Last week’s Trinity Kitchen round up focussed on the food vans which embrace us in a brief, adrenaline fuelled fling before leaving us again – exotic sailors on shore leave; rock stars swaggering into town for one night of their world tour; Danny Zucho at the beach at the start of Grease.
Noticing one of the workers throwing fruit into a juicing machine we decided to try a couple of fresh juices as well, to really trick ourselves into thinking we were detoxing: Super Green Juice (£2.95) containing Kale, Pineapple, Apple and (I think) Mint, and Apple, Beetroot & Carrot (£2.95) – No prizes for working out what went into them. The super juice was the winner of the two, it somehow tasted really creamy, and not at all like cooked kale.
The meatballs were rich and well seasoned; each one a couple of mouthfuls in size, they were lightly crispy on the outside with a firm texture inside, similar to a Thai fish-cake. Four spring rolls and five meatballs were 274 calories and 323 calories, respectively (Although these figures don’t include the incredible peanut dipping sauce that accompanied them)
For the main course I went for the Pho Xao, or Wok Fried Noodles with Tender Beef (£6.95). The noodles were cooked perfectly with a nice bite to them, and the generous amount of beef which really was tender flavourful – it could have easily taken center stage in a roast dinner, never mind being hidden away among a forest of noodles. I checked the nutritional info because I’m like that, and was impressed to see it just shy of 400 calories.
The other half had Ca-ri: Vietnamese Curry with Tiger Prawn (£8.95) which was similar to a Thai curry in the sense that it had a fragrant balance of herbs to compliment the heat of the chilli, but thicker and it seemed richer. It was served with a dome of rice on the side so you could add as much or as little as you liked, with the whole dish amounting to just over 700 calories.
As well as our mains, we shared a Goi ngo sen, which I would never attempt to pronounce, preferring to pussy out and use the menu number “8”, or the informal Tangy Lotus Stem Salad (£4.95).
This was pure vegetables and protein, with shredded chicken and butterflied tiger prawns strewn over a bed of Green beans, carrots, and the titular lotus stems. The salad provided a nice fresh palate-cleanser between chopstick-fuls of our mains, with a faint peppery taste similar to raw celery. Being nothing but vegetables and white meat, the whole dish only added just under 200 calories to our grand total.
Overall we were both really impressed with the meal, we knew we would be as we’d been a few times before and loved it, but I had no idea that it was all so healthy. Definitely a place I’ll be going back to.
The virtues of buying fresh locally-grown produce are obvious (celebrity chefs have been campaigning tirelessly for the past 15-ish years to make sure we’re aware of them) , and us Leeds folk should count ourselves lucky that we have such an amazing hub of independent traders as the Kirkgate market, right in the middle of our City centre.
I liked this system, it saves time having to go and put each item in your basket, and it feels like the stall-holder is giving you a bit of a deal. We also got some Smoked Haddock fillets (£1 each) and 30 Eggs (£3) which Market Delivered proudly announce are free range and laid fresh the day before they’re delivered to you.
All of it is top quality stuff as well, definitely not end-of-the-day off-casts, which could easily have been the case with my delivery being after trading hours. Along with my 4 pieces of Haddock, 30 (THIRTY!) eggs and delivery cost, all of this came to just under £26.
In my experience of reading food blogs – and I feel that I can speak with authority on the subject, having read as many as three – I’ve noticed an absence of reviews for takeaway places. It makes sense really, reviewing something in your own home takes what little glamour there is in food blogging, strips it down to loungewear of ambiguous cleanliness, and plonks it on a sofa in front of Netflix. There’s the ratings section of JustEat of course, but comments sections on websites tend to be the domain of angry loners and Illuminati-theorists; not the type of people you can take a reliable restaurant recommendation from. Never one to shy away form suffering for my art, I’m going to step up to the plate* and offer my services. First place up for review: Mr. Nice Guy’s
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?