It’s Cocktails in the City (CitC) tonight and tomorrow, and we’re beyond excited. All the best bars from across Leeds are setting up shop in the Town Hall with a chosen brand and bespoke cocktails for your delectation.

To get ready for this celebration of alcohol different bars are doing different things. Leave it to Vice and Virtue to make a boozy night into the ultimate opportunity to indulge your hedonistic tendencies. Three perfectly presented courses and paired cocktails showing off the beauty of their chosen CitC brand — Angostura Rum.

The Setting

In the serene minimalism of the restaurant, we sipped our welcome cocktail ‘The Chapeltown Punch’ (which you’ll find at CitC) and were regaled with Angostura’s rich history.

One of the original definitions of cocktails stipulated that a cocktail must have:

  • A spirit
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Bitters

If you know of Angostura already, you most likely know of them because the bitters. Sure, there are others on the market, but these are the original. The classic. The last word in bitters. A secret so heavily guarded that only 5 people know the exact formulation, and the Trinidadian government helps in keeping the secret.

Anyway, back to the night at hand… This night was the collaboration between Trinidad and Yorkshire. Confused? Don’t be! It turns out there’s a long and colourful history between culture, and this is what inspired the CitC drink ‘The Chapeltown Punch’. Did you know that the second UK West Indian Carnival was held in Chapeltown? Well, it was, and still is! So we now have this Chapeltown Punch in front of us, it was time to get on with the food.

The Experience

After learning about Angostura we started on the food. Oh the food. Never too much, never too little, we looked at each plate without ever being worried about going hungry.

The Starter

Leeds Asparagus with Salt-Fish Dumpling and a Viced Queen’s Park Swizzle

Two little parcels of salt-fish stole focus in this dish, with their crisp batter and gorgeously soft innards. Next to it was a softly cured hen’s yolk. The flavours played together happily, and even though I can’t say I was in love with the texture of cured yolk, I can say I’d do it again to feel that way about food.

The Queen’s Park Swizzle was, in laymen’s terms, a modified mojito, with a few heavy dashes of aromatic bitters on top. We learned about the technique, but words fail when I try to explain the intricacies of the ‘Swizzle’ technique. Think of it as rubbing a stick back and forth in your hands, trying to start a fire within the drink, but without flinging ice every where.

The Main

Braised Oxtail with Chicken Hearts with a Angostura 7yo New York Sour

Next up was the meatiest dish of the night, which was beyond rich, beyond sumptuous and more-ish. Though firm on the plate, the oxtail fell apart with a knife, just a gentle pull of a fork. Balanced on top of this was a perfect quenelle of mushroom paté which provided an equally savoury and yet somehow sweet counterpoint to the meat. The highlight for me in this dish would have to be the Rice Pelau though, which arrives looking like a Scotch Egg. When you pierce its fried exterior, the gentle curry spices that were mixed with the rice rise up towards you, and it’s almost as beautiful to watch as it is to eat.

As for the sour? It was frothily topped and heavenly. The sweet notes of the rum were muted but still present, and each sip refreshed your palate ready for another bite of food. Could you really ask for anything more out of a pairing?


The Dessert

Meanwood Trail with a 3yo Daiquiri with Rhubarb and Honey

Last, but never least was dessert. With ingredients foraged along the Meanwood Trail, this dessert was somehow the most Yorkshire thing I’ve ever tasted, without being filled with rhubarb and gin. Instead, we had Burdock Root Meringue with Honey Sorbet, a 1919 rum baba and Wild Chervil Emulsion. This sweet and peppery delight did many incredible things to my palate, but it did not photograph well. Or, at least, I couldn’t photograph it well.

The sweet daiquiri was a like a great friend to the dessert, it was completely different from the meringue, but it complemented it perfectly. The tart rhubarb and aromatic honey worked well with the 3 year old rum, and if you want an aperitif without feeling like you missed out on something, this could be the drink for you. It’s warming, satisfying and comforting, just like a carnival, and just like Yorkshire.

See folks, it’s all about the juxtapositions.

If you’ve not already bought your tickets to Cocktails in the City, why not? Whatever your reason is, be happy to know that there are still some tickets available on the door.

By Parker, Restaurants of Leeds Share this story