Restaurant review: Caravanserai, Leeds

6 February 2015 .......   Caravanserai, No. 1 Crown Street, Leeds...      Little Oliver'TJ100705a Picture Tony Johnson
6 February 2015 ....... Caravanserai, No. 1 Crown Street, Leeds... Little Oliver'TJ100705a Picture Tony Johnson
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Designed to look like a traditional Persian caravan from the outside, right down to the detachable wooden wheels, it’s almost as if Caravanserai has pulled up overnight behind the Corn Exchange.

And luckily for anyone who loves great North African and Middle Eastern cuisine, this new addition to the city’s food scene isn’t going anywhere.

5 Feb 2014.........Kada Bendaha opens Caravanserai in the city centre. The new street food-style project serves authentic Ottoman food and North African offerings.Kada with his son Djamel. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1007/01a

5 Feb 2014.........Kada Bendaha opens Caravanserai in the city centre. The new street food-style project serves authentic Ottoman food and North African offerings.Kada with his son Djamel. Picture Scott Merrylees SM1007/01a

Below the appealing mix of reds and greens on its exterior, the focal point from outside is the serving window, where the chefs, all wearing distinctive hats, are cooking away amid an enticing spread of olives, breads, houmous and falafel.

Through the door and up the concrete stairs is a private room filled with one large dining table and an ambience that makes you feel like you’ve just stumbled into a living room in down-town Marrakesh.

Patterned rugs adorn the walls, there are musical instruments at eye height and old suitcases on the shelves. A Tiffany-style lampshade catches the eye, and in the one small toilet there are elaborate mosaics on the wall.

Ordering food to eat upstairs is slightly awkward, with diners obliged to stand on the concrete stairs next to the serving area and dodge people coming in through the front door, but it’s charming rather than annoying.

Kada Bendaha.

Kada Bendaha.

Owner Kada Bendaha, who runs Cafe Moor in Kirkgate Market and whose skills have been recognised by Glastonbury’s organisers, is at the forefront of proceedings, encouraging staff and checking patrons are enjoying their food.

Not long after ordering, a tray piled with colourful delights is placed in front of us. There are chicken wings, charred and crispy with a tinge of charcoal flavour in amongst the heat of the marinade, and daubed in a red chilli sauce containing a hit of chipotle-smokiness.

The falafel bear little resemblance to their dry, anaemic cousins you might buy from the supermarket for a packed lunch. Crunchy outside and fluffy within, they are virtually begging to be dipped in the flavoursome home-made houmous, as were the chewy and chargrilled flatbreads.

There’s cous-cous, plenty of fleshy, voluptuous olives, slices of what we assume to be pickled beetroot and a big chilli we’re too nervous to eat. Much like the falafel, the dolma, or vine leaves, are an infinite improvement on the vinegary examples you might have at home.

Add in a small cup of green tea and a glass of water (there’s no booze, only a minor complaint) and the whole thing comes to a mere £14. It’s as cheap as chips, and considerably tastier. A free piece of sweet, sticky baklava, courtesy of Kada, only serves to reinforce the notion that we’ll be back again - and soon.

Rating: 4/5

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