Two music graduates chronicle the culinary delights of Leeds and London and explore the height of fine dining on a limited budget.

Good food is well punk.

June 22, 2010

Lunch at L'Oranaise

Ah, sunny days and spontaneity. G and I were too snoozy to cook, ambling to Hyde Park Corner seemed like the perfect option and so a L'Oranaise trip happened. This place is a bit more on topic for this blog than some of our recent posts have been(!) and new for this post: I remembered to take my own pictures for the first time EVER. The things I do for you guys.

This was a light lunch so there was plenty of sharing, but look at the size of the drinks we started with:

Mine was only a smidge under a pint of blueberry smoothie, which was quite raspberry-heavy for a blueberry drink but had all the requisite seeds in it (it wasn't from a packet! hooray!) and was probably the most refreshing thing possible that time of afternoon. G's was simply wonderous; a caramel nut mocha frappe that sounds like a mouthful but had subtly rich flavours jumping out of it. Creamy and delicious.

Next was a mezze platter of shawarma chicken, hummus, cous cous, pitta and salad with tzatziki dressing:

The photo doesn't do justice to the brightness of the different components; it was actually a very colourful plate to look at. The cous cous is hiding under the tomatoes and had bits of red onion and sweetcorn and spring onion lurking in its depths, further increasing colour standards.

Both of us could quite happily have eaten the plate on our own; but, like I said, light lunch. The chicken was well-infused and soft, the tzatziki was zingy and there was enough pitta for the whole dish. Just perfect, if over in a flash (but that was completely our fault for sharing. Next time, greed all the way).

We decided on a banana split, but characteristically had decapitated half of it before even attempting to document it. Oops. There was honey and caramel sauce and if it hadn't been such a hot day the ice cream would have remained vaguely solid. The banana was the only natural ingredient in the dish, and certainly it wasn't quite as tasty as the mezze, but the flavours were well-balanced and we ate every last drop.

Then we went to the park and hung out. Thus ends the tale of the easiest lunch date ever. Obviously go; it's bloody brilliant, and couldn't have been more unfussy if we'd camped outside it in our pyjamas. The prices are exceptionally reasonable - our lunch, with extra drinks, came to a few pennies over 20 quid - and, if you're looking for something more substantial for the evening, they do wonderful authentic Algerian tagines (and pizzas, and cous cous, and stuff off the grill...). Love it.

1 The Crescent
Hyde Park

June 14, 2010

How to do Italian cuisine, with love from Ikea and Greece: Giorgio's, Headingley

This time, Tom and I were determined not to get carried away. For the second in our dual-authored two-parter, hereby christened, "The notafuckingfoodie Banqueting Bonanza", we were most definitely dedicated to sticking to a student-esque budget. Sod's law, therefore, that the bill came to £60. Definitely not our fault. Yep.

Once again, our feelings came out as a very mixed bag. To help illustrate this we'll keep with the same format from before, for continuity's sake:

Tom over here...
... and Marianne over here.


Perhaps what struck me about Giorgio's was how plain it seemed. Every British city is swamped by Italian-inspired restaurant chains, from Ask to Zizzi, meaning any independent really needs to stand out. While Giorgio's red leather seats and trendy colour prints on the walls put one in mind of a fairly racy foreign bistro, the laminate flooring and Ikea door handles made it feel like so many of the newly-outfitted Hyde Park student houses we've come to know over the last three years.

Hmm, think I disagree here. Headingley is not just for students, honest, and Giorgio's sets itself out as a classy if unintimidating venue that even your grandma might well enjoy on a special occasion. And the waiters. They topped up our wine! They swept the crumbs away after every course! Maybe I should be more used to it but I am such a sucker for attentive service.

A disappointing starter for me - based on the assumption that the quality of a restaurant can be found in the way it approaches the basics, I ordered the classic Caprese salad. Sadly, at £6.50 it proved to be more of a Ca-pricey. The tomatoes were one-dimensionally sour and needed as much salt as possible to bring out any depth of flavour. The mozzarella had the texture of damp shortbread and was nowhere near creamy enough, while the basil leaves in an insufficient amount to provide the dish with any actual flavour.

My starter was mussels in cream and white wine sauce, which the accompanying sourdough lapped up (and it was a nicely olivey ciabatta. Came with a good, thick balsamic too). Can't go wrong. The mussels were huge and I hadn't eaten for at least half a day so wolfed the lot down. And, in fairness, they were cooked very well - not a sloppy or rubbery one in sight - but it was pleasant rather than spectacular.

Going again with the simple flavours, I had the gnocchi in a saffron and parmesan sauce. By far the highlight of my meal, the dish was a beautiful earthy yellow, and subtly flavoured with onion, garlic and parsley. Subtly to the point of not imparting any particular onto the dish, but the gnocchi's gutsiness was marvellously counteracted by the creamy sauce in an fairly irresistible combination that didn't fail to satisfy.

Main for me was fruita de mare with linguine, tomato and chilli. For someone that's awful at dealing with spicy food, I was surprised at how intense yet manageable the kick was. The tomato shone through, as did the clams.
This appears to be the order of the day with Giorgio's; everything is flavoured tastefully. It's not new, it's not particularly exciting, but it succeeds well in what it does.

Pudding was a tiramisu, and instead of pull[ing]-me-up, it let me down quite considerably. Although it was priced at £4.25 and the size of D battery, these failings may have been overlooked if it tasted of anything. It may be a criticism to level at all kinds of meals, but it just needed more alcohol and coffee. Even at that small size, it was just too spongy and creamy. Still, at least it came with an attractively sliced strawberry on the side.

My panna cotta got better throughout. The berries were... well they weren't sharp, but they were "not sweet" enough for there to be a contrast, and once I started taking bigger spoonfuls of panna cotta I managed to discern a genuinely wonderful vanilla undertone. If only there had been more of it, then it would have been worth the £4.75 listing.

Giorgio's is run by a lovely Greek fellow, and while the menu is varied and the food is good, it is inauthenic, standard Italian fare. Considering the restaurant's proximity to the fairly excellent Salvo's, it is quite a wonder how it manages to compete. However, for a quick meal out when you don't want to cook but want something a little more upmarket, it's perfect. There's a lunch menu available from 12 - 2 at £11 for two courses and £13 for three, making the prices ok enough to bring the family or a group of friends. For what it is (an unfussy, relaxed meal out) it's definitely worth a look-in.

Giorgio's Ristorante Italiano
70-72 Otley Road
0113 278 2030