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.

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Harrogate Turkish Baths and Spa

On a cold February morning, all I can think about is warming up and relaxing before the end of the half term holidays! Luckily for me, and all you Yorkshire folk, we have Harrogate Turkish Baths right on our doorstep. The Royal Turkish Baths building first opened in 1896 during Harrogate’s heyday as England’s leading Spa town, offering a whole range of treatments. With regular Royal visitors, the Turkish Baths interiors were given a beautiful and lavish Moorish style with great Islamic arches and screens, walls of vibrant glazed brickwork, arabesque painted ceilings and terrazzo floors, laid by the very best Italian experts. It is honestly such a beautiful building, and the refurbishment in 2004 kept all of these features, turning it into luxurious modern spa experience.

There are a range of sessions available, ranging from £15.50 to £29.50 depending on the time you visit. They also offer several ladies only slots, plus a new male only slot as well as the regular mixed one we went to. However, be warned that while swimming costumes are compulsory in the mixed sessions, they are not during the single sex sessions which took me by surprise a little! I started off in the cooler Frigidarium where the lockers and changing rooms are, which is supplied with comfy beds and magazines. However, the lure of the steam room quickly got the better of me, and I probably spent far too long in there relaxing and feeling the benefit of the steam on my poor cold-filled nose!

I then moved onto the Hot Room Chambers which are split into three by thick velvet curtains- the Tepidarium (warm), the Calidarium (hot) and the Laconium (hottest). There were plenty of recliners and benches to relax and chat on, and a water fountain for when the dry heat became a little too much… although being a California baby I don’t think I have ever found my optimum temperature!

After a while though, I did feel the need to cool down a little so braved the Plunge Pool. It was horrifically cold and made me squeal like a little baby but I guess was refreshing in a way. I decided a cool shower was maybe more for me after revisiting the steam room and hot rooms again as there was no way I was getting back in that pool!

Image result for spa treatment harrogate turkish bathsThe Turkish Baths are not only a baths facility, but also have a modern spa available which the boyfriend treated me to and got me full body relaxation massage for our anniversary! Although more expensive than other massage places in Harrogate it was absolutely lovely and a perfect way to relax. You also get access to the Jacuzzi room as a spa customer which was pretty good too, plus it has little tables where you can order food from a café linked to the Turkish Baths which we enjoyed. Clearly the best bit is the complimentary fluffy dressing gown and slippers to lounge around in, although the boyfriend reckons his personal highlight was the original Thomas Crapper toilets…. each to their own!

If you’re ever in Harrogate and feel the need for some serious relaxation and pampering, this is the place to go, and will always bring a smile to your face just by being in such a beautiful building!

None of the photos used are my own, as you obviously can’t take photos while visiting so they are all courtesy of Google images. If they’re yours, let me know if you want credit or removal.

 

 

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…

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!!

Baltzersen’s, Harrogate 

Baltzersen’s in Harrogate has been around for a while now and I’ve read plenty of reviews but never made it inside, despite wanting to every time I walked past, I always ended up too busy or persuaded by the boyfriend to visit one of our regular favourites. This was mainly down to the assumption that they vegetarian options wouldn’t be great- Scandinavian food does have a reputation for being fish and smoked meat heavy. However yesterday we took the plunge and were pleasantly surprised by the choice available- so much so that I even went for a veggie option myself!

Once inside we only had to wait a minute or so to get a table- this was about 2.30 on a Saturday so not surprisingly it was fairly busy for a small café. We were then seated and managed to choose our lunch fairly quickly before returning to the tills to order. The drinks service was a little slow but I forgive them in their lunchtime rush. The interior is quite minimalist but cosy, with tables in a few nooks and crannys, plus cushions and newspapers provided to keep you happy while you wait.

I ordered a bowl of Lapskaus-a Norwegian lentil and root vegetable stew which came with warm bread and butter, and the boyfriend opted for an open sandwich with grilled halloumi, beetroot and an apple and radish relish which looked good but not as good as my warming and hearty stew! It was a little like a soup as there was quite a lot of liquid but was definitely a good choice for a December lunch.

We couldn’t resist the window of sweet treats on the way out, and what could be more Scandinavian than cinnamon buns? (ok Baltzersen’s is Norwegian and cinnamon buns are Danish but its close enough!) We got two to take away and enjoy for breakfast this morning. They were huge and the amount of cinnamon was just right all the way through, with a soft, sticky middle. The perfect way to start the day!

They also do adorable heart shaped waffles with jam and cream or chocolate spread, which are even half price after 3pm Monday-Friday so I will defiantly be back to indulge my sweet tooth!

Baltzersen’s transforms at night into Norse– a restaurant that describes itself as ‘relaxed fine dining’ with a Scandinavian inspired 8 course menu. While perhaps a little expensive and decidedly less vegetarian friendly menu it probably won’t be one the boyfriend and I try out, but it certainly looks like a very interesting foodie experience! While I can’t speak for Norse, Baltzersen’s is certainly worth a visit.

 

 

 

Valley Gardens, Harrogate 

The Valley Gardens are English Heritage Grade II Listed gardens in the Montpellier Quarter of Harrogate and open all year round to enjoy for free. My grandparents visited Harrogate this weekend, and after a trip to Bettys (previous review here) we wandered down to Valley Gardens to burn off all the cake! While we love going for just a stroll, it was lovely to get my more knowledgeable grandparents to explain all the plants we saw- although we still haven’t figured out what the giant rhubarb looking plant was….

Despite it being the beginning of autumn, the gardens were still very colourful and full of the final blooms of the flowers. I can imagine in a few weeks when the leaves of the trees turn it will be even more beautiful! It is a huge area to stroll around, and you can even reach RHS Harlow Carr (another review here) if you walk through it for long enough. Throughout the year there are events and concerts on and has great little areas for kids to play in, as well as a little café and ice cream shop, so there’s something for everyone.

There’s not a lot more to say about it, but hopefully the pictures will give you a bit of an idea about what it’s like, and if you’re in Harrogate persuade you to make a visit.

 

Stuzzi, Harrogate 

It was the boyfriend’s birthday last weekend and we decided to celebrate at Stuzzi in Harrogate. We had been once before for a drink outside after a meal somewhere else but after reading several rave reviews of the restaurant, I had to give it a try.

Stuzzi is an Italian restaurant that works on the idea of stuzzichini which is like the Italian version of tapas with lots of small plates designed to be shared. Everything is made fresh on the day depending on the ingredients delivered, so the menu is constantly changing which gives you a huge variety of flavours from different areas of Italy, but also unfortunately means you can’t have a favourite to always return to!

We had a vegetarian and a lactose intolerant in our group and the staff were so helpful with checking what was suitable, as well as recommending a good wine “with a bit of ooomph”- the midle one from Puglia. They also explained each dish- where it came from and the ingredients used which was a really nice touch to have such knowledgeable staff on hand.

We started with the antipasti platter to share as there was something for everyone- the spicy salami was delicious and the turnip tops fried in butter an unexpected bonus.

We then moved onto the stuzzi, ordering 7 between 5 of us, plus an Italian cheese platter to finish with. Although the plates are small they are very tasty and suprisingly filling so don’t panic when they appear- we found ordering one each then sharing, and then ordering more when we wanted worked well.

Unfortunately the menu will have no doubt changed by now, here’s a quick run down of what we had:

  • Roast belly pork on crushed garlic and rosemary cannollini beans (amazing!!)
  • Sardine and saffron tagliatelle with raisins and pine nuts
  • Pickled sea trout with fennel, radish and orange
  • Aubergine and ricotta croquettes
  • Tomato bruschetta
  • Bronze di linguine with fresh pesto
  • Fried seafood selection- king prawns, squid and sardines with lemon and garlic aoili.

The 5 cheese selection I cannot remember the names of but there was an incredibly creamy mozzarella, one a bit like parmigiano reggiano which was great with honey, another hard cheese that went really well with the spicy chutney, and a very strong blue cheese soaked in red wine and berries which I could have eaten whole blocks of! (the 5th one has completely escaped me….)

Stuzzi also operate as an Italian deli during the day and you can buy many of the staple ingredients used plus fresh baked bread and pastries. I would recommend booking in advance as it was very busy on a Saturday night, and I’ve heard most nights and lunches too! The whole meal for 5 people and a bottle of wine (it was so nice you only really sip it rather than knock it back like a cheap bottle of plonk) came to about £20 each which is very good value for such a nice dinner and amazing service!

All the photos are from their Facebook page as I took none of my own- I was enjoying it too much to get the phone out!