Twisted Burger Company @Aire Bar Leeds

“Not another bloody burger?” I hear you cry, “Haven’t we had enough brioche buns and honest burgers topped with pulled pork?”. To all you naysayers, go and eat some fennel pollen and quinoa, there’s always room for another. With my better half @CULTUREleeds we decided to visit the first night of Twisted Burger Companies (TBC) residency of Aire Bar. TBC, originally from The Harley in Sheffield were winners of Best Casual Dining 2013 at the Eat Sheffield Awards. I was expecting slow service, missing ingredients, confusion, and panic – the usual hallmarks of an opening night. Instead, what immediately stood out was a bunch of passionate folk who were knowledgeable about the food on offer, excited about what they were serving, offering genuine recommendations and enjoying it to boot. The location in Aire Bar is great, is a huge venue by the Calls with some decent beers on tap and more besides in bottles. I don’t think I saw a schooner in sight. With some much welcome sunshine, we sat outdoors by the river and played guess what’s that floating through Leeds.

The menu, a bold slap across the chops, features 9 burgers but plenty of room to customise. The burgers range from the veggie ‘Baby got guac’ featuring a porcini and button mushroom patty with Asian slaw and guacamole through to the terrifying ‘This is hardcore’ – 2 burgers, induja sausage, deep fried jalapenos, cheese and hot sauce. The burgers are described as ‘The Main Attraction’ on the menu and they’re not wrong! I plumped for the ‘Pig Daddy Kane’ – 2 beef burgers with pulled pork and cheese. The burger was packed to the rafters with flavour – the deep, smokey Kraken BBQ sauce worked perfectly with the sweet apple and chorizo jam and oozing cheese. It stood up to one of the ultimate burger tests too, you could eat the whole thing with an intact brioche bun at the end. Hat’s off to you TBC, hats off. The burgers here aren’t pink and dripping but the flavour of the beef patties still stand up impressively to the bold flavours that make up their ‘Main attractions’. The pulled pork too was not dripping with BBQ sauce but added some welcome texture to the burger. I also sampled the ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazer’ burger, chicken patties with crispy, smokey streaky bacon, Monterey jack cheese topped with ranch and house relish. Whilst as a whole this was delicious, the chicken patties are something I’ll need to get used to, a whole chicken breast would have made this a stand out dish.Finally on the burger front, no sign of a tomato – let’s all raise a schooner of craft beer to that.Image

There’s more besides The sides we ordered didn’t dazzle and nor should they as the burgers are the star turn here. The fries with skins on (a bargain I must say) were thin & crunchy, the home made slaw perfect contrast to the rich BBQ flavours of ‘Pig Daddy Kane’. There’s plenty more though, with ‘Pig Pimpin fries’ – a double portion topped with pulled pork, smoked cheese sauce and BBQ sauce! Alongside Cajun and chilli flavoured fries. Next time (there WILL be a next time) I’ll be trying the Mac & Cheese (or ‘Crack and cheese’) with bacon bits and jalapenos. All the sauces are homemade and I think are part of the secret to their success. Whatever you order, ask for extra ranch dressing – the sharp tang perfect to dip your fries into, standing up to all the other bold flavours on offer.

I’m a really big fan – they serve incredibly tasty food in a basket for a very decent price, you can’t say fairer than that. It’s great to see a place do one thing really well and with a passion too. If you head there now, there’s a good chance of 50% off. See you soon!

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The Pit (Chapel Allerton) – Review

Just before writing this, I read this review by Jay Rayner on Avenue in London. It was about a high end restaurant, which seems to be jumping head first into the Americana trend. Head first, whilst shooting a revolver into the air shouting yeeHa, dressed as Gordon Gekko that is. Not a place I’ll be spending any time in. The Pit in Chapel Allerton also features some ‘traditional’ American dishes on its menu. However a supposed quick lunch, turned into 6 hours, 4 bottles or Prosecco and 3 courses. Admittedly in leaving we were a little less stable on our feet than when we arrived.

The Pit is recently relaunched, having previously been The Hub, and is part of the Arc group which also has Kobe, The Box and Trio on its books. Inside, it’s almost too polished – money has been spent trying to create an atmosphere that money can’t really buy. That said, I’m still a fan with plenty of cosy booths, friendly staff, great lighting and more wooden panelling than you can shake a stick at. We felt right at home. You’re also likely to be familiar with it’s big sister in the city centre which features Ping Pong tables (or wiff waff if you’re a massive tool) and a private area you can book, alarmingly called  ‘The Bunker’. There’s a decent selection of beers with craft lagers including Jaipur, Brooklyn and Vedett. These are served as schooners, a trend I hope never takes off. Our table also made the most of ‘Fizz Fridays’ a decent bottle of Prosecco for £15, ideal after a long week at work.

The menu features the perfect range of American mains including ribs, steaks, burgers and lobster along with tempting sides such as Mac & Cheese, corn bread and BBQ beans. For those of you wondering whether this menu needs a public health warning attached don’t worry. The pit has a range of smaller lunch dishes (£6.96 meal deal with a drink), salads and even superfood dished featuring quinoa and bulgar wheat. The menu doesn’t try to cover every base and is all the better for it. The dishes are generally well thought out, with care taken to each element on the plate. Attention is also given to the ingredients which are locally sourced including fruit and veg from RK Harris and meat from Alan Morton Butchers in Horsforth.

In a frenzy of hunger, we ordered starters and mains to come together. The ‘Hot or not’ chicken wings were tender, sticky and above all tasty but made so much better with the butter milk dip. I’ve heard the ‘hot’ version will knock your socks off, be warned. The generous portion of nachos didn’t last long either, the home made guacamole the star or the show.

I plumped for the Boston Butt (a phrase I never thought I’d utter), featuring pretty much everything I’d want on a plate of food – Pulled pork, streaky bacon, apple sauce, corn bread, fries and coleslaw. The intensely rich, smokey pulled pork was a joy to get stuck firmly between your teeth and complimented well by the generous helping of apple sauce. The pork hid the tasty cornbread which was a little sodden underneath and the bacon could have been crispier. That aside, this dish really hit the spot. Pulled pork is everywhere these days but here all the bits of the plate made it more than a box ticking exercise. I will be back for this dish alone but will bring tooth picks. The rest of the table went for burgers. The Pit Master burger stood tall with a well-seasoned, juicy, burger topped with pulled pork & charbroiled chicken and dripping, tangy Monterey Jack cheese. All the dished featured chips, traditional French fries which had a great crunch with not a single one left on any plate.

Having moved onto the next notch on the belt (apologies for that image) we risked dessert. The star was the almost sickly sweet pecan pie. The warm pie with crumbly, buttery pastry topped with crunchy pecans and swimming in maple syrup was the highlight of the meal. The ice cream managed to just about cut through the tooth achingly sweet dessert. If you go, please order this! The fudge cake, although not served warm, was also a treat. Topped with swiss chocolate, it managed not to be too rich even after such a heavy meal.

Perhaps The Pit is trying to be a bit cool and may be it doesn’t quite manage it but I’m 28 now and I think I know how that feels. Neither is it the cheapest of nights out but the impressive refit, local produce and crowd pleasing dished I for one look forward to spending many a happy an hour in The Pit, avoiding schooners at my peril.

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