Rediscovering Leeds 

While Leeds is only a 40 minute train journey for me, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t actually been since graduating from the University of Leeds 4 years ago. With the start of the summer holidays, and no travelling booked for another week, I decided it was definitely time to return!

My first stop was the university just for nostalgia and boy did I get a pang to return to my student days! I also had to drop off some library books for the boyfriend who has just finished his teacher training course there, but took the time to revisit one of my old haunts- Opposite (opposite Parkinsonism Steps, obviously) for a quick cup of tea. I was quite impressed with my ability to remember the shortcuts through town to get to uni from the train station, proving 3 years is definitely enough to get a good homing pigeon sense developed!

I then headed back into town, past Dry Dock (another favourite, a pub in a boat) and the more scenic old buildings en route to Leeds City Museum for a quick nosey. I think I visited only once as a student  (what a bad historian!) but it was a pleasant enough half an hour reading about the history of Leeds and looking at the ancient collection- the mummy being a fascinating favourite. It’s small but it is free and has loads of stuff for kids to do, so definitely could be a whole afternoon’s worth for families.

The main appeal of Leeds however is of course the shopping! I love wandering around the old arcades and visiting the small boutiques, but being on a budget is stuck to one purchase- a tea strainer and some loose leaf Dream Time tea from Whittard’s which is so fragrant and relaxing as I’m writing this post now! I could totally buy so much of that shop it’s unreal, even now I’m still thinking of the mango and passionfruit flavour I loved but didn’t buy. This might become my latest indulgence habit…

After perusing several shops I made my way to the Trinity shopping centre to meet a friend for lunch. It wasn’t even complete when I left Leeds as a graduate so it was still new and exciting to me, and strangely easy to get lost in with the various exits! (My sense of direction is shocking) I still had a lovely browse of all the shops and some serious window shopping of all the designer brands.

We naturally went straight to Trinity Kitchen which I’d heard so much about online- we quickly decided on Pho for Pho Xao- Vietnamese chicken and prawn wok fried noodles, which were very tasty but very messy. I am hopeless with chopsticks and eventually snook over to get a fork and admit defeat. We contemplated the handmade ice cream or mini nutella pancakes for dessert but in the end we were just too full from the noodles to want much more, although they did look amazing.
I definitely should have revisited Leeds before now, and had a really lovely day out so hopefully I will be back again soon to keep exploring!

Afternoon Tea at Tickton Grange

Tickton Grange is a hotel and restaurant just outside of Beverley in East Yorkshire, that is the perfect venue for a girly mummy-daughter afternoon in traditional country style.

I took my mum there for an early mother’s day treat and found it so calm and lovely, a huge contrast to the wind and rain howling outside! The room we were in for afternoon tea was quaint and pretty, and pleasantly spaced out when comparing it to other famous tea rooms (hem hem Bettys). The staff were so lovely, making us feel special and being really helpful in terms of topping up our teapot and explaining what was on offer- even offering us to upgrade to a champagne or gin and tonic afternoon tea which we unfortunately had to decline as we were driving.

The food itself was so tasty and filling, we honestly didn’t need to eat it all, but we totally did as it was that good! They only told us afterwards that they can bag an extra up for you to take home…

We started off with dainty smoked salmon, ham and mustard and egg mayonnaise sandwiches, along with the added bonus of still warm mini sausage rolls, cheese straws and fruit cake with wensleydale cheese just for the bottom tier! The scones were so soft and crumbly we had trouble spreading the cream on them without it all falling apart, and despite their small size, felt very decadent. The cake tier was the highlight though- shortbread with raspberry kiss meringue, mini lemon drizzle cake, orange macaroons, chocolate brownies and mint chocolate shards. We were so full by the end we had to stay a while longer just to digest it all like overfed pythons! All of this was only £16 each, yet another reason why I actually preferred it to Bettys.

Before leaving, we had a sneaky look around the rest of the hotel under the pretence of looking for a venue for my upcoming wedding (the boyfriend doesn’t know yet that he’s proposed and I’m planning already, but it was a good excuse to be nosey!) I can see why so many people choose Tickton Grange for their weddings, as they not only do a very nice reception by the sounds of it and for a very reasonable price, but also have the license for a civil ceremony and 21 bedrooms to accommodate all your guests, so they really can give you the whole package.

We had a lovely girly afternoon, and will definitely be something we will be repeating- mum even said that she’s going to try and persuade my dad to take her there for dinner as their restaurant menu sounds equally good, so there may be another review coming soon!

 

Starbeck Tandoori 

Here at Exploring Yorkshire we love a good curry, and luckily we have one of the best in Harrogate just 5 minutes down the road. Starbeck Tandoori may be small and easy to miss, but it is definitely worth making the effort to visit, having won Curry house of the year for 2016.

We’ve had the takeaway service several times but hadn’t really been to the restaurant so after a long week at work we decided to treat ourselves. The portions are very generous and the prices really reasonable, plus they even do a ‘doggy bag’ service so you can take home whatever you can’t manage! We called up on and Friday night about 6.30pm and were told there’d be a table for two in ten minutes, so although they’re busy you should be able to get in.

We started with poppadoms and pickles (obviously!) which was such a good idea- the pickles were amazing and seemed homemade. I then went for the lamb shali- something I’d never tried before but very very tasty and filling, with really tender meat. The boyfriend couldn’t decide so picked a Vegetarian Thali which was a selection of six small dishes, perfect for the indecisive! We got some pilau rice and a huge, warm garlic naan to share and felt absolutely stuffed by the end! All of this, plus two alcoholic drinks cost us £38 which I think is pretty reasonable, considering the friendly staff and speedy service too.

 This may not be the coolest looking of places or the most exciting menu, but for incredibly tasty, traditional home cooked Indian food, this is definitely the place to go.

Coffee at North Bar, Harrogate 

North Bar in Harrogate is an offshoot of the more famous North Bar in Leeds which has won The Observer Food Monthly’s “Best place to drink in Britain award” and claims to (possibly) be one of the first craft beer bars in Britain. As I’m not a big beer fan, and it was about 2.30pm on a Sunday, we decided to just opt for a hot drink instead of sampling one of the 12 taps on offer.

It was fairly quiet despite the shoppers enjoying the beginning of the half term holidays and was easy to find some comfy chairs, although here are 3 levels for when it gets busy. When compared to some of the more ambitiously priced coffee shops down on Parliament Street, North Bar certainly got the quality and value for money just right. The interior is a bit quirky as you would expect fot a craft beer place, but still feels cosy and warm for an coffee shop during the day. We only ordered a cappuccino and hot chocolate as we’d already had lunch before coming out, but they do a small menu of breakfast and lunch dishes, as well as as really tasty looking cake selection.

The boyfriend certainly rated his cappuccino highly, slurping it down quickly and without sugar, a sure sign of a good coffee. My hot chocolate came with extra cream and mini marshmallows which was pretty good but the hot chocolate itself was something else. From the first sip it was obviously made with proper dark chocolate and tasted just like an actual bar of chocolate and oh so indulgent… I’ve missed finding a proper hot chocolate since Heaven Cafe closed down a year or so ago, but now know where I’ll be returning to in future for my naughty sugar fix! 

I do think it’s important to support local independent cafes as far too many close down these days, so we will be returning to North Bar to sample the food and even the beer in the near future so keep an eye out for the sequel post…

Cream tea in Chilham Village, Kent 

Our annual trip down to Kent to visit family left us with a few days to spare before the Christmas festivities began, but after a 5 hour drive yesterday we decided to have a quiet easy one today. Chilham is only 10 minutes from where we are staying and seemed the perfect spot for a late morning stroll. It has been referred to as a “quintessentially English village” even making it onto Top Gear and Agatha Cristie’s Poirot! 

The village is beautiful and the main square retains much of the original medieval/Tudor feeling. There’s a little gift shop in one of these, selling cute trinkets and homemade Christmas decorations. The history geek in me was very happy wandering around Chilham and soaking up the atmosphere. We dropped into St Mary’s Church to have a look around, which was surprisingly also full of history and monuments to the important people of the village.

Having had a walk and exploration of the village, we decided to fuel up on a cream tea at Shelley’s tea room. Again in one of the quaint old houses this was a perfect spot for people watching through the old warped windows facing onto the square. We went for the Cream Tea for two which supplied us with several cups of tea each plus two enormous scones accompanied by unhealthy amounts of jam and clotted cream. The service was really fast and friendly and just what we needed on a windy December day.

We then had a short ‘what can only be described as a waddle’ one last time around the village to try and burn off some of the calories! We passed the Woolpack Inn which has been there since the 15th century and past Chilham Castle. Unfortunately it only opens its gates once a month between May and September so we couldn’t actually see the Norman keep, but got a glimpse of the Stuart era manor house which looked huge and impressive through the gates.

We maybe spent an hour and a half here enjoying a stroll and our cream tea- there’s not a lot to do but it is a lovely village to pop into and have a mooch around.

Papa’s Mediterranean Restaurant, Harrogate 

Papa’s opened two weeks ago and having walked past it several times on our way into Harrogate while Christmas shopping, tonight we decided to visit for a belated celebratory dinner for the boyfriend passing his first term as a trainee teacher. Unfortunately I was too busy stuffing my face and so didn’t get chance to take any pictures of the food as it is that good, so I apologise for a rather plain post but hopefully my descriptions make up for it…

We arrived about 6 so quite early and were the only ones in, but this meant that we could chat to the owner who is absolutely lovely about Greece, family, Harrogate and of course, food. Even after we finished and the tables were filling up, he and his wife were happy to chat for ages and we genuinely felt welcome and so relaxed, like we were having dinner with friends rather than a typical restaurant where you’re just a bum on a chair. It seems a lovely family run business that is all too happy to help you have a great time!

We opted for the Mediterranean roasted vegetable platter for two for starters. This included falafel balls, loads of grilled veg (peppers, onion, aubergine) with tzatziki and houmous for dipping the homemade bread into. Everything has clearly been made from scratch by the Greek chef and you can certainly taste this! Although I’m separating starters and mains here, it arrives all at once as a real feast like they would have in Greece, although there is the option to stagger them if you want.

For mains I had the gambas a la plancha  (grilled king prawns in tomato and white wine sauce sprinkled with feta). I was a little dubious about the fish and cheese combo but willing to give new things a try and it was so worth it- the flavours worked well together and the prawns were perfectly cooked. The boyfriend couldn’t decide so had a mix of starters for his main, although there were vegetarian options on the specials board he could’ve had. The babakanoosh and falafel were tasty but the real star was the tuscan bean bruscetta which was so flavoursome for such a simple dish. We were also given a tiny dish of the gigantes plaki to taste on the house which again was really good.

There isn’t a dessert menu but when we asked we were offered baklava and ice cream. This turned out to be huge- the size of your average cake slice not the tiddly little portions you get in shops and served with caramel sauce and chocolate ice cream. If I had been allowed to lick the plate in public I would have because this was incredible! The owner then gave us a shot of ouzo to wash everything down with, again on the house! He was so generous and wanting us to have a good time for our little celebration.

We are already planning to go back there with friends and family and it has rocketed to our favourite restaurant in Harrogate! The food is amazing, the staff lovely and the price really reasonable for such a good feast- all of this food plus a drink each cost us £24 each which is damn good value for a 3 course meal cooked from scratch and clearly with love. Honestly, I cannot recommend this place enough…. go now!!

Six Poor Folk, Knaresborough 

Having Friday off work and it being the end of term surely calls for a bit of a treat, especially after a busy morning Christmas shopping and getting my hair done for the work Christmas party tomorrow! Six Poor Folk is one of the newer cafes/restaurants to Knaresborough and the exterior certainly draws you in (although the door is around the side, not the one you can see in the picture, a little confusing for a sleep deprived end of term teacher!)

Inside it is small but cute and welcoming. It was very empty on a Friday lunchtime but by all accounts gets busy on weekends and evenings and is very popular. There’s even a real wood fire surrounded by comfy chairs if you’re just popping in for coffee and cake. There’s also extra seating upstairs which looks a bit more restauranty whereas downstairs seems more like a cafe.

I ordered the soup of the day which was pumpkin and ginger with crusty bread, with a seasonal salad on the side to boost the vitamins after a morning out in the cold! They also are currently offering a festive bites menu with things like pigs in blankets, chorizo in red wine and roast chestnuts for those who just want a snack to warm them up.

The soup was silky smooth and very tasty- quite a subtle taste but very fragrant and almost sweet from the ginger and pumpkin combination that reminds me so much of autumn. The seasonal salad was a little disappointing as although the honey mustard dressing was very good and I enjoyed the inclusion of tiny radishes for extra crunch, it was just a little small and I didn’t feel actually that seasonal as it was simple salad leaves.

I would eat here again, perhaps trying the dinner menu as they have some really promising sounding dishes on there too such as spiced cod with mussels and roasted pork belly. While still relatively little known compared to the pubs in the main sqaure, Six Poor Folks definitely is on the rise and deserves even more love from the people of Knaresborough.