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Review: Home, Leeds

I’m very lucky to have visited some incredible restaurants in my time. I remember vividly my first fine dining experience at Quay in Sydney back in 2009. As I tucked into their ubiquitous ‘Snow Egg’ dessert, something inside me clicked. How did they make this? Who made it? What’s inside it? It sounds slightly cheesy, but from that moment on, I think I became a little bit addicted to food. Yes, in 2009 I became a foodie, thanks to the Snow Egg. (I recently read that they’re taking the snow egg of the menu, and yes I did cry a little bit inside).

Since then we’ve visited The Ledbury and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, Central and Astrid y Gaston in Lima, Peru, The Three Chimneys in Scotland, The Box Tree in Ilkley and Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds. Of all these restaurants, The Ledbury in London was the stand-out. We went there for a treat on my 30th birthday and every single one of the ten courses was divine. Needless to say, it deserves its two Michelin stars and longstanding place in the San Pellegrino Top 50 Restaurants in the World.

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to a restaurant on this level, so for Jake’s birthday I decided to book a table at a new restaurant in Leeds called Home. Headed up by former Masterchef contestant, Elizabeth Cottam, and former Box Tree Head Chef, Mark Owens, I knew I was in for a treat… but it was even better than I ever could have expected.

As you enter Home, you feel like you’re entering a secret supper club or speakeasy. You then wind your way up some wrought iron and wooden stairs until you get to the bar; a beautiful cosy room with dark walls, low yellow light and comfortable sofas. Ironically, it looks a little bit like my dining room (but much bigger and much much more glamorous obviously).

The lovely, friendly waitress sat us down and offered us a choice of two welcome drinks; English sparkling wine or a local gin with tonic. We both opted for the gin and tonic, which was delicious; a great way to start the meal. She then brought over a couple of bar snacks; the coffee macaroon being standout. Although I wish I’d put the whole thing in my mouth in one go, as when I tried to take a bite a little bit splodged on my dress! #MacaroonFail.

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Once I’d composed myself, we were guided to our table in the beautifully decorated dining room. I could see straight away how it had coined the name ‘Home’ – it has a warm, cosy feel to it, complete with luxurious sofas to sit and eat your dinner on, and a multitude of beautiful leafy plants and succulents. Like something from a Scandi chic magazine.

Before I dive into describing the menu, I just want to caveat that I didn’t take a photograph of every single course. I wanted to savour the food rather than spend all my time behind a screen! I think it’s a mistake a lot of us foodie types make when we eat out these days.

We kicked off the tasting menu with some delicious bread and dripping; simple and savoury, it left our mouths salivating for more food. The first proper dish was ‘Crab and Tunworth’ – Whitby crab and Tunworth cheese. This was such a delicate dish, not only in its appearance but also its taste. I almost didn’t want to eat it for fear of disturbing it. It was a lovely way to offset the punchy gutsiness of the bread and dripping we’d just eaten.

Next, ‘Leek Tart’. But no, this wasn’t the sort of thing you’d whip out of your fridge from Sainsbury’s for a picnic. The pastry was so fine and crispy, it almost dissolved on your tongue. The roasted leek within paired beautifully with the slightly sharp Granny Smith apple and smoked cod mousse which sat on top.

I had my reservations about the next dish, ‘Roasted Roscoff’. The waitress described that this dish was composed of various types of onions cooked in different ways; roasted Roscoff onion, onion broth and onion ice cream. Whilst I enjoyed the different elements of this dish separately, I wasn’t so blown away by the flavour of all of them together. It was slightly too sweet for me – but bravo to the chefs for having the ‘balls’ to put together a dish only consisting of onions! Isn’t it pretty though?

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Onto the Pork Belly next. The soft, sweet and salty pork belly was served with salsify and orange and it was, perhaps unsurprisingly one of my favourites of the night. And yes, I was too busy scoffing to photograph it. Sorry, not sorry.

The next dish was another favourite of mine, possibly because I have a slightly strange obsession with roasted cauliflower at the moment. To me, they’re as addictive as chips. ‘Monkfish and Cauliflower’ arrived at our table and the fish was cooked lightly with cumin and flaked beautifully. Served with this was deliciously nutty cauliflower (which naturally, I salivated over), almonds and raisins. And just look at how pleasing it is on the eye too…

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Now, I’m not usually a great lover of pigeon but ‘Pigeon and Truffle’ was a delightful dish. The breast of the squab pigeon had been roasted and was served pink so it reminded me of a rather decadent piece of duck. This rich gamey meat complimented the pungent anise, black truffle and potato it was served with.

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At this point I was starting to get rather full, but there were still two courses to go! Plus, they were both desserts, so I was going to do my best to make some room for those.

First up was ‘Lime, Marmalade and Toast’, which sounded a bit like breakfast, but I can tell you.. it wasn’t. This was a beautifully light and tangy lime parfait served with marmalade, toast ice cream and a butter sauce. I adore the brown bread ice cream at Betty’s – but I can vouch for the fact that this toast ice cream beats that, hands down.

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Finally, possibly my favourite dish of the night, in all its snowy gloriousness; Burnt White Chocolate and Coconut. A plate of caramelised white chocolate mousse, coconut sorbet and chocolate chards arrived at our table to complete our meal. As a huge coconut fan, when I took my first bite, I smiled. It felt like I was eating a whispy-light cloud version of a Bounty bar. The term ‘melt in the mouth’ is a little overused by bloggers and food writers, but this really did. Such a wonderful way to end an absolutely incredible meal.

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To top off a magical evening (we were there for four whole hours!) as we left, one of the head chefs, Elizabeth Cottam (former Masterchef contestant) had a chat to us. She was really keen for our feedback, which I thought was wonderful. We told her we’d eaten in a few lovely restaurants and that Home was on a par with The Ledbury in London; the best restaurant we’d ever eaten in. She looked very happy indeed.

I can’t wait to visit Home again. I think about my visit there a lot. I just hope I can get in there again before it gets its first Michelin star, because I don’t think that day is very far away.

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Ham and Friends

Review: Ham and Friends, Leeds

Ok, let’s start with a small apology. It’s been god knows long since I last wrote a blog post. What can I say? Life got the better of me.

What’s inspired me to start writing again is because I’m excited about what’s happening in my home city of Leeds at the moment. Every week, three or four new trendy bars and restaurants seem to pop up and I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a new favourite to come onto the scene in the last couple of months.

Ham and Friends

I’m already head over heels in love with Friends of Ham – it’s now nothing short of a Leeds insitution. Four years ago,  after Jay Rayner paid a visit to this gem, he declared “I would choose Friends of Ham over any number of bona fide Leeds restaurants.”

But now, it has competition from its sister restaurant.

Ham and Friends (see what they did there?) is nothing short of a triumph. Located in a beautifully converted section of the Grand Arcade, this is a bar, restaurant, wine merchant, cheese shop and events venue all rolled into one Victorian industrial inspired space, complete with winding wrought iron staircases, stunning lighting and of course, wonderful food and drink.

I was invited to the VIP event there earlier this year and whilst I only sampled a few nibbles and a beer then, the surroundings were so beguiling I was desperate to return as soon as it opened its doors proper. I just hoped it was as good as Friends of Ham.

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Since visiting the other day with my uni pal Hannah, I think I can say Ham and Friends is my new favourite restaurant in Leeds. The feel is a lot more formal than Friends of Ham; you feel special when you walk in and are seated by the super-friendly waiting staff. We were seated in the corner and the table was set beautifully with crisp napkins and shiny top quality cutlery. The wine glasses had that beautiful angular Danish look – you could tell some money had been spent on them.

I apologise in advance for the lack of photos of the food but I have to admit, I was determined to savour this meal and not be too preoccupied with ‘Insta’. But here’s a snap of the dinner menu for your perusal:

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We went straight in for the mains – it was a hard choice as I could have eaten any of the options. I ordered the Pigs Cheek Blanquette, Butter Beans, Jerusalem Artichokes and Pickled Shitakes. Hannah went for the Hereford Dry Aged Sirloin, Lovage Butter, Roasted Tomato Puree, Grilled Onions and Smoked Garlic. We also ordered two side dishes; fries and Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Pickled Chilli and Preserved Lemon.

My dish came in a beautiful white bowl and nestled inside was what looked like a creamy French style stew. The soft, salty peek cheek was combined with a gorgeous cream sauce and the butter beans which gave a delicious contrast between salty and soft textures and flavours. The real treat for me in this dish were the little surprise bites of artichokes which had a very slight crunch.

Hannah declared her steak to be the best steak she’s ever eaten – as a Londoner, I have to say I felt quite proud that a Leeds restaurant could impress her so much.

I can’t wait to return to Ham and Friends. Next time I’m planning to go with an empty stomach so I can go ‘the whole hog’.

Northern Monk Supper Club, Leeds

Supper clubs and small plates. Two gastronomic terms that will be very familiar if you’re a food lover such as myself.

Earlier this week, Northern Monk Refectory in Leeds held a supper club for a select number of bloggers to launch its brand new menu of beautifully crafted English small plates.

Since the fabulous Grub and Grog shop upped sticks and moved to a new bigger premises, the city’s coolest brewery had some big shoes to fill. But they’ve clearly managed to do that with the appointment of their new chef.

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Review: Norse, Harrogate

We visited Iceland back in 2008. We watched geysers shoot their scalding jets into the air; we ate hot beef stew out of bowls made of bread; we explored delightfully poky shops selling stylish and quirky furniture and clothing; we swam in the Blue Lagoon wincing as hail fell on our heads.

Since then, it’s fair to say I’ve developed more than just a mild obsession with anything Scandinavian.

So when I heard that Harrogate, only 20 minutes from my house, had its own highly-regarded Scandi chic restaurant, Norse, I more or less picked up the phone then and there to make a reservation. I was desperate to try the seven course tasting menu.

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Blogger event: Black Swan, Leeds

Not many people know about Black Swan’s restaurant on Call Lane in Leeds. Tucked away at the top of the stairs above the well-stocked (and for that matter, well known) bar, its dark walls, graffiti and mismatched furniture give it the feel of an exclusive supper club. You could call it Leeds’ best-kept secret.

But if more people knew about it, I’d never get a table… and what a travesty that would be.

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