Hessian, Oakwood, Leeds

I recently stopped off at the new Hessian cafe for a cappuccino, just to have a nosy at the new addition to Oakwood parade. After browsing the menus and meeting a member of staff there, I knew I would be returning.

Bank holiday weekend seemed like the perfect time to try it out for lunch. We were greeted by warm and welcoming staff. It was great to see a familiar smiley face from Sunshine Bakery amongst the staff crew, I hope he will be a permanent fixture. Hessian is only a small venue and it was bank holiday but I was pleasantly surprised to see how busy it was in there. I love that the menus are small, less pressure on the staff means better quality produce. The food is everything I love, healthy, hearty and wholesome. I love the Mediterranean theme.

I really like the decor and the feel of the place. The small dining area in front of the open plan kitchen has a real cosy, living room feel to it. The only drawback of this is that it is quite cramped and when it’s busy it can get really loud. The chef had a system where he rang the bell when a dish was ready for service to collect. It was so bustling in there that the waiting staff kept missing the bell.

We drew the short straw somewhat with the service. One of the best things about Hessian is the staff team. They are smiley, friendly, helpful and just the right level of chatty. Apart from the man who was serving us unfortunately. He was pleasant enough but it really seemed like he’d rather be anywhere else but there. I had ordered a salad that came with grains, when the salad came there were no grains. I raised this with our waiter and he seemed surprised, went away and came back and said “We ran out of grains, that’s why there weren’t any”. I can think of better, more apologetic ways of putting that message across. I believe a good staff team communicates and the waiting staff and chef should work together to ensure that everyone knows what is and isn’t available before the customer orders. I heard other customers order things and their waiter/waitress knew what was and wasn’t available. There did seem to be quite a lot of things they had run out of but they are new, it was a busy bank holiday and it was late in the afternoon. Overall, the rest of the staff are lovely and fit in well with the welcoming attitudes shown in the other venues on Oakwood parade.

I ordered the grilled halloumi salad which comes with super grains (if you’re lucky), avocado, leaves, roasted red peppers and honey and mustard dressing. My husband ordered Jamon, picante cheese, roasted red pepper and pesto grilled melt. We were both happy with our food. We had ordered polenta wedges but they had run out and in the end we were nicely full anyway. One thing to keep in mind is that they serve the food when it’s ready so you may not eat at the same time, we didn’t. I’m assuming that is usual practice but I’m not sure. Our waited didn’t mention it but as mentioned, he wasn’t exactly on the ball. I also noticed that they offer gluten free bread, always a bonus in my book.

We had some lovely drinks. A nice beer, gin and tonic and a gorgeous espresso martini. I’ve had great espresso martinis and I’ve had some awful ones and this one was definitely up there with the good’uns. The drinks are quite reasonably priced too, £5 for a prosecco, around £7 for a cocktail or gin and tonic.

Overall, I really like Hessian and hope it stays around. I can’t wait to come back for the evening menu and to sample some cakes. I did notice a message on their Facebook page apologising for not offering ‘the full Hessian experience’ over the bank holiday weekend. I think that’s fair enough and goes to show that they are a staff team that care.

Atmosphere 8.5/10
Quality 8.5/10
Service 8.5/10 (based on overall from both visits)
Value 8/10
Unique 8/10
Overall 8.5/10

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Pintura, Leeds (Gluten Free friendly)

I have to admit that this is my third visit to Pintura and I love it more and more each time I go! This time was a little different as I wanted to see how easy it is to dine out when you are gluten free. Luckily I am gluten free at the moment by choice and not by necessity, but while I am doing it, I want to experience it fully. All I can say is that if everywhere is as helpful as Pintura was then we are getting it right as gluten free friendly society.

When the server had finished talking through the menu, I asked her which options were gluten free. She asked me if I was gluten free or Coeliac. Big tick. I responded and she replied saying that she would just check with the chef. Moments later, she comes back with my menu, altered to show what I can and can’t have. I was delighted to see that I could still have bread and dessert as I had completely written those off! I could even have cake!

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So, on to the food. We went for the garlic and tomato bread, Chorizo, Sirloin steak and fries, Marinated prawns and a pork special. The bread was delicious and you couldn’t tell any difference with it being gluten free bread. I said so at the time to my husband who replied saying he had forgotten that it was gluten free. The chorizo was gorgeous, it had a powerful taste without being overpoweringly strong and acidic like it can be. The texture was nice and soft, a good quality Chorizo. The steak was melt in your mouth and so tasty. My only criticism of this dish was that it came with fries and mustard but nothing to dip the fries in. Luckily I had alioli left over from the prawns. Also I would have liked some more fries as there wasn’t much when sharing between two. The prawns were beautifully fat and juicy, really tasty. I couldn’t taste any garlic in the alioli and would have liked it to be stronger, but that’s my personal preference. The pork trio special was a lovely treat. It came with steak, fillet and a rib, with a celeriac puree accompaniment and some sort of jus type thing. It also came with a separate tiny little crunchy apple, like a very mini toffee apple. Well that just made the evening for me! My only criticism of the special is that it’s pretty hard to share a small rib. Then came the desserts, chocolate mousse and Spanish almond cake, gluten free cake! The desserts were delicious, I didn’t want the cake to end. I’ve had the mousse before and it is deliciously rich and I love the way that it’s presented.

You can’t talk about Pintura without talking about gin. Their gin list is immense. I think it’s best list I’ve ever seen outside of the gin festival brochure. In fact I’m sure it is. A fabulous mix of local and international gins. I love the way that they actually give you a brief description of the gins, rather than just listing the names. They also offer some favourite gin and tonic combinations and of course they are all served with premium tonic, in a decent glass, with a garnish. Another big attraction for Pintura is the service. The staff are just so nice! I have thought this each time I’ve visited. A server came over to see if we needed more drinks. I asked for a Slingsby Rhubarb which is a favourite. The lady told me how she likes to drink it and offered to have one made up for me. I accepted the offer and let me tell you, Slingsby rhubarb with Double Dutch cucumber and melon is an absolute dream!

The other thing that I have yet to mention is the decor. Pintura is just a really lovely place to be. The entire place has a relaxed vibe, particularly the gin bar downstairs. They have managed a unique combination of modern, trendy, urban, relaxed and something almost vintage. I even loved the toilet!

I would urge anyone to go. It makes a fantastic date night but also somewhere to relax with friends and family. I can’t wait for my next trip, I have several gins left to try!

Atmosphere 10/10
Quality 10/10
Service 10/10
Value 9/10
Unique 10/10
Overall 9.99/10

(I really want to give it full marks but there were just a couple of teeny tiny little tweaks required. My full marks are hard to come by!)