Monday, 25 February 2013

The Cross Keys, East Marton (near Skipton)

Off A59, East Marton, Skipton, BD23 7LP | 01282 822 326 |

Type of Food: Pub

This will just be a quick blog post. This weekend I went to visit my parents in Merseyside and we decided to go the scenic way, up to Skipton and down  through Lancashire. 
Setting off around 1pm we decided to grab lunch at a pub on the way, hence the impromptu stop off at The Cross Keys. 

We weren't wanting much, something quick and not from a microwave. The Cross Keys delivered. Situated about 15/20 minutes along the road to Clitheroe from Skipton it was perfectly located. The atmosphere was just what you'd expect to and had a great local feel without being too intimidating. 

All the food claimed top be local and fresh which is a massive plus in my books plus the menu looked great. I had a roast chicken and chorizo sandwich which came with homemade chips, the big proper kind. Filled the gap. The chicken was a bit dry and possibly a bit overcooked, but we did arrive three minutes before they stop serving so I expect it had been cooked for a while! It also came with one of my pet hates, a random side salad. I don't see the point in them if there isn't going to be any care and attention made. The chips however were delicious. 

Overall it wasn't bad and it's always great to see a pub serving lunch without the use of microwaves! The menu looked great and I would definitely stop off there again but I wouldn't make a special journey. 

Viva, Leeds

9-11 Bridge End, Leeds LS1 7HG | 0113 242 0185 |

Type of Food: Italian

Price:  2 starters, 2 mains, 2 alcoholic drinks = £40
Occasion: Date Night
Date Visited: February 2013
Overall Rating: **** Very Very Good

I always avoid Italians. In Leeds City Centre there must be more Italian restaurants than any other kind but the quality is always usually so patchy. Also when you search Italian you are bombarded by chain after chain after chain. Don't get me wrong, just because it's a chain doesn't make it bad. I just would rather try somewhere different and get something I cant get in any other large city. After a good 20 minutes searching the internet we decided on Viva on Bridge End (just at the end of Briggate past Nandos). God knows I've walked passed this place so many times and I've never really noticed it.

Saturday night was busy. Viva is lively but not boisterous. The decor was almost perfect. Not to over the top but still authentic. 

My one issue with Viva stems from when we arrived. We called in advance to check if a reservation was required and was told just to pop down. When we arrived there were four other couples all perched around the tiny bar waiting for a seat. The owner (I assume) greeted us with a warm handshake and said the wait would only be ten minutes  Ten minutes came and went and in that time only one of the four couples had been seated despite the nearest two tables to the door remaining empty for the duration of the time we had been waiting. All of a sudden the four couples got seated within about 5 minutes  Not sure what was happening but it  didn't look great that we were waiting for so long. 
Once seated the service was efficient but not so quick you felt rushed to leave. 

Italian food can be very standard sometimes. Some menus just list off a variety of pasta dishes you can get in any frozen food aisle. Viva's menu was reasonably concise especially on the pasta dishes but it was varied. I'd had my heart set on pasta all afternoon and that only changed once I had seen the table next to me and what looked like the most delicious Calzone I had ever seen. By this point the waiter had brought over a complimentary bruschetta which was beautiful. Having just watched a celebrity Masterchef episode where John Torode was talking about the perfect bruschetta I was quite keen to try a 'proper bruschetta' and this didn't disappoint. For starter I had deep fried mozzarella which came with a decent portion. Rich and gooey it was just right. Not to hard not to flaky. And then the Calzone...
The standard restaurant calzone tends to shove as much as possible into it and essentially make it to be just a pizza that's folded over but Calzone can be so much more! Viva's take on it is much more simple focusing on a light pizza bread and inside just the cheese and garlic with a tomato sauce around the outside. Complimenting it all with a light small rocket salad.

Food wise, Viva was spot on. I don't think I have had such a good Italian meal out (but then again I don't really chose to go to an Italian and then again it's usually a chain like Pizza Express or something similar). My only gripe was the first 15 minutes waiting. Bar this I think it would have been a five star review!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Damn Yankee, Harrogate

4 Station Parade, Harrogate, HG1 1UE | | @DYharrogate

Type of Food: American

Price:  Main and 2 soft drinks = £15
Occasion: Meal out after a day out in the dales
Date Visited: February 2013
Overall Rating: Very Very Good **** and a half

Harrogate isn't really convenient to get to from Shipley especially by public transport on the off-chance I would like something to drink. However I had seen Damn Yankee on the internet and was desperate to give it a go. So looking for any old excuse (this time that we had been for a drive through the Dales and 'conveniently' came back through Harrogate) we went. Good American restaurants are generally hard to come by in Yorkshire. The only other place that springs to mind is the Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream Farm just outside of Skipton but that's more of a lunch time stop than an evening meal. I went with high expectations [n.b. see the review of Reds in Leeds]

One thing I cant fault this place on is atmosphere! It's spot on. The decor is flawless making it styled like an 'all-American' dinner. It's not authentic but then again it doesn't need to be. It's an American themed family restaurant not a museum. There was so much attention to detail right down to the brick walls and 'broken' plaster.

The staff were very friendly and efficient. The table next to ours had a kids party and the waitresses really went over board not only singing Happy Birthday but also chatting with him which I thought was nice.
For us they came over a couple a minutes after were eating to ask if everything was OK which was appreciated and they always checked to see if we needed any more to drink. 

I would have been very happy with a starter but the group I came with didn't want starters. American food is all about starters whether it be Nachos, Potato Skins or Mozzarella Sticks all of which featured on the menu here. Ho hum! Another excuse to go back.
For mains there were a wide array of burgers, Tex Mex, a grill and some lighter bites. I decide to go for the house chilli seeing as thought it claimed to be served in a tortilla basket and I do like myself a good chilli! It was as expected - top class. My only complaint would be a shortage kidney beans. The presentation was spot on and the tortilla basket was a great idea and complimented it nicely. 
The portion size was also spot on and would have gone nicely with a starter (sad face). To fill the gap however I grabbed some fries from my co-dinners. Very very nice!

Great food, great atmosphere and great value. Win Win Win!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Nawaab, Leeds

25 Wellington St, Leeds, LS1 4WG | 0113 244 2979 |

Type of Food: Curry

Price:  Starter + Main + an alcoholic drink = £20 each
Occasion: Catch up with former colleagues
Date Visited: Feburary 2013
Overall Rating: **** Very Good

I am always begrudged coming to Leeds for a curry. I live in Bradford (well Shipley) and to me its like getting a Eurostar from Paris to London for French food. Bradford has arguably the best curry houses in Yorkshire (if not the country). There is even a Nawaab in Bradford (2 if you include the one at Tong). The menus are the same where ever you go although I must say I prefer the atmosphere in the Leeds restaurant. Plus I was with a group of friends I would never convince to go into Bradford. 

It's a curry house. The standard tacky modern decor although to a high standard. It was quite busy and there was a stag do to boot. Although it didn't feel too much. Just right. 

Food was quick. Starters came before the poppadoms were done with. Given I was hungry I was delighted with that. Mains came quickly after that. There was a bit of a delay getting served at first but I think they were a bit short staffed.  

The range of starters at Nawaab is above average. In fact I don't think I've seen a longer list. Despite that, I had Tandoori Chicken Tikka. I know it's safe but it was saturday night, I was hungry and it was DELICIOUS. 
My favourite thing about coming to Nawaab is one of their specials: the Nirali Special. It's creamy and nutty but not sweet like a Korma. It's always delicious  I never have it with rice, always Roti or Naan
I ate it all. It was a challenge but it was to good to waste.

I love the Nirali Special. It's my favorite curry special in all the restaurants I've been to. Nawaab is a very good curry house. Above average but not the best. It's a pretty safe bet to be honest. I would definitely go just to try the Nirali Special. It's pretty unique.