Monday, 25 August 2014

Bundobust - Leeds

Crossing the Pennines to Leeds over the past year since I moved North has become a real pleasure. There's a cluster of restaurants and bars just stumbling distance from the train station that I thoroughly enjoy taking in Brewery Tap, Laynes Coffee, Friends of Ham, Tapped, Trinity Kitchen, Brewdog and Reds (if needing stodge desperately). When I heard Bundobust was opening mid-July just around the corner from Friends of Ham, I was keen to check it out with a view to getting it into my regular rotation if it was any cop.
Bundobust combine Indian street food from the Prashad family who apparently (I haven't been) have a well regarded 'proper' restaurant elsewhere in Yorkshire along with drink supplied by The Sparrow craft beer bar in Bradford. The restaurant itself is a great little place decor-wise and had attracted a fairly broad mix of people, not just the young and hip that my photos below reflect. The huge windows at the front and sides (overlooking an outdoor covered seating area) made the whole atmosphere really airy and welcoming. It was fairly busy on a weekend mid-afternoon but there was still plenty of space to grab a table quickly, a couple of larger banquet style tables near the bar really help squeeze as many people as possible for those that don't mind communal eating.
First thoughts - the bar. It's clear that some thought has gone into matching the beer selection with the food on offer with a drink menu consisting of their own coriander lager along with plenty of refreshing pales, tart saisons, and various wheat options on draft and by the bottle. Prices are fairly typical inflated city centre fare, with pints starting at around £3.50 and with bottles all the way up to an eye-watering £22.50 for one of the special Mikkellers they have on the menu.

The food menu is made up of cold snack dishes on the left and then hot food on the right. The chap who took my order was extremely helpful in explaining it all and said a couple of dishes per person should be enough, he talked a lot about sharing the food between us but paper pots of curry don't particularly lend well to this concept at all. The snacks sure, but imagine handing round a bowl of curry and all digging in with separate spoons? I was with a couple of close friends but still find this a bit of a grim prospect especially as there was no hint of sharing bowls offered. Anyway, you grab a table and order at the bar Nandos style, get given a plastic spoon with a number drawn on and the food arrives fairly promptly afterwards.
Disappointingly for Indian food there was no indication of how hot these dishes might be and no option to ask for extra heat. I'm no fiend for a monstrously hot curry but I know people get very protective of curry and like the option.

I should make it clear that the top three of the dishes below (Popcorn, Idli Sambha and Okra fries) I ordered and ate myself so can add a little more detail. 

"Popcorn and pops" £3
A laughable portion of greasy popcorn served in the same size dish as the rest of the food was a surprise, this came with a neon green colouring which had hints of garlic and green chilli but extremely mild. The three pieces of popadom could easily have been replaced by a giant hand sticking two fingers up at me mocking me for having paid £3 for what most restaurants give you for free.

Okra fries £3
These were excellent, the highlight for me. I'd expected them to be warm like a side of french fries but they were served stone cold so I assume they must just cook them in giant batches and dish them up during the day. Whatever they'd used to batter them had stayed hard giving them a satisfying crunch. The sprinkling of spice made for a great snack.

Idli Sambha £6
Two dumplings sat either side of a portion of lentil soup, with a dollop of coconut chutney sat in the middle. The soup was lukewarm with a very mild chilli spice. A perfectly fine little dish, the spongey dumplings had absorbed the soup but still held together nicely, adding some necessary bulk to the dish.

Spice and rice £6.50
This was one of the specials of the day, described as "Low and slow mung bean curry served with basmati rice". On appearance alone I was very surprised it was the same size as the popcorn dish for the most expensive dish on the menu. I had a spoonful out of the bottom and it was a fairly generic tasting mild bean curry, nothing to really get excited about. 

Ragda Pethis £6
Another of the dishes from the hot side of the menu, this one consisted of "potato cutlets, spiced mushy peas, tamarind chutney and tumeric noodles". I didn't try this so can't comment on the taste. 

Bundo Chaat £4
Final of the hot dishes we ordered, this had a Samosa hidden away in the "chickpeas, potato, tamarind chutney and yoghurt" with a sprinkling of tumeric noodles on top. I didn't try this so can't comment on the taste. 

The food detailed along with 3 half pints of mid-priced draft beers came to a shade over £35 between three of us. £12 for a light lunch with a half of beer i'd say would be a shade expensive but we all left so hungry that we had to resort to raiding Marks and Spencers afterwards pre-train back to Manchester. If I were to compare it to somewhere like Mughli where a portion of their fantastic lamb chops would be the same price as the pot of spice and rice it's absolutely too expensive for my tastes, especially as the food was nothing special. If there were some sort of combo of a couple of hot dishes with snacks for £10 to create a proper 'meal' i'd be much keener.

I think it's worth noting here (if you hadn't noticed from the menu) that all of these dishes are vegetarian so there isn't even the excuse of expensive meats to bump up the costs of production. Charging £5-6 for a small bowl of curry sauce with rice must make them an astronomical mark-up.

There has been a ton of hype on twitter after the obligatory freebie blaggers rolled in on opening night, were given free food and gushed accordingly. Job done. My thoughts and wariness on this type of scenario is something i've whinged about at length before but is a prime example whereby if you remove price of food from the equation here then yes, Bundobust is a great little restaurant but it's absolutely too expensive it's annoying to me that this wasn't reflected in all the positivity I've read.

So would I go back? I would definitely head to the bar again, the constantly changing beer menu would be enough to tempt me back on that front if they continue to keep it interesting. The food? Not so much unless they sort those prices out. 
Bundobust on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Hi

    Cool write up.

    I've been following the rise of Bundobust ever since their name first started to appear on facebook, and I also visited a number of their pop ups too (which they did loads of around here before the the bar opened properly), but I've yet to make it to their proper shop. I should really... but I'm sure you appreciate how it is sometimes?

    I think I will have to pick carefully from the menu when I do!

    Cheers again