Review: Twisted Burger Company, Aire Bar, Leeds


Having taken up residence at Aire Bar at the start of this month Twisted Burger Company are the new kids on the Leeds Burger Block, but they’ve slanging burgers from the kitchen of Sheffield’s The Harley since January 2011 – which is like a decade in Burger-years.  For context, that predates the opening of Leeds’ first dedicated burger joint Johnny Fontaine’s by over a WHOLE YEAR.

Despite their OG status, I’ve only had two encounters with them.  The first came last week when I was invited to a press launch, but due to my poor timekeeping I only got there in time to try a quarter of an anonymous burger.  Not enough basis to form an opinion on; just enough to whet my appetite for more.  In fact, that was the reason I ended up going to and reviewing The Pit – but I can’t hold that against them.

Arriving for the second time, we got shown to a table outside with a full view of the river.  I’m gonna go ahead and award it the accolade of “Most scenic location to eat a burger in Leeds”; Getting a Patty Smiths and sitting on the roof of Belgrave comes close, but the appeal of visible ducks means that Aire Bar just pips it.  This place is going to make a killing in the Summer.

There’s no shortage of hometown pride on display, if you didn’t know they were from Sheffield before, then it wouldn’t take you long to realise.  Each table is equipped with a bottle of Henderson’s Relish (being – as I am – from Worcester, I can tell you that Henderson’s is without a doubt the second best sauce with an orange label OF ALL TIME.) and the menu – by Sheffield designer Tom J Newell with all the gnarly, dripping charm of a 90s hardcore zine – contains dishes referencing Pulp classics, and a vegetarian burger put together by loveable scamp/entrepreneur/demon-possessed throat Oli Sykes.

There’s also an impressive dedication to puns on the menu, which is always good to see.  Fortunately, unlike some of my ill-fated feature ideas which start with the pun and work backwards (Such as Graze Anatomy, where I would review the contents I received in a my Graze box each week) the content each pun relates to is well considered, rather than shoehorned in.

Based on what I’ve seen on my Instagram feed, Pig Daddy Kane (£7.95) seems to be Twisted’s de facto signature, so it was a no brainer.  I usually avoid Pulled Pork at all costs since it became the new buzzword in trendy food and it started getting churned out by everybody from Boots to Wetherspoons to your old Mum, and most of them (Not my Mum though, of course) were getting it terribly wrong, producing something that resembled wet, stringy tuna saturated with cheap BBQ sauce.

Not this though.  Twisted’s pulled pork is tender without having to rely on a BBQ bath for moisture, and when they do sauce it up, they use a homemade blend infused with Kraken rum.  As well as making a great burger, they were a welcome addition on the Pig Pimpin’ Fries (£5.5) which had a pretty generous portion of both on top, as well as a smoked cheese sauce.

I also went for Return of the Mac (£6.95) from the more esoteric end of the menu, with two bacon patties, Mac & Cheese and pesto crammed into the brioche.

I didn’t actually realise before it arrived that it came with bacon patties as standard rather than beef, but it worked really well – especially with the thoughtful addition of pesto so combat all of the richness going on.  This burger alone is a testament to Twisted’s MO, doing things assuringly familiar, but with just enough of a difference to give you a pleasant surprise.  The Mac & Cheese is also available on its own as a side, and I thoroughly recommend trying it.

There was a This Is Hardcore (£7.95) on the table – with its deep-fried pieces of N’duja sausage lending itself to the greatest pun on the whole menu – which I didn’t get a chance to try, but I did help myself to plenty of the Jalapeno Business Fries (£4.75) which were covered in Salsa, Guac and Sour Cream, and but impressively seasoned all the way through, so you have something to look forward to after finishing the top layer.

There’s an offer on until April 20th which gives you half price burgers if you ask your waiter nicely, so the bill – including four burgers, two gluttonous fries and a few drinks each – came to only £35.  Without the offer, that’d probably mound up to just shy of £50 for the 3 of us, which is still decent value.

Technically, this isn’t the best burger available in Leeds at the minute – Twisted obviously isn’t targeting purists – but what is does do, it does better than anybody else.  It’s easy to see why they’ve stood the test of time in their hometown, and I hope they repeat that success here as well.  Just bring your own Worcester Sauce if you want something decent to soak your chips in.

Trinity Kitchen April Round-Up


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.

Set up in a very different, but equally impressive creation were returning members of the December Alumni Bang Wok (@BangWokThai) – with huge pans of curries set up on oil barrels to make the stall resemble a steel drum circle.  

I tried A Bit of Everything (£7) when they were last here, and while I can’t remember exactly what dishes were on off then, I remember enjoying it.  On this occasion though, after eating an Indian wrap and a Gambian curried stew, I had to pass on yet more curry; in fact I worked it out, and of the 12 main courses available this month – or at least when I visited – 9 of them were a variation of a curry.  The rotation of vendors is usually formulaic – which is fine as at least there’s a breadth of variety to the offerings – but to feature three stalls serving up a similar type of main course is more than a little disappointing.  That’s not to criticise any of the individual vendors though, as I enjoyed everything I ate without exception, it would just be nice to get to enjoy them all over the course of several months, rather than all at the same time.
If curry’s not your thing, then Happy Maki (@TheHappyMaki) offers their take on Maki Sushi rolls, filled with Hoisin Duck, Thai Sweet Potato or Teriyaki chicken as opposed to the usual fish.  This is a conscious decision by the owner Anna both in an attempt to do her bit to stem the depletion of the Ocean’s resources, and out of frustration at the limited selection of fish available in the UK.  An admirable stand to make, and one which also makes her sushi appealing to an audience who would usually be put off by the thought of eating raw fish.  I’ll be giving them a full write-up in the upcoming weeks when I’ve had a chance to try them properly; judging by the sheer number of customers they were serving though, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

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.

Review: The Hungry Bear, Meanwood


Meanwood has enjoyed something of a renaissance recently, the allure of being able to call Waitrose their local supermarket has seen young professionals flocking to the catchment area, and established bars have responded by opening Meanwood spin-offs such as Alfred and East of Arcadia.  Joining them is new indepedent restaurant The Hungry Bear – which coincidentally would also be my username on Grindr.

On arrival my initial reaction was that it didn’t feel like a restaurant – the layout; resourceful with its limited space, and the well-considered mismatch of decor gave the feeling of a supper club, and for some reason the prominence of slate made me think of a family run bistro in the Lake District.  I should point out that this is pretty unfounded though, I’ve only been to the Lake District once, and I was 6, so I was hardly taking notes on the use of the masonry in bistros at that age.

Having been disarmed by the appearance and atmosphere, the greeting was suitably relaxed and friendly; we’d only made our booking 30 minutes before turning up, so the waitress was anticipating our arrival and showed us to our table, and told us about the beers that they brew on site.If it hadn’t fallen victim to its own popularity and ended up stricken from the menu, I’d have loved to try their IPA, but due to the circumstances we shared a couple of bottles of their Fruit Ale (£7.50) between the table.

Rather than a Lambic – which can taste like a moderately alcoholic equivalent of getting Tango’d – there was just a hint of Blueberry and Morello Cherry, making it a much more suitable accompaniment to a meal.

Settling with a my drink, my attention was drawn to the music they were playing.  Off the top of my head we got to enjoy some unobtrusive-but recognisable-if-you-know-it songs by SBTRKT, Radiohead and Santigold.  Not a dealbreaker, but a pleasant bonus.  Along with the microbrewery and bear imagery, they’re well on their way to a full house in hipster bingo.

For all of the contemporary touches offered by The Bear’s other aspects, the menu relies on old classics, verging on the gastro-pub territory.  If you had to summarise the menu quickly – as I had to when I suggested going there to my girlfriend – you’d probably say it was British grub, done proper.  You’d also sound like a bit of a berk for straying so far into somebody else’s vernacular, as I did.

For my starter I had the Peruvian Fishcakes (£6.5) which was served with Cajun Lotus Root and an Avocado Salsa.  These were small and light and fried in what I imagine was polenta.  They were not overcooked, and each ingredient was distinguishable, I couldn’t tell what type of fish it was as I’m a fish novice, but it was flavourful enough to be distinguishable, but not in the sense that it was suspiciously fishy and a few days past best.  The cajun lotus root gave a nice contrast of texture, in the form of deep red shards scattered across the dish, like big bits of those posh Kettle chips made of beetroot.

My fellow diners didn’t really get the hang of the “order as much different stuff as possible and let me try it” policy I encourage when eating out with guests, and both ended up going for the Fig and Sun-dried Tomato Filo Tart (£6).  It arrived resembling more of a quiche than a tart – the fig and sun-dried tomatoes lay on a thick layer of airy-but-rich savoury custard flavoured with blue brie, and the eponymous filo pastry underneath – it wasn’t what any of us were expecting, but something as ambiguously named as a tart is open to interpretation, so we learned our lesson to ask questions about the menu in future.

The tart was perfectly pleasant, however one portion is two substantial slices, and would have been more than enough for two people.  Having been given a deliciously creamy pea & mint amuse bouche before the starter, it was clear that The Hungry Bear’s aim is to make sure they leave no man or woman so much as peckish after their meal.

I realised there was no danger of that as soon as my Confit and Fired Pork Belly (£11.9) arrived in front of me, served with kale, citrus and carrot puree and a red win jus – stacked onto the plate so that it towered over the table like one of the twig-sculptures from True Detective (topical!).

As you can imagine from a fatty cut of meat which has been boiled in more fat, it was very, very tender; falling apart under the most delicate of my knife’s incisions.  The meat to fat ratio was impressive, and it tasted as rich as you’d expect.  Then I tackled the crackling.

Until this point I’d only eaten the meat, leaving the spring vegetable fricasse to perform its job of springing the meat back up towards me, and so I chose kale as accompaniment to the first mouthful of crackling, to provide a fresh counterpoint to the crispy, chewy fat.  I was so naive.

After a couple of chews and the flavours started to harmonise, my girlfriend looked over and asked how it was.  All I could muster was a nod, and she told me that it looked like I was moving in slow motion.  I can only imagine I was trying to savour that perfect moment for as long as possible.  Apparently Darren Aronofsky is going to make a film about me chasing that unattainable high again, he’ll be able to use recycle the pupil-dilation close-up from Requiem for a Dream probably.

The crackling is very good.  Imagine a warm but brittle Wham bar made of pork fat, all sweet and caramel, able to withstand a little torsion before giving way and breaking, and then sticking to your teeth like slowly-dissolving barnacles.  The kale was steamed and buttered and enormously indulgent, a world away from what sensible people put in their juice detoxes.  Subsequent mouthfuls were good, but not up to the standard of that first one.

My girlfriend went for the 7oz Burger (£8.9) which was a really nice antidote to the slew of dirty burgers I’ve been eating for the past few months.  Served on a warm ciabatta and draped in maple glazed bacon, it tasted somewhat more savoury than anything I’ve eaten recently – there was an unfamiliar mix of herbs in the patty, along with diced white onion for texture.  Not what I’d personally go for when designing my ideal burger, but perfectly in fitting with its surroundings.

The stack of chips it came with resembled short and stocky Jenga set.  They were very evenly cooked considering their girth but I’d have liked them crispier – they did a great job of absorbing my leftover jus though.

After the mains we were too full to consider desert of the cheese board, so I never did get to try a caramel-roasted bourbon fig.  Luckily though I’ll be visiting The Hungry Bear again – not only on the merits of the food, but also the atmosphere and service; we were the last people in the restaurant and not once did we feel rushed.  The waitresses didn’t even do the trick of walking past every 30 seconds to make sure we knew they were there if we needed the bill.

Speaking of which, the bill came to £75 for three people, including starters, mains, a side, drinks and service.  Amazing value for money for this much food of this high quality.

Review: Bone Daddies, London


You’d be forgiven for missing Bone Daddies as you turn off Brewer Street, as I almost did even with Google Maps in my hand; casting light on my perturbed expression which effectively doubled as a projection of “TOURIST” right across my forehead.
Its incongruous presence entirely at odds with Soho’s ultra-sensory barrage – the all black exterior and hairdressers’ typeface offer no clues to what awaits inside, and if you tried to be clever and use your powers of observation to look through the window at what was going on inside, you’d still not get the whole picture.  Serves you right for trying to be clever.
You’d deduce that it’s a ramen bar from the telltale signs – big mismatched bowls, communal seating, trendy young beautiful people, and those big spoons which evoke memories of your wacky mate at sixth form, drinking out of unconventional apparatus at house parties (“A pyrex jug! I’m mad, me“) – but the moment you step inside and get punched in the ear by Black Sabbath’s War Pigs, you realise you’re a long way from Little Tokyo.
Bone Daddies is a Rock & Roll Ramen bar, and with all of the adrenaline and OTT stylisation I’d be tempted to describe it as a Tarantino-esque restaurant; except it’s so cartoonish it makes Kill Bill look like Rashomon.  It’s a lot of fun, and serves almost as a caveat to the dining experience; if you’re not into this, then you won’t enjoy what’s about to happen in your mouth.

The one modest thing we ate was Tenderstem Broccoli (£4.5) steamed and served naked, with a Yuzu Kosho Mayo on the side for dipping.  The waiter informed us that Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, and along with some other unidentifiable flavours gave the dipping sauce a unique flavour.  Making light work of the broccoli, I dipped the stalks in floret-first to try and collect as much sauce as possible – daubing our table in the process, like Bob Ross painting a masterpiece in mayonnaise.
Seeing the mess I made of the broccoli, I decided to take up Bone Daddies on their generous offer of a plastic bib, provided on each table.  My reason for doing this was two-fold: 
1. I’m a grown-ass man, and I don’t care who sees me wearing a plastic bib in a restaurant, and 
2. I’m a grown-ass man, and I don’t want to be walking around with Yuzu mayo all down my shirt.

Mrs. Cous Cous Bang Bang helped herself to one of the hair-ties that are thoughtfully provided to prevent hair falling in your soup/flick at your dining partner.

The other starter was at the other end of the spectrum; Pork and Corn Croquettes (£5) – the impossibly moist filling tumbling out of a satisfyingly thick, seasoned panko casing.  Each one about twice the size of my thumb, which is only a useful way of gauging their scale if you’re familiar with the dimensions of my thumb.
The Sweet 3 Miso Ramen (£10) appeared in front of me resembling a delicious swamp, complete with a “clarence-court egg” (stained with tea and soy sauce, and boiled just past runny), great morsels of chicken, charred corn, and with additional Cock Scratchings (Because I’m a grown-ass man, remember, and ordering cock scratchings is hilarious B).  These scratchings were small, chewy/crispy shavings of cooked chicken skin which lent incredible richness and exciting texture to anything they came near.
There were noodles in there as well but unfortunately they were hardly noticeable in the mélange.  If Bone Daddies prided itself on the art of soba, then this would be a huge disappointment, but the real star of the show was always going to be the broth, and it far surpassed anything I’d tasted before.
My dining partner’s Soy Ramen (£9) almost looked like a diet meal in comparison.  A far more simple looking dish with its components instantly distinguishable from one another.  The broth in this meal seemed like a distant cousin to what formed the base of mine; very light and clear, not having been given the butter and cock scratching-treatment.
Occupying the first position on the mains menu, you imagine it might have been put there as an entry-level dish to wean people onto Bone Daddies way of cooking, and it serves the purpose well, while being a delicious bowl of ramen in its own right.  In the surroundings though, and when compared to the exuberance of my Sweet 3 Miso dish, it did fall a bit flat.
It’s testament to London’s embarrassment of riches that they have to further sub-categorise restaurants which would elsewhere be considered niche or speciality, and I’m extremely jealous.  You wouldn’t get a Rock & Roll Ramen bar anywhere other than the capital, and you won’t get ramen like this anywhere other than Bone Daddies.

Trinity Kitchen March Round-Up


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 crane is a merciful deity though, and what it takes with one hand, it gives back with another.  Our old familiar friends were replaced by fresh new faces; a burger one, Japanese ones, an ethnic one, and a sweet one.
I was invited to Trinity Kitchen on Tuesday evening for an introduction to our new pals.

Harajuku Kitchen
Bringing Tokyo streetfood to Leeds via Scotland, Harajuku Kitchen’s small menu offers a bit of the usual – Gyoza and Miso Soup – as well as something more exotic.

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.

The pancake was topped with okinomiyaki sauce, wasabi mayo, nori, tuna flakes and coriander, which all complimented the flavour of the pancake very well.  At several points while I was eating it, I was reminded of the sweet bread buns from McDonalds (Again, a compliment!), which I’ll attribute to the seasoning in the pancake and the okinomiyaki sauce.  
The dish is a bit of a polarising one as it’s not directly comparable to anything you’re likely to have eaten before, but I’d highly recommend giving it a go.
As well as the okinomiyaki (I’m getting really quick at typing that now), we shared 4 Vegetable Gyoza (£3.5) which were very nice.  They’re served lightly fried rather than steamed, and come with a sauce which tastes pickled and earthy at the same time.  (I didn’t get a picture of them I’m afraid)

Harajuku Kitchen is just one of the carts repping the JP this month; Dorshi sits on the very next plot selling similar Japanese influenced street food with twists characteristic of their Dorset roots – the Godzilla to Harajuku’s Gojira.  How’s that for a culturally-aware analogy?!  I spoil you guys
These South Coast idiosyncrasies come in the form of regional ingredients – their Pork Dumpling (£4) combines Black Pudding with the pork to give a really rich, satisfying meaty flavour – like the nicest posh sausage roll you’ve ever tasted.  Its form-factor elevates it above the sausage roll though – the dumpling was steamed perfectly throughout, cooked enough to eliminate any doughy-ness, but still with a satisfying bite.  No flakey pastry stuck in my beard here.
I’m intrigued to try their usual combination of Pork and Dorset Blue Vinney cheese, hopefully at some point in their Trinity residency they’ll decide Leeds can handle it and put it on the menu.
Seeing as the person who served me was really enthusiastic about them, I should quickly mention the condiments they offer.  The sriracha didn’t have the same deep red hue that you see in bottled variations which leads me to believe they might make their own.  I also tried the Kewpie Mayo on the recommendation that “It’s like crack” (I haven’t really got a point of reference for that, but it was very good mayonnaise).  It’s encouraging to see so much enthusiasm about even the small things.
Also on the menu was Kara-Age (£4), which takes the Japanese dish and adds the Western indulgence of a buttermilk-soaking before cooking and Fried “Rice” (£4/2 for £6.5/all 3 for £8.5) which was in fact pearl barley cooked in mushroom stock and served with 5 vegetables.  
I didn’t try either of these dishes in an attempt to try as many different places as possible, but based on how good the dumplings were, I’m going to go back and eat everything they make, and will ever make until the end of time.  These were really very good dumplings.

Travelling the shortest distance to be here this month is Cafe Moor – a North African/Middle Eastern vendor usually operating from Kirkgate Market.  This used to be my usual lunch-break haunt when I worked in town a few years ago, so I’m really glad to see it get such great exposure.
I didn’t eat anything from there last night in the interest of reserving tummy-space for new things, but every time I’ve eaten there in the past it’s been brilliant and very good value for money.  They’re also not shy of putting their money where their mouth is; proudly displaying their food on vast, impressive platters to tempt customers and show others what they’re missing.

And it seemed to be working, in the few hours I was there, Cafe Moor looked like the most consistently stall in the place.  I’ll be back within the month to get a few treats and do a separate article to do the place justice.

If you’ve read this blog before – or seen me in person, breathlessly tackling an escalator – you’ll know that I’m part of the burger-loving demographic (Which makes up roughly 100% of the population), so imagine my delight when I found out that the Meatwagon was coming to Trinity Kitchen.
For the uninitiated, Meatwagon is the mobile branch of the MEATliquor franchise; its cult, off-Oxford Street restaurant considered by many to serve the best burgers in London.  It’s recently emerged that MEATliquor is going to be branching out to Leeds, with the Meatwagon serving to test the water before a restaurant opens in the Summer.
I ordered the Dead Hippie (£8) which contained two mustard-fried patties, cheese, minced onion, and Hippie sauce.
Apparently they bake their own sour-dough buns in the restaurants, but I couldn’t tell if that’s what I received here – by the time it made its 20ft journey to my table, it resembled that McDonalds cheeseburger that you wake up to in your pocket after a night out – and it was indistinguishable from a family BBQ bread roll.  It was light though, and thin enough to suggest that its only purpose was to prevent the holders fingers getting too juicy.
That wasn’t to suggest I made it through the burger with clean hands though.  The succulent, tasty patties cooked just as I like them, with piquante contrast from the mustard-mayo Hippie Sauce and chunky pickles.  I was dripping juices with all the grace and dignity of Brucey Bogtrotter taking on Miss Trunchbull’s chocolate cake; passers-by were gasping, infants were bursting into tears, chaste young women were obstructing their gaze with a hand-fan (probably), and I didn’t give half a shit.  This burger was very good.
The jury’s still out on whether this is an £8 burger though.  It comes in at a couple of quid more expensive than the competition, but in its defence it does come with 2 patties as standard.  Perhaps it would be better to give the option of a single patty version for £6-£6.5, god knows there’s space on their menu…
That’s the menu: Two choices.  Meat or no meat.  No sides, no fries, no customisation options.  And after talking to the manager to get some more information for this review, I found out they’re also got no manners; I was met with hostility when I asked what cuts of meat they used, and the only answer I could get from them was “Mince”.
Naturally I took to My despondency to Twitter, and In fairness MEATliquor did contact me and ask for more information on my exchange with the manager, so maybe they’ll be able to respond with an explanation.  Nonetheless, it was really disappointing to encounter this kind of attitude, and really sticks out when compared to other business-owners who are deeply passionate about their food.
UPDATE 28/02: Since my visit I was contacted by MEATliquor and invited to go and meet an area manager for a chat in person. They assured me that it was a one-off and put it down to teething issues, which I’m willing to give them a pass for.  The person I met with was happy to talk about the food and the business, showing the kind of genuine passion and enthusiasm that I expected in the first place. All is well again.
Love Rouge Bakery

Another case of a local business getting much-deserved exposure, Love Rouge has upped sticks from their Headingley bakery-slash-cafe to become this month’s dedicated Trinity cake-dealer.
I don’t usually have a sweet tooth and usually avoid desserts all together, but I’ve got a special place in my heart (and in the walls of my arteries) for Carrot Cake (£2.5), likewise my other half with anything salted caramel, so she went for the Chocolate & Salted Caramel Slice (£2.5)
Both were well baked and moist, with a nice bit of crunch on the edges for variety.  The slices are pretty huge for £2.50 so you get great value for money.  If there was any criticism though, the salted caramel was a bit under-represented in the topping-to-cake ratio.
And there you have it.  I hope you think of me and this round-up when you find yourself circling Trinity Kitchen, trying to make your mind up at any point in the next month.  Just make sure you don’t trip over my guide-ropes when I’m camped up outside Dorshi.
Full disclosure: The burger from Meatwagon was complimentary of Trinity Kitchen, but this didn’t influence my opinion of any of the food.

Review: Roast & Conch



Being from the West Midlands originally, I’ve visited Cadbury World more than my fair share of times – celebrating various birthdays, school trips, foreign-exchange visits, heist attempts… – so I know my stuff when it comes to Chocolate and how it’s made.

The factory tour starts with a brief introduction to the humble cocoa bean, then there’s a fountain which looks like two glasses of milk perpetually being poured into a vat, then you go on a mildly exhilarating tour of a model village occupied my anthropomorphic cocoa beans, watch an old advert of a woman eating a Flake in the bath,  and finally you get to the end of the production line; nose full of smells – and get given a Curly Wurly to whet your appetite before being herded into the gift shop to buy a yard of Freddos and a ruler that looks like a Dairy Milk.
When we arrived at our table at Roast & Conch, and received an introduction to the concept, our waitress taught me more about Cocoa in 2 minutes than I’d learned in my entire childhood of Bourneville pilgrimages.  You see, Hotel Chocolat’s high-concept restaurant boasts a menu where every item contains chocolate.  
Sort of.
The menu combines British and Caribbean cuisine, and during the introduction it was explained that cocoa beans were used to season the dishes, rather than add sweetness – we weren’t going to find Creme-Eggs benedict on the menu, or superfluous squares of chocolate thrown on top of things for the sake of it.
We were shown a small plate of cocoa beans on our table and invited to crack them open and have a taste.  Sure enough, the first thing you notice is a familiar smell of dark chocolate, followed by an intensely bitter, nutty flavour.
This introduction to the concept was indicative of the high level of service at Roast & Conch; upon arrival we were greeted by a member of staff who took our coats before showing us to our seats, our waitress didn’t hesitate to keep topping up our table’s water throughout the meal and brought an amuse-bouche to the table before our first course – obviously not make-or-break factors, but appreciated details nonetheless.
While I’m not usually a fan of gnocchi, I decided to stray out of my comfort zone and take a friend’s advice to try the Sweet Potato & Cocoa Nib Cornmeal Gnocchi (£6.5) starter – tentatively billed as served with “Pumpkin and Nutmeg Air”.  
Nowhere near as pretentious as the menu makes out, the “air” was in fact a ridiculously smooth pumpkin puree which formed a bed for the nicest gnocchi I’ve tasted.  Substituting sweet potato and cornmeal for the usual potato and flour made it really tender, and the cocoa nibs gave it a real bite.  
I can say with total conviction that eating this gnocchi felt nothing like chewing an eyeball, which is something I’ve not been able to say about gnocchi before.  They’re welcome to quote me on that as well.
Being a big lamb enthusiast, I couldn’t resist the 8-hour Lamb Pepperpot (£15) main – the meat was cooked to the point where it disintegrated into layers of silk in my mouth, and the cocoa nibs perfectly complemented the rich, sweet umami taste of the lamb gravy.
If I had any criticism, it would be that the ground provisions – root vegetables – in the stew were perhaps too thoroughly cooked, a little bite to them would have added a welcome variety of texture.
My partner had the Mac & Cheese Pie (£12) which was presented inventively in an open-topped crust made from cocoa nibs, with hard-cheese crackling on top; a welcome change from the standard practice of slopping an earthenware dish of the stuff under a grill with some cheese on top.
The Macaroni itself was delicately flavoured with Gruyere and truffle oil, and surprisingly light but still felt like a satisfying main course.
We shared Green Beans and Sauteed Spinach (Both £4) which were both tasty, but a very rich addition to my main course.  I felt like the Pepperpot would have been better with Sweet Potato Ribbons (£3) as a bit of respite from the cocoa nib onslaught.
After a palette-cleansing Ginger Fizz cocktail (£7.95) we were able to move onto the desserts.  Considering the ubiquity of chocolate on the rest of the menu it was no surprise to see more of the same on the back page,  however some of the offerings were surprisingly understated.  There was no tacky Fudge Sundae or Death By Chocolate in sight.
We opted for the Ganache Tart (£6) which was served with a brilliant hazelnut praline ice cream, and Pecan Pie (£6).  The latter was my favourite of the two, due to the welcome but unexpected addition of raisins, and an amazing pecan brittle on the side.

At £74 for two people (including drinks and service) Roast & Conch isn’t cheap, and it’s not the type of place we could visit regularly – but taking into account the really high standard of service, the atmosphere, inimitable food, and the experience of the concept, it makes the restaurant a great choice when you’re after something a little bit special and different.
They haven’t got a car in the shape of a Creme Egg outside though, so Cadbury World has still got that going for it.