Trinity Kitchen – 10 Highlights from the First Year

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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?

It’s not just films – the current UK Top 40 contains no less than 39 songs that are about bums; or have videos with a tracking shot of somebody’s bum for 4 minutes; or come on a bum-shaped picture-disc which looks like the artists’ bum, and has an anus in the middle where you put the spindle.  Admittedly those 39 songs are more tasteful than the other charting record though, which has the misfortune of carrying Ed Sheeran’s face on the cover.

In October 2013 this phenomenon spread to food, and it was a good month for Leeds city centre.   Before you had chance to wipe the Dough Boys sauce off your face at the newly-opened Belgrave, Trinity Kitchen was opening just down the road – a new kind of food court which snubbed the typical “Fast Food-Fast Food-Harry Ramsdens-Spud U Like-Fast Food” roulette, ingrained in the DNA of shopping centres across the country.

Headed by Richard Johnson from British Street Food, TK hosts a changing line-up of street food vendors from around the country, lifting their Ambulances and Citroes vans in through the ceiling with a great big crane, and putting a roof over their head for a month at a time.  There are a few permanent residents as well, including Chicago Rib Shack, Burrito, Chip & Fish which give a bit of consistency to the place, and provide more familiar food to bring in big groups of people and make sure nobody goes hungry, regardless of how fussy an eater they are.
It isn’t completely without fault – there’s often a lot of overlap with several similar vendors on the same or consecutive months; line-ups can sometimes seem regimented and formulaic, I’ve worked out it’s usually 1 Meat, 1 Pan-Asian, 2 Spicy and a token Dessert; and I’m yet to meet the person who wants to be interrupted by a loud DJ set when they’re eating dinner, but the good far outweighs the bad.  Vendors are queuing up months in advance to reserve a pitch, the quietest I’ve ever seen it is “Contently buzzing”, and it’s given local businesses a lot of valuable exposure while bringing in new things that a local audience wouldn’t have discovered on their own – it’s a credit to the City, and Leeds is lucky we didn’t have to settle for a Subway and a sit-down Greggs.
Here are my highlights from the first 12 months, in no particular order:

1. Pho

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.

Cafe Moor has been toiling away in Leeds for years, serving authentic and cheap Middle Eastern and North African food without any gimmicks or pretence from its 10am-5pm plot in Kirkgate Market.  It was wildly popular among a new audience in Trinity Kitchen and benefitted hugely form the exposure – they’re now in plans to expand on their market stall and open a restaurant in the City Centre.

3. Original Fry Up Material

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…

4. Meatwagon

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.

5. Dorshi

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.

6. Pembermans

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.

7. Cheese Truck

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.

8. MeiMei’s Street Cart

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.

9. Rolawala

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.

10. Madeleine Express

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.

Trinity Kitchen Febuary Round-Up: Manjit’s, Yu Kyu & Original Fry Up Material

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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?