Join The Wine Gang


Good news for wine drinkers, writes our wine writer Helen Scott, two upcoming events in Leeds tick the vino lovers’ boxes.

I’ve raved about the wine list at Ibérica in Leeds before. Jill has similarly praised Ibérica’s relaxed atmosphere and authentic tapas.

Now Spanish food and wine writer Maria José Sevilla and wine expert Anthony Rose have teamed up to present an evening at Ibérica on November 17 showcasing the best seasonal dishes and fine wines from small boutique wineries.

They’re offering the chance to win a pair of tickets, worth £110, by clicking on this link

Friday 17th November at Ibérica, Hepper House, 17a East Parade, Leeds, LS1 2BH




The following day, Anthony, who writes for Decanter and sits as a wine judge, will also be dispensing wine wisdom at a mouthwatering wine festival along with his colleagues in The Wine Gang – Jane Parkinson from BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, House and Garden’s Joanna Simon and the Observer’s David Williams.

For those who think tastings are solemn sip and spit affairs, this is the antithesis of that, with hundreds of wines selected by a range of wine merchants from Harvey Nicks and the Wine Society to high street favourites like Waitrose and Majestic.

Guided wine walks from table to table, a prize draw, book giveaways and Burgundy masterclass are also on offer. Count me in!

Tickets £25 from

Saturday 18th November at Aspire, 2 Infirmary Street Leeds LS1 2JP. Noon – 6pm


Iberica comes to Leeds

Iberica bar

As Squidbeak’s sometime associate who writes about wine, it’s sometimes tricky to recommend places with an exceptional wine list where you can go enjoy the vino without having a full meal.

Lucky then to be invited to the soft opening of Iberica in Leeds, the latest outpost of a group which has a small number of places in London, and one in Manchester.

Dedicatedly Spanish in food, wine and décor, you can have the full Monty, tapas or just a glass with some bespoke ham or cheese. The sherry list (yes, I’m a sherry aficionado) runs to 12 different choices and is far from your warm cream sherry at Christmas as it’s possible to get. Oak aged fino, nicely chilled with some green olives? Yes, please. Similarly, the list also features a range of Cava and cider from Asturias. And for the non-Spanish minded, a range of cocktails.

But it’s the wine list where the glories lie. Grouped according to wine style with good tasting notes, the range strides across Spain from £5 a glass to Pingus, from Ribeiro del Duero, at £166 a glass.

We asked for our bottle of red from Mencia (fruity and light) to be chilled, to go with the glorious tapas they were bringing out, and not an eyebrow was raised.

Jill and Mandy will be reporting on the food when it’s fully open. But it matched the wine perfectly.

Iberica, Hepper House, 17a East Parade, Leeds, LS1 2BH

International Wine Challenge

Earlier this month the Yorkshire Post’s wine writer Christine Austin invited readers to compete for a place as her apprentice at the prestigious International Wine Challenge.  We were delighted when Squidbeak’s wine writer Helen Scott, won the place. Now read on…


Christine Austin and Helen Scott


OK, so I think I know a bit about wine. In the past, I’ve got to the final of a couple of wine tasting competitions.

I’m also a wine nerd, and read wine columns and websites, including Christine Austin’s weekly page in the Yorkshire Post. Every year Christine, who is a panel chair for the world’s biggest wine competition, the International Wine Challenge, offers the chance to become her apprentice for a day. Could I dare to put my skills to the test in front of the wine professionals?

Reader, I won, and with thumping heart joined Christine to taste – and judge – over 90 wines. No sipping, just smelling and spitting and applying a range of marks to each wine. You then reveal your marks to the panel chair, taking it in turns to go first. Thankfully, Christine is not Sir Alan, taking apart his apprentices. Her skills and knowledge are impressive, and she’s firm. If there’s any doubt about a wine going through to the next stage, it’s tasted again. My marks held up, and I don’t think I was wildly out on any wine, but boy, did it show me how much more there is to learn.

An afternoon alongside Oz Clarke, one of the competition’s co-chairs (senior judges), confirmed this. Tannin in the wrong part of the mouth – a clumsy wine. Bubbles (in a still wine) at the side of the glass shows there’s still some yeast activity, not always a good thing. And so on.

What did we taste? Champagne, made with pinot noir grapes (yes please) and my personal nemesis was probably a flight of South American reds from Brazil and Mexico. Via Ozzie chardonnays, riojas and lesser known Italian whites. But all blind. The wines we put through will all be tasted again in the second round.

The winners, announced next month, will be entitled to have that little medal sticker on the bottle which persuades us to buy them. A lot at stake. And for me, as I now want to see if I can join the judging panels in my own right next year. Just go to pass a few wine exams first.


Top Chef Pops Up

Chris Hill, who runs Latitude, one of Yorkshire’s best independent wine merchants, knows more than a thing or two about matching food and wine.

To put it to the test, he persuaded chef Richard Walton Allen, ex Harvey Nick’s in Leeds, to return to the stoves. Chris challenged Richard to create a menu round six wine choices.


Latitude Tasting Room at Duke Studios

And so, the Latitude Tasting Room was born. It popped up for the first time at Duke Studios in Leeds showing wines from New Zealand, Spain, Italy and France – with Richard on top form running the gamut of lovely Yorkshire produce. No sipping and spitting here, just great food, interesting vino and a lot of fun

Swaledale blue cheese with beetroot, fennel and truffled honey was kissed by a complex Tuscan Vermentino from Antoni Camillo. Chorizo, razor clams, bitter leaves and blood orange more than stood up to a rich new wave Rioja from Beronia, showing spice and red fruit.

Pièce de résistance was seven hour cooked beef cheek and tail with shallots and parsnip puree, so soft and unctuous you could have eaten it with a spoon, matched with a Boutinot Côtes-du-Rhone Villages from the village of Cairanne, called Le Côte Sauvage. As Chris put it, some weird alchemy occurs when this wild wine is paired with slow cooked meat. Yep, we loved it.

The next Latitude Tasting Room will be at the Leeds Indie Food Festival in May. Can’t wait.

And the wines:

Latitude wines


Istanbul Eats

Istanbul EatsPickle juice anyone? Ugur, our guide on a foodie walk round Istanbul, swears by it.

The pink, salty, acid liquid, which has been used to make Turkey’s famous pickled fruit and vegetables is a favourite drink, and is credited with magical, medicinal properties. It proved to be the only nemesis in a day spent tasting everything from sherbets to sheep heart in Istanbul’s lesser known districts.

Istanbul Eats, a food website, is to Istanbul what Squidbeak is to Yorkshire. Set up by two enterprising friends it has its finger on the pulse of everything foodie, and the culinary walks are its latest offering.
We were warned to come hungry as the tour began with breakfast in Beşiktaş, sampling menemen, Turkish style scrambled eggs, and bal kaymak, clotted cream blanketed in honey.

The odyssey continued via an Ottoman era bakery for borek, and onto the ferry across the Bosphorus to the market at Üsküdar, where a more traditional food culture is preserved. We sampled honey from Eastern Turkey, olives which the Turkish only eat for breakfast (who knew?) sweets, cheese, summer halva made from walnuts not sesame, seasonal cherries and sour plums, and bought spices which cost a fraction of the same purchased from the Ottolenghi website.

In all the walk has around 13 stops, with gentle walking and enough time to enjoy the grazing without getting stuffed. Ugur was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and happy to go off piste to pursue particular tastes. He ended our day with a surprise picnic wine tasting on the banks of the Bosphorus, to show off wine made from indigenous grapes.
Highly recommended.

Yorkshire Rarebit

In my search for the perfect rarebit, I found this one made by Stephen Jackson at the lovely T & Cake in Almondbury.  Good bread – sourdough lightly toasted, strong cheese with a dry, deep ale flavour, and then a sweet smack of spice. Great leaves. Heaven on a plate.  Stephen Jackson calls it Welsh Rarebit as it has Montgomery Cheddar and Guinness in it, but hey, what’s in a name if it’s as good as this?

80g butter
2 tbsps plain flour
2 tsps Colman’s English mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can (440ml) Guinness
2 tbsps Worcestershire Sauce
900g Montgomery cheddar, finely grated

Bread for toasting

Heat the butter in a pan, and whisk in the flour, mustard and cayenne pepper
Whisk over medium heat for a few seconds to ‘cook out’ the flour
Add the Guinness and Worcestershire sauce, whisking constantly
Bring to a rolling boil, then turn the heat right down and add the cheese
Heat gently, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth
Store in a tub until completely chilled
To serve, toast a slice of bread lightly on both sides
Using clean hands, mould a slab of rarebit mix to the same size as the bread, and about ¾cm in thickness.
Place on top and grill until golden and bubbling, and serve immediately.

Northumberland Foray

Squidbeak’s love of the North Yorkshire coast around Staithes is well documented, but if you care to venture further North up to Northumberland there are plenty of foodie rewards of the piscine variety to go with the wild scenery and empty spaces.

On a recent weekend in Craster, we discovered The Jolly Fisherman in the village – opposite Robson’s smokery which reputedly produce the best kippers in the world – was under new management and is reportedly getting a gastro pub makeover.

It’s still doing its famous crab sandwiches, crab soup and kipper pate. But the sandwiches come on a board, in good bread with a nice bit of salad, and the chips, if you dare to order, are done in beef dripping and are glorious. The soup comes as a handsome portion, enhanced by cream and whisky, which according to the barmaid “fetches the flavour of the crab out” Great food after a long winter walk along the heritage coast and through Dunstanburgh Castle. The beer is well kept with Black Sheep on hand pump. The wine list could do with a refresher.

The rest of the menu is now on a chalk board and looked interesting with lots of local produce. Surroundings seem to be at a half way stage – nice washed wood panelling and a good open fire but still swirly carpets and a wide screen TV dominating the bar. Definitely one to watch.

You don’t go to Pinnacles fish and chips in Seahouses for the decor which is all formica and fluorescent light. But it was too cold to eat them out of the paper sitting on the harbour wall, so we ventured in. Massive portions of fresh as you like cod, haddock or plaice, good chips, mushy peas, and tea. The white sliced bread and butter proved too much for me. And afterwards, if you’ve any room, a pint in the famous Ship Inn, stuffed to the gunnels with seafaring memorabilia.

Whilst Yorkshire seems to have moved with the culinary times, this part of the world is still decidedly old fashioned. Sometimes in a good way like the places above. But on a Sunday afternoon we couldn’t get a simple sandwich, soup or ploughmans in the pubs in picturesque Warkworth. Time to head back to God’s own county.

Wine Champion

We know that we think Yorkshire folk are the best at everything, but we can now claim a world champion in our midst. Step forward Karen Hardwick, who has just been crowned the Wine Educator of the Year by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Karen, who runs the Wine Academy in York was the only individual through to the shortlist which contained big training and PR teams – and received her award from Master of Wine Jancis Robinson. In previous years the award has gone to outfits in the US and Australia.

Before she had her children, Karen worked her way up in the drinks industry and ended up working for Californian wine supremo Robert Mondavi, representing him all over the world. Doing a fund-raising wine tasting for her children’s playgroup launched her independent career as a wine trainer. It’s expanded to working with the trade, running public tastings and being involved in the York Food & Drink Festival (where Jill can confirm how enjoyable her tastings are).

Pupils of hers have gone on to become winemakers, work in top restaurants and in the retail sector. One waitress from Meltons Too in York joined Asda’s wine team after Karen’s training and is now one of the 10 most influential women in the wine trade.

The wine landscape  in Yorkshire has incredible breadth, according to Karen, with great independent merchants and restaurants with good lists. Anywhere which offers good champagne by the glass goes to the top of the class, and the lists at the Pipe and Glass, South Dalton, J Bakers in York, the Durham Ox in Crayke and Harvey Nicks in Leeds get Karen’s best ratings for the choice of wine without having to buy a bottle.

She’s passionate about wine but never poncey. You can join her for monthly tastings at Harvey Nichols, Leeds, Meltons Too in York and Chapters in Stokesley which are good fun and affordable. See her website for listings


Designing a Wine List

At Squidbeak we’re passionate about interesting restaurant wine lists, offering us good descriptions and tempting us to try something a little different – perhaps a notch up from the house wine.

But wine waiters can play their part too – few Yorkshire eateries have full time sommeliers – if they are confident and know about the wines they have on offer.

I was invited to join Simon Chant from Enotria as he introduced staff  to some new additions to the wine list at Salvos in Leeds. Although it was a training session, it was much more informal with a tasting and swapping of thoughts about the wines and what they would go with.

There were two wines from Campania, two from Calabria and two from Sicily – none of them household names but good drinking and great matches for regional Italian food. Simon is passionate about his job and passes on the sort of knowledge and stories which will help the waiters make suggestions if asked. In short he makes wine fun.

The staff were posed interesting questions like how do you sell a rose wine to a table of Yorkshire blokes and their girlfriends ( try suggesting the pale pink Planeta rose with a well designed label which doesn’t look girly) and what would you suggest if someone asks for a medium white (a Costadune Grillo Chardonnay, from Sicily which has gentle fruit flavours)

In preparation for one of the Salumeria’s Meet the Winemaker dinners, a pair of  unusual wines from Calabria were opened. It’s the often wild woolly and previously lawless (according to Simon!) heel of Italy and the wines come from a smallish producer called Librandi, who has vines planted in concentric rings like alien crop circles.

The white is made from Greco Bianco grapes and is fresh, spritzy and has a minerality which would go well as an aperitif, with fish or lighter pasta dishes. The red is made from the intriguingly named Galioppo grape and is also fresh, fruity (cherry and violets) spicy with enough guts to match spicy fish and meat dishes. They’ll be selling at about £5 more than the house wine – and you’d be getting character and flavour by the glass load.

If your appetite is whetted, winemaker Raffale Librandi will be presenting five of his wines, matched with a five course dinner at Salvos Salumeria on Thursday March 1st.

Other wine lists we like; Create in Leeds and Hummingbird Kitchen in Chapel Allerton have great lists put together by Latitude wines in Leeds.

If you know of anywhere with an interesting wine list, why not let us know and we’ll review it. You can post a message in the comment box below.




In Search of Rarebit

I love Rarebit. It should be cheesy and deeply savoury with discernible ale flavours, soft on top with a crunch.

It’s that ideal savoury snack for a winter’s day – comfort food which hits the spot without delivering a whack of stodge. But oh the variations – in price and delivery. We’ve had visitors in the last few weeks so have found ourselves in a variety of cafes across the county, and, for no good reason, I’ve been ordering rarebit. Here, in an entirely unscientific survey are my findings:

Yorkshire Rarebit at the Hepworth Gallery Cafe Bar promised mature cheddar, red onion, Yorkshire Ale and Worcestershire sauce, on a choice of bread at keenly priced at £4.75. We went for granary and were rewarded with doorsteps, more bread than topping – all in all, a bit of a let down. Lovely surroundings though.

The Fat Badger, a pleasant reincarnation of an English pub in the White Hart Hotel in Harrogate, offered the White Hart Rarebit at £6.95. Thinner toast, more topping with an underpinning of mustard, good salad leaves – fine,  and went well with the dry, light Orange Pippin Ale from Skipton’s Copper Dragon Brewery recommended by the bar manager.

The eureka moment came in Almondbury’s T & Cake, already one of Squidbeak’s favourite places. Good bread – sourdough lightly toasted, strong cheese with a dryer, deeper ale flavour, and then a sweet smack of chilli spice. Great leaves. Heaven on a plate. And all at £4.50. Chef owner Stephen Jackson calls it Welsh Rarebit as it has Montgomery Cheddar and Guinness in it, but hey, what’s in a name if it’s as good as this? Here’s the recipe….

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