Posts tagged ‘Yorkshire’

January 30, 2014

Restaurant review: COSMO, Leeds.

As I promised in my Shiny New Blogging Timetable Thursday will now include ‘going out in Leeds’ posts and so here’s the first of them.

The new COSMO restaurant on Boar Lane in Leeds is an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant. I know what images might spring to mind when I say that, because they appeared in my mind too. However, COSMO is a lot more impressive than I was expecting. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the overall impression of the venue is one that’s bright, clean and nicely designed. The wavy wooden ceiling was a well-designed detail and I really liked the wall of booths along the back. You’re not prepared for the size and bustle of the place when you first walk into the small, street-level entrance. On descending to restaurant level it feels more like a street market than a restaurant; there are several places where you can choose to have food cooked freshly for you and there’s lots of people walking around, browsing the array of food on offer.

COSMO restaurant Leeds

Image courtesy of COSMO

When we arrived for our special bloggers’ evening, the place was packed, with the diners ranging from couples on a night out to groups of people who’d arrived straight from work. A birthday party was taking place in one corner, complete with candle-festooned cake and singing. People were clearly enjoying the experience and the attentive staff were making sure that the place was kept tidy, despite the fact that people could have plate after plate of food!

What’s great about COSMO is that it addresses two big problems when eating out. Firstly, my terrible ordering indecision. I approach a menu like it’s my last supper. Every time. With a buffet, I’m free to choose a little of this, and a little of that without impunity. Excellent. The second  positive about COSMO is that everyone can find something they’ll enjoy. Global influences from sashimi, via pizza, curry and stir fry all the way back to British roast beef, mean there’s something to suit everyone’s taste. Which makes it the perfect place to take a big group of people. Add the dessert wall to that mixture and you’ve got a recipe for success.

COSMO restaurant Leeds

Image courtesy of COSMO

Of the food I tried, I particularly enjoyed the Chinese dumplings and the freshly cooked teriyaki salmon. There was a decent vegetarian selection too, which I largely chose from, as my diet is mostly veggie or pescetarian.  The paneer tikka was very tasty! I do think that the fresh food stations are where the difference between COSMO and many other all-you-can-eat places lies. It’s reducing the likelihood of all the food sitting there for ages —and I noticed that the staff were paying lots of attention to changing food over, covering it up and generally ensuring that it was all as clean, fresh and tidy as it could be.The chocolate pudding I finished with was pleasant and covering marshmallows in chocolate from the fountain was lots of fun!

So, is COSMO fine dining? No. But it’s great at what it does. Which is provide a giant range of food to suit every audience in an enjoyable setting. And I already know my children would love it…

With thanks to COSMO for the evening.

January 26, 2014

Photo of my week #2

Friday night was the opening celebration of the third Leeds Print Festival, where I bumped into  Nick, my letterpress tutor and then enjoyed making this:

Leeds Print Festival letterpress

January 22, 2014

Three Good Things: January film edition

This week’s Three Good Things has a distinctly cinematic theme to it. January is the perfect time for film. It’s cold and gloomy outside, and the prospect of snuggling up on the sofa to watch an old favourite has much appeal. I’m also a huge fan of the cinema, so we often venture out into the cold to watch new releases on the big screen.

If Christmas and the summer holidays are reserved for giant super-hero blockbusters, then January is the worthy month; all the serious award heavy-hitters are arriving on the big screen around this time. The Golden Globes have passed and the Oscar nomination list has just been announced. My plan is to watch all the nominated films this year, and I’ve made a good start already.

One.

Hyde Park Picture House.

We’re so lucky to have this beautiful cinema in Leeds, and we recently saw American Hustle there (part of our Oscar nomination list) which was good. Not amazing. But good. Jennifer Lawrence is superb, in my opinion and the source of most of the humour in the film. I’m hoping to spend a lot more time in Hyde Park Picture House this year…

Hyde Park Picture House

Photo credit: @man_with_bag, who also bought my ticket!

Two.

Making an appearance for the first time on Three Good Things – YouTube. Because Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Golden Globes 2014 hosting is perfect.

Three.

The third Good Thing this week is my joy to have found a fellow film lover to share my life with. As I mentioned, we’re working our way through the Oscar nominated films. Christmas was fun with Frozen and Despicable Me 2 (Best Animated Feature, so they count!)  and of the Best Picture nominations we’ve seen Gravity, Captain Phillips, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave so far.  Of these, if I was to choose Best Picture it would be 12 Years a Slave. It’s a harrowing, important and beautifully acted film, with many incredible characters and a haunting score. In his Top 5 films of the week, Mark Kermode put 12 Years a Slave in all five positions. Whether it deserves that hype is another matter, but if there’s one film you should see in January, it’s this one.

What are your Three Good Things this week? What do you think will take Best Picture at the Oscars this year? And do you have any film recommendations for me to curl up on the sofa in front of? 

December 20, 2013

Becoming a cyclist.

Last Sunday, I did my first ‘proper’ bike ride on my new road bike. I’ve done shorter bits of riding around Leeds before, but nothing above about 20 miles. On Sunday, we did 35. And most of them seemed to be uphill. Leaving North Leeds towards Harewood, then onwards to Harrogate and RHS Harlow Carr, we made our way along little side roads where possible, keeping away from traffic. Not always possible, of course, and on a couple of occasions I got a little nervous about the closeness and speed of some vehicles passing us. It felt a bit like some of the people driving massive Range Rover type vehicles really didn’t seem to know how wide their car was.

Having said that, the main way I was likely to end up having an accident was from too much nosiness! Lots of terribly nice properties, gardens, allotments and field of ponies to be stared at. None of which I should have been looking at when on a bike, so I had to keep reminding myself to concentrate and look at the road. Whenever we started climbing, I had no difficulty in keeping my eyes firmly fixed ahead of me, as I concentrated on my breathing and making my slow and steady way up the hills. I even managed my first Category 4 climb and did so without stopping, thanks to the support from my fabulous boyfriend. I had a little cry at the top of one of the particularly gruelling hills; cycling uphill into a head wind is not a lot of fun.

But despite the tears, the pain and the jelly legs, I loved the ride. Not least because we had a halfway stop at the poshest cycle cafe in Yorkshire, the famous Betty’s tearoom at RHS Harlow Carr. Not a cycle cafe at all, obviously, but they were as gracious to us in our cycling gear as they were to everyone else in their rather smarter attire. And, despite a bit of stiffness getting going again after a stop, it certainly helped on the way back.

Looking back it seems such a long time ago that I was terrified of cycling. I’d not ridden since a childhood accident, until I was caught up in the idea of trying my hand at completing a Cycletta, which I did on a hired bike. Then came my beloved, but ultimately ill-judged Pashley and now, I’m committed to the idea of being a road cyclist. Not someone who rides for speed, togged up in logo-emblazoned lycra, but someone who rides for fun. Maybe for a bit of touring over longer distances with a pannier and a youth hostel to sleep in. I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely well on my way towards losing that fear. I’m excited to see the Tour De France come to Yorkshire next year, planning to learn more bike maintenance, booking my ticket for the Festival of Cycling, and fingers crossed, entering the longer distanced Cycletta at Tatton Park.

I feel like a cyclist now. Really and truly. And to have faced my fear feels brilliant. I recommend it!

Female cyclist

December 13, 2013

Bringing The Garden Indoors.

Now that I’ve moved to a third floor flat, I am without a garden of my own. This is offset somewhat by my allotment and we have a shared garden, but it’s overlooked by several large trees. This makes for wonderful bird watching – I appear to have become an accidental twitcher – but means that the garden is darkened, covered in leaves, and any plants would need to compete with lots of tree roots so it doesn’t bode well for much growing.

So, to satisfy my green fingers,  I want to bring some of the outdoors into our home.

The first thing I did was plant ‘Paperwhite’ bulbs into little terracotta pots. I have a handful of these around the flat and they’ve brought a bit of cheer and a heady fragrance into our home. Although you can force these in the dark, I just left them in my mother’s greenhouse for a few weeks and they’ve flowered quite quickly. I love that the bright green shoots are mirrored in the green that has grown on the old terracotta and they look wonderful against the pale walls; a touch of next Spring in the early days of Winter.

Paperwhites in pots

I’m currently reading through ‘The Virgin Gardener’ by Laetitia Maklouf again, which has some great ideas for gardening without a garden. I’m going to have a go at growing succulents, as I was really inspired by the Alpine House at RHS Harlow Carr earlier this year. The structure of these little plants fascinates me, and they’ll be a great way to add greenery to our home.

Alpines at RHS Harlow Carr

There will of course be herbs in the kitchen, but I’m on the lookout for the best plants we can have in the rest of our home too. I’m after plants that will last well, help clean the air, cope with the temperatures and look great too.  I’ll be doing a spot of research over the next couple of months, but if you’ve any fabulous suggestions, do let me know!

December 6, 2013

Hello road bike!

As you may remember, I recently sold my Pashley Princess, after a long, painful time deciding what to do. Rather wonderfully, I have been given a road bike on a long term loan and I love it.

Riding a road bike after a Pashley is such a different experience. To start with, it felt a bit as though I was constantly on the verge of tipping over the handlebars, despite everything being set up properly, purely because I was used to the ‘sit up and beg’ style of the Pashley. Getting used to the different handlebar style, the brakes, the gears, (and the tiny saddle!) took a bit of time, but now I feel as though I’m flying. I’m clearly not flying, but actually travelling at rather more sedate pace, but still compared to the Pashley, it’s seriously speedy!

Road bike

Walking down a very muddy bridlepath!

Sometimes, and I know this is weird, I develop a relationship of trust with a machine, even though I know it’s not sentient. I feel that way about my little car, and now I feel that way about this bike. I know that for some serious road cyclists this bike is considered a bit of a workhorse, a winter bike, rather than one that is built for speed. It’s not carbon fibre, for a start. But for me, as a novice, that’s what makes it so special. It’s the Welsh Cob of the road bike world! And, given my love for the Welsh Cob (for those of you who are not horse lovers, the Welsh Cob is a beautiful but study native pony) then this feels exactly the kind of bike I should be riding.

I’m so incredibly grateful for it and really looking forward to spending some time building up my fitness so I can ride for longer. At the moment, I can manage 25 -30 miles with a much-needed stop for cake. In my defence, it’s hilly round here! With the Tour de France coming to Leeds next year, I am hoping that the momentum around cycling that is building up in advance will be maintained beyond, and Leeds will become a place that’s great to cycle, for sport, for commuting, for families. And I’ll be there, on the Kona Honky Tonk (silly name, splendid bike) with a grin on my face…

October 28, 2013

Witshop

Many of you know of my current fascination for all things letterpress, and so when I was approached by Freya of Witshop about some of their products with the words “we’ve done some work with Nick, your letterpress tutor” I was definitely interested in finding out more.

Witshop is a Brighton based design duo, who formed in Leeds in 2011. They work with a range of UK based specialist craftspeople to produce their beautiful products and I was really impressed to see such specific information about who they work with and where the products are made, over on their website. Sustainability is really important to me, rather than products with a short ‘fashionable’ lifespan and so I really like this ethos.

And, it’s fair to say that I love the products I was sent too. The tea towel, which has been screen-printed and stitched in Yorkshire, comes in recyclable paper packaging, which creates a very positive first impression. It’d make a lovely gift.  The print reminds me of the old French educational posters that I’m always lusting after on Etsy and I love the colour combination. In a bold green (which I’m told is Pantone Green 578) black and white, it’s made on 100% unbleached cotton and has the all-important loop for hanging. I’m really looking forward to taking it to my new home. (As, an aside, yes – I’m moving house, more on that in another post) I’m currently using mine to do the drying up, rather obviously, and it’s doing a grand job, but this photo suggests that it’d look great hanging on a wall too.

Fishy Tea Towel (image from Witshop)

Fishy Tea Towel (image from Witshop)

The notecards come in a set of five, each with a different fish printed on the front. They’re lithograph printed in Yorkshire, and have a perforated fold so you can tear off and keep the fish-based recipe that’s printed on the inside of each one. The card they’re printed on feels thick and good quality, and it’s also recycled, which I like.  I’m sure that lots of my friends would love them too, but I’m currently torn between posting them and putting them in a frame to display, because I think they’d look great in a kitchen. Although perhaps if I posted them to friends, I’d be invited over for dinner using one one of the lovely recipes written inside…

Fishy Notecards (image from Witshop)

Fishy Notecards (image from Witshop)

Overwhelmingly, these Witshop products are a stylish blend of design and sustainability, with lots of thought clearly being put into each element of the product.  I really love them and would recommend them for yourself or as gifts, if you can bear to part with them!

If you’re lucky enough to live in Leeds, you can buy Witshop products at Colours May Vary. For the rest of the world, these and other great products can be found in the Witshop online store (see the link above). As you can tell, I was sent these products to review, but I love them so much I shall buy more for myself. 

October 25, 2013

A month without supermarkets.

Last month, I had a bit of a meltdown in the local supermarket. I’ve written before on the paradox of choice and how, sometimes, when faced with too many options, I go into some kind of paralysis. When forced into a supermarket, I often find myself wandering aimlessly round  as though drugged, then like the proverbial deer in the headlights, standing in front of an entire aisle of soup, unable to drag myself away, nor make a decision about which to buy.

And that’s precisely the reason that I’m quitting them. That, and the knowledge that half the world doesn’t have enough to eat and the other half, well, me at least, is deliberating over what seems like an endless variety of food.The balance is quite clearly off and it makes me uncomfortable. I want to have a better feeling about my food than I do now.

So. What to do? Well, I’m about to move to a new area of Leeds which has an array of small independent shops. I’ve just started getting a weekly veg box delivery again. And I’m determined to make the most of my allotment produce. All of these things add up to one answer. Stop going to the supermarket. See what other suppliers are out there; the Leeds Bread Co-op that delivers locally, the farmers’ market, Leeds City Markets, Handpicked Food Hall, and a myriad of other folk. I want to know where my meat comes from, try raw milk, eat seasonally, cook more, meet the people who produce the food that I’m buying and eating. I don’t want to be that person that I become when I’m in the supermarket, making choices like a zombie. This isn’t about me being a ‘foodie’. I don’t really understand that term anyway; surely everyone who eats is a foodie? This is about making more sustainable choices, being comfortable with what I’m eating and enjoying myself. Fewer, better options feel better for me than the vast warehouse-style supermarkets that just make me uncomfortable.

It’s also not an exercise in deprivation. I’m no Jamie Oliver with his unthinking ‘ buy ten mangetout from the market’ type comments. I appreciate that this is going to take more time and is likely to cost more money. I also know how completely fortunate I am. Believe me, if I worked awkward shifts or had a very tight budget, I would stay in the supermarket, without question. I am grateful that I can make this decision.  I’m also hopeful that perhaps I’ll waste less food, use less packaging and appreciate what I’m buying, cooking and eating a bit more.

So, my statement of intent: For the whole of November I  will make sure I don’t step foot in a supermarket. I’m very hopeful that my lovely boyfriend will join me in this challenge. I think he will. As long as we find a decent beer shop! Who am I kidding, I shall need that too. At this moment in time I can only think of one problem. I need fishfingers. So, I need a non-supermarket place to buy or a great recipe to make fish-fingers. Otherwise my lovely, incredibly fussy, four year old boy will starve. Any ideas on that?

During the month, I’m going to blog about the places I find along the way. I’m also doing the Blog Every Day in November Challenge with Rosalilium, so November is going to be a busy old month on Margot & Barbara. If this month works out well, then the plan is to keep going to the end of 2013. And then, who knows. Can we get through the whole of 2014 without Tesco? Sounds good to me…

 

Bloggers: Fancy joining in? Let me know, and we can link up. 

Readers in Leeds, are there any places I should try? I’m thinking of independent food growers, producers, shops, markets etc. Let me know! 

October 18, 2013

Apple Day and Countryside Live.

Apple Day is one of my favourite annual events, first launched by Common Ground back in 1990. Celebrating the rich variety of apples we have in this country, ‘local distinctiveness’, landscape, ecology and the importance of provenance and traceability in food, this is a day that I absolutely love. Apple Day itself is on 21st October, but you’re likely to find events over most of October up and down the country, including cookery demonstrations, apple identification for those of you with unknown varieties in your garden, games for children to have fun with, growing tips and orchard tours. Common Ground no longer manage an Apple Day calendar, because their original intent was always that it took on a life of its own and became part of the seasonal calendar as much as any Harvest Festival might; a naturally occuring part of every October.  I, for one, will always celebrate Apple Day in some way or another.

I quite often go to RHS Harlow Carr on Apple Day. They don’t seem to have an Apple Day event this year, but they’re doing  a week of ‘Sensational Autumn’ activities for half term which look great fun. Other Apple Day events across the country include those run at several National Trust properties, such as apple pressing and other activities at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire.

This weekend is also Countryside Live, at the Harrogate Show Ground on Sunday. As well as  a display of apples and apple variety identification, there will be lots of other seasonal goodness, show-jumping and other equine classes for me to reminisce over, a myriad of other activities from sheepdog trials to chainsaw carving and the addition of tractors and animals will ensure that my kids have a great day out, so we’re going to spend Sunday there. Do come and say hello if you’re visiting too!

Many apple varieties remain unfamiliar to most of us because we’re presented with a pitiful selection in the supermarkets. Apple Day is a chance for us to redress that balance, find a bit about our local area, and the amazing heritage of fruit growing that we have. Do have a look to see if there’s an event near you!

Apple Varieties

September 20, 2013

Introduction to Letterpress.

Last weekend was one of the best experiences I’ve had for a long time. I spent two days at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop on an ‘Introduction to Letterpress’ course. I’d been waiting for it for months and by the time Saturday arrived I was a bundle of nerves. I’m not an artist of any kind and I didn’t quite know what I was letting myself in for!

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Thankfully, my nerves were unfounded, as I arrived to by met by my tutor, Nick, and a couple of other students, all of whom were utterly lovely. Nick’s teaching style was laid-back, inclusive and easy to follow and he put us at ease straight away. The facilities at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop are great – we had two print rooms and plenty of space for us to work in. The enormous ‘Imperial Press’, with the wooden type provided by Nick, enabled us to make big scale prints and the table-top Adana 8X5 presses in the other room were for smaller work. Two days later, I’d amassed a giant collection of prints, all made with the Imperial Press because I absolutely fell in love with creating images on such a large scale! The Adana can print with a far smaller type but it felt a bit fiddly for me, although I’d love to go back and have a play with it too.

Imperial Press

Modern letterpress, which has had a huge upsurge in popularity in recent years, often uses photo-polymer plates, with images made on a computer used to create brand-new plates for pressing with. However, all of the type we used was old, which gave it a wonderful tactile feel and created images that were made more lovely by their imperfections.

Things that we take for granted when typing on a computer require so much thought when creating in letterpress. Everything is mirror image, for a start, and you have to think about the spaces between rows of type (leading) and between words, so that things are readable and look correctly spaced out. All the negative space surrounding the words has to be considered and the type has to be locked into a frame (known as the chase) with leading and quoins so none of the letters fall out when you pick it up to take to the press. And this is before using tricky fonts and struggling to decide if the letter you have is the letter you think you have! No wonder that the phrase ‘mind your p’s and q’s’ came from letterpress…

I absolutely adored this course and found myself really absorbed in the process to the point where hours passed without notice. It’s a long time since I’ve felt that ‘flow’ and it was a definite sign to me that I need to spend more time with this rather challenging yet fascinating subject.

Letterpress Ink

At the end of the second day, I felt a bit like I’d only just got started and now am trying to work out how I can take this further, given my lack of any of the tools or equipment needed! I’m also looking through the list of courses at the Workshop and deciding what to try next.

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‘Never stop learning’ – detail from one of my prints.  Notice that I’ve got the ‘r’ in the wrong font! Not even trying for irony there…

For a ‘scanner’ like me, learning is truly addictive and this course has reignited my passion for study. And that’s made me very, very happy indeed…