Now I’m no food writer or blogger but it would be remiss of me to not attempt to sum up the astonishing eating experience I had at the Swine That Dines vegetarian evening RootstoShoots. I’m a meat eater but my partner isn’t, this has actually been very beneficial to me as my diet has improved, is more balanced and fits in much better to the ethos that it’s better for us and the planet if we all eat a bit less meat.
Whilst there are some notable exceptions in Leeds, generally the level of vegetarian food available on most venues’ menus is sorely lacking in imagination or choice. The culmination of this is perhaps no better illustrated than when it comes to Christmas menus which seem to default to some form of risotto. Now who doesn’t like a good risotto but come on people is that the best you can do? It comes as very much a welcome relief therefore to go somewhere knowing that from a vegetarian perspective you are going to potentially be able to eat everything on the menu. This is especially true when you consider that The Swine That Dines very much specialises in nose to tail eating, or so I thought. What I learnt is that they just specialise in very good cooking.
For those who don’t know The Swine That Dines is an offshoot of The Greedy Pig on North Street and opens up on weekend evenings, with the vegetarian menu (#rootstoshoots) being the first weekend of the month. The setting is a small (about 14 covers) cafe and therefore does not come with the airs and graces of a fancy restaurant, however that is just fine by me. You can relax, bring your own wine and enjoy what’s on offer. It had the feeling of being somewhere that you long to randomly discover while walking around an unknown neighbourhood of some continental city. A place that you are going to rave about afterwards and long to return to, luckily for me I’ll be able to any time I want.
The evening works like a tasting menu, but you don’t have to order everything, indeed there was a guy in there just having a couple of dishes with a bottle of beer. Obviously we went for everything on the menu which they explain they bring out two dishes at a time. Each dish is of a starter size and I love this sort of British tapas approach enabling you to share a couple of plates at a time, relax and wait for the next ones. I also loved the way the menu was written, just three or four ingredients with no hint really on how they would be prepared or served which for me added to the intrigue. It was a welcome relief to not see the words foam, air, jus, pan fried (how the hell else do you fry something?) anywhere near the menu. Our menu was this:
Coco Beans, Goats Curd, Lemon, Rye
Sweet Potato, Burnt Butter, Nori, Yuzu
Carrots, Romesco, Ewes Cheese
Fava, Quails Egg, Dukka, Pomegranate
Buttermilk, Polenta, Wild Garlic, Aiolli
Duck Egg, Smoked Potato, Buckwheat, Sorrel
Oyster Mushrooms, Quinoa, Hazelnut, Porter
Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Tomato Sambal, Peanut
Now if you are like me and you read that menu you have to be intrigued either thinking ooh what’s that or mmmm how are they going to pull those things together, what will it look like, taste like etc. Either way you can’t wait for the first couple of plates to arrive. When they did arrive and you tasted the humble ingredients beautifully presented I was simply mesmerised. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted food as good or certainly not better. Each plate was a dazzlingly array of taste and texture, flavours meeting, marrying and exploding in your mouth sending your senses into overload. I found it quite incredible how someone could take a carrot or a potato, surely the humblest of humble ingredients and make you feel like you were eating the most luxurious food imaginable.
I cannot pick a stand out dish even though we spent a lot of time discussing it, they were all brilliant although there were a couple of stand out elements, the carrot, smoked potato, oyster mushrooms did it for me. The only ingredient that didn’t appeal to me was the buckwheat, didn’t stop me almost resorting to licking the plate clean mind.
If you’ve seen the film Ratatouille then this for me was that film come to life, an astonishing chef cooking from the heart and creating dishes to die for.
Going out for food this good is for many people a very special occasion type of affair, one that you know is going to seriously cost. Here though the evening out was such astonishingly good value that it puts the experience within reach of most people I’d suggest. Each plate was £6 – that’s £48 for all 8 or £24 each !!!! There cannot be anywhere else where you can get food this good for such good value. I often eat out thinking blimey this is a lot of money for something I could basically cook myself. Never has that feeling been further from my mind at The Swine That Dines.
So where are all the foodie, artful, Instagramed pictures of these marvellous plates. Simple, no picture can possibly do the food justice. Just go eat there and see for yourself, but leave space for me as I’ll be taking up residence I think.