Common Ground

Today I went to the Common Ground book swap at Zoo Café. Everyone was very friendly, and I got quite a few good books! And a couple of bad ones too – which I’ll read any way. So thank you to all the organisers. Common Ground have all kinds of things in the works so I’ll be sure to post on here when I find out what the next thing going on is.

Weekend Reviews: Wokkas & Potato Bakehouse

Over lunch on both days this weekend, I checked out a couple of the newer food outlets in town: on Saturday, a Chinese place, Wokkas, that’s just opened in the tiny space (next to Propaganda) previously occupied by an excellent but doomed burger-and-chips takeaway (Eats). They’d managed to squeeze a very nice looking sit-down restaurant in there! The kitchen was open, so you could see everything that was going on, and the staff were very friendly. It was their first Saturday, and they seemed busy enough. The food was quite expensive: a portion of chicken in black bean sauce (inc. fried rice) to take away (10% discount) set me back £6.68. I couldn’t fault the food, though. The rice wasn’t over or underdone, and the black bean sauce had bits of red chilli in it. Smaller portion size than I expect from a chinese, but then it’s a classier place. May be a good option if you want a light meal when you’re round town and you aren’t a minimum-wage worker like I am.

Sunday I went to Potato Bakehouse, in the food court bit upstairs at St. Stephens. There was a queue and there seemed to be quite a few people waiting for food at tables as well, but when I was served the lady revealed that everyone was waiting for paninis (?!?) and that my potato with chilli would take all of five minutes. So buy potatoes! Expensive though – £4.19 for a baked tattie with chilli. Weekdays, there is (or was) a trailer in paragon square that does them for less, with more chilli, but this being a Sunday I had to settle. Decent enough, but what with it being tucked away upstairs in St Steven’s I’ll probably not visit again.

Da Gianni

Da Gianni is a restaurant and takeaway – at 48 and 56 Princes Avenue respectively (next-door-but-one from each other, effectively). The takeaway only opened very recently so I popped in the other night with a friend. As takeaways go, this one is very classy indeed. It serves, pizza, pasta, and a variety of antipasti (starters) and side dishes – the menu’s presumably a copy of the one in the restaurant.

The upshot of this, of course, is that it’s pretty pricey. Pizzas and pasta start at £6.25. We chose a Lillianna (mozzarella, italian sausage, mushroom and spinach – no tomato). The dough was done just right, unlike most takeaway pizzas. It ranks up there amongst the tastiest pizzas I’ve had,  but it wasn’t huge – though big enough to fill one stomach, unfortunately in this case we were sharing.

The chef was friendly enough, once we convinced him we weren’t after a kebab or a burger; he chatted away about the ingredients and told us how everything’s freshly prepared, how they’re up for delivering to places near or (relatively speaking) far, and how the pizza we’d chosen was named after his daughter.

All in all, overlooking the expense, this one definitely deserves a repeat visit. Possibly I might make it down to their restaurant at some point and see if that’s as good, too! 8.5/10

Lazaat

Lazaat is a “world cuisine” restaurant (with attached bar and hotel) located just outside of Cottingham, on Woodhill Way. Despite the somewhat inaccessible location, there’s good reasons to make the trek. About two-thirds of the menu is gluten-free, making this restaurant a good one if you’re a coeliac. Also, although it’s quite a pricey restaurant, a 40% discount is offered between 4.30-6.30 Mon-Sat and all night on Sundays – we made a massive saving when we went on Sunday, and it wasn’t too busy either.

The interior of the restaurant is quite comfortable and the tables aren’t packed in tight, but this is tempered by the fact that the wooden floors and lack of soft furnishings mean the noise level can become uncomfortably loud when it’s packed. Also, the lighting is very dim, meaning it can be hard to indentify exactly which vegetable you’re eating. It’s no Dans Le Noir, but I’d prefer it a little lighter. The waiting staff (mostly sixth-formers from the local school!) are everything you’d expect, friendly and helpful. If anything we were interrupted by one asking if everything was ok a little too much.

As for the food, it’s well presented, though sometimes it hasn’t been thought through enough (ice cream served on a large plate rather than in a dish). Many of the dishes are strongly flavoured, sometimes to the point where you can’t taste the underlying ingredient – this was the case with the roast fish I had for a starter. On the other hand, the Thai Green Curry I had was perfectly balanced. In general most things are fine, though we had the odd vegetable or bit of rice that was under- or over-cooked. The menu consists mostly of dishes originating from South Asia – India, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. There’s also steak, and lobster ravioli (not heard of that one before!). Something for everyone, though many of the dishes are spicy.

Overall, Lazaat certainly isn’t somewhere to go if you’re on a budget, but it’s a good choice if you like eating out and want a large range of dishes to choose from. 7/10

Mammal Hum @ the Adelphi

On the basis of an oddly-shaped flyer I picked up a couple of weeks ago, I went to see Mammal Hum‘s first ever gig last night, at the Adelphi on De Grey Street.

With it being their first ever gig, family and friends of the band had turned out in support. Since there are five band members, there were quite a few of these, plus those of us whose interest had been piqued by the pre-gig publicity.

The support (introducing himself only as “the support for Mammal Hum tonight”), was decent enough, enjoyable bluesy stuff. Not much I can say about one man and his guitar without sounding silly.

Mammal Hum looked a tad nervous when they got on stage, but there were surprisingly few hiccups in the performance, for a first gig. As I mentioned, there’s five of them, so a wide variety of instruments are employed – tambourine, xylophone and harmonica being the unusual ones. Keyboards, drums, guitar & bass also feature. The overall effect, with many different sounds layering over one another, was great; happy music for happy people – pop of the best sort. If this were a music blog, I’d draw comparisons to some other bands – but it ain’t so I won’t. It was pretty much the best gig I’d been to in ages! I’ll definitely be seeing them again.

There’s a couple of tracks on their myspace (linked above), but I encourage everyone to get out there and see them live – they have two gigs coming up (of which I should be attending at least one!):

23 Apr 2008 Sidekicks Lounge, The Lamp
6 May 2008 The Sesh – Linnet and Lark.

Café at Studio Ten and a Half

Studio Ten and a Half can be found on Trinity Square in the Old Town. While it sits a couple of doors down from the more glamorous Zilli’s, Studio Ten and a Half seems to be firmly down-to-earth. It’s rather unusual in that there’s actually two bits – a downstairs, serving cold food such as sandwiches, and an upstairs (accessed through the Studio Ten and a Half shop, which is worth a look) which serves hot food. We opted to head upstairs.

As it was quite late on Easter Saturday, there wasn’t a lot of choice left – I opted for lasagna, my partner in crime dining went for quiche. Each was served with two salads – of which there was a variety to choose from. For me these were probably the highlight of the meal, the lasagna being filling but a tad too tomatoey. The potato salad was divine, as was the mixed veg. salad I also opted for.

Tea was served in a miniature teapot, but with a twist – it was proper leaf tea, complete with tea strainer, not a teabag in sight! A rarity these days. Anyway, overall this cheerful little café will probably receive a second visit from me. It’s cheapish (£6.80 for lasagna and a hot chocolate), and the unpretentious atmosphere can’t be beat. 8/10.