Category Archives: Food and Drink

Restaurants, pubs, cafes and the like

Call Lane Social: Tiki Hideaway

You can’t really miss Call Lane Social: it’s the newest addition to the Call Lanebar scene and its name is literally in lights. Bright red lights. Thanks to The Culture Vulture, aka the best blog in the North, a few bloggers were invited down there recently (ish, my blogging hasn’t been especially timely of late) for a mysteriously titled ‘mixology event’ where we would check out the bar and have a go at mixing our own cocktails.

On arrival, after a quick catch up with a few awesome blogger folk, I got chance to check out my surroundings. The space was dark, the walls exposed brick, the seating and bar sleek and black. So far, so trendy Call Lane. The last thing I expected was what happened next, which was that we were whisked upstairs, up a narrow, dark staircase, and into a completely different world. The bamboo walls, the pufferfish lightbulbs, the treasure map of themed cocktails: it was like being transported to a beach bar in Hawaii.

After a few minutes to explore, we took our seats at the bar and began our cocktail lesson, led by Andy, the talented and incredibly knowledgeable barman, pictured below. We started off with one of their best sellers, the Amputated Zombie (so named because just two or three of them will reduce you to a similar state), and as one of the first ‘volunteers’ I took my place behind the bar, surrounded by fragile looking bottles and fruit displays, to shake, layer and pour my masterpiece.

A rather blurry picture of Andy, mixologist extraordinaire

Under Andy’s expert instruction, I combined no less than three increasingly potent varieties of rum with a blend of tropical fruit juices, ice, and the garnishes of my choice. The enormous, chunky Aztec style glasses are a nice touch; they add to the ambience whilst making sure you get great value for money. The final flair, though, was a slice of lime, topped with a rum soaked sugar cube. Suddenly, Andy produced, as if from nowhere, a vicious little blowtorch, and ignited the sugar cube. It was obviously a little more flammable than I expected, as instead of the gentle glow I anticipated, a billowing flame shot up, threatening to melt my straw.


After the flames had subsided, I got to work tasting my work of art. The blend of sweet fruit juices was the perfect counterpoint to the spicy heat of the rum; the drink was obviously strong, but it tasted sweet, fruity and spicy, with just a kick of alcohol at the end.

I watched a few other people make their Amputated Zombies, but unfortunately I had to leave shortly after this to attend a birthday dinner. It was the perfect start to my evening out, even if I did feel a little deflated stepping out on to the grey, drizzly Call Lane after such an exotic experience.

Call Lane Social’s Tiki Hideaway is open from 9pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and if you fancy holding a private function there, you can book it up until 9pm on those nights.


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Orphans, errands and Italian food

My weekend started early this time, for once, with a trip to see Annie at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I can get the odd free ticket to productions there via my day job, and initially I hadn’t especially fancied it. After seeing a couple of pretty impressive reviews in the Guardian and the Telegraph, though, I didn’t really want to miss it.

The production absolutely blew me away! As all the papers say, it really is the kids that make it. They’re so professional – every note is perfect, every move is measured and precise. We saw Phoebe Roberts as Annie (she’s alternating with Sophie Downham) and she was everything Annie should be – feisty, but vulnerable, with heaps of street smarts and a healthy dose of optimism. The setting – the USA in recession – couldn’t be more fitting and we left the theatre feeling on top of the world. Honestly, if I’d seen it in the West End, at West End prices, I’d have still loved it.

If you like musical theatre, get Annie tickets. If you need a last minute Christmas present, get Annie tickets. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, get Annie tickets. You won’t regret it!

On the way I had my first ever Fish&, as I never seem to be in town when they are, and they always sell out early at events! Even on this occasion, as it was late evening, they were out of their legendary mac baps, so we settled for the lime and chilli battered fish and sweet potato chips. Gorgeous and the perfect meal to squeeze between some evening shopping and the theatre. Light, satisfying, locally produced and responsibly sourced.

Garlic mayo...YES PLEASE

Why is a menu written in chalk ten times more appetising than a printed one?

Saturday brought errands – we’ve just moved house so we headed to Ikea to pick up some essentials.

The dreaded self service warehouse...does it really save them that much money?

We definitely needed to recover after that, and we had some family in town for a shopping trip, so we headed off to – where else? – the Tiled Hall Café at Leeds Art Gallery for a hot drink and cake. I’ve said this before but there’s nothing I love more than showing off a gorgeous, unique part ofLeeds to someone who’s visiting. They loved the food and the atmosphere (who wouldn’t?) so it was a job well done. My brother-in-law tried the dandelion and burdock cake and pronounced it exceptionally good, so it’s on my list to try next time!

The amazing roof

Pretty Christmas lights

Then on Saturday night, we finally got to try out that Leeds institution, Salvo’s. I’ve been hearing good things about it for years, but never made it there for one reason or another. We had agreed with some friends of ours that instead of presents we would go there for a meal, and it was a great choice. I forgot to take pictures – the company was rather good – but I had the chicken supreme in a garlic cream sauce, and it was divine. It’s on the pricey side unless you stick to pasta and water, but the food really is good and the service is excellent. We left very happy indeed!

After all that excitement, plus the fact that I’m currently recovering from a rather nasty sinus infection, we dedicated Sunday to Christmas films and home made Christmas biscuits with some good friends.

The best Christmas film of all time?

What’s that you say? Why are my pictures so small? Gosh, well, I’ve really got no idea. Sorry.


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Cornucopia at the Corn Exchange

Cornucopia was born from the success of Good Food Friday, a local food and drink event held in April of this year. It brings together local producers in a veritable smorgasbord of foodie delights, all under the beautiful roof of the Corn Exchange.

We (@antcarter and I) popped along to the Big Breakfast, which was an opportunity for press, bloggers and buyers to sample a couple of the products, learn more about the products and have a chat with the producers before the event opened properly.

Delicious breakfast granola from Yorkshire Dales Granola

The array of different food on offer was impressive but for me the thing that made the event was chatting to the producers and realising just how much passion they had for their produce. Regardless of whether they do it full time, part time or in spare moments squeezed around a ‘real’ job, every single person there was completely, one hundred per cent invested in their produce.

Although his products were all a bit spicy for me, in terms of product knowledge, The Chilli Jam Man (@thechillijamman) was in another league. He has a range of chilli jams and even a chilli mayonnaise (known as jammonnaise), some of which are made using the hottest commercial chillies available. I’m absolutely incapable of coping with any spice at all (as evidenced by my burning tongue after trying the jammonaise) but if you don’t mind a little kick to your dressings, then you should definitely check this guy out. You can buy online at his website, and there are a few Leeds based permanent suppliers but if you want to try before you buy then his upcoming dates are here. He’s in Wakefield on Sunday 6th November and at Northern Ballet for the Caribbean Christmas Fair on 26th and 27th November. Use them as a marinade, in sandwiches, on the barbecue…the list is endless. Plus they make a perfect foodie gift for the chilli lovers in your life! And I’ve got one word for the Chilli Jam Man: BETTAKULTCHA.

Buffalo sausages, with Chilli Jam just visible at the back!

We also swung by the Pudsey Pickles stall, because after trying the strawberry and pink champagne jam at the breakfast, we were basically hooked! We picked up 3 jars for £6, which is a total bargain. The plan is to give them to the brother and sister-in-law for Christmas – but if they last two months without being ‘sampled’ I’ll be extremely surprised! If Cranberry with Caramelised Red Onion and Port Relish, Beetroot Chutney or Pineapple with Malibu Jam sound good to you, then these guys are just the ticket.

Wandering around, we didn’t leave a single sample untried – and there was nothing that we didn’t enjoy! There were some incredible chocolates from Lauden Chocolate: pricey but definitely worth it as a special treat. Fayre by Alley’s Nanaimo Bar is pretty much the sugariest thing I have *ever* eaten and is weird but moreish – catch her at Kirkstall Deli Market on Saturday. Piazza by Anthony had a huge table piled high with fresh bread which smelled absolutely incredible, and the Sunshine Bakery had a huge stall packed with their usual fare of delicious cupcakes and distressingly large sausage rolls. There was also a lot of buzz about monthly meat boxes from Swillington Farm, too.

Nanaimo Bars by Fayre by Alley

You can’t leave a place like this without picking up a little treat for the afternoon, though – which is where the Yummy Yank comes in. Now here is a woman who loves to bake! We probably tried a little sample of pretty much everything on that stall and it was all to die for. Coca-cola cake, double chocolate cakes two feet tall, triple layer red velvet cake, chocolate chip cookie bar, peanut butter brownies, carrot cake… the whole lot was incredible. In the end we took home a slice of the butterscotch brownie and a wedge of the apple cheesecake pie (an apple pie with a layer of cheesecake baked in the middle) and they were both amazing. Keep an eye out for this woman at farmer’s markets throughout Yorkshire, and seriously do not go home without a treat!

The Yummy Yank's chocolate chip cookie bars

All in all it was a fabulous gathering, and I hope the producers got as much out of it as we did. Congratulations to Rebecca and Nick for really pulling this off!

The next Cornucopia will be held over three days: the 21st, 22nd and 23rd December. This makes it perfect for picking up last minute Christmas gifts and fresh ingredients for seasonal meals and parties. Keep an eye on their website or their Twitter for updates about the producers who will be attending for these dates.

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Taster Session at Create

Over the last couple of months, I’ve barely been able to log into Twitter without seeing at least one person mention that they’d been to eat at Leeds’ latest restaurant, Create. The thing that makes Create a bit different is that they’re a social enterprise: they give training opportunities to people who really need a fresh start, or to be helped back up onto their feet. Which is, of course, admirable, and no wonder people are talking about it. But the vast majority of the buzz I was hearing was about the food, not the concept. The reviews have been promising: see Leeds Guide, TripAdvisor or the Yorkshire Evening Post, who are reserved but identify tons of potential.

I still haven’t eaten in the restaurant itself (apparently saving for a house deposit is more important than eating out?) so jumped at the chance to attend their first morning taster type session for free.

We all arrived at 11am, a bit bleary from Light Night the previous evening. We were greeted and sent upstairs, where coffee was available – I’m told it was lovely. I opted for orange juice, which was really delicious, obviously pure and not from concentrate. We were all seated at a long table and cracked on with working out whether we follow each other on Twitter, while we nibbled on some small mushroom pastries and little almond flavoured cakes (these did have a fancy French name which, unfortunately, eludes me).

In front of each of us were three wine glasses in a row, filled with small amounts of liquid. A very gentle sniff was all that was required to confirm that yes – this was the vodka we were going to learn all about.

Chris from Latitude Wines certainly knew his stuff. He gave us a quick tip on how to smell vodka (put your nose to the glass and breathe in gently through your mouth) and then spoke to us about Chase Vodka, their products and their manufacturing processes. We tried their standard vodka, their gin (which apparently is just flavoured vodka!) and their marmalade vodka. As I was driving, and I don’t drink generally so probably wouldn’t have enjoyed a good gulp, I just tasted the marmalade vodka by dipping my finger in. I have to say it tasted remarkably of marmalade…very orangey and tangy, but in a more full bodied way than an orange – what I’m trying to say is that it didn’t just taste of oranges but very specifically of marmalade! This is probably sacrilege but I imagine it would have been delicious with some lemonade. As you can see if you click on the links, these are pricey drinks and are really quite high end products. They’ve won tons of awards. The general feedback from other people at the table was firstly, they were super strong, and secondly, you could taste the difference between this and something like Smirnoff.

The demo table ready for action

Next, we headed downstairs for the food demo. This was led by the charismatic Richard Walton-Allen, who is Create’s National Executive chef. Before coming to Create, he was Executive Chef at Harvey Nichols, and he has over 20 years experience in the food industry. This experience was apparent as he took us through four different dishes with the help of Ed, the head chef. First, we were shown potted shrimp, second escabeche of bream, third, bresoala and fourth, beetroot cured salmon. The bresoala recipe was the only one we didn’t get to try, but seemed to be a massive hit. Everyone immediately said how great it would be for Christmas, and started discussing where they’d be able to hang it for a week, which is one of the steps of the recipe. The demonstration was great, you could see exactly what was going into the dishes and Richard also told us about the sourcing of their ingredients – they try to keep it as local as possible, but will use someone in Newcastle over someone in Leeds if they have much better produce.

Richard looking threatening with a knife. Salmon looking worried, with good cause

Once we’d seen all the dishes, our taster dishes were handed out (and about time too – by now it was 12.30pm and I was STARVING!). We tried (left to right) the beetroot salmon on a little blini, the escabeche of bream, potted duck (about to be added to the menu) and potted shrimp. Now, I’m not really the biggest fish fan but I tried everything and thought it was all delicious – really well cooked and nicely put together.

My sampler platter

As the morning came to an end, all I could think was how I’d heard such great stuff about Create’s desserts, and how we weren’t going to get to try any! Luckily, they’d thought about that and on our way out we were all presented with recipe packs along with a take home box with brownies, flapjack, meringue, biscotti and honeycomb inside. No, I didn’t share, yes they were all incredibly tasty!

The only negative points I would make were that it was a bit awkward both at the beginning and at the end in knowing what you were supposed to do. I’d have liked to have a little welcome talk at the beginning and a thanks and goodbye speech at the end. I think this opportunity could also have been used to tell us more about the social enterprise side of the business, which I for one was very curious about. Also, I would recommend making absolutely sure that you know and like what is going to be made and served. There was one vegetarian present and I can’t imagine it was that interesting for her since she will never make any of the foods, and there was also a rather brutal fish dissection that must have been especially unpleasant.

In future, these mornings will be every other Saturday, the next one being on Saturday October 22nd and focussing on wine tasting and Autumn cooking. They will be £10.75 each and if you’re interested in cooking and food, or in alcohol, then I think it’s brilliant value for money. Contact Create on Twitter or via their website to get more information. Personally, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Christmas one!

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