If you are looking for warming, tasty food with a homely feel and an international flavour, it’s worth checking out Andalus.
It’s a relatively new addition to the bustling food offer on Roundhay Road, but can easily be lost in the plethora of takeaways,
The name references both the historic Spanish region of Andalusia or Al-Andalus - a medieval Muslim territory covering Spain and Portugal - and the countries of the Arabian Peninsula. So the menu is packed with influences as far reaching as Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq.
Hearty meat and vegetarian dishes dominate the extensive menu, which offers traditional and popular styles like North African tagine and Yemeni muqalqal.
There is also a sub-menu featuring a variety of what are described as “signature dishes from the Gulf and Arabic Peninsula.”
For the uninitiated, just reading the menu is real culinary adventure.
There are familiar words and dishes like hummus, tabbouleh, falafel and shwarma, but also some highly unusual and frankly odd sounding combinations. I was intrigued by the prospect of Shakshukah Eggs with ‘Puck’ cheese and Saltah (mincemeat and eggs cooked in a clay pot and five Yemeni spices). The Lamb Masslouq sounded tempting, as did a variety of dishes cooked in the Kabsah (steamed) and Mandi (roasted and infused) styles.
Before we had even ordered our starters, we were offered a choice of lamb or lentil soup, a bargain at £1 a bowl. My companion’s lamb broth was salty, spicy and warming, and he said it definitely hit the spot. My thin lentil soup was pleasant enough but I would have preferred something a little chunkier.
We shared a shwarma chicken with hummus starter (£3), served with flatbreads. The chicken meat was tender, and the homemade hummus velvety smooth and with a real tang of fresh lemon. The bread was clearly not homemade though, just warmed from a packet, so I was disappointed with that.
For mains, I chose the Kabsah chicken (£5.50), steam cooked spring chicken in fluffy, pilau like rice with garlic, onion and spices. The dish was a lot more generously portioned that I had expected but was nicely cooked and evenly spiced. The chicken was moist and tender, and the rice flavourful and not greasy. The dish came with a tangy chilli side sauce which worked well on the side for an extra optional kick,.
My partner went for the roasted lamb ‘Haneeth’, also from the ‘Peninsula’ menu (£6.90), which was again beautifully tender , generously but not overpoweringly flavoured with ginger and garlic and then slow cooked in the oven. My partner loved the dish, but again, it was very generously portioned.
The restaurant itself is charming and spacious if a little awkwardly laid out, with the main dining room split over two floors, The second dining area especially, with its Middle Eastern lounge layout, is worth a look in.
This place is clearly still trying to find its feet and it was wasn’t very busy when we visited for an express late night dinner.
But service was friendly and quick, and the prices very cheap for food that offers a genuine culinary adventure.
I think this place might turn out to be a bit of gem, albeit one that still needs quite a lot of polishing.
It certainly serves up a real celebration of the diverse foods of the Arabian Peninsula.