Friends of Ham, Chopping Block and Roots

It’s sad that we’re too often writing about restaurant closures, the latest and most surprising being Friends of Ham in Leeds and Ilkley.

According to this report in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, the two satellites – Ham and Friends in Queen’s Arcade and the Friends of Ham branch in Ilkley found it hard to get established and the original branch in Leeds’ New Station Street has suffered from a short term cash flow during this hot summer weather with no outdoor seating.

A local property and investment company Glentrool have stepped in to purchase Friends of Ham and plan to work with the creators of the business Anthony and Claire Kitching, so with any luck we will still be able to enjoy their craft beers, good ham and cheeses in the New Station Street location.

It’s good to be able to report two new openings in York which is fast becoming a hub for independents.

Michael Hjort, chef/patron of Melton’s of York’s and director of York Food Festival is to open The Chopping Block above Walmgate Ale House.  The space above the bar has been run as a bistro for a few years but Michael says “now is the time to up our game here and run a quality led informal restaurant.”

‘The Chopping Block he says will serve diverse modern food like aubergine stuffed with lamb and pomegranate, game burgers with roast venison and sea bream with Yorkshire cider, samphire and summer vegetables’.

Close on the heels of the Chopping Block but in Marygate on the other side of town is Roots, a second restaurant for the famed and Michelin starred Black Swan at Oldstead. Promising a changing seasonal menu of sharing plates that open with such modish dishes as cured trout, fennel kimchi and Meridian apple and ox cheek, cauliflower and kale. Skosh watch out.

The booking site opened a week ago and lines were jammed. Roots opens on 14 September. If you can’t get a table we will post our report. It’s what we’re here for!

Turning the Tables on the Food Critics

Leeds Indie Food Festival began yesterday and runs until 28th May. There are still tickets for a host of events. Take a look: Having just enjoyed a fabulous five course lunch at Home presented by a very professional team you might want to book for Turning Tables, where the tables are turned on people like us, ie food critics. Felicity Spector from the Telegraph, Rhik Samadder – he does the gadget reviews in the Guardian and Mark Samson from Food and Travel Magazine, will cook for guests in aid of the charity Action on Hunger.

York Food Festival



York Food Festival finishes on Sunday. There’s still time to see some good  cookery dems, check out the market stalls, the street food, music, talks and workshops. If you’ve never been go now, it’s been on for ten  days and it’s the biggest and arguably the best of our regional food festivals. Our pick of the festival:



Friday 25th

Drop in to any of the free demos that run all day every hour from 12 noon. Highlights are Masterchef finalist Sara Danesin Medio and Raffi’s Spicebox


Italian Wine Tasting Evening 7pm Guildhall

Karen Hardwick is  a delightful, informed and unpretentious wine expert. Her evening of Italian wines and shared platters of Italian meats and cheeses be well worth the ticket price. £30


Saturday 26th

Wild Food Foraging Walk 10.30am Under Skeldergate Bridge

Wild Harvest are conducting a walk around York to discover all the edible plants growing in the heart of the city. £9.50


Cocoa House


Chocolate Fair. All Day. Guildhall

The Guildhall is taken over for the whole weekend in a celebration of chocolate led by York Cocoa House. There will be a chocolate café, workshops and at 2pm a ‘banquet of cake’ by the Clandestine Cake Club. Free entry.



Sunday 27th

Cochon Aveugle 1pm Demo Area

Cochon Aveugle in one of York’s best restaurants so this demonstration should be well worth going along to. Fee Entry


Finally I want to catch the Food in Art exhibition outside York Art Gallery that runs all week and sample the new Café No 8 outlet there too.


Braised Beef Cheeks with Orange Gremolata

We’ve featured Christopher Trotter’s recipe’s before for no better reason than they are delicious. Christopher runs cookery courses and bespoke food tours around Fife, his patch on the east coast of Scotland. I can vouch for his food tours, I’ve been on one and they are terrific. Now he’s here in Yorkshire,  demonstrating at the York Food Festival and promoting his new book ‘The Whole Cow’ the follow up to his first book ‘The Whole Hog’, and has given us this recipe. It uses slow braised beef cheek, for a deep, rich flavour, but it is the orange gremolata that really lifts this dish into something special.

Beef Cheek Beef Cheek

Beef cheek is a great discovery and well worth seeking out, the rich flavour is certainly worth it. Get the butcher to trim the cheeks. Each one will weigh about 500g and will feed up to 3.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 trimmed beef cheeks
  • 25 g butter
  • 6 shallots peeled
  • 2 carrots sliced thickly at an angle
  • 500ml stock
  • thyme and bay leaf

For the Gremolata

1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
grated zest of orange

Mix together


Season the cheeks and brown them all over in a hot pan (that can later go in the oven)  with the olive oil.

Set aside and then brown the shallots and carrots in the pan with the butter.

Reduce the heat and return the meat on top, and pour over the stock, bring to simmer add the herbs and cover with a cartouche*.

Braise in an oven 150C 300 F gas 2 for about four hours. Check the liquid doesn’t drop too much and top up if necessary. When cooked the meat should offer no resistance and the main vein will break under pressure.

Allow the meat to rest in the liquid, this can be over a period and simply reheat or allow at least half an hour. Strain the liquid and reduce a little and check the seasoning. Serve in slices with the shallots and carrots and a little sauce with a spoon of gremolata on each one.

This dish is really still open to experiment, try cooking with a little red wine and not just stock, Geoffrey Smeddle of the Peat Inn allows the cheeks to cool completely and rolls them in cling film and presses them in the fridge, then you can slice a perfect shape. He also suggested the *cartouche, a round piece of greaseproof paper which really keeps the moisture in for slow cooks

If you want to know more about Christopher Trotter

Devonshire Food Festival


No sooner have we blogged about the stellar cast of chefs cooking at Northcote Manor’s

Obsession Festival, than the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey are in touch to tell us about the Devonshire Food Festival  a week long event on similar lines to Northcote.

Though the cast list is not as internationally star-studded, at £34 for lunch and £59 in the evening, it is considerably cheaper. So here are the details.

The Festival runs for seven days from 19-25th November. It kicks off on Monday lunchtime when two chefs will compete against each other preparing a starter, main course and a dessert. The winner will be the chef who gets the most orders.

First up is the Devonshire Arms’ own Michelin-starred chef Steve Smith up against Mark Poynton of Alimentum in Cambridge; Tuesday it’s Alan Hill from their sister restaurant in Derbyshire, the Devonshire Arms at Beeley v. Rakesh Ravindan from London’s Cinnamon Club. Other chefs taking part are Anthony Flinn from Anthony’s in Leeds, Dan Birk from the Box Tree and Tim Bilton from the Hepworth Arms. You can see the full list and read the chefs profiles here.

No competitions in the evening, instead a dinner cooked each night by a top chef so you can choose from the likes of James Mackenzie of the Pipe and Glass at South Dalton; Kenny Atkinson, of Rockcliffe Hall, Darlington; Mark Birchall, from L’Enclume in Cartmel  and Simon Crannage from Swinton Park near Masham.  An excellent line-up at almost half the price of the Lancashire line-up, sounds like a good deal.
To book call 01756 710441 or visit



Dining in the Dark

How much fun can you have with seven strangers and a blind fold? Quite a lot, let me tell you after our Dining in the Dark experience at the Living Room in York, this week.

Mandy and I had been invited to compete against a group of local food bloggers in a light hearted competition to see who could identify ingredients from their new autumn menu.  One small problem – we had to do it blindfold.

We’ve always steered clear of restaurant chains, usually because there is not much room for creative cooking when the menu is handed down from corporate HQ and anyway they have huge marketing budgets, so don’t need any help from the likes of us.

But we’ve a soft spot for the Living Room ever since they sent a team of young bar staff to put on some lively cocktail demonstrations at the York Food Festival. So in the spirit that it might all be a bit of a laugh, Mandy and I went along on Wednesday night.

We were five bloggers:yorkshirepudd; nutmegsseven; getthemax and ourselves, round a table with Annabel Snee, the Living Room PR, looking after us.

With blindfolds on we were given small tastes from the new menu then tested on them: ‘What are the other elements in the starter of smoked ham and fig? Answer: goat’s cheese mousse, raspberry and beetroot vinaigrette.

‘What is the meat used in the burger?’ Answer: pork and chorizo. And so it went on with Moroccan spiced lamb with apricot, dates and almonds; sea bass with orange scented broccoli; coconut and passion fruit crème brulee and a very good Eton mess with basil leaves.

It’s a lot harder than you’d think, but it does make you think about what you’re eating. We found it even trickier to place the flavours in the cocktails: Black cherry and vanilla Manhattan; Quincessential Cobbler and Green Tea Daiquiri – ‘It tastes like shoe polish… in a good way.’  But we were having such a good time that other diners were asking: ‘Can we have what they’re having?’  We reckoned Living Room should set up the game for the public.

When the marking was done, it was a close run thing, but the winner was Elly McCausland of Nutmegsseven. She was presented with the trophy and we all reeled happily home.

Talbot Hotel Opening

In February we reported our dismay at the expensive signing of James Martin as executive chef at the newly refurbed Talbot Hotel in Malton. Despite assurances to the contrary, we couldn’t help thinking this was a PR stunt rather than a commitment to real food, especially disappointing when owner Tom Naylor Leyland had declared his commitment to Malton as a food town.

So it was very gracious of them, in the circumstances, to invite me to their opening on Thursday. We were served drinks and canapés and given a tour  before the public opening at the weekend and I have to declare the £4million looks well spent.

Twenty six bedrooms a couple of suites, bar, atrium, drawing room and dining room, all tastefully done out in English country house style.

There was good fun quizzing the young receptionist who was here in its Fawlty Towers heyday. The atrium where you can now enjoy a lavish afternoon tea was remembered by her as being open to the elements with a rusty fire escape where the staff went to have an illicit fag.

The canapés were delicious: pea and watercress soup, fish goujons,  sticky toffee pudding, and a white chocolate and whisky croissant bread and butter pudding. And yes, the man himself was there, not swanning about like a celeb, but actually looking hot and sweaty and nervy in the kitchen.

Putting my head into the lion’s mouth, I buttonholed Naylor Leyland. He admitted JM won’t be in the kitchen all the time – ‘though he has bought a house up here,’ he told me. ‘And he’s been in the kitchen for the last two weeks’. The restaurant menu had yet to be finalised but N-L promised just good food without dips and drIzzles, for which much thanks.

He knows there’s much riding on the Talbot, particularly on its restaurant. It could and should be the place in Malton to eat well, not just for hotel guests but more especially non-residents and especially if N-L wants to achieve his food-town ambition. To his credit he is putting his money where his mouth is.

Besides the starry Martin, they’ve appointed Craig Aitchison from Swinton Park as head chef so it’s a strong team. Furthermore, they’ve challenged me to come and eat here and report back – and  promise to take note of what I have to say. Can’t say fairer than that. Watch this space. I may yet have to eat not only my fish goujons, but also my hat.

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


York Food Festival 2011

York Food Festival starts this weekend. (16th-25th September). It’s the biggest and arguably the best in the county with dozens of stands, stalls, markets, street food, demonstrations, tastings, workshops, lunches and dinners.

Parliament Street is the hub of the market with dozens of stalls selling everything from fish to fairy cakes. It’s a bit of a scrum at the two weekends of the Festival so if fighting through the crowds is the extent of your experience of the YFF, then think again. There’s so much going on – and some chaff among the wheat – that it’s worth studying the website to pick out something different.

For what it’s worth here are my tips for the week:

Parliament Street:
I do Parliament Street midweek when it’s calmer and quieter. If you are looking for a particular stall, do check the website; not everyone is there every day.

Cookery Demonstrations:
Demos take place every day in the demonstration area in St Sampson’s Square (outside Brown’s). The ones I’ll be watching:

17th September 1pm
I’m keen to see Darren Iddon, the newly appointed chef for the multi-million pound hotel at Raithwaite Hall, near Sandsend. He’ll be demonstrating fish with my man from Whitby Seafish and now  York market, Matthew Asquith.

24th September 1pm & 5pm
Rather aloofly, Betty’s have never left the hallowed portals of their York tearooms to take part in the YFF – until this year. Imagine it, demure Betty’s slumming it among the gas rings of a tented workshop but I do like the staff at Betty’s Cookery School so I’ll be along to support them.

25th September 1pm
Squidbeak readers have recommended the Green Room, Scarborough. I haven’t made it there yet so I’m keen to see chef Rob Porter demonstrating.

25th September 3pm
We like Tea Hee’s so a Cheese Tasting with Sophie Smith is just about unmissable. Annoyingly, it clashes with Sophie Jowett of Little Pretty Things and her chocolate tempering and chocolate truffle workshop that starts at 2.30pm in the Workshop Area.

Slow Food Workshops are held every day at 12.30pm in St Sampson’s Square. Well worth dropping in on.

Wine Tastings:
17th September 7.30pm
Karen Hardwick is a great wine educator: straightforward, engaging, informed and funny. Enjoy sharing platters in the Guildhall with a tutored tasting of Southern Rhone wines or her Sauternes lunch at Melton’s on 18th at 12.30pm.

Peter McKenna is another impressive wine educator. He’s doing sherry and port  tastings at Melton’s Too on 19th and 22nd at 6pm.

24th September 5pm & 7.30pm
A tutored tasting of s Grand Crus St Emilion’s at the Mansion House followed by a visit to the Guildhall Wine Fair hosted by York independent wine merchants Field and Fawcett.

Lunches & Dinners:
The Festival  lunches and dinners are some of the best events on the week’s menu from a convivial curry night to a black tie do. A big hit last year was the Grazing Café, in Parliament Street where you could pick up a plate of local produce for three quid plus a glass of Champagne, and forget going back to the office for the afternoon. I know exactly how popular this was because I was helping out behind the counter.

20th September 7.30pm
New this year is Dine at My Table in which festival goers are invited into homes to dine with a local. And there’s no finer gaff in York than the Lord Mayor’s official residence, the Mansion House. His Worshipfulness won’t actually be cooking; that will be done by chefs from the Feversham Arms at Helmsley so expect seriously good nosh.

20th September 7.30pm  
Alternatively, same time, same night, a more laid back supper in the Guildhall might be more Squidbeak’s style. The three chefs who took part in Great British Menu on BBC2, Tim Bilton, Stephanie Moon and Andrew Pern will be demonstrating their dishes at a supper followed by Q & A’s. With three such outgoing characters, it should be great fun in another stunning setting.

24th September 7.30pm

Having regularly nagged the Festival organisers to lay on something for vegetarians, I’ve spotted this four course vegetarian dinner with wines hosted by Burgundy expert Dr Gareth Morgan.

Prices, venues, booking info etc on the Festival website:

Be My Valentine

Normally I head a mile from marketing hype encouraging us to big it up for certain occasions and Valentine’s Day where you can’t miss the marketing telling us to invest in chocolates and fizz for loved ones, preferably something pink, should be no different.

But I have a confession to make. It’s my anniversary, and some years ago my romantic fate was sealed by a shoe box containing a bunch of white freesias and a bottle of Pol Roger champagne, left anonymously on my desk.

I was then a TV researcher, and in a production meeting had opined that proper champagne and an armful of white flowers was the way to a girl’s heart. They were.

Fast forward down the years, we’re still together and Pol Roger still does it for me (find it at Majestic £42.00 or £37.00 when you buy two). On the dry side, with a very fine mousse of bubbles, it’s a delicious mouthful. If you have to go pink, then my choice would be Billecart Salmon Rose – and with this why wouldn’t you. It’s pale pink, raspberry scented, elegant and beautifully made by a family firm. Harvey Nichols in Leeds has it in a gift pack or search the internet for the best deal, but expect to pay upwards of £45 a bottle.

But for the best deal in terms of choice and quality from small and medium producers,  I’d now head to the Champagne Warehouse, a family company run out of Boston Spa which has a fabulous choice of sparkling wines and champagnes, all personally sourced. Plenty of choice around the £25 mark, and if you call them, they’ll make suggestions when you tell them the style of wine you like.

Their good value crowd pleaser, Triolet Brut, which is light fruity and easy drinking, was served at their stall at York Food Festival.  At £18.99 a bottle it’s great value – and the producers also sell grapes to Billecart Salmon.

Want an off  piste gift? Flourish and Prosper’s Sean Welsh has put together a fun box of six wines for £50. Amongst the bottles are Passion Has Red Lips, a Cab Shiraz from Some Young Punks in Oz, St. Amour, Cru Beaujolais from France and Pasion de Bobal, from Utiel Requena in Spain, described as having a passionate and intense heart. You get the picture. Knowing Sean the wines will be delightful and interesting – and probably preferable to just one bottle of champagne. Wouldn’t fit in a shoe box though.




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