Tag Archives: Leeds

Crafting with Carpetright

I would love to craft more, but the practical side of me hates the idea of crafting things for the sake of it. The perfectionist in me wants my crafts to look perfect, and the minimalist wants less stuff cluttering up the house. This usually results in crippling indecision, where I bookmark 19 craft projects a day and fill my online hobbycraft basket to the brim, but don’t actually make anything.

When Carpetright got in touch to invite me to a blogger crafting event at Chirpy, one of my favourite spots in Leeds, I thought it would be a good opportunity for a crafting kickstart to force me into action. Also cake was mentioned.

Artist Miriam Laville was leading the session, and she greeted us with some examples of items that could be crafted with leftover carpet offcuts – doormats, mirrors, planter pots and so on. Fully aware that my craft enthusiasm massively outweighs my craft ability, and hoping that I would manage to cobble together something I would actually want to display in my house, I decided to go low key.

I spotted a wide round tin and I thought it would be perfect as a little trinket display tray. I lined both sides with carpet so that both the surface and the contents would be protected from damage, then….that was it. I could have embellished with some bling or added more colour (and actually a lot of people seemed to think I should do so!) but I’m glad I resisted I finished pretty early but that just left me extra time to sample the goodies from Sunshine Bakery and check what everyone else was making!

I couldn’t believe my luck when we were all given gift bags containing extra goodies! The highlight was definitely a £10 Chirpy voucher, which I couldn’t wait to spend. On the way out I had a good poke around and left with a gorgeous Fawn & Rose necklace and a pretty glass candle holder – both pictured below!

In my old flat, I damaged a couple of window ledges by putting plant pots and vases on them that ruined the paintwork. I never would have thought of experimenting with carpet as a practical way to stop this from happening as well as a way to add an unusual texture or a flash of colour. Thanks Carpetright!

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BurgerSearch 3: MEATliquor

BurgerSearch posts document my search to find the best burger in Leeds, as part of my 30by30 goals. I’ve got plenty of places on my list, but I’m very open to suggestions, too! Where was your best ever Leeds burger from?

I’ve fancied giving the Leeds MEATliquor a try since it first opened, and this review from Rich, who knows his food, only encouraged me.I headed down for a chilled weeknight burger and drink with a few friends last week.

Venue: MEATliquor, Trinity Centre, Bank Street
Burger: Bacon Cheeseburger, £8.50

Burger Patty 23/25

Huge. Juicy. Tender. Pink. Flavourful. This patty ticked every single box and then some.

Bun, toppings and fries 22/25

I need to talk about the bacon. It wasn’t rashers, it was some sort of reconstituted sheet (?) of bacon that absolutely blew my frickin’ mind. The cheese was plentiful and perfectly gooey, and the sauces oozed out of the bun and got everywhere – I made extensive use of the kitchen roll on the table. The cheese fries were perfect, loaded with generous handfuls of cheese and all hot and salty underneath. (Some might find them too salty; I thought they were perfect.) I gave an extra point because the bun wasn’t brioche, which was refreshing, but I took it back off again because the Dead Hippie sauce they rave about wasn’t all that.

Service and atmosphere 20/25

Service was pleasant and efficient, which is all I ask for. I found the atmosphere fairly chilled – it had a late night diner/pool hall feeling to it, and was quite unlike the dark, loud basement I was expecting.

Value for Money 18/25

It’s on the pricey side, but it’s amazing. Three of us had a burger, a side and a drink each and it came to £56.65, including a service charge and a £1 charity donation. I’d consider that to be quite a lot for a one course meal, but it was a) very filling and b) bloody good.

Total 83/100

I had high hopes for MEATliquor and it has delivered. This is the first time I’ve walked away from a burger and thought: yes, that could have been the best burger in Leeds. I’ve got plenty more places to visit, so anything could happen, but I can definitely see myself returning here pretty soon as well.

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The Kite Runner at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

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I’ve got a busy week this week! All my weeks tend to be quite busy, what with a full time job, an internship and a blog, but this week I’ve also got two theatre visits and a bonfire to attend. It’s tiring but so nice to be seeing lots of lovely people, since working evenings can rob me of a social life somewhat.

Last night I went to the West Yorkshire Playhouse with some of my favourite work people to see The Kite Runner. We loved the book, and we were so excited to see how Giles Croft would bring Matthew Spangler’s adaptation to one of my favourite Leeds stages in the Quarry Theatre.

If you aren’t familiar with the story: rich Pashtun boy Amir grows up in Afghanistan with his Hazara servant Hassan as his closest friend. One snowy, kite-running day, an awful act of cowardice by Amir destroys their friendship, tearing the boys apart and leaving Amir racked with guilt and unsure how to seek redemption.

Ben Turner is truly the star of the show as Amir, a superior, selfish child, desperate for his father’s attention, who isn’t that much more pleasant as an adult. Nicholas Karimi merits a mention too as the terrifyingly sociopathic Aseff and Andrei Costin’s Hassan is loyal and vulnerable without being pathetic.

The sparse staging is used effectively, but much is still left to the imagination and as a result some of the continent-spanning majesty of the source material can be lost at times. There’s not enough contrast between dusty 1970s Kabul and San Francisco on the turn of the century, which means you lack a sense of how hard Amir has worked to distance himself from his childhood home, and of the differences between his life then and now.

However, this production really packs its punches emotionally. Amir’s youthful mistake has consequences he couldn’t have imagined, and his journey to redemption isn’t easy. By the time the play draws to a close, there’s barely a dry eye in the house. The final twenty minutes are raw, touching, harrowing, even, but never schmaltzy.

There’s a reason this production is going to be packed all week. It’s beautiful, a really hard look at a tragic story that shows friendship, betrayal and family ties transcend locations and cultures.

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BurgerSearch 2: Get Baked

BurgerSearch posts document my search to find the best burger in Leeds, as part of my 30by30 goals. I’ve got plenty of places on my list, but I’m very open to suggestions, too! Where was your best ever Leeds burger from?

My latest burger venture came about after a long day of blogging in my pyjamas and not going out to fetch any food. I thought I might as well make it a full day of luxury and order in, because why the hell not?

Venue: Get Baked, Stainbeck Avenue, Meanwood
Burger: the Nice, £6.95

Burger Patty 15/25

Juicy, slightly pink and really tender. It seemed slightly peppery, not in an unpleasant way but it was a bit weird. It smelled amazing! My cats thought so too – you might be able to spot them in the pictures trying to get a piece of the action…

Bun, toppings and fries 18/25

The brioche bun was good and sturdy and the toppings were generous. You choose your own sauces and salad, which is always a bonus – picking out bits of onion is never fun. The fries, on the other hand, didn’t seem to travel well and were quite cold and chewy by the time they reached me. They were quite bland, too.

Service and atmosphere 19/25

I’m a homegirl at heart, so the atmosphere of ‘on my couch watching crap nineties box sets’ gets full marks from me. The food took absolutely ages to arrive – well over ninety minutes – but they’re very upfront about this on their website, saying they get very busy and cook everything to order. Plus, just as I was starting to wonder where my food might be, I got a call letting me know it was on the grill. Not bad.

Value for Money 20/25

At £6.95, I thought the burger was great value, but if I was ordering again I wouldn’t bother paying for the chips. The huge range of dessert options was a bit too much for me to resist, so the Kinder Bueno cheesecake (amazing) and delivery charge brought the bill up to £13.45.

Total 72/100

As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the better delivery options around. (I’m a big fan of The Sunshine Takeaway, who I’m sure will make an appearance here soon, but they don’t deliver.) I won’t bother with fries again, and it’s worth ordering a good hour before you start to even think about feeling hungry, but it’s a great burger for the price, especially considering you barely have to leave your couch.

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Spot my little helpers…

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Whoops! How did that get in there? (Delicious)

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BurgerSearch begins: Byron Burger

It’s been a great week for my 30by30 challenge! As well as collecting Christmas craft ideas, I’ve made a start on one of my other goals: find the best burger in Leeds. Most of the delay in this has been down to fine tuning the scoring system, trying to decide whether toppings are worth as many points as the bun, or how much the service should count for. Obviously, it doesn’t really matter, but tasks like this with numbers and neatness are right up my street- they appeal to my perfectionist side!

I’d also been wondering where to try first. I didn’t want to set the bar too high or have a disappointing first burger, so in the end it was a good thing the decision was taken out of my hands. We were in town at a loose end, and Ant picked Byron Burger for dinner. We had a lot of fun critiquing the burgers and tweaking the scoring system even more – sadly, I think we enjoyed this bit more than we enjoyed eating the burgers!

Venue: Byron Burger, Lands Lane, Leeds
Burger: The Byron, £9.50

Burger Patty 15/25

The burger was cooked medium and was perfectly pink in the middle. It was obviously good quality meat and was a really nice texture. However, I thought it could have had a bit more taste to it, honestly. I’d have liked it to be a bit more seasoned and a bit juicier. It was good, but not amazing.

Bun, toppings and fries 20/25

We opted for thick cut chips rather than fries, and they really were good. Hot, with fluffy insides, and with the crispy skin still on. The cheese was a really good mature Cheddar, and the bacon was salty and not too crispy. I know a lot of people like really crispy bacon, but I like it quite chewy and this was just right. There was also tons of iceberg lettuce which added a nice cool crunch. The bun (brioche OF COURSE) held together nicely, but because the burger wasn’t that juicy, it wasn’t much of a challenge.

Service and atmosphere 16/25

The atmosphere at Byron Burger was quite nice. It’s got a distinctive industrial, exposed brick sort of style, and the warm lighting and low level music was a refreshing change from some of the dark, noisy, nightclub style eateries that festoon the city centre. Service was fine, not especially friendly but efficient, which for me is more important.

Value for Money 10/25

Two burgers, the chips, aioli and two soft drinks came to £29.05. This is probably quite standard pricing for this style of burger joint – a sit down place that positions itself as a quality burger provider that’s all about the taste. Unfortunately, I just didn’t think the burgers were amazing and shelling out £15 each (bearing in mind we’d shared a side) felt a bit much.

Total 61/100

Not a bad score, but not great, and I think it reflects quite well on the experience. Not bad burgers, but with room for improvement, and not, I felt, at quite the right price point. If I’m paying £9.50 for a burger, and extra for a side, I want to feel really positive about it, instead of just okay. Not, for my money, the best burger in Leeds.

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June Roundup

Everyone knows about Leeds Loves Food – you can’t really miss it, can you? – but don’t forget about it’s poor yet delicious cousin, Leeds Loves Cocktails from the 2nd to the 8th June.. It’s not quite as massive a spectacle, but there are some amazing events scheduled including opportunities to taste rare Jack Daniels products or meet the Master Distiller at Sipsmith.

We’ve got two biggies, theatre-wise: West Yorkshire Playhouse gets properly into its Alan Bennett season, which promises to be amazing, and Wicked! finally comes to Leeds Grand (I’m pretty sure I booked my tickets when I was about fifteen. Can’t believe it’s almost here!). New seats have just been released, with best availability during the week, if you still fancy going.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Northern Ballet perform their mixed programme at the Stanley and Audrey Burton theatre. It’s a really intimate venue, and it will be the first time I’ve seen them do anything other than a full-length narrative ballet. Catch it between the 18th and 21st.

Lovely Leeds blog Cheery Little Thing is hosting an offline event on June 11th. It’s an In Conversation event with Betty Magazine, where you can get tips about branding and content, plus there’s a launch afterwards with music, cocktails and cake. Sounds fun, right? It’s in association with Colours May Vary, which happens to be just about the coolest shop in Leeds, by the way.

The Merrion Centre is currently celebrating its 50th birthday. Throughout June, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, they’re operating a free drop in cinema screening films from each decade of the Centre’s existence. I’m hoping to be able to drop in for Mamma Mia! It’s first come, first served though so make sure you beat the crowds.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a little cycling event going on in Leeds later this year…they’re calling it Le Grand Depart. Ilkley Literature Festival seem to have picked up on it and have put on a series of events called Cycling Words to celebrate. Most of these events are towards the end of the month.

Big Bookend, the ‘rock festival for words,’ is even bigger this year. I’ll be away when it’s on over the weekend of the 7th and 8th June, but if I were here I’d be going to A Time for CrimePassions and Pressures: Young Women in Fiction, and because it would be rude not to, An Audience with Alan Bennett. As an ex-Chapeltown resident, I think I’d also enjoy Max Farrar: Where is Chapeltown and what does it do?

My last event isn’t in Leeds but sounded a bit too interesting to ignore! The Unofficial Histories conference is now in its third year, and will be held at the University of Huddersfield on the 7th and 8th June. It’s a conference dedicated to exploring the way history is recorded and reported, and investigating alternative stories. Try this Culture Vultures post to learn more.

I think that’s it for now, folks. Shout out in the comments if there’s anything cool that I’ve missed and please let me know if you go to any of these events – I always like to hear how things go.

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Brunch at The Wardrobe

Brunch is absolutely hands down the best meal ever. Pancakes, french toast, bacon, syrup and all else that is good on a big sticky plate. Yum!

It seems to me like Leeds has been lacking a good, casual brunch spot. Breakfast is covered thanks to The Greedy Pig, and we’ve got countless good lunch venues, but brunch is either a formal affair or an afterthought.

Enter: The Soul Kitchen at The Wardrobe.

I found out about The Wardrobe’s new brunch menu via a blogger’s event, where we signed up for brunch without knowing what the venue would be – you might have seen some chat about this on the #brunchiscoming hashtag on Twitter. When I found out we were headed to The Wardrobe, I was a bit surprised. It’s a great bar but not particularly on my radar as a place to eat, and definitely not somewhere I’d think to go during the day.

After sampling the food though, that all changed!

We tried four dishes from the menu, which is based on traditional dishes, with twists inspired by Caribbean and Creole cooking. I had the lemon curd and mascarpone pancakes, which I could not fault in the slightest. The homemade lemon curd was creamy and tangy, perfect against the cool mascarpone. The four huge, fluffy pancakes held up their end with no problem, not too heavy but a crazy generous portion to overindulge in on a Sunday morning.

I also got a taste of the bacon and egg muffins – eggs baked in a bacon wrapper – that Ant ordered, which were hot and salty with soft, rich yolks, a little lighter as a meal but still filling and served with a slab of fresh bread. Alice had waffles, which we were all looking forward to seeing but which were sadly a bit of a disappointment. They were slightly overcooked and a bit dry, but otherwise tasty and had potential to be another great dish. Finally, between us we all sampled the French toast with maple syrup and banana, which was a bit mushy, texture-wise but really sweet and tasty and possibly the ideal hangover food.

Don’t forget to check out the shakes too! They’re pricey for the size but amazing. I tried the million dollar shake featuring salted caramel, chocolate and shortbread but there are a few options which all sounded delicious.

I’m looking forward to taking friends here when they visit – it’s the perfect place for a lazy Sunday morning after a big Saturday night!

This time, we ate for free but I can’t wait to get back there and will be happy to pay.

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In other (foodie) news…

Get the scoop on all new foodie happenings in Leeds with Diane over on A Tale of Two Sittings

I haven’t been to Angelica but Amy makes it sound oh-so-swanky in her lovely review

This morning I’ve been giggling over this picture doing the rounds on Twitter. I do love eating somewhere a bit different but I also like rolling my eyes at a hipster cliche or a place that’s just too trendy for words.

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Twisted Burger Company at Aire Bar

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you’re probably aware of the Twisted Burger Company residency that’s just started at Aire Bar. TBC hail from Sheffield, where they’ve been churning out burgers at The Harley for over three years. It’s great to see a Yorkshire brand doing well, and as far as I can tell these guys deserve their success.

Although I couldn’t make the official launch, I decided to pop in on opening night to check things out the old-fashioned way. The sun was shining, we nabbed a seat on the deck, the burgers were half price – it seemed like everything was in our favour.

I’ve never been to Aire Bar, and although I knew where it was it’s not a place I’ve ever even thought about going. It’s a bit out of the way of my usual haunts and I’ve never really heard anyone say much about it. I’m glad I had a reason to go now! It’s got a great atmosphere and was full of professionals grabbing a post-work beverage. The deck was perfect for a sunny day, and even though the Leeds river bank isn’t always the prettiest place, it wasn’t a bad view at all and I enjoyed having five peaceful minutes before my date arrived.

I was a bit sceptical about how the service would be, after some recent poor experiences at hipster pop-ups, but these guys knew what they were doing. Despite the opening night crowds, there were no nerves and we got our grub in about fifteen minutes.

There’s plenty of choice in the menu, including a patty made from bacon, a fearsome looking triple burger, and some tempting sides such as jalapeno poppers, mac ‘n’ cheese or loaded fries.

I plumped for the Smokin’ Joe Frazier, boasting two chicken patties, bacon, cheese, homemade ranch dressing and relish. I asked for sauces on the side, as I’m picky about ranch and I thought the relish might be a bit too hot for me. I should have been more trusting of the chef, because I would do pretty much anything to get my hands on that ranch recipe. It was garlicky and tangy, with quite a thin consistency – not too oily or creamy. I seriously could not get enough of the stuff and whatever I ordered in the future, I’d have that on the side. I will not forget that ranch dressing!

The chicken patties – apparently made from 90% thigh meat and 10% chicken livers – were a bit new to me! They weren’t quite as nice as a really good chicken breast can be, but it made a nice change from the dry, overcooked chicken breasts that inferior places seem to think are worth charging a tenner for.

Overall it was a good burger, moist but not too sloppy, really filling, and served with wickedly moreish crispy French fries. The offbeat, casual vibe makes Twisted perfect for a post-work bite with friends and beers and sunshine.

If you’re following Twisted Burger on any of their social media (such as their twitter, which is here), your burger is half price until 20th April, so why not give it a try?

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In other news…

Here’s my other half’s review of the same meal over at The Indie Chef

This blog on The Culture Vulture about having fun with our city is a thought-provoking read

Some of these mini desserts look better than others, but on the whole the list makes me want to throw a dessert tapas party

DO NOT MISS Amazing Graze this weekend. See my review of the last Amazing Graze event here

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Of Mice and Men at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

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What with house moving and illnesses and so on it’s been a good while since Ant and I have made it to the theatre, which is a huge shame since it’s one of our favourite things to do together. With that in mind, for Ant’s birthday last week I booked us tickets for Of Mice and Men, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s latest.

I always have high expectations at the Playhouse, just because I’ve seen so many outstanding productions there. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mary Shelley, Loserville, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Annie….all absolutely top notch. Of Mice and Men absolutely lived up to my expectations, and then some.

The story follows George and Lennie, two itinerant ranch workers and close friends, as they start a new job. Their friendship is the focus of the play; Lennie worships George and George protects Lennie from those who don’t understand him.

The staging is gorgeous as always. Standing water at the front of the stage adds a dank, closed in feeling but as soon as the hundreds of lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling light up, that’s forgotten and you’re out beneath the stars in the wide open fields.

There’s such an oppressive atmosphere for much of the play, and the music is largely responsible. Heather Christian is musical director, composer and performer, and her Americana style adds so much to the mood of the play.

There’s not a weak link in the cast. Every performance is absorbing, and despite the large amounts of dialogue, you don’t lose interest for a second. It just means the well timed silences are all the more tense and even harrowing, when they come, to help propel you toward the inevitable but horrendous crescendo. The sense of a rush towards the finale is overwhelming, and the interval was agonising. I wanted to be immersed in the play again, but I didn’t want to see what I knew I would have to see.

This has flown straight into my top 3 of the Playhouse’s productions. Bloody brilliant night out, incredibly moving and never boring.

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WBN 98: Alias Grace

I’m steadily working my way through the nation’s 100 favourite books according to World Book Night’s poll in 2011. Find out more about this challenge and check my progress here.

One of my favourite Atwood novels, Alias Grace is based on the true story of one of Canada’s most infamous alleged murderers. I always used to think I didn’t like historical fiction, for some reason. I couldn’t imagine what value there would be in writing or reading a rehash of events, bound by the facts and restricted by history. This is one of the books that changed my mind. Yes, of course a writer of historical fiction has to stick to the facts, but how many facts are actually established? Atwood dances in and out of the testimony and the records, casting doubt on some, sticking to others and ripping a few to shreds. Of course, what Atwood has come up with may not be anything like what happened, but isn’t it tempting to believe it? Doesn’t it feel good to be presented with a convincing account of events, and be able to say: yes, yes that’s what happened?

As always with Atwood, there’s a fascinating character at the centre of everything in the form of Grace Marks. Imprisoned for the murder of her master and his mistress, Grace is being interviewed by a doctor to try to retrieve the memories, apparently lost, of the crucial day when the murder occurred. Grace is undeniably a relatable, sympathetic character, and her story made me just want to give her a hug, really. But, I regularly had to remind myself that I only had her word for anything that went on. After a couple of re-reads of Alias Grace, I can’t honestly say to what extent anything might have been true, but I want to believe everything.

In other news…

Do you compulsively check your phone? I do! Help yourself resist by heading to tap.unicefusa.org before you put down your mobile. For every ten minutes that you don’t touch your phone, UNICEF’s sponsors help them provide clean water for a child for one day. I popped it on whilst writing this blog post and now I’ve helped donate 3 days of clean water, as well as staying focussed on the job at hand!

I love the sound of the meat and spirit events that Rare Leeds are running. Here are Amy Elizabeth and The Awkward Magazine‘s writeups of the Beef and Bourbon night (check out the beef dessert!), and I’ll be hoping for a repeat of the gin and chicken night.

I’m working on a post about my experiences now I’m approaching the halfway point of the #100happydays challenge. See my happy pictures on instagram.

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