technically my nearest city so I don't know the best drinking holes. One pub I know pretty well and often end up at is fortuitously very close to Leeds train station, the Brewery Tap. The Brewery Tap is owned by the small independent Leeds Brewery and they actually have a micro brewery and a window upstairs where you can see the big brewing tanks. Consequently the beer is pretty good; you certainly can't get more fresh or local. There is also a function room and some clean and toilets upstairs.The downstairs is where the main bar is; beware it can get very busy particularly at Saturday lunchtimes where there might be sports fans milling about (the place isn't that far from Leeds Football Elland Road stadium). However, if you arrive a little out of peak times you can usually find a table or two going begging. Note the bar is very narrow and long; the pub is about three little terraced houses knocked through to form one long bar. Unfortunately, it seems the locals all stand by the door making it something of a struggle to get in, but you can usually find quite a space once you get past the door area. Unfortunately, I often find the staff aren't the best at the Brewery Tap; the last occasion an obviously hung over young woman was more interested in picking her nails and sharing the previous exploits with a colleague than she was serving. Persistence counts in the Brewery Tap. It is worth dropping by for a meal as the food is fresh and nicely cooked. On our last visit we shared a hummus and salad starter, and then went for one of the Leeds Brewery burgers. The hummus arrived on a marble chopping board. I will be so happy when this stupid habit of serving food on a flat item ends. First, it is a nightmare for the server to place down and pick up the food; second it is a challenge for the diner not to end up with salad all over the table. Despite this annoyance, the hummus which tasted as if it was homemade butterbean hummus was very tasty indeed. At £4 for the starter it was almost a meal in itself. My burger was as good as it always is in the Brewery Tap and again at £9.50 good value as it arrives with fries and battered onion rings. As I also had cheese on the top of my burger it wasn't the healthiest option, but it's not a dish I eat too often. Service for the food was good; much better than it was at the bar. While I may not too many places to eat and drink in Leeds I am fortunate enough to know at least a couple of places where the beer and food is good. It would be a five star establishment were it not for the indifferent bar service I have experienced at the Brewery Tap upon occasion.
by Slug on March 3, 2013
The new kid in Huddersfield town is Northern Taps on the street near the town's largest shopping centre at Kingsgate. As a result, a mixed crowd enter the pub during daylight hours, although it is obviously attempting to attract the smart but younger set after dark. Northern Taps is simply furnished with a nod to the original ale houses with simple wooden flooring and the like. The beer pumps have a brown packet tag attached from which you are supposed to be able to read what's on offer. I didn't find it working particularly effectively and my beloved had to ask the bar staff what was on offer. Refreshingly there was a good choice of real ale, cider and lager, although all of the real ales were too similar to each other – there was no strong IPA type on the pump. However, what there was had been kept well, although it was probably 30p more expensive than plenty of other places. The food menu looked good, and I liked that they sell simple things like cheese on toast as well as filling stew like dishes. I thought that was something different in this town where meals are either pseudo posh or of the readymade microwave or deep fat fryer variety. Meals seemed good value, with main courses at £8-9 or so (although with optional extras like vegetables charged separately). The bar staff were part of the beautiful people; the women in particular were the type to look good in a little black dress. I almost felt like Robert Palmer "Addicted to Love" era on the afternoon we dropped by. The staff were very attentive and friendly. There are mainly just tables and chairs (1950s style hard canteen style chairs) in the bar, but we managed to snag a couple of leather seats and a low table in the window which was pretty pleasant and comfortable. The place is quite relaxed in atmosphere although I can imagine all that wood would make it very noisy if the place was full.I was disappointed with the toilets as the place had only been open a few weeks and the cheap toilet seat was already broken as was the toilet roll dispenser. People do judge a place by its toilets these days and these were just done out as cheaply as possible. Summing up – we rather liked Northern Taps although the table and chairs style rather makes me think of it as a place to drop by for a beer rather than be somewhere to linger all evening.
by Slug on March 11, 2013
Recently in Sheffield we were keen to grab a bite to eat and as places were getting busy we dived into the first likely looking place, Ego, housed in the ground floor of the Mercure hotel near the Winter Gardens (a botanical glass house) in the centre of Sheffield. I personally prefer more individually run type places which allows diners to anticipate what is going to be on their plate without having the descriptions and portion sizes on the menu exactly matching the "product", but I had to admit defeat as we had already discovered that the nice looking Italian place around the corner was full. The restaurant in Sheffield is nice and airy with large plate glass windows and an open plan aspect. There are a choice of table styles and sizes and high backed booths to sit at, and all looked clean and recently furbished. The slight sound of a chef barking orders to his minions from the open plan kitchen wafted over from time to time. It seemed Ego was also fully booked with the theatre going crowd and we snaffled one of the last available tables – the place was almost empty when we arrived and full when we left. I realised quite quickly that my beloved had been attracted by the Greek Meze on the menu to share as a starter, and we ordered it and then a pizza to share. We also chose the side salads to go with the pizza (Greek) and the wine (a rather nice Umbria Italian Red which came in at around £18 a bottle, and was towards the lower end of the price range on offer).Our starter arrived on a lump of tree trunk and only fuelled my forlorn wish that restaurants might still serve food on a plate occasionally. As it was we had fun smearing the hummus and taramasalata around the wood while avoiding pushing it onto the table. The sauces and pitta breads were nice and tasty and the stuffed olive leaves were also nice. Unfortunately, the 4 meatballs in tomato sauce which would normally be my favourite tasted distinctly "out of a tin"; particularly disappointing as making a nice homemade Greek tomato sauce is one of the easiest things to do in the world. There was a decent gap between starter and mains, and our pizza arrived piping hot, lovely thin fresh crust, nice tomato sauce (see Ego you can do it!) and a good portion of chicken, ham and peppers on the topping. The pizza was billed as a 14 inch which led us to think there would be loads for both of us, but as it turned out it wasn't as vast as I imagined (although we were perfectly happy with the size of our meal overall). We had a cutting wheel which was a little large and cumbersome to use (it was one you would really need to stand up to use properly) and the knives were not proper steak or pizza knives, but rather rounded things you would more likely see in a Junior school. Our salad was lovely but it arrived crammed into a small bowl meaning that yet more of our food ended up on the table rather than in our mouths. Perhaps Ego were just preparing me for life in the care home in a couple of decades.The Ego Restaurant does early bird specials for theatre goers and I would have good confidence that they pull out all the stops to make sure you can have your meal and get to the curtain opener on time. Our two course meal for two with a bottle of wine came to £55; not bad value, but perhaps a little more than I would pay too often and our food didn't feel different enough for me to want to come back on a regular basis. One nice touch is that Ego have a rewards club where you can have a free meal on your birthday and a bottle of bubbly on your anniversary. Considering we only visit Sheffield once a flood it didn't seem worth us joining but it would certainly be worth it for regulars or semi regulars. Summing upI won't describe Ego as a perfect restaurant for me but it was a good and safe place to dine in pleasant surroundings with good and efficient staff and only slightly over inflated prices for what you get.
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