Monday, 22 January 2018

Lunch on the Water

I’m generally a pretty accepting sort of a person but there are a few things I remain distrustful of; when my wife says she's 'nearly ready', the arrival boards in First Wessex bus shelters, and bars/restaurants who offer both pizzas and burgers on their menu.

Despite being two of my very favourite foodstuffs, when you see them united you know one is almost definitely going to suck; maybe (probably) both. While it’s usually the pizza that's the first casualty - such a simple thing, but so hard to get right without the (costly) kit – bad burgers are also grimly familiar.

One place that has successfully managed it is the Belgrave in Leeds, but that’s because they have a pizza concession from Dough Boys at the front and burgers from the Patty Smith’s Burger Co. at the back, meaning you can mix and match from two specialists; which is cheating, really, but great if you fancy a slice with some fries on the side.

The Belgrave also serve a wide selection of Very Nice beer, so it’s pretty hard to be persuaded to try other places for lunch. That's until I saw that the team behind them had a latest venture - Water Lane Boat Lane, down by the docks - that also kept a handsomely stocked bar, and were offering a menu of both pizza and burgers. Perfect for the hungry, thirsty and the undecided.

Even though the brewery is just around the corner, and we had our customary visit scheduled for the following day, I couldn't turn down a half of the Blueberry and Mosaic black IPA, from the Northern Monk Patrons Project.

I'm not always convinced by BIPA - is it a stout or is it a pale ale? - but I really enjoyed the balance of the fruitiness from the berries with the herbal funk of the hops and the bitter edge of the roasted malt. At a hefty 7%, it's a sipper, not a slurper, but, not to give too much away in the first few paragraphs, I liked it (and the food) so much I came back for another half the very next day.

Their pizza dough is made using just three ingredients: organic Yorkshire flour, water and salt. A promising start, but pretty much all you can put in a pizza dough, to be fair. More excitingly, after slow proving for twenty four hours, their pies are cooked in their Small Victories brick oven, handmade in Naples and shipped to these shores. And, best of all, they are buy one get one for a quid on Sundays and Mondays. 

They also offer interesting, but not too outlandish, flavour combos such as prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella and pickled radicchio that I split with the Ewing. This is my kinda pizza; a puffy cornicione; blistered from the heat of the oven; a pleasingly chewy slightly sour base; and just enough toppings to keep things interesting without overwhelming the dish's inherent simplicity (or giving it a soggy bottom).

We also shared the ox cheek with horseradish, san marzano tomatoes and mozarella, which was the Ewing's preferred pie. Combining rich chunks of meat, like the best beef stew, with zippy horseraduish, sweet tomatoes and melty pools of milky cheese, it was another fine example of how simple, yet majestic, a good pizza can be. 

My cousins, who had come to meet us in a break between festive shopping, also enjoyed the classic margarita - the benchmark to which discerning diner Georgia approved; the salami and cured pepperoni; and the kale, pecorino, black olive and truffle oil; which sounded virtuous, but had two types of cheese to make up for it.

As I may have already revealed, we liked it so much that we went back the very next day. Prompted by the prospect of more blueberry beer and the fact that Tuesdays are buy one burger, get one for a pound. Time for the litmus test; could they pull off the double?

As with the day before, we attempted the 'sharing' thing, stating with the Small Victories’ burger - an aged Yorkshire beef patty, cheese, toasted sesame bun, bacon jam, tomato, lettuce, pickles, and Small Victories burger sauce. In a saturated market this was a competent, if unremarkable effort.

Surprisingly, the standout was the veggie option; a beetroot, white bean and fennel patty on a toasted sesame bun, with tomato jam, pickles, burger sauce and salad. While I was worried it sounded rather worthy, it reminded me a bit of the Indian vada pav - a fried spiced potato fritter served in a bun, and one of my favourite Indian snacks. This was possibly even better - gently spiced, earthy, sweet and crisp. To paraphrase the Ewing, a bit of a taste sensation

With the sun reflecting on the Leeds and Liverpool shipping canal outside the window, I reflected on how a decent pizza/burger double - with a great beer and keen service - really is possible. I'm still working on expectations when it comes to how long it's going to take for my wife to finish getting ready. (I'm still working on expectations of when you will be able to find your own things - TE).

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