Leeds city centre is so jam packed with decent places to eat at the moment that you can just about pitch up any night of the week and expect to get a table somewhere serving above average food.
A little while ago, a friend and I opted for this approach and because I’d effectively got the night off from looking after the kids (even though it was a weekday and I was working the following day), we decided to order a taxi rather than drive, firstly because we wanted to have a little dwinkie and also because I pity anyone who actually drives into Leeds, because parking is the devil’s work.
It was a Tuesday around 8pm when we arrived in City Square. We headed straight into Tapped on Boar Lane, where they have 27 draft beers, including 13 cask ales. Honestly, it’s a lovely place. It also boasts 14 craft keg beers. And over 100 bottled beers. Plus, they serve pizzas. Part of me wanted to stay there, mostly because it was just nicely busy, as opposed to three-deep at the bar and there were plenty of stools available and the beer was really great. It was also mostly made of wood, which appeals to the hunter-gatherer in me on some level I cannot quite explain but let’s just say that if a snow-covered trapper walked in wearing full firs with a dead dear over his shoulder and icicles hanging off his beard, I wouldn’t bat en eyelid.
A sense of duty overcame our base instincts, however, and so we left and meandered around outside for a bit before spying Bundobust over the road (right next to Theravadu).
It’s won great reviews has Bundo and we’ve been there before in Little Oliver guise but never as Big Oliver.
The interior looks like a cross between a reclamation yard specialising in old wooden doors and the back end of B&Q. Not that that should put you off.
In what one presumes is a conscious decision, all the doors have been chopped up and fitted jigsaw style onto the walls (in lieu of wallpaper you understand), while the tables and benches are made up of heavily varnished chipboard. It’s kind of industrial-DIY-retro chic. In that sense, it’s achingly modern and right up there with massive beards on young people, expanding ear rings and skinny jeans.
The other thing to note about Bundo is that you don’t book, you just drop by and hope they have room and if they don’t, there’s a modest sized bar area where you can admire the woodwork-themed decor and drink. Bundo has cleverly paired craft beer with a kind of Indian tapas. It’s a winning combination, too, judging by reviews and awards (last year, they scooped Best Cafe Bar in the YEP Oliver Awards). It’s also all vegetarian.
Now, my dining companion for the evening - let’s call him Adam (which happens to be his real name anyway) - is an ardent meat lover who has never to my knowledge failed a challenge.
On the list of things I am most likely to do with Adam, eating in a vegetarian only restaurant has to be right up there with naked potholing in the Himalayas and breeding fluorescent lamas.
The menu is nice and compact, with dishes like this: the onion gobi bhaji bhaji (yes, a bhaji bhaji), served with a tamarind and red pepper chutney for four quid or the bhel puri samosa pastry with puffed rice and turmeric noodles (also £4) and the vada pav, described as Mumbai’s favourite burger, a fried spicy mashed potato ball coated in gram flour, served in a brioche bun with red and green chutney and hot green chillies (£5). But there was one other option which caught my eye.
It said simply: ‘Everything on the menu: £66’.
Bargain, I thought and so that’s what we ordered, even though our waiter pointed out, apologetically, at first but ending with something akin to wide-eyed wonder: “But that’s a meal for... six” at which we both shrugged, as one does when one doesn’t want to lose face.
Before leaving, he casually promised a drink on the house if we managed it all. Ha. As if.
Now let me get one thing straight. When we first thought of ordering EVERYTHING ON THE MENU, it wasn’t our intention to eat ALL OF IT but merely to sample the various dishes.
Somewhere down the line, however, a gauntlet had been well and truly thrown down. And so there we were, waiting not without trepidation, for EVERYTHING ON THE MENU to arrive.
While we waited, we sampled some more of their craft brews. There’s enough to make you forget about the it the next day too, with the relatively moderate Camden Gentleman’s Wit at 4.3 per cent, a Brooklyn lager at 5.2 per cent and a memory-fudging Brewdog Hardcore IPA at 9.2 per cent.
After not very long the food arrived and Adam and I started as we meant to go on. I can’t tell you what all of the individual dishes were like but I can recall that the mashed potato burger was well seasoned and utterly scrumptious and the okra fries (£3.250), fried lady’s fingers coated in chick pea batter, seasoned with black salt and mango powder could replace my chips any day. Other stand out dishes included egg bhurji (£6), scrambled egg jazzed up with curry. The only dish I didn’t care for was the ildi sambhar (£5), steamed rice dumplings, lentil soup and coconut chutney, which put me in mind of wallpaper paste for some reason.
Altogether, there were 14 dishes, some more challenging than others and I have to say that near the end, it almost beat us. In fact, immediately after we’d stupidly (needlessly, really) completed our challenge, I for one wished I hadn’t.
Our waiter promptly delivered the promised drink on the house (a teeny tiny whisky was all we could manage) and then he put us on their facebook page.
Address: 6 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ
Opening times: Monday-Thursday noon-11pm, Friday & Saturday noon to midnight, Sunday noon-10pm
Bookings: for lunch only