Zucco’s Deep Fried Zucchini At this particular moment I’m very excited. I’m lucky enough to have bagged a space at the bar at Zucco tonight, so Matt and I can ring in 2015 in style. And let me tell you, the anticipation is high. No big deal, but this year the Deep Fried Zucchini single-handedly changed my mind about courgettes. I know, who am I kidding? That’s a big deal. Until this year I thought they were slimy, spongey buggers with no place in my life. However, made by Zucco: dipped in milk, coated in flour, then deep fried and sprinkled with mint, I’m pretty sure I could live on them.
Zucco is my favourite restaurant in Leeds, hands down. Probably in the world, actually. During 2014 Matt and I have become regulars, all too often springing up on a Friday night a little bit drunk, without a reservation and begging for a table. The staff at Zucco are so friendly, so accommodating and always make room for us. They’re very knowledgable about the food they serve and so much of it is steeped in tradition, without being remotely old fashioned. Without doubt every time I go I order the same three dishes, leaving Matt to experiment. That’s the beauty of sharing plates, see. I don’t think he’s rumbled my tactics yet. Zucchini is always top of my list, alongside Arancini and Braised Beef Pappardelle. I could eat and drink at Zucco for the rest of my life and I’m pretty sure I’d never get bored. Throw in an Aperol Spritz to start and a Moscato to finish and I don’t think life could get any better.
Green Beans with Shallots at The Reliance Oh, I love a side dish. I really do. They’re the glitter top coat of the culinary world. Let me start by saying that over the last year The Reliance has really risen up the ranks for me, I’d say it’s the best cooking in the city: forever reliable and never boring. Whether you drop in for a meatball sandwich at lunchtime or a full three courses plied with wine on an evening – the food, drinks and service are all consistently top notch. Somehow the food manages to be at once comforting and exciting, a place to take both fussy eaters and real food lovers alike. It’ll please your (my) “nothing foreign – well, Italian and French is ok… I suppose” parents as much as it’ll please the part of you that wants something a bit special on a Saturday night. Simplicity done exceptionally well seems hardly praise enough for this place but it’s the closest I can get. Green beans and shallots are just that, served in a cute pie dish in all of their seasonal glory, dripping with butter. Kale in Fig Salt is also a triumph, an extra worth getting excited about – whether you eat it with a humble plate of sausages and mash or a melting featherblade.
Patty Smiths’ Dirty Burger It’s no bold claim that 2014 was the year of the burger for Leeds. This year Byron, MEATliquor, Almost Famous and Five Guys opened their doors in our fair city, alongside a new, independent offering from Boss Burgers in Hyde Park. Building on the success of their launch in 2013, Patty Smith’s – a concession at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen – have been producing consistently brilliant, dirty, oozy burgers all year round. Menu originals the Dirty Burger and the Big Ron remain staples, with The Colonel Patty – a deep fried chicken burger, and Session Fries – fries seasoned with lardons, jalapeños and parmesan, as recent additions well worth trying. My “when in doubt” lunch, the Dirty Burger is just what you want on a hangover or for a cheeky treat. It basically fits any mood. Sticky like that untouchable (dare I say it?) McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger, sweet and salty, it’s cooked pink and the juices run down your chin and you just don’t give a s**t. Nothing beats a good burger, after all. And Patty Smith’s is perfection in a paper wrapper.
Grub and Grog Shop Breakfast at Northern Monk Refectory Silly I know, but I see the Grub and Grog Shop residency at Northern Monk Brewing Co as some sort of urban fairytale. Having consumed their sandwiches, stews and cocktails for over a year, it’s really amazing to see their hard work and talent turn into a sparkly kitchen at the new brewery in Holbeck. At launch night when I set eyes on their menu it was breakfast that really caught my eye, and it’s quickly become one of my favourite places to visit over the past few months. Homemade crumpets made with the yeast from the beer brewed by Northern Monk downstairs, and Breakfast kaiser buns stuffed with celeriac fritters, hash browns, eggs and roast tomato sauce are the stuff dreams are made of. In true G&G style, there are shedloads of veggie and vegan options, along with healthier Breakfast Bowls made up of porridge, granola or Birchir muesli. Prices are really reasonable and the space is beautiful – high ceilings, big windows and perfect sunlight when you roll in at 10am, plus the added bonus of a cloud of hoppy air that envelopes you when you walk through the door. Not to be missed.
Bundo Chaat at Bundobust On pretty much every most-loved list of 2014, it’s safe to say that the launch of Bundobust – a collaboration between Bradford’s craft beer pub The Sparrow and Drighlington’s award-winning vegetarian Indian restaurant Prashad – has been the Leeds success story of the year. A bustling bar with canteen style seating, it offers arguably the best beer selection in Leeds and matches them with little pots of Indian street food. Bundo is a great place to start a night out, or refuel as you hop from place to place. The Bundo Chaat is my must order everytime I visit – crunchy, sweet, sour and gently spicy. It’s made up of chickpeas, potato, tamarind chutney and crunchy samosa pastry and it’s like a bloody party in your mouth. The Masala Dosa is also pretty tops. A great place to take visiting friends and a real treat for veggies – a whole restaurant for them – imagine! A real highlight of 2014 for me, and I’ll keep going back.