Northern Soul’s Rich Jevons visits three venues near the Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds for pre-theatre eats: Souvlaki, All Bar One and Peachy Keen.
Souvlaki is a Greek restaurant in the Electric Press building on Millennium Square, right next to the Carriageworks Theatre. It’s a fairly small space but uncluttered and with a clear view into the immaculate kitchen, and each table is set with a small candle which creates a romantic feel. The menu is comprehensive and offers a two-course early bird before 7pm.
On the evening of the review we select from the à la carte menu which is divided into meat, fish and vegetarian dishes as well as mezes for four and poikilia for two (one fish, one meat). After I have prepared myself with a peppermint tea and a rosé for my partner we discuss our choice with an attentive and friendly waitress. The service throughout is excellent with both members of staff watching alertly for all the diners’ needs and requirements, and the owner Elliott makes us feel most welcome, helping to facilitate our foodie photos.
For starters the dips consist of tzatziki, taramasalata and hummus which come with delightfully displayed pitta and really get the taste buds tingling. Alongside this the generous portion of meatballs in a rich tomato sauce is delicious with freshly baked crusty bread.
We opt for the fish poikilia which again is artistically laid out on a large platter, and the selection of five fish dishes come with fries, basmati rice and tzatziki. The calamari is thinly battered and cooked to perfection while the whitebait is fresh and flavoursome. The prawns come in a thick and creamy tomato sauce (given its texture by the addition of feta) and the anchovies added a different if acquired taste. But the star of the show has to be the tilapia which is simply divine, very salty and reminiscent of lobster, a really lovely luxury, set off by a large fillet of sea bass.
The meal is so filling we are fit to burst so share a selection of flavoured ice cream and I have a gorgeous Greek coffee to bring me round for our theatre appointment. Despite the fact that we visited on a Friday night at peak time there was still a sense of intimacy and special atmosphere including Greek music as authentic as the cuisine. Souvlaki is a fabulous venue that is warm, welcoming and a wonderful way to experience the finest Greek and Cypriot food before your night at the theatre.
Like Souvlaki, All Bar One is right next to the Carriageworks and again we visit at peak time on a Friday (and a sunny spring day at that). The place is rammed but we still have a lovely table with a view of Millennium Square and lots of available light for the pics. There is an impressive wine list so my partner tries out La Vie en Rose, a Provence-style rosé with a hint of raspberry and I have a coffee which comes with warmed milk (hoorah!).
We choose from the 16 small plates and manage to whittle it down to suit the set menu of five (or you can have two small and a main). The host Francesca is a real power engine, keeping tabs on all her clients with an eagle eye but without fuss.
The little mezze consists of a courgette and feta fritter, pomegranate and edamame bean tabouleh, tzatziki and hummus. The slow-cooked pork is to die for, with the benefit of a tasty apple and vanilla ketchup and artfully arranged pork crackling. The calamari is quite spicy with its red chilli garnish and the generous portions of chicken skewers are flavoured with ginger and come with pickled veg. But for us the hands-down winner has to be the lemongrass and chilli tempura king prawns that are both fiery and fresh.
I’m trying to watch my weight so opt for the taste explosion that is lemon torte with raspberry sorbet while my partner feeds her chocaholicism with a Colombian chocolate brownie with vanilla bean ice cream, both of which cool down the aftermath of the chilli.
I ask the manager Aimee about the unique selling points of All Bar One. “The one thing that makes us different from everybody else is our outlook. We’ve been around since the 80s and it’s very female-based though we also have everything for the guys. But it’s somewhere where the girls can come but the guys still feel comfortable. We have cocktail masterclasses and the fact that the menu is designed to pick at together, so it’s more of a social venue. There is the discovery side of our menu and each week we have a different wine of the week.”
The third and final port of call for the Carriageworks pre-theatre eats feature is the Indian buffet at Peachy Keens. Its very name made me laugh as this was the phrase that surrealist film director David Lynch used if a take was good when filming The Elephant Man, as John Hurt once told me in Bradford.
There are basically five steps to heaven: order your drinks from a wide range of beverages and wines, take your pick from the salad bar (this includes Greek offerings as well as traditional Indian), then the grill at the side of your table is loaded with meat, fish and veg to your heart’s content, and back up to the buffet bar for mains. For the finish, there’s a much-needed sweet.
This system is perfect if you are short for time before curtain-up, but there is nothing hurried about the service. Each dish is explained and this is the first time I’ve ever come across curried lamb chops which surprisingly works brilliantly. And the Cajun fish and king prawns, for lovers of seafood like us, is simply sublime. The choice of mains is wide-ranging and everything is freshly prepared, not left to go dry like some buffets. We finish off with strawberry cake and profiteroles, hardly in keeping with the Indian theme but delicious nonetheless.
Homer Simpson would adore this one but it’s a case of quality as well as quantity and the service is so friendly we feel more like visiting guests than reviewers.
By Rich Jevons
Photos of food at Souvlaki and All Bar One by Holly Spanner
Main Image is food at Souvlaki
For suggestions of pre-theatre menus in other Northern cities, please contact Northern Soul’s Assistant Editor Stephanie Alderson at firstname.lastname@example.org