gaucho leeds
As The Manfriend wasn’t much of a foodie before dating me (I think we could safely categorise him as a Food Is Fuel connoisseur), it has always surprised me how much he has raved about Gaucho Leeds.

Though he last ate there for his twenty-first birthday (more than a few moons ago), the restaurant had made a lasting impression on him. Frankly, our trip for Sunday lunch was long overdue.

Lured in by their Late Spring Lunch Menu (two courses for £23 or three courses for £26), we descended their secret staircase into a dark and open miscellany of well-furnished rooms to take our seats.

We were presented with two wine lists; one Argentinian-packed plethora of wines (sparkling and still) as well as a charmingly handwritten selection of rare bottles. Knowing we weren’t going to leave without a steak in our systems, I elected a Malbec – a bottle of Domingo Molina Mortero 2010 – to share. This particular Malbec is clean and sharp (the way I prefer my reds) with very pure notes of dark cherry and blackberry, leading into a savoury finish.

It’s a freshly baked bread wine. A pea and mint soup wine. A bruschetta of tomato, basil, and goat’s cheese wine. (Thankfully, those were our starters.) The bruschetta was presented beautifully and was near perfect, barring a slightly overgrilled base. The pea and mint soup, however, was balanced tastefully and was as moreish as soup can get.

In hot anticipation of our mains (the Spring Menu selections of Spaghetti Provencale and Chicken Milanese had to chance of winning out over steak), our 180g medium-rare rib eyes arrived shortly thereafter. Though each was plated with chips and Béarnaise sauce, the ‘sides’ almost disappeared when I bit into the steak. I don’t often choose rib eye when cooking or ordering steak (it might be its American omnipresence in my childhood), but I would happily pay Gaucho the £26 for this course alone.

We slowly drained the Mortero between business talk, planning of our next (BIG!) visit to Gaucho for celebrations later in the month, and indulgent bites of dessert. The millefeuille with fresh strawberries and shortbread didn’t quite live up to the puff pastry versions I have tried in France, but the Manfriend’s ‘Gaucho Eton Mess‘ whipped up a smile so big it didn’t matter.

From maître d’ to our final farewells, service was impeccable and the food – despite a few niggles – was well worth its price. Go, Gaucho.

gaucho leeds
gaucho leeds
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teeth whitening manchester 1
I’ve been on a bit of a ‘teeth kick’. After adding oil pulling to my standard dental hygiene regime over the past few months, I decided to kick things up a notch and undergo a round of teeth whitening at SmileStylist in Manchester.

Part One of the ‘Enlighten’ process (the longer-lasting friend of the ‘Zoom!’ process, which is available for instant whitening) was incredibly easy; simply lie down in a chair, fit a gummy mould around your teeth to make a frame for your whitening trays, then say goodbye until your trays return a week or so later.

Part Two is where I ran into some trouble. Excited by the promise of pearly whites in under a fortnight (two weeks of use can take you up to an impressive 16 shades lighter), I brushed my teeth and shoved the trays in while climbing into bed.

It was painful. Less than a minute later, I had to take the trays out and rinse my mouth.

Naturally, I searched for an answer. Was it a poor mix with the aloe vera mouthwash I use? Was it the oil pulling I had done in the morning? Did I put too much whitening gel into each tooth compartment (they warn you against this)?

The following night, I tried again. A less vigorous brush. No mouthwash. No food four hours prior to bedtime. No morning oil pull. The very littlest amount of gel for each tooth compartment.

It stung, but nowhere near as much as the previous evening, and I take the blame. I have a fairly natural and organic dental hygiene regime that I should have (could have, would have) cleared with SmileStylist in the initial meeting, as an irritation from something much stronger was bound to be an irritant.

While my results may not come in two weeks, using the trays every couple of days is enough to justify the Enlighten programme – it is very easy, very affordable, and very quick to whiten (even if you have hippie beauty freak teeth, ahem!)

smile stylist manchester
teeth whitening manchester 1
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all star lanes manchester
On my very first trip to Manchester after moving ‘Up North’, All Star Lanes caught my eye. Situated just off of Deansgate in The Great Northern Warehouse, the building simply can’t escape your attention.

Last weekend, The Manfriend and I finally booked in for date night (avec balls, burgers, and bowling shoes).

All Star Lanes is rather slick from the second you step through the door. The open plan bowling alley-cum-restaurant has also done well to become the epitome of an ‘all-American’ establishment, all the way down to the lines of Big Red gum decorating the bowling counter.

Intrigued by the amount of mega-heeled platforms lining the wall of bowling shoe swaps, we changed into our complimentary kicks and shuffled off towards our lane.

As far as bowling goes, I’m nothing to blog about (…yes, I lost. Yes, I got a gutter ball or five) but I loved the experience nonetheless. Each of their eight lanes are manned by waiters, so whether you and your best mates want to get silly on Blue Moon en masse (hello, lane seven!) or you believe you can manage a full cookie-crumbled milkshake before dinner (guess who), there is something for everyone.

Defeated and less hungry than I would have liked to have been, I changed out of my bowling shoes and joined the winning party in the restaurant for some a starter, a main, and a hit of caffeine.

My favourite part of the entire meal (and the immediate apple of my menu-reading eye) was the Smoked Mac & Cheese Croquettes with roast onion and balsamic dip. Between this genius comfort food creation and a nibble of one of The Manfriend’s crispy and ridiculously saucy BBQ chicken wings, I would have been happy to end the meal there.

And perhaps should have. This is not to say that anything was wrong with my main (buttermilk fried chicken and sweet potato fries), I simply had no appetite left for it after the aforementioned milkshake and starter.

You guys, I even refused a bite of a brioche-bunned Monterey Jack cheeseburger from the other side of the table. THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

Guiltily leaving more than half of each plate behind, I have since vowed to return at a later date and refuse all milkshake temptations until all food has been given a fair change (I am kicking myself for missing out on their warm cornbread with jalapeño salsa, nacho cheese and chilli jam – this is Indiana ON A PLATE).

My vote? Go. Eat. Play. Stay ’til 2am on Saturdays, if you dare (a little drunk bowling couldn’t hurt, eh?).

all star lanes manchester
all star lanes manchester
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hay latin america
Not saying I was obsessed with The Cheese Truck or anything, but this month’s retailers of Trinity Kitchen had a whole lot to live up to.

Thank goodness my first dip in June’s street food pool took place at Hay Latin America.

Hay (pronounced AYE! – with as much Mexican emphasis as you can muster) is the brainchild of Fred Parkes – a man who decided the lovely town of Huddersfield needed a little South American flavour after falling in love with the cuisine during his personal travels.

With fellow foodies in tow, we rocked up to the van (named Valdes) last week to sample some of Fred’s favourite dishes. Kicking things off with a glass of Torrontés (the most drinkable white Argentinian vino in the land), we were quickly welcomed with a few small plates of ‘pollo a la brasa’ and sweet potato empanadas while Fred talked us through Hay’s history. The empanadas – heavily packed with spiced shredded chicken and herbs – were as good as any I’ve had in the Midwest.

(It doesn’t sound like it makes sense, I’m aware, but the Midwest is where all my South American friends live.)

According to Fred, even those of the Yorkshire-based South American community have been known to rave over his international version.

Next up? The best quinoa salad I’ve had in quite some time. Though I tend to opt for quinoa over rice, I do it strictly for the superfood benefits. Quinoa is not exciting. That is, unless you’re eating it in a bowl from Hay Latin America.

Topping his organic quinoa with Peruvian-style marinated chicken, mint, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and guasacaca (which can be swapped out completely for chicken if you’re a vegetarian), this ‘main’ was a flavourful, healthful delight.

Finally, the alfajores. Though they have a range of desserts (including sweet empanadas), I had heard buzz of Hay’s moreish alfajores for days in advance so decided to focus my sweet efforts completely on the light ‘shortbreads’.

Doing a big one for The North by mixing a custard and Yorkshire rhubarb alfajore up, I expected it to be my favourite until I took a bite of the salted ‘dulce de leche’-filled chocolate shortbread. Both versions melted in the mouth (and could easily be credited as a reward after such a healthy lunch).

10 out of 10, Hay.

hay latin america trinity kitchen
hay latin america trinity kitchen
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twisted burger company
Recently, Aire Bar welcomed Twisted Burger Company into something of a pop-up space on The Calls and the city of Leeds has been abuzz with lust (and competitive eating tales) ever since.

And though the illuminated sign has haunted me on my way in and out of the office, I figured I couldn’t properly judge Aire Bar’s pop-up until I had visited their original set-up in Sheffield’s The Harley.

The Manfriend and I starved ourselves for a few hours, buckled up, and drove South in hopes of a dirty, dirty feast.

The no-frills pub was heavily filled with tipsy uni groups, awkward dates, and was exactly what you expect of a classic burger joint, with a few twisted but delightful extras (Henderson’s Relish, anyone?).

With eyes adjusted to their monstrosity of a menu (it’s well branded, but well fugly), we mmmed and ahhed over the UK’s first bacon burger until deciding that two patties made entirely out of bacon might feel like torture during the drive home.

Little did we know the casual orders we would end up making would be far worse.

First? The Great. The Manfriend’s Smokin Joe Frazier (two double chicken patties with smoked streaky bacon, monterey jack, ranch dressing, lettuce and harley house relish in a brioche bun) was a gargantuan delight. My Big Pimpin Fries? Epic. Pulled pork, smoked cheese sauce, Kraken BBQ sauce, and the crispiest sweet potato fries I have ever laid teeth on. It ended up being my main meal.

Why, you ask? Because, second, comes The Scary. The This Is Hardcore – to be frank, I was too stupid to take a hint from the name – blew my mouth to smithereens. What starts off as an innocent double beef burger with American cheese turns into a fiery pit of hell with the addition of ‘Nduja sausage, deep fried jalapenos (which they’ve typoed jalepenos?), and harley hot hot hot sauce. I tried to disect each layer until I reached a ‘safe’ level of spice, but it simply never came.

Then, playing masochist, I took a bite of one of The Manfriend’s Hellfire Fries.

I could have cried.

Though the menu clearly explains that the fries are dusted with ghost chilli spice, I didn’t quite ‘register’ ghost chilli until I bit into the Hellfire. Flashback: “Oh yeah! Lela! That’s the world’s hottest chilli that you tried in that killer food pop-up!

I downed my Diet Coke, inhaled the Big Pimpin Fries, and didn’t dare open my mouth (for fear of air making the spice sting worse) until dessert arrived.

Back to All-American brownies and ice cream with a perfectly shareable pot of white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake (flavour of the day). Ahh, a safe place.

It may have been the most disastrous order I have made in over twenty years, but I thoroughly enjoyed (half of) the food and (all of) the atmosphere.

Just, next time, I’m swapping ghost chilli for bacon patties.

twisted burger company
twisted burger company
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