Jino’s Thai Cafe, Headingley Review

Jino’s has always been on my list to visit, having always heard amazing things about it. Despite living in a mile radius of this place for four years I didn’t actually make it until a couple of weeks ago for my dads birthday and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

It’s very small, very unassuming, with minimal decor inside – very much a cafe vibe. We had booked for 1pm and were the first people through the door, leaving us wondering if we should have booked at all. Our fears were quickly subsided though as it rapidly began to fill up with families and students. It’s BYOB, by the way.

We started with spring rolls, a couple of rounds of chicken satay and some sweetcorn fritters which for me were the star of the show. Deep fried, incredibly sweet and incredibly savoury at the same time, they were little rounds of puréed sweetcorn with a chilli dipping sauce. Gorgeous.

Then onto the mains. We like to share, so we got a few different plates and all dived in. We had a beef massaman curry, a special duck red Thai curry, a chicken pad Thai and a pork fried rice (Khao Pad). The pad thai was delicious, just the right amount of peanuttyness and a gorgeous, sweet sour sauce. The red Thai curry had a proper kick to it and delicious, well cooked duck.

My favourite though was the pork fried rice, it had that delicious smoky wok flavour and loads of fresh vegetables. Absolutely savoury and moreish!

All in all the food was absolutely delicious, properly Thai and excellent value. You can also bring your own booze, which again makes it a cheaper affair. I’d really recommend Jinos if you’re looking for Thai outside Leeds city centre.

Review: Bibis Italianissimo, Leeds

Bibis has always had a happy place in my heart. It’s been a firm family favourite of ours for years! We used to eat here waaaay back in the day when they were on Greek Street when I was little. Me and my sister would turn up in matching name headbands and all the waiters would make a fuss over us, they sometimes had magicians, and the food was always excellent.

I’m pleased to say 20 years on and the food is still excellent, with speedy, polite table service and glitzy surroundings. We ate here recently for my birthday and I wanted to pay homage to this classic Leeds restaurant so many people forget about. 

To start, I had the prettiest peach Bellini while we opened presents. Bibis has a great little cocktail/drinks section before you get into the main restaurant which is really pleasant to sit in (and even more pleasant if people are giving you gifts!).

See? So pretty! They do lots of different cocktails, all made expertly at the bar. After this, it was time for the food. We shared two starters between three of us – deep fried courgette and calamari and a delightfu ball of mozerrella wrapped in Parma ham. 

The portion sizes are spot on (nothing worse than a huge stater) and both dishes were delicious. The batter on the fried courgette and calamari was perfectly light and crisp, served with a gorgeous creamy tartare sauce. The mozerella was the star of the show for me though. Wonderfully creamy cheese, wrapped in perfectly salty ham. There was a cheeky slice of tomato under the entire thing which added a welcome refreshing taste.

For mains we had Maccharoni a la Calabrese, macaroni with spicy Italian sausage and n’duja, the lasagna and I went for the slow cooked Angus beef in red wine with Parmesan mash. It was all absolutely excellent, though the macaroni was slightly under (a bit too al dente), but had a gorgeous, spicy sauce that was really impressive. The lasagna was perfect with layers of hot melty bechemel, perfect ragu and very fresh lasagna pasta. 

The beef however was the real star. I think it was a piece of brisket but it was hard to tell. It was falling apart, soft and melting into a wonderfully rich red wine sauce. The Parmesan mash was buttery and comforting and the perfect partner to soak up the gravy. Absolutely excellent.

We couldn’t face pudding, but Bibis have an excellent selection to choose from.

If you’re looking for a good Italian meal in Leeds, Bibis is definitely the place to go! Excellent food, great cocktails and great service.

High Street Falafel Salads: A Review

‘Never say no to a free lunch’ is one of my life maxims, and courtesy of the lovely folk at Greggs, I’ve been eating falafel salads all week! They asked me to compare their latest range of summer salads to their some of the others in the market. I chose falafel simply because I absolutely love it, making eating it all week pretty easy!

Monday – Greggs Falafel, Harissa, Roast vegetable and Grain Salad  

The falafels themselves are excellent, just the right amount of crumble, and a yummy savoury taste. The salad leaves were all really fresh and there were some lovely chunks of sweet roasted red onion in there too.  Packaging wise Greggs have nailed this – it’s easy to transport (no leakages), made mostly of cardboard (yay environment), and comes with a plastic KNIFE as well as fork. On the downsides, the yoghurt and harissa dipping sauces were both a bit too vinegary for me, coupled with the vinaigrette on the couscous and pearl barley it made the whole salad a bit well… vinegary. A sweet chilli dipping sauce might have been a better option. Vinegar aside, the salad looks excellent, tastes pretty good and looked very fresh.

  • Taste 4/5
  • Value for Money 5/5
  • Freshness 5/5
  • Nutrition 4/5
  • Aesthetics 5/5

Total score: 23/25

Tuesday – Pret a Manger Sweet Potato Falafel and Smashed Beets Veggie Box 

I don’t like beetroot so this wasn’t off to a great start, though it did look lovely and colourful in the box with a big old dollop of beetroot hummus right on top. I did try some for the purpose of fairness but it wasn’t for me so I scraped quite a bit of it off. If you like beetroot though it did add a nice sweetness. The rest of the salad was tasty with a pleasantly zingy green dressing. The sweet potato falafel had lovely, slightly curried flavour to them (probably from the turmeric) but you only get two which is a bit mean.  Brown rice and quinoa made for a tasty and nutritious carb, and I really liked the addition of pomegranate. It looses points on freshness though, the two avocado slices means this salad didn’t look fantastic after I took it out of the fridge, and the packaging just wasn’t as nice as Greggs.

  • Taste 4/5
  • Value for Money 3/5
  • Freshness 3/5
  • Nutrition 5/5
  • Aesthetics 2/5

Total score: 17/25

Wednesday – M&S Bulgar Wheat and Falafel salad 

This one was a winner on all fronts apart from the falafel. The bulgar wheat was delicious, with lovely fresh veg mixed in. There was a little corner of hummus hiding under it which was delightful, plus the crumbled feta on top took this salad to another level. The falafel itself was really sad though, it was soooo crumbly it had actually already broken up in the box before I ate it, so it wasn’t in lovely rounds any more – just in little pieces. Packaging and appearance wise this looked great, with the cherry tomatoes giving a lovely pop of colour. Shame about the falafel though.

  • Taste 5/5
  • Value for Money 3/5
  • Freshness 3/5
  • Nutrition 4/5
  • Aesthetics 4/5

Total score: 19/25

Thursday – Starbucks Falfel and Quinoa Lentil salad

This had to be the worst of the bunch. Lots of falafel, but it was very dry and bland, and the only dip provided was a beetroot hummus which didn’t add anything to the moisture. The quinoa was extremely minty and didn’t taste of much else. The cucumber was nice and fresh and probably the only bit I really enjoyed. Overall, this was really disappointing and I ended up getting some crisps from the canteen instead!

  • Taste 1/5
  • Value for Money 2/5
  • Freshness 4/5
  • Nutrition 4/5
  • Aesthetics 3/5

Total score: 14/25

Friday – Boots Carrot and Coriander Falafel Salad 

Not being a coriander fan, I didn’t expect to like this one but I was pleasantly surprised! The falafel was really flavoursome and the bulgar wheat was pleasantly simple and not covered in horrible minty dressing like the Starbucks experience. A nice little pot of mint dressing meant I could control the flavour myself. The salad also came with shredded carrots which were nice and fresh. The only thing was it was a little bit on the small side, I was definitely hungry after this one! But seeing as it’s part of the Boots meal deal you can treat yourself to a snack too.

  • Taste 4/5
  • Value for Money 5/5
  • Freshness 4/5
  • Nutrition 4/5
  • Aesthetics 2/5

Total score: 19/25

The Olive Branch, Roundhay review

One of the things I love about living in North Leeds is the amount of bars and restaurants right on our doorstep. It’s so easy to step out for food if we can’t be bothered to cook (yes that does happen sometimes!) and a lot of the choices are quite healthy too.

We usually go to Banyan but felt like going further afield this weekend, so decided to go to The Olive Branch. Having been there once maybe 18 months or so ago for lunch, we wanted to see what their dinner offering was like and we weren’t disappointed! 

The Olive Branch is on Street Lane and is relatively small, seating maybe 8 tables or so, so do book if you want to go! It serves Turkish food with a great range of vegetarian options as well as ‘pides’ or Turkish pizzas.

We started with the garlic sausage, or ‘Sacuk’ and the babaganus dip. 

The garlic sausage was a really savoury, slightly spicy beef sausage served with mushrooms in a tomatoey ‘juice’. This was absolutely delicious and a really nice change from the usual chorizo I feel like I order and eat all the time in Mediterranean restaurants. The babaganus dip had a beautiful smokiness from the aubergine and tasted really fresh.

Next up for the mains, we both went for lamb kebabs. I ordered the Adana and Gary went for the Shish. Mine was minced seasoned lamb, formed around the skewer, whereas Gary’s was cubes of meat that had been marinated.

Both dishes were fantastic and served with rice, salad, wonderful cacik (a tzatsiki-like sauce) and salsa. The Adana was the perfect texture, not dried out at all, and expertly seasoned. The Shish was cooked to perfection, still slightly pink in the middle and a lovely cut of lamb, not chewy at all. 

My only complaint would be that the salsa could have been a lot hotter as this would have really brought some more life so the plate, but that’s just me I like a bit of spice! 

For around £40 we enjoyed a reasonably healthy, authentic Turkish meal with a glass of wine and a sparkling water. If you’re looking for something different in Roundhay that’s set away from the usual hustle and bustle this is a great place to try!”

Sukothai, Chapel Allerton Review

I have a confession to make. Here goes: I’m not like, really into Thai food. *gasps*

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fully dislike it, it’s just if we’re talking Asian cuisines I’d rather go for Vietnamese, Chinese or Japanese. I just think I’ve just had quite bad experiences with Thai restaurants. It’s so touch and go out there. Bad Thai curries, only-ok pad thais… I’ve been burned before, and would usually just choose to go somewhere else. 

Until now *dramatic music*. 

I recently went to Sukothai in Chapel Allerton and it has to be the best Thai meal I’ve had in my life. I’m a convert. Now I can be that person that suggests going out for Thai and have a failsafe restaurant to back it up. Sukothai to the rescue.

I was so curious to try here as it’s reputation really does precede it. It’s won countless awards and I often hear great word of mouth reviews. It’s a fairly big restaurant, but it gets REALLY busy. We booked a table on a Friday night and good job we did. People were queuing out of the door (you know it’s going to be good if people are queuing out of a door). 

The service on drinks was a little bit slow but it was very busy – all the tables were full so they were clearly at capacity. We ordered a mixed satay platter to start with which arrived fairly quickly. 

Sadly though we ordered it for three people and there was only two kebabs of each meat. We pointed it out and at the end they only charged us for two people, but hey we would have liked more meat. Anyway after awkwardly cutting the kebabs into thirds, they were absolutely delicious.

There was chicken, beef and pork and a choice of dipping sauces – spicy peanut or sticky soy. The chicken and peanut went together beautifully and the soy was excellent with the other two. The star of the show was the pork – it had a soft melting texture and was so juicy and full of flavour. 

Next up I ordered the Chicken Pad Khing – chicken stir fried with ginger, spring onion and mushrooms. The chicken was soft and tender, in a sweet and salty sauce that just tasted beautifully oriental. The veg was perfectly cooked, not overly done, with a nice crisp to it still. It all had a very clean taste to it too, not greasy at all. My only niggle was the ginger was in huge chunks which wasn’t that pleasant to eat, but that’s more just personal taste. 

My friends ordered the Phed Mamuang Himmaparn (duck with cashew nuts) and the Khao Pad (fried rice) with beef. Both were generous portions and the duck was incredibly tender.

The food was really reasonably priced too, including wine it was less than £30 each. The menu is incredibly big, I feel like I definitely need to go back to try all the different things! All in all I’d really recommend Sukothai, I’m sad I didn’t discover it when I actually lived in Chapel Allerton. If you’re looking for something a bit different, it’s really worth a try.

The Toastest with the Mostest

Butter, jam, marmite (if you’re that sort). Isn’t toast one of the best things you can make? It’s so versatile, from breakfast to a snack. From a hangover to pre-workout fuel. Toast is a winner.

Fuelled by my love of our crunchy bready friend, I recently did a Twitter poll to find out what the toast topping du jour was.

Butter came out tops, which I was actually surprised at given I’d thrown avocado in there. Granted, it’s not a spread, but it’s damn good. Nobody else agreed (what’s wrong with you people?).

Anyway, the people at Moose Maple Butter were listening (with really big moose ears, I like to think). They challenged me to try their butter, assuring it was all natural and all delicious. How could I refuse.

A week later this bad boy shows up. 

Guys it’s MAPLE SYRUP BUTTER. They get butter, and put maple syrup in it. Oh god, it’s good. It’s definitely not healthy but hey if you’re already slathering your toast in 2 tablespoons of butter then why not go the whole hog (or moose). 

Mmmm. Butter.

Heavily saturated toast. We only had wholemeal in the house. I originally wanted to wait and try it on a crumpet (as advertised – ‘great on crumpets’) but I just couldn’t. 

It’s soooo good. It tastes exactly how you’d expect it would. Buttery. Mapley. Sweet AF. It was excellent on toast but I’ve also been eating it straight out of the tub, because y’know, it’s nice. 

For me, butter definitely wins when it comes to toast toppings, and especially if it’s maple butter! If you haven’t tried this stuff it’s definitely worth a go, especially if you have a sweet tooth. 

The Lamplighter Dining Rooms, Windermere Review

What a couple of weeks it’s been! I’ve had such a busy run, with changing jobs, having a horrible cold. I start my new role tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited! Anyway, this trip we had to The Lakes this weekend couldn’t have come at a better time. 

Gary had booked us the trip for my Christmas present, and I bloody love a surprise so I was really excited to see what he had in store. We stayed at the Howbeck in Windermere, just a 20 minute walk from the lake itself and from Bowness-in-Windermere. This had acccess to a little spa up the road which we were unsure about at first as it looked well, a lot more like a gym in a sports centre circa 1982, but actually on the inside it turned out to be really pleasant. 

Anyway on to the eating. We ate at the Lamplighter Dining rooms after Gary had spied it on both TripAdvisor and The Guardian. It’s been going for over 20 years, and is attached to a B&B (as are most things in Windermere). 

It was a Friday night and most of the tables were busy. We had a very friendly, local waiter who welcomed us and read out the specials. Gary immediately went for the lamb ballotine – a slow roasted shoulder of lamb, shredded and served with the richest red wine gravy. I wanted the sea bass but they had run out, so I went for the plaice instead.

For starters Gary ordered the scotch quail eggs with black pudding and chorizo, I just had some olives because I wasn’t super hungry for a full dish.

The scotch quail eggs were wonderful with a lovely soft yolk inside, surrounded by the crumbly black pudding and chorizo sausage mix.

 The mixed olives were really good quality, a satisfying combination of Nocellara and Kalamata. Very moreish and great with my house white wine.

Next up came the mains. Gary’s lamb was the real winner here, it tasted incredible with rich flavours of blackberry, red wine and rosemary. The meat was shredded, and very tender. It came with a wonderfully rich gravy and mash potato. 

My plaice was excellent too, really delicately fried with a little dusting of flour. The chills were spot on. Our one gripe was the roasted vegetables that came with both dishes, there was nothing green, just a trio of parsnip, swede and what appeared to be more potato. A little bit of cabbage or broccoli wouldn’t have gone amiss.

We finished up with the sticky toffee pudding to share, this was absolutely great. Really intense toffee flavour and served in a salty caramel sauce with ice cream. It was spot on, and felt reminiscent of something your gran would make (I’m just guessing here, neither of my grans ever produced a sticky toffee pudding). 

Overall the Lamplighter was a great choice, serving no-fuss, simple and well made food in a really friendly and welcoming environment. The staff really made the meal, the service was impeccable from start to finish and we felt at home the minute we walked in. Definitely give it a try if you want something hearty and home cooked in The Lakes! 

Secret Garden, The Witchery Edinburgh Review

First off, this was the most beautiful restaurant I’ve ever eaten in, I’m not kidding. Gary booked us this as a surprise for our trip to Edinburgh, and surprise it was. Just LOOK AT IT.

Candles and roses and beautiful statue things everywhere. I was genuinely surprised I didn’t see a single proposal because well, it was definitely that kind of place.

We sat down at our table for two and quickly decided that the set menu was the best way to go at £36 for three courses. There was a good selection within this with fish, meat and vegetarian options. I opted for the Scottish smoked salmon (when in Rome) to begin with and Gary had the ham terrine.

Both dishes were delicious, though the ham terrine was a little bit too cold, as if it had just been taken out of the fridge. My salmon was beautifully lightly smoked without being overwhelming, and served with tiny shallots and drops of beetroot.

Next up for mains, I went for the monkfish with curried black lentil dhal and broccoli, where Gary had the rump steak.

Both dishes were lovely but I was a bit regretful of not ordering the steak as it was like butter, beautifully cooked a really delicious piece of meat. The monkfish was great although it was slightly rubbery which was a shame. The black lentil dhal however was wonderful, just the right amount of spice and a really intense nutty flavour from the lentils. It also came with mussels which I’m not usually big on but added an extra layer of intensity to the dish.

Finally was the cheeseboard. We asked them what the cheeses were but they told us too fast for me to write them down, which was a bit of a shame. I would have liked to seen what the cheeses were on the menu or been given some labels, as I always like to know what cheese I’m enjoying!

All of the cheeses were great, and what I think was a goats cheese (the round cheese) was the star of the show. The best bit about the cheese board though was the oatcakes. Lovely, biscuity, crumbly Scottish oatcakes. AND when the waiter noticed I’d almost finished mine, he brought us another extra basket. Which was just darn nice.

Overall this was an incredible dining experience, the service prompt and friendly, and the restaurant itself absolutely jaw droppingly beautiful. Pleasingly, the food lived up to its gorgeous environment and I’d definitely recommend trying to get a table if you’re visiting Edinburgh.