If you know your latkes from your schnitzels and your matzo from your lokshen you’ll feel very much at home at Ira B’s.
If, like us, you’re not conversant in the language of Jewish cuisine, there’s no need to sit there feeling like a shlemiel – a glossary of terms is provided on the backs of the menus.
A large number of the fledgling cafe’s customers are clearly already well acquainted with the fare that’s on offer – many seemed to be ordering “the usual” during the sunny lunchtime we went.
In fact, you get a sense that a lot of the clientele have history with the owner, Ira B Silverman, who also runs an established catering business on this side of town. There’s a familiarity between staff and diners that seems to extend beyond the confines of the cafe.
The choice of location for her new venture is an interesting one – sandwiched between a dental practice and a beauticians on a nondescript parade of businesses, it’s removed from the array of bars and cafes that cater for the Street Lane set.
Not that it seems to be hampering business – after a quiet start, the tables soon started to fill up.
‘Classic food, bonkers mood’ is the slogan and there’s an appealing eccentricity about the place exemplified by the Carry On film posters that bear no relation to the Jewish-American deli theme but add to its charm all the same.
The menus themselves are printed on LP-sized bits of circlular cardboard, with the dishes written haphazardly all the way round, making for the amusing sight of diners quizzically rotating them one way and then the other like drivers trying to follow a temperamental sat nav.
After several circuits, and having referred to the culinary dictionary, I went for the grobber. ‘A big fat one’ was what I was promised (what was that about Carry On films?). Even though I opted for the smaller of the two sizes, my salt beef sandwich lived up to the billing.
I counted five layers of perfectly moist meat between the two slices of delicious rye bread that were struggling to hold it all together. You’d be hard pressed to find better this side of Manhattan.
A latke – a bitesize potato pancake similar to a hash brown – along with a small side salad and freshly made coleslaw completed the dish.
My dining partner’s chicken schnitzel platter was a feast comprising two sizeable chicken breasts in a golden crispy breadcrumb coating, potato salad, roasted vegetables, latke, salad and a thousand island dressing-style sauce. She delighted in demolishing the mini picnic.
We shared a retro knickerbocker glory for dessert. Combining ice cream, jelly, fruit, cream and sweets, it was a kids’ birthday party in a glass. We hoovered it up with childish glee.
At £24 including a couple of drinks, our lunch didn’t come cheap.
But there’s nothing else quite like this in Leeds and this diner, for one, hopes that Ira B’s earns the success its chutzpah deserves.