Trying to review pizza seems like a pretty futile exercise; like Woody Allen says, “Pizza is a lot like sex – when it’s good it’s really good, when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good” (he stops short of mentioning the merits of “eating pizza” with your own step-daughter) and a lot of places seem happy to operate using that as their unspoken mantra.
Rather than stifling my feelings towards My Thai until making a grand reveal, I’m going to say right off the bat that I love it. Claiming “OMG I could eat there every day and not get bored” could probably be dismissed as hyperbole, but after my first visit I actually did just that. Fair enough it was technically only every day for three days, but that’s enough to make it a statement rather than a coincidence.
It’s a common pop-cultural phenomenon for near-identical movies to come out at around the same time – I don’t just mean copycats which wear their plagiarism on their sleeve, but actual massive coincidences like Deep Impact and Armageddon, The Prestige and The Illusionist, Mean Girls and NOTHING, because Mean Girls is one of a damn kind. But what about Sharks Tale and Antz coming out so close to Finding Nemo and Bugs Life?
Confession: For the first 3ish months of Trinity Kitchen, I didn’t bother any of the vans with my custom, and that’s because Pho was (and is) so good. The freshest Vietnamese dishes of noodles, soups and salads served quicker than you’d imagine possible for around £20 for 2 people, including sides like fried squid and summer rolls.
So universally well received that they’ve found a second-home in Leeds, seemingly popping up at every other event, so keep an eye out for them. Some nice dudes with a funny name, serving consistently good food – including the best version of a Blue Cheese burger I’ve eaten – and many would say the best burger there’s ever been at Trinity Kitchen, which might upset…
One of the best things about Trinity Kitchen is discovering new businesses that you wouldn’t have usually crossed paths with. Meatwagon’s arrival was a whole other game, everybody’s heard of them and the rumours that TK had got such a huge name created a lot of hype and genuine excitement. As PR goes they didn’t get off to the best of starts (see the review), but it was handled well, and the visit turned out to be a successful preview of the new, very welcome MEATliquor restaurant just downstairs.
Meatwagon was good, but it wasn’t the main event in March, that title belongs to Dorshi – probably the best thing there’s ever been at Trinity. They might be all-conquering award winners now, but I was gushing over their West Country, Southside UK take on Sushi before they were cool. A certain fondness will always be reserved for them, for introducing me to Kewpie mayo.
If Ice Cube was at Trinity Kitchen on the first day that May’s traders opened up, he’d say “Fuck the Goodyear blimp, this is a good day”. Pembermans might have looked like any other pulled-meat van, but their breakfast and lunch Bento boxes were something special. There’s no round-up, or even any pictures from May because I was just too busy eating for the whole month.
This is what it’s all about. Looking at all the previous Kitchen lineups I don’t think anybody would have anticipated something as original as a gourmet cheese toastie van, but anybody who heard about it, saw it, or ate anything from there lost their minds. I’d love to see more risky choices like this in the future.
The final pick from TK’s finest month, MeiMei’s brought Chinese street food like you’ve only heard about in blogs from places like London. Comfort-dishes like sticky ribs and wings (the sauce from which relegated several top-tier t-shirts to the “stained loungewear” drawer), and their amazing signature Jian Bing; a savoury crepe filled with umami sauces, fresh salad, Pork, Duck and crispy wonton.
Another heartwarming success story: Turning up in April and selling naan wraps filled with flame-grilled meat or vegetarian curries, Rolawala became one of the most popular visitors ever. Fast forward to this week, and they’re preparing to open a permanent spot where Notes Cafe used to be.
Considering the insistence on having a token cake van every month, I had to include one sweet highlight. Madeleine Express is far from a token choice though; also known as Noisette Bakehouse, Leeds’ local Sarah consistently comes up with incredible recipes combining non-conventional flavours and classic formats, as well as the very best versions of traditional favourites like Salted Caramel Brownies and (naturally) Cinnamon Madeleines. All without a glob of buttercream icing or a twee sprinkle of edible-glitter in sight.
Leeds is hardly lacking food festivals, every weekend we’re presented with the opportunity to attend a particular venue’s “Food” “Street” “Feast” “Market” and “Festival” (circle as applicable) to the point where unique combinations of the words are running desperately low.
A new collective of Leeds restauranteurs, food bloggers and general pie-fingerers are setting themselves apart by throwing in a new adjective – Independent.
Leeds Indie Food will champion the city’s crafty, artisanal underbelly which people like you (cool, handsome influencers who click lots of adverts and share my posts on social media) knew about before it was cool, but gets underrepresented at corporate-sponsored festivals like Leeds Loves Food, because Bulmers have a new limited edition flavour to market and they can afford to pay more for a pitch.
Events will take place over the course of two weeks next Spring, with tasting menus, brewery takeovers, film screenings and workshops as well as the obligatory street food event(s). They’ll be individually ticketed, but if you’re really eager or you just love itchy fabric brushing against your delicate arms then wristbands will be available to grant access for the whole fortnight. All money from these tickets will be distributed back to the independent traders and venues, making sure it’s not only open to businesses that can afford to sacrifice an evening’s takings to take part in the event.
Among some of the 20 names currently involved are Fish&, Bundobust, Laynes Espresso, Belgrave and its impeccable food lineup, Trestle, and The Greedy Pig. They’re looking for £6,750 as start-up capital to cover costs of advertising, design, videography and the launch parties – judging by the pedigree of businesses involved and fact they’ve raised over £1,000 in less than a day, it seems safe to assume they’re going to smash it. If you want to get in on the ground-floor you can donate to their Kickstarter HERE.
As well as the usual stuff like “gratitude” (you can keep it, hippy) and an invitations to the launch party, rewards for pledging include totes, tea towels and prints designed by Passport and Hungry Sandwich club (who have done the current stylish-as-all-hell branding), and a personal pop-up dining experience from Trestle if you’re a true baller.
Until fairly recently The Grand Arcade wasn’t much more than empty lots and curiosities; a shortcut between Vicar Lane and North Street if it was a bit drizzly; a place where you could smoke cigarettes indoors, having spent about £12 at Santiago’s Whiskey Wednesdays and feeling like the fourth Beastie Boy, circa 1988. It had its attractions; beloved vegan restaurant Roots and Fruits, a vintage clothes shop that sold actual vintage clothes – rather than dirty Kappa sweatshirts and ill-fitting Wrangler jeans – but it was for the most part a very big, very beautiful, very under-utilised area of town.
For starters we had chorizo – plump little oval sausages, like bullies’ fingers in a Roald Dahl story – which are made in-house. They’re warmly spiced, with a texture more similar black pudding than the overgrown pepperami version from supermarkets, present in around 90% of my home-cooking. The plantain fritters would have worked for me as a dessert; thick ribbons of the stuff wrapped around chunks of Queso Fresco, skewered, and deep-fried; salty-sweet little mouthfuls tasting equally of halloumi, sweet potato and slightly underripe mango.
The Albondigas were great – well seasoned balls of coarse-ground beef, roughly the size of an angry toddler’s clenched fist, covered (not swimming) in a thick, picante tomato sauce. They’re served with white rice and potato wedges – just in case starch is going out of fashion – but neither of them add anything to the dish, the rice just sits there, being rice, and the big daft potato wedges would benefit from a couple more minutes in the deep frier, to avoid comparison with oven chips.
That’s not to say they can’t get carbs right. I ate the Llapingacho special – the eponymous focus of the dish was potato cakes, stuffed with cheese that was just the right side of stringy without turning into cartoon bubblegum. The meal as a whole resembled a Food Pyramid poster hung upside down; flank steak cooked enough to make it tender, one of those fat little chorizos (I was thrilled to have one all to myself), fried egg, avocado, a moreish Aji salsa and a token salad – a hearty combination which captures Casa Colombiana’s ethos perfectly – casual, home-style comfort cooking done really well.
Two starters, two mains, a cocktails, Desperados and service came to around £50. I wish I’d had longer so I could try the Ceviche and Arroz con Pollo, but I humbly admitted defeat – those strong mojitos put us in the mood to go a few doors down to Santiagos, and the food had given us plenty of reason to come back again.