The Yorkshire Evening Post’s Oliver reviews are synonymous with the Leeds dining scene – so today we try out The Trinity Kitchen, the new food court in The Trinity Leeds.
In a one-off special and armed with just £10 per outlet, we ventured into the six permanent eateries at the city’s newest shopping arcade.
The six venues are: Pho, founded by a husband and wife team in 2005, bringing recipes from the Far East, including curries, salads and fast fried noodles; Chip + Fish, which claims to offer a twist to the traditional ‘chippy’ with lobster roll, ‘tipsy prawns’ and chilli crab cupcake, and Pizza Lux, a London-based outfit which hopes its appeal will travel to the north, with thin crust pizzas which are all about the toppings.
Then there’s Notes cafe, a speciality coffee shop and wine bar with locations in London and Leeds, sporting a cheese and tapas menu; Tortilla, which wants to change your opinion about tacos and burritos, and finally there’s Chicago Rib Shack, which aims to show us Brits how a barbecue should be done.
1: Chicago Rib Shack ***
Let’s be honest, if there’s one thing our Stateside friends do better than us Brits it’s a good barbecue.
You’ll rarely find a group of Americans standing around the grill scratching their heads while prodding bits of burned-on-the-outside, semi-cooked meat.
Bob Payton, founder of Chicago Rib Shack, certainly thought we could do with a helping hand.
That’s why he brought his concept across the pond two decades ago.
The Trinity Kitchen outlet is the first opened by the company north of London and, judging from the queue tailing back from the semi-circular counter, they’ve struck a chord.
There’s nothing elaborate about the food - it’s all about the ribs, wings and burgers. The idea is that the quality of the meat speaks for itself.
Conscious of the fact that I was wearing a white shirt - and that a heavy lunch would have done my afternoon productivity no favours - I swerved the signature ribs and chose the Chicago-style hot dog instead.
Served in a takeaway box, the grilled frankfurter - ensconced in a doughy role - was about as far away from your budget sausage-in-a-can as you could imagine.
Coming with a ‘not for kids’ warning, it was given a supersized kick thanks to a generous helping of mustard and some killer jalapeno peppers and was draped with some slices of pickled gherkin.
The fries were just right.
But it was a fairly modest meal for for the £8.70 that I paid (including a soft drink).
In short, this was good food from the Windy City. But I wasn’t blown away.
2: Chip n Fish
Us Brits know a good battered fish and fries when we see one. So with an elaborate menu of everything from classic cod and chips to battered tiger prawns and even ice cream, I was expecting something fresh and good quality from the refined Trinity Kitchen outlet Chip + Fish.
I decided to test its take on haddock and chips, which was ready within seconds and came in a card, paper-lined takeaway box with mushy peas and a choice of sauce.
The meal could only be described as substantial. The battered fish was a monster and thankfully not overly greasy but the batter and haddock combo wasn’t especially flavoursome, although it was filling to say the least. The mushy peas were a lovely accompaniment and the chips were perfectly cooked but didn’t resembled the soft fried fresh chips you’d expect to come from a chippy.
In sum the meal was good but nothing out of the ordinary, and coming in at a hefty £10 including my fruit juice drink and sauce, the cost was difficult to justify.
3: Notes Cafe and Wine Bar
Sometimes you just can’t beat a good cup of coffee.
Notes, which bills itself as a coffee specialist, already has outlets in London before it decided to branch out and venture up north.
The menu at Trinity Kitchen was typical of a coffee shop with sandwiches,soups and cakes.
And there was the extra special bonus of a hot daily lunch time special which was a shepherd’s pie complete with roasted vegetables.
Now that is something you don’t see in other big coffee chains across the city. I decided to put the coffee shop’s skills to the test and settle for
the hearty option of the pie accompanied by a mocha. I moved down the conveyor-belt style counter and waited for a few minutes for my coffee while my food order was placed.
The barista whipped up a beautiful-looking coffee complete with a love-heart on top - but this is where the praise sadly ends.
After ten minutes waiting for my lunch I was served a shepherd’s pie - complete with tin foil case- disguised in a cardboard box.
The vegetables came served on a fancy cardboard plate and were tasty. But the shepherd’s pie, which came in at £6.50, was disappointing. Maybe next time I’ll just stick to the sandwiches.
4: Pizza Luxe ****
It may be called Pizzaluxe, but the surroundings of this fast food joint in Trinity Kitchen are perhaps more industrial than luxurious.
Still, the menu and the prices suggest it is a cut above the usual pizza parlour. It’s all about the slow-proved dough and the toppings made by artisan suppliers, apparently.
I went for a pollo, which for £9.45 was topped with pesto chicken, artichokes, black olives, pine nuts and mushrooms.
Pizzas come in one size only, which seemed big enough for two moderately hungry people or one greedy one - as I was. It was delicious, a super-thin base topped with quality ingredients, especially the incredibly tasty chicken.
My only complaint was that the toppings seemed to have been chucked on with no thought to balancing them equally across the base. That and the cost, which was steep for just one person.
But taste-wise, Pizzaluxe isn’t far from serving up a slice of heaven.
5: Pho ***
As we wandered into the Pho kiosk at Trinity Kitchen, the heady, aromatic smells of Far Eastern food hit us immediately.
I am a huge fan of Asian street food generally, so was looking forward to this taste of Vietnam.
The seating area was bustling, and the chatter lively. I liked the neon-lit ambience and informality of the set-up.
I opted for a traditional Vietnamese curry with chicken (beef and vegetarian were also options), priced £7.45, and my companion had the ‘Bun’ beef, a noodle salad, priced £6.45.
Less than ten minutes later, our food arrived. The flavours were intense, as expected. My curry had a particular piquancy and the heat nearly blew my head off - in a good way! The thick, coconutty gravy, with spring onions, mushrooms, peppers and big chunks of chicken, was a sheer delight.
My companion also savoured his beef salad, and especially loved the crunchy peanut topping and gutsy dressing. However he remarked the dish could have done with a few more pieces of beef.
Pho is fabulous for eating on the hop, but without resorting to boring. samey salads and sandwiches. The only put-off, when you are stopping off for lunch, is the parking costs for those driving, so it’s definitely a post or pre-shopping experience rather than destination-dining. Or, just leave the car at home.
Despite that, I’ll definitely be saying hello to Pho again very soon.
6: Tortilla ****
The California burritos and tacos-themed restaurant does exactly what is says on the tin.
Set up in a similar was as Subway, you start at the bar and first choose either a medium or large burrito, naked burrito (without the wrap) or tacos.
Then comes the filling - with a choice of pork, barbacoa beef (seared, braised and shredded), grilled steak, chicken or vegetarian.
I opted for barbacoa beef and was ushered down the line, where I had to choose between different types of beans, rice, spicy sauce and toppings.
I went for black beans, coriander rice, a mildly spicy sauce, guacamole, cheese, fresh chillis and a squeeze of lime.
It was the perfect lunch - fresh ingredients and meaty, tasty beef that made for a satisfyingly filling meal.
Wrapped up neatly in a little foil package, it was like a little lunchtime gift to myself.
With a can of coke, the bill came to £7.30.
A slightly expensive lunch but worth every penny.