If both of the people who read my blog were paying special attention last month, they would have noticed that I neglected to review Belgrave’s March Street Feast. This wasn’t because I forgot about it, or due to a lack of dedication to the cause – rather I had become a victim of its success.
Unless you’re the type of anarchist who works their way around Trinity Kitchen in an anti-clockwise fashion, Rolawala (@rolawala) is the first point of contact with this month’s vendors – and it’s a very strong start.
They’ve brought with them a small selection from their usual menu of Indian Streetfood – Coriander Chicken Tikka and Beetroot and Paneer Daal – served wrapped in a naan, and they’re not coy about letting you see it. A towering inferno at the side of the stall grills the chicken after it’s been prepared and marinated over the course of an impressive 48 hours, and the rest of the fillings are piled high on their front counter where the wrap is lovingly constructed to your specifications – like Subway, except the finished product doesn’t taste like honey and rubber.
I tried a wrap with a bit of everything in (£7.5) which included a liberal sprinkling of Moruga Scorpion chilli powder, a substance which was housed in an unassuming salt shaker that commanded the kind of fearful reverence usually reserved for militant despots, unhinged South American cartel bosses or King Joffrey.
Luckily the tyrant-powder complimented the rest of the flavours rather than performing a coup d’etat, and allowed room for the sweet beetroot, warmly spiced chicken and tangy pickles to make themselves known. The naan bread itself was good too – while it could easily have taken the back seat and performed a purely functional role, it has the flavour and texture of the best kind of pizza base, with charred patches, chewy bits and air bubbles really adding to the dish as a whole.
The guys insisted that I try their chilli ice cream as well (Not that I put up much of a fight) – homemade mango and coconut ice cream with a kick of the Moruga Scorpion chilli powder. I’d become accustomed to the heat by this point so I thought it could have done with a bit more of the chilli powder, but the mango and coconut flavours were great, and made for a really well thought out palate cleanser.
Housed in the most elaborately decorated cart I’ve ever seen food served from, Fresh Rootz (@FreshRootzLeam) definitely make an immediate impression. Before you get close enough to read the menu, you can almost guess the kind of thing Martin and Andrew serve up – a menu of authentic world food inspired by their exotic travels, rather than the cuisine of their indigenous Leamington.
While Fresh Rootz started to fulfill a need for decent vegetarian/vegan street food, it seems misleading to define it solely as a vegetarian restaurant. All of the meals are well-considered, hearty and tasty, they don’t feel like dishes that have had anything removed or substituted to fit any criteria; they are what they are, and it’s a happy bonus that they’re meat-free and healthy as well.
I tried the Gambian Style Groundnut Stew (£6) which was served with cous cous and slaw, and a few of their pakora on top, for research purposes. The food was piled really high, but the variety of flavours and textures – the four main components of the dish along with sweet chilli, yoghurt dip, black sesame and crushed nuts – made it interesting and exciting all the way through.
There was 6 or 7 types of vegetables in the stew itself, and each one was distinguishable and cooked just the right amount – the cous cous was light and airy, the slaw crunchy and tart, and the pakora surprisingly crispy and fresh, some of the best I remember tasting.
Rounding out the line-up and filling the token “something sweet” slot this month is Cake Doctor (@CakeDoctorUK) – a heartwarming Son-and-Mother team from the Midlands, baking and distributing cakes with a distinctly home-made feel from an old ambulance. Usually my standpoint when it comes to cakes is a firm “Not arsed mate” – I’m a sucker for a loaf or cheesecake, but I find things filled with and covered in buttercream prohibitively sweet, and don’t even get me started on cupcakes.
While I was worried that several of my teeth might fall out just from looking at James’ saccharine creations, I had to try a slice of Coffee & Walnut Cake (£2.5) when I noticed it was made with one of my favourite coffee blends – Dark Arches from Leeds Microroasters North Star. The pedigree of the coffee used was evident, giving the sponge a light yet complex flavour, as if you were eating a spongey espresso. I’d have preferred it as a loaf without so much buttercream but that’s down to personal preference – I guess I’m just sweet enough as it is.
Have you tried Trinity Kitchen this month yet? Let me know what you thought of the new selection either in the comments or on Twitter.
And so – as sure as the changing of the seasons – Sunday saw the imposing arm of the Trinity’s crane reach in and pluck out the current crop of food vans from Trinity Kitchen; the burger one, the Japanese one, the ethnic one, and the sweet ones.
The Okonomiyaki (£3/£5) was billed on the extended menu as “Japanese savoury pancake pizza”, which is a very broad way of saying it’s a pancake with stuff on top of it.
The pancake itself was almost an inch thick, with an eggy batter similar to an omelette binding together shredded cabbage, spring onion and other vegetables. I described it more as a Japanese take on Bubble & Squeak, which I stand by, but they seemed apprehensive to accept the comparison, which I did intend as a compliment.
Since opening last October, Belgrave Music Hall has earned a reputation for its food; a couple of hole-in-the-wall kitchens bookend the bar, dispensing relaxed, social media-friendly street food with the added benefit of having a roof over your head. Bearing in mind these credentials it was only a matter of time until they hosted a food event, and of course chubs over here was in there like a whippet.
The chicken Guo Bao was great – the chicken was juicy, the chilli panko packed a real crispiness which contrasted well with the stickiness of the steamed dough, and Ben’s delicate touch with the sriracha and Japanese mayo (which I should have asked for more information about) proved to be just the right amount.
As good as the chicken bun was, nothing could have prepared me for what was to follow: probably the best pork belly I’ve ever eaten, and plenty of it. The buns weren’t small, and the slab of pork belly was sticking out either end of it. A lot of the fat had been rendered down and formed a chewy, caramelised crust on the edge, complimented beautifully by the hoisin sauce, and pickled cabbage and coriander was on hand to stop things becoming too rich, and I could happily have eaten a dozen of these. Luckily Fu Schnickens is a new resident at Belgrave, and will be serving Guo Bao from Patty Smiths burger kitchen on the regs.
After I finished gushing we went to the bar again, I got a Five Points Pale Ale and my friend went to Bundobust to order the Pav Bhaji (£6) I didn’t have chance to get a photo of his meal because he shoved his mitts straight into the box as soon as it was handed to him, and he’d finished half of it by the time we got a seat again. I managed to nick a bit though and I don’t blame him, the depth of flavour was something else, very warm and rich and spicy, with a really well-considered combination of spices. I also tried a bit of his Bundo Chaat (£4) which was a nice, almost sweet accompaniment to the rich and spicy main, with fragrant cumin and tamarind, cool yoghurt and crisp layers of samosa pastry interspersing the chick peas. Having treaded the boards of food pop-ups, Bundobust will soon have a home to call their own on Mill Hill, just behind Friends of Ham.
Shortly after this point I grabbed a slice of Silvio (£2, or £1 before 7pm) from Dough Boys and took a quick jaunt to town – having realised Valentines Day is approaching and I hadn’t made any of the necessary preparations. I returned from Poundland to find Belgrave even busier than before, pitched up next to some more strangers, and ordered a Dirty Burger (£4.5 or £6 with chips) from Patty Smith’s.
Apologies for the crap photo – it was getting dark in there by this point – but you can see the type of burger you’re getting here: Shiny, dripping and compact with no gimmicks. The patty is a generous size and the tangy chipotle mayo cuts through really nicely, if I had to offer any criticism, it would be that the lettuce (Little gem I think, which added an unneeded bitterness to the flavour of the burger) wasn’t shredded, so the juices from the burger and the tomato (also not needed, but that’s a matter of preference, not a dealbreaker) slid right off and got absorbed into the brioche bun, making it soggy and structurally unsound. For £4.50 though it’s miles ahead of anything else in its price range, and for another £1.50 you get a big portion of hand-cut, skin-on, twice (thrice?)-cooked chips, which were extremely good. Patty Smith’s has taken up residence in the far kitchen at Belgrave now, so go check them out.
While I was shoving all that into my gob, my friend had the Chilli Corn Chowder (£5) from Fish&, which was a huge portion, amusingly served in a hollowed out bread bowl. This was also the case for the Brooklyn Lager Steamed Mussels (£4), which looked and smelt amazing, but I didn’t get chance to try. In fact, I planned to come back on the Sunday and try offerings from the rest of the vendors, but being a genius I neglected to realise that the Street Feast was a one-day event, meaning I missed out on the amazing-looking Noisette Bakery too. Hopefully they’ll be back at the next one on March 8th though, I will be.
What did you think to the Street Feast? Favourite pop-ups? Who would you like to see there next time? What’s the explanation behind Fu Schnickens name?!
It would seem disingenuous to write an entire article explaining the concept of Trinity Kitchen, considering how firmly it’s established itself in the 4 months since it opened its roof and doors to food vans and customers, respectively. It’s a big, industrial-looking, open-plan food court with a few permanent restaurants, and a rotating cavalcade of food vans which get replaced every month or so, allowing you to pick a different vendor for each course if you so choose; an infinitely customisable take on fusion cuisine.
The fleeting nature of these food vans makes Trinity Kitchen such an attractive prospect for return custom; the constraints of the human body means you can only eat so many meals per sitting (trust me, I’ve done extensive research), so you have two choices: Come back next week and try what you couldn’t make room for this time, or miss out FOREVER*.
*or until they return by popular demand in a couple of months.
It’s also a food-bloggers wet dream to have five trendy new street-food vans on your doorstep every month, and this is where I come in. I mentioned return custom earlier on, and this article is a combined account of two visits, both in the past week.
It’s admirable when a chef is so passionate about a dish that they dedicate their entire establishment to serving it. And it’s especially admirable when they take that dish and put it inside a brioche bun, so Yu Kyu was a no-brainer first destination. Katsu is a pretty simple dish; a fillet of chicken or pork, deep fried in panko breadcrumbs and usually served with sticky rice and a mild curry sauce. It’s the kind of introductory Japanese food that your Dad feels safe ordering when you drag him to Wagamamas on your birthday, the sweet curry sauce comforting him while he sits incredulously on a bench next to a complete stranger who’s eating soup with a ladle. You wouldn’t get this in a Harvester.
Being such a simple dish it’s hard to imagine anybody getting it wrong, but some charlatans manage. I’ve eaten katsu curry before which, when broken down to the sum of its parts, has amounted to a big chicken nugget with chip shop curry sauce on top. This obviously isn’t the case at Yu Kyu though. The Pork Katsu Sandwich (£6) was great; the meat was tender without being greasy, the panko was obviously freshly cooked and really crispy, and the katsu sauce and shredded cabbage provided the twin dichotomy of sweet, sharp, soft and crunchy. My main concern was that the sandwich might be a little stodgy when piled into a brioche, but I needn’t have worried; some of the sauce and juices were absorbed into the bun, but each element of the sandwich was easily distinguishable in flavour and texture. Confident in the brioche as a suitable method of transferring katsu from my table to my gob, we tried the Chicken Katsu Curry Sandwich (£6.5), which handled the job similarly well, despite having a good dollop of katsu curry sauce to contend with as well.
The only non-katsu item on the menu was the Glazed Sweet Potato Chips Mix (£3.5) which was a portion of sweet potato fries and regular fries, with what I think i identified as a soy sauce/brown sugar glaze, and topped with sesame seeds and spring onions. The sweet potato chips were as ever, a pretty flimsy affair, but the regular fries were firm and crispy, and the glaze had a deeply satisfying, molasses-esque flavour to it.
Next up was Manjit’s Kitchen, by now a veteran of Trinity Kitchen having been invited back several times to serve up authentic, vegetarian Indian food. Manjit’s is also the most frequently-photographed van on my Instagram feed, which is quite the accolade when you consider most of the people I follow are trendy food-snobs. If I wasn’t cart-hopping then I could happily have ordered everything from the menu and had a small banquet, but I settled on the dish that I’d seen the most praise lavished upon; the Chilli Paneer Wrap (£6). The wrap itself was compact but absolutely overflowing with fillings and flavours; the coriander and turmeric made it taste fragrant and robust, while the heat from the chilli gave it a kick, but wasn’t overpowering in the grand scheme of things. Inside the roti – aside from the generous chunks of Paneer which I believe were cooked in a tandoor oven – was an indeterminable mix of pulses and lentils which made this a really substantial, satisfying eat. Before we’d even finished the wrap, we were arranging how soon we could return Manjit’s and try the rest of the menu.
I’ve saved greasy-spoon-turned-burger-joint Original Fry Up Material until last to give me more chance to think of other puns on The Streets songs to pepper the paragraph with, but at the time of writing I’ve come up with absolutely nothing. The OFM guys have come up the M1 to give Leeds a much needed taste of the dirty-burger war going on down in London. Cooked right in front of you, the burgers start life as a sphere of meat and fat, pressed onto the griddle until just under an inch thick and medium rare, then served on a shiny glazed brioche. We ate the Bacon Blue Burger (£7.5) which as you can probably imagine contained bacon and blue cheese, as well as the usual bed of shredded lettuce, cheese, and burger sauce. The bacon was thick cut and well-cooked without being brittle, and the blue cheese was subtle; comparable to a sauce you’d get as an accompaniment to hot wings rather than the usual slab of unmelted roquefort that usually lies dormant in a blue-cheese burger.
A lot of restaurants ignore the fundamentals of burgers – a good quality patty and an understanding of the mechanics of burger construction – and place misguided emphasis on gimmicks and unnecessary extras which make the actual burger element a distant memory until you uncover it in the inevitable knife and fork post-mortem because you can’t fit it in your mouth. The fact that extras take a backseat in the mix of flavours here shows that OFM has a lot of confidence in their product, and so they should. This is as good a burger as you’re likely to get in Leeds, don’t miss it! Oh yeah, and Try the Fries, Mate.
Yu Kyu, Manjit’s Kitchen and Original Fry Up Material will be at Trinity Kitchen until February 23rd. Which food vans would you like to see take up residence there in the future?