Friday, 31 May 2013

Kendell's Bistro

I don't do restaurant reviews* very often.  There are probably a number of reasons for this, which I'm not going to bore you with right now.  However, I think the main reason that I don't do many restaurant reviews, other than the fact that nobody asks me to, is that we rarely get the chance to eat in the kind of restaurants that I would like to review.  Most of our meals out take the form of Saturday lunch while shopping.  We frequent some good family friendly pubs and restaurants in Leeds but we're never there long enough to really get stuck into the menus.

Last month we had that rarest of things, a babysitter.  Z's Mum was visiting for the weekend and kindly offered to look after R so that we could have some "us time".  Not going out often left us with a dilemma, where to eat.  Leeds is awash with restaurants that we haven't eaten in.  A lot of them have had glowing reviews.  Some of them have so much hype that I feel like I have eaten there already.  Others have opened their doors and gone about the business of serving good food, without all of the bells and whistles that grand openings insist upon.  In the end we chose to go back to an old favourite, a place where we would spend more time if we had the time to spend, Kendell's.

Kendell's Bistro, on St Peter's Square, opened in 2007 and has been selling excellent French bistro food ever since.  I wouldn't say that we had been regular visitors since then.  In fact, it was a couple of years after they opened that we first found out that Kendell's even existed.  However, we fell in love with the restaurant on our first visit, which is why we have kept going back.

As always we faced the perennial problem of what to choose.  When faced with the kind of menu that Kendell's provide, that decision is doubly hard.  In all honesty I could happily have eaten everything that was on offer.  I passed on the binoculars as I had a great view of the floor to ceiling blackboard that acts as the only menu in the restaurant and started to deliberate.

By the time our pre dinner drinks arrived we had made our choices.  To start I chose Escargot (snails) and Z went for Coque St. Jacque (scallops).  I'd only had snails once before in France and to be honest I hadn't been impressed.  My overriding memory of that occasion was eating overly garlicked rubber balls.  I know a lot of people who would have never chosen snails again but I had a feeling that Kendell's wouldn't have anything on their menu that wasn't worth eating.

I was right.  Although served in the same ubiquitous white porcelain snail dish with plenty of garlic butter, that was where the similarity ended.  This dish of snails was topped with a pastry lid so the snails steamed in the garlic butter and avoided a bouncy send off.  Z's scallops were just as perfectly cooked but served in a less traditional manner.  Rather than being served in the shell, topped with mashed potato and cheese these were served shell-less with micro-greens and shards of crisp bacon which were a perfect foil to the soft sweetness of the seafood.

Unlike the starters, Z was not so keen to try my main course.  I had picked Rognon de Veau (calves liver).  Z has a very strong childhood memory of ordering rognon de veau by mistake on a family holiday in France.  So disturbed was she by the whole liver that was served to her, that she ended up swapping it for her friend's mother's dinner and hiding behind a propped up menu during the meal.

I didn't get a whole liver but slices of seared liver with a rich onion gravy and buttery mashed potatoes.  This was a real treat as we don't eat half as much offal at home as I would like.  To have it cooked so expertly was an added bonus.  Not to be out done, Z's Canard de Cassis (duck in black current sauce) was everything that she hoped for.  You could almost get drunk from the cassis in the sauce and yet it didn't over power the duck.

After all of that I was stuffed, but Z soldiered on to a third course.  More out of duty** than hunger, she chose Iles Flottantes (floating islands).  A light, fluffy meringue, bobbing in a sea of custard, is not something I'd ever encountered.  I dutifully tried some but it was too sweet for me.  That said I don't have much of a sweet tooth at the best of times.

As we were finishing off our wine I realised that the woman sat at the table behind us had ordered the exact same meal as me.  I thought I had been adventurous and a little off-piste with my choices, but perhaps there are more cavalier diners out there than I give credit for.

For the record, this was no freebie.  We chose to dine in Kendell's.  We weren't invited and I certainly wasn't asked to write a review.  I genuinely love the food, the wine, the not too attentive staff and the atmosphere.  I don't know when we'll next get the chance to go to Kendell's Bistro but I know that I'm already looking forward to it.

*Some would contest that I don't really have a food blog at all due to the lack of reviews and recipes.
**her mother's favourite dessert

Sunday, 26 May 2013

People of UK - A week in food

For the past week I have had the honour of being Person of the UK.  No, this is not some lofty office with privileges handed to me by Whitehall*.  People of UK is a rotation curation account on Twitter.  Every week a different person from England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland takes control of the account and shows their followers a unique snapshot of living, working and playing in the UK.

As part of my week, I have been asking the thousands of followers of the People of UK account what they have been having for their evening meals.  The response has been staggering and varied.  There is a clear and unsurprising people's favourite and a few things that I really want to make**.  Below is a full list of my meals and those of the people of the United Kingdom for the week ending 26th May 2013.  Thanks to everybody who got involved.
Artichoke Omelette, Bangers and Mash, Bath Chaps, Bavette Steak with Jersey Royals and English Asparagus, Carbonara, Cheese, Chicken Korma with Coriander Rice, Chicken Mint and Orzo Soup,  Cod in Thai Green Sauce, Fish Fingers, Ginger Chicken Udon, Glamorgan Sausages and Mash, Goan Green Chicken Curry, Goat Cheese Salad, Huevos Rancheros, King Prawn Chowder, Kedgeree, Lemon Chicken, Linguine with Crab and Wild Garlic Pesto, Mackerel on Toast, Merguez Sausages, Onion Bhaji and Lamb Madras, Pasta Bolognase x3, Pea Fritters, Pepperoni Pizza, Pork Belly, Pork Fillet and Veg, Quesadillas, Reheated Takeaway Pizza, Rump Steak, Spaghetti with Leek-Peas Cheesy Cream Sauce, Smoked Salmon Blinis, Tacos, Thai Turkey Burgers, Tin of Salmon mixed with a Tin of Beans, Toad in the Hole, Vague Curry, Veal Escalope with Sauté Potato and Green Salad, and Wiener Schnitzel.

*I did visit Eton this week but it turns out that that just isn't enough these days!
**and some things that I wouldn't touch with a bargepole.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Chilli Jam: Kebabs & Cake

A couple of weeks a go I was offered a FREE jar of jam made by The Chilli Jam Man.  All I had to do to receive the jam was to promise to eat it and write about the experience.  The first part of the deal was a cinch.  I went to Millies, who had made the offer of the jam, and picked up a jar.  I chose a jar of Ginger Chilli Jam and made sure that it was included in our meal plans for the week.  The second part of the deal was equally successful with the jam featuring only a couple of days after I had picked it up.  However, I found myself at a loss for words when it came to putting together this blog post.

The quality of the product wasn't the problem, neither was my cooking.  Yet for some reason I just couldn't get the words out.  I had decided to use the jam as a marinade of pork kebabs.  I found a couple of loin chops in the freezer, roughly chopped them and coated them in half of the jar for a few hours.  I threaded the meat, along with onions and peppers, on to bamboo skewers and grilled them.  Served with wild rice they made a great midweek meal.

The kebabs were really nice.  The ginger really shone through the sweetness of the jam.  I would have preferred a more fiery kick but Z thought it was spot on.  I then sat down to write about them but I got stuck in a loop.  I found myself writing the kind of gushing blog post that I don't like, so I parked the blog and moved on.

What I needed to do was to use the jam again.  We had mused about other uses while we were tucking into the kebabs and the idea that had stuck in my mind was to use it in a sweet dish instead of a savoury one, it is jam after all.  Chocolate and chilli are such a good combination I decided to break with tradition for Tonight's Menu and bake a cake.

Z is the baker in our house*.  Other than a massive batch of cupcakes a couple of years ago for charity I am a cake novice.  I have seen Great British Bake Off on the telly and I know that baking is more of a science than my usual cooking style so I needed a fool proof recipe.  I was about to trawl the internet but the first chocolate cake recipe that popped up was one of Mary Berry's.  As Mary is the queen of cake, I assumed that nothing could go wrong.  I followed the recipe to the letter, I even managed to find two matching cake tins which were the specified size.  However, it's fair to say my cakes' uneven rise and almost burnt sides lead me to believe that I wouldn't be master baker of the week.

That said, this cake was baked for flavour and not looks.  By the time I had sandwiched the two cakes together, using the rest of the chilli jam as the filling, we had a glorious chocolate cake.  This time around the heat levels were perfect against the sweet richness of the cake.  I was going to take the cake into work to share with my colleagues as I don't have a sweet tooth, but I couldn't part with it. 

The Chilli Jam Man does make a cracking range of versatile jams and chutneys and great pickled onions.  Most of his range can be bought in Millies, who also stock a load of other interesting chilli products including this great looking gift hamper.  Thanks to Millies for the free jam, I'm off to eat some more cake.

*other than bread