roast and conch
Hotel Chocolat’s Leeds restaurant Roast + Conch is, in fact, the best restaurant in Leeds.

When I first heard about the so-called ‘chocolate restaurant‘, I wasn’t convinced. I am a savoury-toothed individual and could not think of anything worse than a great dinner dish covered in unnessecary chocolate components. Thankfully, it was all a misconception (and one that most people have shared when I have mentioned the restaurant since).

Rather than chocolate as we think of it, Roast + Conch utilises the bare bones – the cacao bean – in every dish, one way or another.

As the restaurant name suggests, they roast and conch everything on site and in plain view.

On our way to the bar we noticed that they were currently working with cocoa beans from Trinidad and, though we had no frame of reference, we were excited to see what it would mean for our meal. Kicking things off with two fresh cocoa Bellinis (the roast’s tangy cocoa pulp mixed with their own Prosecco DOC Brut), we spent some time chatting with bar maestro Jonathan about the bar’s impressive selection of cocoa-based spirits, beers and wine. My personal highlight – and something I am desperately trying to get my hands on again – was their chocolate wine, Terra Do Zambujeiro. This red wine was above and beyond all expectations. Instead of being sweet or saccharine, the balance of dark chocolate, smoke, and berries created an incredibly smooth flavour that I imagine anyone could enjoy.

Alas, it was time to head upstairs before we spent our appetite at the bar.

Greeted by our faultless waitress and a few cacao nibs to tickle our tastebuds, we spent a good fifteen minutes perusing the menu before we could make a decision.

I warn you, this menu is empyrean to any foodie.

Settling on three starters for a tapas-style kickoff, we opted for Roast + Conch’s Beet Carpaccio, ‘Not So Scotch’ Egg, and Tuna Ceviche.

The Beet Carpaccio, as a gluten-free and veggie option, was impressive. By pickling heritage beets in cocoa balsamic and pairing it with Ticklemore goats cheese, watercress and roast beets, they created as flavourful a dish as their epic Tuna Ceviche. Having ‘cooked’ tuna loin in coconut milk, chilli and lime pickle, they sealed the plate-clearing deal by pairing it with a special cocoa nib crispbread.

Though I wouldn’t have expected it, this restaurant is truly ideal for vegetarians. My favourite dish of the entire evening – The ‘Not So Scotch’ Egg – used a simple hen’s egg and took it to another level by casing it in softened pearl barley, penny bun mushrooms, and a cocoa nib crumb crust. Elevated by the addition of roast leeks and garlic, there was so much ‘wow’ in this single plate that I would have been happy to bow out then.

Then, of course, I would have missed out on the 4-Hour Lamb Pepperpot and Chilli Hamburger.

Hamburger? Boring! Lamb? Boring! Just not at Roast + Conch. Chef Bentham’s burger is perfection; a chilli and cocoa-infused hand-chopped rump steak surrounded in confit of onion, Montgomery aged cheddar, crisp dry cure bacon, and a homemade ‘cocoa pod’ bread bun. It was presented on a plate far too long for its own good – with sweet potato ribbons and onion rings sitting bored at the other end – but that is only a photography problem, not an ‘oh my god this is not delicious!’ problem.

The Pepperpot, served with doughy beer stick bread, was an extremely filling celebration in itself. Though the recipe is an original from the indigenous cocoa-worshipping people of Central America and West Indies, the Amerindians, the spiced vegetables and tender lamb is filled with new-age flavour any chef would be happy to serve.

With eyes much larger than our stomachs, our side orders were almost left behind. Then a scoop of the White Chocolate Mash turned into twenty scoops.

You must order the White Chocolate Mash (vegetarian and gluten-free, again. No excuses!).

At this point, we would have needed a stomach pump to accommodate the things we wanted to eat from the dessert menu. Promising to return on a desserts-only adventure, we called on The Tray of Temptation while rehydrating with a Fortified Coconut Water. The cocktail, though filled with smooth Saint Lucian golden rum, is a simple mix with pure coconut water that somehow feels as innocent as a cocktail possibly could.

When the Tray of Temptation arrived, we – once again – cursed our crowded stomachs. With sixteen of Hotel Chocolat’s chocolatier creations available at just £1 a piece, we managed to get through five between us before waving the white flag.

I’m coming back for you, Tray.

roast and conch
roast and conch
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new layout

While I love a good makeover, I am terribly hesitant when it comes to changing anything in my dot-com life. This blog is my (geeky little) baby, after all.

Obviously I bit the bullet and annoyed you lovely readers by coding (and breaking) my blog in a mad rush over the past hour. And here’s the result! A re-brand. A re-jig. And a really good reason to go to bed with a smile on my face tonight.

I hope you all love the new layout (!); all feedback is welcome as – at the end of the day – you deserve to look at something nice, dontcha?

xo,
Lela

north face
I’ve never really considered myself the type of woman that wears a North Face. Not that it’s geared towards any ‘type of woman’ in particular, I just tend to opt for ridiculous oversized boyfriend coats or equally massive faux furs.

I’m a changed woman.

As my semi-recent relocation means I now live on top of a hill and am surrounded by exceptional countryside storybook scenes (weather permitting), I have become in dire need of a practical outerwear update. Enter, The Resolve. The jacket is waterproof, seam-sealed, and breathable in a magical way which makes it as comfortable during a Springtime walk as it is when skiing mountains.

Plus, the bright whiteness makes me feel like an off duty snow bunny.

What I Wore:
The North Face Resolve Jacket from Millets
Denim skater skirt (old, similar here)
The Graanite flats from Steve Madden

north face
north face

leeds corn exchange
I had arranged to catch up with a friend in Leeds city centre last weekend and – as a relatively new addition to Yorkshire’s hottest city – took my sweet time to pick a meeting point. As fate would have it, I stumbled on the sweetest little vintage store while doing some PR for ASOS Marketplace. As the physical shop was situated in Leeds Corn Exchange among hot dogs, camera shops, and a bit of history, the meeting point was set.

The Corn Exchange itself is a Grade One listed structure and one of the UK’s finest Victorian buildings. Now trading as ‘The Home of Boutique Shopping’, the building features balconies of independent businesses, ornate staircases, and artsy teens and adults alike.

As the nature of the businesses suggest, I couldn’t help but find a tantalising number of gorgeous and unique items behind every Corn Exchange doorway; vintage shopping wonders, handmade gifts…even bonsai trees. I think it is my new favourite place.

leeds corn exchange
leeds corn exchange
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fazenda leeds
For Christmas eve, The Boyfriend and I took a pitstop (one of a few) in Granary Wharf for a double dinner date at Fazenda.

The only order you place here is for your drink and, as it turns out, that is just the way I like it. Swapping restaurant convention for something altogether more appetizing, Fazenda’s concept is simple: bring a carnivorous* friend or two, sit in some atmospherically-appropriate leather or cowhide chairs, then enjoy the most gluttonous meat buffet you could dream up. All for a fixed price of £25.

Though I wouldn’t recommend wasting precious stomach space on too much of their gourmet salad bar (which – strangely – includes hot fish dishes and sushi), the smoked salmon, 18-month matured grana padano, beef with onion marmalade and 12-month matured parma ham are all worthy highlights.

When you return to your table, the real show begins. Using a cardboard disc (green on one side, red on the other) you are able to flip it over to welcome skewer-yielding waiters to your table, or take what we affectionately ended up deigning ‘a meat pause’. You will flip and flop more than you think.

Though a booklet is placed on each table to detail the various cuts of meat on offer, you can do no wrong by green-carding the following: filet mignon, bife ancho, alcatra, fraldinha, linguica, and the leanest, juiciest contra filet known to man. It is worth mentioning that the cordeiro (fresh mint lamb) – which I regrettably had no room for – truly wooed my dining accomplices, as well.

With eat slice of medium-rare meat dotted by a few complimentary chips or a nibble of grana padano, it took no time at all to throw in the towel. Nevertheless, we got through £100s of top quality meat and tapas in less than one hour. You can’t get better value for money than that, my friends.

*There is, in fact, a vegetarian menu but I would suggest leaving any veggie friends out of a Fazenda excursion. It would be like taking a nun to a brothel.

fazenda leeds
fazenda leeds
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