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.

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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

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.

Marrakesh Ave

Marrakesh Ave is a Moroccan restaurant on Princes Avenue. For me, it’s always been one of those places I was intrigued by as I walked past. A couple of weeks ago I finally bit the bullet and took one of my friends there for her birthday.

There were problems from the start – we turned up at the date & time we’d booked to find that the restaurant hadn’t reopened as planned, the refurbishments they’d been doing had overrun! The owner apologised & offered us a free bottle of wine for when we rebooked.

Upon our return on Tuesday of the next week, things went smoothly. The front room of the restaurant (it was a bitterly cold day, so we didn’t see the ‘secret garden’ at the back) has cushioned seats along the walls, with chairs on the other side of the tables. It poses something of a dilemma if there’s two of you – do you go for both being comfortable, or sit opposite each other to make conversation easier? Opting for the latter, I was annoyed to find that there was a a slight draft from the front door which I was sat near.

The service was excellent – our waitress friendly and chatty throughout, and didn’t object when (on a limited budget) we wanted to share both a starter and dessert rather than buying one each. The food was served quickly, but it wasn’t mind blowing; the starter was probably the highlight: we had humus and olives with bread, which while simple was still extremely tasty. For the main, we went for the ‘Marrakesh platter’, consisting of skewered lamb, chicken, and vegetables with salad, garlic yogurt and chilli sauce. There was more than enough to fill the two of us up, but on the other hand it became somewhat repetitive!

For dessert we shared a portion of Baklava. While it was very tasty, it was also quite difficult to eat – very tough, and bits tended to fly everywhere if you attempted to hack off a bit. The waitress had said it was the last piece so in hindsight it may have been there some time.

The bill came to £40, which is really quite pricey for one starter, one dessert, and a main course designed to be shared between two. Count in the fact that our wine came free and you could easily add substantially to that bill even if there’s only two of you. Overall, the excellent service and nice atmosphere at this place doesn’t make up for the expense. 5/10

Giant Panda

Giant Panda, on Princes Avenue, is an all-you-can-eat chinese restaurant. A party of 12 of us went last night.

With such a large party, ordering can be quite difficult, so we started with a mixed platter of starters – spring rolls, spare ribs, etc. The stand out here for me were the spare ribs with a kind of fruity glaze on them. It was a little like sucking a boiled sweet at the same time as eating the rib. After the platters, everyone’s favourite crispy duck pancakes – no complaints there.

For the mains, we had a variety of things – I won’t list them all, but the crispy chilli beef wasn’t particularly chilli – a little disappointing even – while on the other hand the beef in black bean sauce was one of the best I’ve ever had – for some reason it seemed to have more chilli peppers in than the crispy beef! The chicken & cashew nut was also better than average.

As it was all-you-can-eat, commenting on portion size is irrelevant, but requests for more food or extra dishes were met very promptly – the service was very good indeed. At £12.88 (on fridays and saturdays; cheaper sun-thurs) per head and drinks which aren’t super expensive (£2.50 a pint), it’s quite affordable (we had a competition to guess how much the bill would be – I guessed the lowest and got it right).

Sleepers – a brief review

Sleepers is a restaurant/café bar on Newland Ave, next to the railway bridge (hence, presumably, the name). I went there the other day for a work Christmas meal. It’s a pretty nice place. Fully booked with Christmas parties on the day I went, they were turning people away. Before I start reviewing the food I should mention that I’m currently trying to gain a bit of weight so quantity may weigh on my mind a little more than it should.

To start, I had pâté with toasted ciabatta. Except the ciabatta wasn’t toasted. Otherwise, excellent – lots of pâté. For the main course, turkey. Lots of it; and lots of vegetables (a few too many brussel sprouts for my liking – but the parsnips made up for it), mashed potato but only two roast potatoes. Dessert – fruit crumble, I liked it a lot. 6/10 on the food – good but not special.

The drinks at Sleepers are quite reasonably priced, or at least the bottled ales are. Good selection too. 8/10

Overall a solid 7/10. As it’s only a minute away from my house I may go again!