Culto Italian Restaurant Leeds

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We’ve all heard the saying ‘less is more’, it’s appropriate here at Culto to use this phrase as once again for the second time in a month I had another delightful meal here. Really tasty authentic Italian food reflecting the rustic charm of the place reminding me of a little pizza restaurant I’ve visited when in Naples. The pizza oven dominates as you walk through the door bellowing out aromas of freshly baked dough, garlic, sweet tomato and freshly torn basil. A reminder of the simplicity of the food served here at Culto. No frills required just a small but tempting menu. The blackboard chalked up with classic pasta specials to tempt you even further. Once again we were greeted with a smile, attended to promptly and informed there would be a short wait for a table for four. Whilst waiting we shared a delicious tomato/ garlic pizza base and opted for an aperitif of the Italian cocktail ‘Aperol’, delicious! White wine for the table was recommended, an Italian Luisa Sauvignon Blanc priced at £30, served in an ice bucket fashioned from a re-cycled pomodorino can, looked so stylish. Overall once again Culto delivered a great tasty Italian food experience and if you don’t finish all your pizza you can take it home with you. I shall look forward to returning again soon.

Chateau La Croix Saint-Pierre, Cotes De Bordeaux, Blaye 2015

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Clay soils within the appellation Cotes-de-Bordeaux Blaye are perfect for the grape variety ‘Merlot’ to thrive. This lovely French blend is made up of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. A perfectly balanced red wine with flavours and aromas of ripe fruit. Pronounced ripe cherry and blackberry dominate on the first taste but slowly as the wine opens up it reveals a little sweet spice, hints of oak with gentle tannins creating that soft mouthfeel. This wine was really good value priced at £8, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for a second bottle or maybe a case!

Purchased from Waitrose £8

Worked really well with cured meats, olives, mature cheese.

 

Peter Yealands Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Awatere Valley NZ

 

 

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A winery that produces award-winning wines whilst looking out for the environment. This Sauvignon Blanc recently won a Silver Award and after tasting I understand why.

Two parcels of wine individually fermented, blended, crafted then bottled. Outrageously fresh like lightning in my mouth. Sharp and full of mouth-watering acidity, it was so good on the palate. We ate chicken with a creamy sauce, the wine cut through the sauce complementing the dish perfectly. Flavours and aromas of passionfruit, tangy citrus fruits with amazing purity as these flavours stayed in the glass until every drop was gone. Absolutely fabulous!

Purchased from Waitrose £14

 

 

 

H Valrasque Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2015

Southern Rhone, is where the historic city of Avignon produces a red wine from an area known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape (new castle of the Pope) .Way back in the fourteenth century the Popes residence was not in Rome but in Avignon. Today this area is known for the production of this blended red wine, Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

The soil here is unusual in that, it is made up of rock beds, ancient smooth stones of all sizes left behind from Alpine glaciers. Vines are planted and thrive here as the stones  retain the heat from the sun, rapidly ripening the grapes whilst trapping and retaining precious water beneath.

There are fourteen grape varieties that are permitted to create this wine. The three varieties widely used are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Red cherries were the dominating fruit as this delightful wine opened up slowly revealing hints of  liquorice as the cherry faded away into something much softer, earthy with a hint of the barrel.

This wine was enjoyed with a cheese platter, the perfect combination for a lazy Sunday evening. Priced at £12, purchased from Tesco.

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Tenuta Rapitala Grand Cru Chardonnay Sicily

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Sicily, one of the top regions in Italy for producing large volumes of wine, having a long history in wine making dating back to Roman times. It is said that Julius Caesar favoured a sweet wine known as Mamertine, so this tells us that during the Roman Empire Sicily was growing its native grape varieties and producing wines fit for an Emperor. Native grape varieties are still grown today such as grillo, carricante, nero d’Avola along with other international varieties such as chardonnay. Mount Etna, an active Volcano in Sicily with its black lava soil, extreme environment and terroir manages to produce some of Sicily’s quality red and white wines.

Tenuta Rapital are Sicilian wine producers who have been growing grapes such as grillo,  (a local variety) and producing fabulous quality white and red wines since they established in 1968. The word Rapitala is derived from Arabic, ‘River of Allah’ this refers to the stream on the estate.

Tenuta Rapitala Grand Cru Chardonnay

Out for dinner at one of my favourite Italian restaurants here in Leeds, San Carlo Flying Pizza. Choosing from their comprehensive wine list is always a joy, it’s interesting and offers wines that are a little bit different. On this occasion Salvatore the maitre d along with Giuseppe the wine waiter suggested I might enjoy the Sicilian chardonnay so I took their advice and ordered.

Tasting Notes

  The wine was straw yellow in colour with strong aromas of pineapple, mango and dried exotic fruits. Notes of honey, hints of marzipan and pastry. This wine was soft, fruity and well-balanced with medium acidity. I wouldn’t hesitate to order this wine again and I recommend this wine if you enjoy a more complex chardonnay. It ticked all my boxes this evening as it complemented the food of Italy. Another perfect choice as I continue to explore and taste great wine here in Leeds.

 

 

Dakota Deluxe Hotel Leeds

IMG_1186Dakota Bar&Grill and the Champagne Room

It’s always a treat when there’s a new restaurant here in Leeds to try out. Dakota Deluxe Hotel seems to have it all! A great location in the city centre offering fine dinning and new experiences such as, the wonderful Champagne Room where we began the evening. I was impressed as we approached the hotel, it had all the hall marks of quality you would expect from this hotel chain. We were greeted with kindness on our arrival at the door to being seated in the very comfortable and luxurious surroundings of the Champagne Room, an already pre booked reservation before dinner. This relaxing start to our evening was such a pleasure, it was now time to order a bottle of the bubbles!! We opted for the Billecart-Salmon Brut, a wonderful fresh and delicate champagne, one of the classics, family owned since 1818 this champagne has style.

The restaurant, a table for four

A lovely space to dine in, easy on the eye with great lighting. Tables were not too close together and the seating was incredibly comfortable. Well trained professional restaurant waiters/waitresses and front of house were dressed in their own individual style, all wearing black and immaculately presented.

The menu was easy to follow, no frills on the explanations, there was something for everyone’s palate. I started with pan-fried scallops, pea puree, cavolo nero and black pudding, followed by butter roast chicken, truffle gnocchi, Alsace bacon, pea puree and a house salad, finishing with a rhubarb and custard brûlée with rhubarb sorbet. My three dishes were excellent I couldn’t fault a single thing. Tasty, attractive well cooked food, this definitely wasn’t ‘style over substance.’

The wine

The restaurants wine list offered some great choices, showcasing many fabulous wines and champagnes. Depending on your palate, preference and wallet. A wine for everyone along with premium champagnes, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot and several others ranging in price from £60 to £250 a bottle. The Billecart-Salmon brut priced at £60 was delightful, a perfect start to a wonderful dining experience at the Dakota bar&grill. At the table we ordered the Malbec 2014 Mendoza Argentina and the Macabeo 2015 Spanish white. Both wines were excellent quality, reasonably priced and a perfect pairing with our food choices. I will definatley be returning very soon to the Dakota Bar&Grill, I loved it here!

 

 

Murcia City, Mar Menor and the historic Caravaca del la Cruz.

A few of my treasured photographs of Murica, Spain.

 

Historic sites to visit in the region of Murcia

I have visited Murcia City, Caravaca del la Cruz and spent many sunny days on the Mar Menor all in the last five years, having been fortunate enough to own a property in this pretty region of Spain. A relatively short flight takes me into San Javier airport and if I wish I can be on the coast of the Mar Menor in half an hour. Here in Murcia you can Seek out, explore and enjoy some of Spain’s historical places. Beautiful imposing architecture, wonderful scenery with perfect light that allows everything visual to be showcased. To appreciate Spain’s wealth of historic buildings there’s nothing better than doing it whilst the sun shines. The region of Murcia benefits from approximately 340 days of sunshine each year, perfect!

Religious buildings, magnificent churches and cathedrals, huge Structures, amazing craftsmanship with jaw dropping beauty will draw you in. There is no need for a guide as these historical places offer snippets of information, relevant dates in history to communicate historical stories. What really makes these places special is they are open to the public and fully functioning. Whilst the clergy get ready for mass or other religious ceremonies, as a visitor you experience the catholic church in all its glory, taking in the atmosphere that I’m sure hasn’t changed for centuries. It can feel like a piece of theatre, a performance, its interesting, historical and totally captivating.

 The Cathedral, Murcia City

The construction of Murcia’s magnificent cathedral began 600 years ago in 1394. Built on the site of a former mosque, construction of this huge place of worship took many years to complete. Several architects overtime contributed a range of different styles to this building, this is apparent from the facade being of a Baroque style, the Interior very much in a Gothic style. Inside there are twenty-three chapels, each dedicated to those who took part in the construction of this monumental place of worship. It really is worth the visit and if you’re a keen photographer you cannot fail to capture many wonderful photographs.

Plaza Flores 

A short stroll away through the old streets is an area named ‘Plaza Flores’, a beautiful old square where people meet up, drink coffee, wine, and share plates of tapas. It’s vibrant and busy, tables are taken up with families, old friends, lovers all catching up and so very Spanish. Flower stalls hold the perfect positions, adding colour and fragrance, drawing you in to admire their displays, tempting you to make a purchase. Plaza Flores is one of my favourite places for watching the world go by whilst enjoying a glass or two of Cava.

Caravaca del la Cruz, within the province of Murcia

In the region of Murcia, Southeastern Spain, Caravaca is the fifth holiest city of Catholic Christianity. It is believed that the Caravaca Cross was delivered by angels in a miracle, centuries ago. The Knights Templar guarded the cross and protected the worship there. Amazing examples of religious buildings, stunning architecture and stories fill this place,  you can spend hours even days taking it all in. Spain has many festivals all across the country it seems there’s always something to shout about. Here in Caravaca there are many captivating stories some historical even mythical but there’s one that involves wine, water and horses – a festival that takes place between 1st to the 5th of May, loaded with fantasy and symbolism, known as ‘Los Caballos del Vino’. 

The castle and Basilica Santa Cross, built by the Knights Templar many centuries ago is where the festival takes place in early May every year to celebrate the story of the survival of the people. Legend has it that Knights and citizens of the town came under attack by the Muslim army, the people fled to the castle seeking safety but the water began to make them ill. Men left the castle on horseback in search of clean water, but there was no water to be found, returning to the castle having found only wine. The wine was then mixed with water and blessed in the presence of the cross. Legend says that the Christians who drank it became strong again and were able to go on and defeat the army. Five days of celebration for this particular area are connected to the stories, legends and Christian beliefs. Every year at Easter time there are many more events and festivals taking place, so if you happen to be in this part of the world at this religious time, enjoy!

The Mar Menor

The smallest sea, located south-east of Murcia and very close to the larger city of Cartagena. A relatively small body of water, a salty lagoon only seven metres deep, separated from the Mediterranean. If you’re looking for sunshine without the throng of too many holiday makers then the out of season times are amazing for peaceful relaxation. Flights to this region are at a reasonable cost from Ryanair and Jet2 flying into San Javier airport, small and convenient for holidaying here in Murcia, with close proximity to the coastline, golf resorts and the larger towns.

Places to add to your list worth a visit

Los Alcazares

Puerto de San Pedro

La Encarnacion, Spa Hotel, bar/ restaurant

Tropical, Restaurant

Marde Sal, Restaurant