Monday, 29 November 2010

AM Kitchen and Bar

Take Two

I went back to AM Kitchen and Bar on Saturday night , yes only 2 days after the launch – I really do like curry that much! (read the launch review here).

When we arrived we were shown straight to a table, our drinks order was taken and popadoms arrived within minutes. For starters we had chicken tikka and onion bahjis. The chicken was even better than launch night, bigger juicer pieces with the spicy tikka flavouring, the only downfall was that the chicken wasn’t hot. The onion bahjis were hot, but a bit lacking in flavour.

I had lamb madras for my main, which was a bowl of hot with an undercurrent of madras flavours. My friend had a lamb balti which she said was a lovely mild spicy dish, unfortunately the chillies in my madras had burnt off my taste buds so I couldn’t even taste a hint of balti spices. Again the meat was a good quality, tender chunks of lamb, but not as much sauce as I would’ve liked. We shared a generous portion of rice and a garlic naan which I’m pleased to report contained a good amount of garlic.

Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures of the food, in fact by the time I remembered to get my camera out all we had left was an empty bottle of wine! The wine was actually really nice, it was the house wine, and was better than whatever wine I had been drinking on launch night. Using a French grape from the Laguedoc region, Moulin Grandet is produced by Australian wine makers. The blend of French grapes with the production methods of the new world wines gives a superbly balanced wine, soft and fruity and smooth. A quaffable drinking wine.

Although I enjoyed the meal, if I had to pick one word to describe both the food and the service at AM Kitchen and Bar it would be ‘inconsistent’.

The service started out great, but then our starters arrived just as we were finishing the popadoms, and the mains arrived straight after the last mouthful of bhaji, no time for a breather to make room for more between courses. After our plates had been cleared it seemed like ages before a waiter brought us some hand wipes and he didn’t ask if we wanted anything else, any dessert or more drinks not even a coffee. I was trying to persuade my friend that she had enough room to squeeze in a delicious kulfi icecream dessert but no one came to take our order. In the end we had to flag a waiter down to ask for the bill, twice, and even then it took more than 15 minutes for someone to bring it. We weren’t impressed because it was cutting into our Saturday night drinking time!

I don’t think AM Kitchen and Bar going to become my new favourite restaurant but I will still go back, I want to try the chicken and keema karahi to see how it compares to the chicken keema dish I usually have at Akbars. But I will only be going back while I have free wine vouchers as it’s a bit pricey. Overall we paid about the same for just the meal as we would pay for the meal and the wine elsewhere. Plus there was a 10% service charge built in and I wouldn’t have tipped that much on this occasion because I wasn’t happy with the service at the end of the night. But its definitely worth going back for the good wine, especially while its free! I still have some vouchers left to give away for a free bottle – e-mail me if you want one!

If you love a good curry come and join my Curry Club on Linked In

AM Kitchen and Bar is located in the former Dysons Clock building on Briggate and is part of the Leeds Marriott hotel.

Friday, 26 November 2010

New Indian Restaurant in Leeds

VIP Launch Night

AM Kitchen and Bar

AM Kitchen and Bar isn’t the most obvious name for an Indian restaurant and the iconic Dyson Clockworks Building probably isn’t the most obvious location.

From the outside it doesn’t look like an Indian restaurant - the main feature of the building being the magnificent Dyson’s Clock. Inside the restaurant is a combination of contemporary styling with the original clockwork features. Glittery black walls combined with the original chandeliers. The old cashier’s officer has been turned into a VIP dining area and instead of jewellery and clocks the display cabinets are filled with champagne.

Last night’s event, the VIP launch was invitation only and was billed as a Bollywood glamour red carpet event. A pre-event write up promised bollywood dancers, celebrity guests and an evening full of entertainment. And although there was indeed a little red carpet out on the pavement in front of the door and some red table runners and glass diamond style table decorations that’s where the red carpet style ended. The only celeb I saw was a glimpse of Galaxy radio’s JoJo as she was walking out the door. In between courses there was some bollywood music being played but from our table upstairs in the corner there were no dancers to see.

But enough about that on to more important things…the food!
The evening's menu was mouthwatering in descriptions.


Seekh Kebab - minced lamb with special herbs and spices
Chicken Tikka - marinated and mildly seasoned, cooked over charcoal
Masala Fish - marinated with our special marinade and deep fried
Onion Baji - deep fried onion and potatoes in a mild spicy batter

The Chicken Tikka was my favourite, lovely tikka flavour with a good kick of spice. The Fish Masala went down very well with my fellow diners, good quality white fish with a nice flavour. The kebab was nice enough, a bit greasy, I’ve had worse, I’ve had better. The bhaji was a bit disappointing, cold and chewy but given the fact that they were serving 150 people at the same time – you can’t expect everything to perfect. Based on the rest of the starters I would go back and try the bhajis again on a regular evening.


Chicken Karahi - cooked in a rich dry sauce with herbs and spices

Saag Gosht - lamb in spinach cooked in traditional Indian style

Tarka Daal - lentil dish tampered with garlic and ginger

Accompanied with pilau rice and naan

Now the mains were very tasty, good quality meat, tender and succulent. All 3 dishes had a lovely blend of spices and a full round flavour. The karhai was my favourite because it had a bit more spice to it. Personally I like a hot saucy dish, so these were a bit mild and dry for me, especially after the spicy starters. But I still really enjoyed all the dishes and got to try ones I wouldn’t usually pick for myself, I was especially surprised by the tarka daal, I wasn’t expecting to like a lentil dish but the sauce was really quite tasty. Nice soft naan bread, next time I’d like to try the garlic version.


Matka Kulfi - kulfi with saffron sauce and specially flavoured chopped almond and pistachio nuts served in  a ceramic bowl (matka).

What really made the evening for me was the dessert. I’ve never had dessert in an Indian restaurant I’m usually far too full (and I’ve had a few disappointing prepacked frozen desserts in Chinese restaurants that have put me off Asian deserts). This icecream was served in cute little individual pots and was totally delicious. Soft creamy purely indulgent icecream topped with crushed pistachios and almonds was the perfect ending. I will definitely be eating this again!

AM Kitchen and Bar has actually been open for quite a while, this wasn’t their opening night, just their launch night. And I’m glad they launched on such a large scale otherwise I would’ve never known it was there. The couple at my table were regulars and raved about the food and the service. They always start with samosas and the lady’s favourite dish is Lamb Passanda whilst the gentleman recommended the Lamb Nehari as a hotter dish. Based on their previous dining experiences I will definitely return to the restaurant and for a true review I need to have my usual dish Lamb Madras to benchmark it against my favourite restaurants. I’d also like to see if the service improves with fewer diners.

A bit more about the venue...John Dyson installed the ornate clock in 1865 when he founded his jewellery business. The second smaller clock was added in 1910 with the Latin inscription ‘Time Flies’ to celebrate his wife’s birthday. The clocks were a popular meeting place for courting couples in the first half of the 20th century and they have become a famous Leeds landmark. Not forgetting the story of the beautiful chandeliers hanging inside, rumour has it they were won in a bet in Monte Carlo! (But some internet research instead claims that Mrs Dyson bought them at the 1890 Paris Exhibition with money won on the gaming tables in Monte Carlo.) The Clockworks building was home to Dyson’s jewellery business for 125 years, can this new contemporary Indian restaurant compete with the history of the building and live up to its landmark status? Probably not – but we can still enjoy the food and the dining experience for as long as it lasts.

On leaving the restaurant we were given a little goody bag. In it there were a generous amount of vouchers for a free bottle of wine when dining before 21 Dec. And as much as I love free wine even I can’t drink that much before then. So I’d like to offer them to my readers, try the food for yourself and enjoy a free bottle of wine. The first 10 people to e-mail me with their address will receive a voucher in the post  (I promise to destroy addresses after use and will not use them for any marketing or other purpose.)

To see the menu visit

AM Kitchen bar is also part of the Leeds Marriott Hotel and apparently you can order room service from the restaurant – eating curry in your pyjama a true guilty pleasure!

If you’ve been to AM Kitchen and Bar I would love to hear from you. What are your thoughts, what dishes you would recommend?

Because i love curry so much I went to back to AM K&B on Saturday night to try the madras, read the update here.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Beautiful Bajis

#7 Learn to Cook Indian Food – Onion Baji Recipe

I always start with a splash of rapeseed or vegetable oil in the wok, a sprinkle of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder.

Have your onions sliced ready, I like to use a mix of red and white onions, for this particular batch I used half a large red one and a small white one. This recipe made 4 bajis.

Heat the oil, salt and pepper on a low heat.
Mix the following spices in a bowl first then add to the oil in the wok.
¼ tsp tumeric
¼ tsp coriander
tip of teaspoon of cumin
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp chilli
pinch of garam maslasa

Mix the spices into the oil, then add the sliced onion and coat them with the oil. The onions will turn a yellowy colour. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 mins until onions go soft, stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent burning or sticking to the pan.

To make the batter mix the flour and spices together in a bowl

3tbsp of gram flour (available from Tesco)
¼ tsp coriander
tip of teaspoon of cumin
a pinch of garam maslasa

Transfer the onion mixture into a clean bowl and add the flour and spices and stir until the onions are coated.

Add a tsp of tomatoe puree to a few tablespoons of cold water and mix into a paste, add the paste into the onion mixture and stir until to create a batter.

Spoon the mixture into balls on a baking tray and drizzle in oil.

Cook for 30 mins at 180oC - half way through remove from the oven and drizzle in oil again.

VoilĂ  beautiful bajis!

Let me know if you try this recipe out and what you think or if you a different recipe I’d love to hear it so I can give it a try too!

I served my onion bajis with masala marinated lamb chops (from Tesco fresh meat counter), bombay potaotes and side salad.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

To Bucket List Or Not to Bucket List?

So with 461 days to go, how well am I doing with the list? Well not so good in terms of crossing things off, but I am happily heading towards toadsville at the moment as the list is actually serving its purpose well. I wrote the list of 30 things to do before 30 to help get me out of a rut and motivate me to try new things. And after never having been to Harrogate before in my life I went there twice last month, once to sample chocolate cake at the famous Betty’s tea shop (yum) and again for a spot of pampering at the Turkish Baths (aah). Both were things I wanted to do even though there weren’t on the list. So this is a small success.

My list isn’t a Bucket List of things to tick off before I die, it’s a list of things to help me make the most of my life and do more things, including taking up opportunities that come my way (like having my photograph taken with the Bradford Bulls team earlier this year). Its also a bit different to a Bucket List because it has a specific time limit, (as opposed to just ‘before I die’) also it doesn’t feature any of the big stuff I still want to do like see the pyramids or the Grand Canyon, ride the Orient Express, or watch a show at the Moulin Rouge or my ultimate must do - go to Disneyland! But all these things need money (and vacation time), so I’ve compiled my list with cost and time in mind to make it a realistically achievable list and to motivate me to do little things every day (including take care of my finances) and make the most of my weekends.

My list is all about things I want to do, not things that other people are doing or things that other people expect me to do. Which is why you won’t find running a marathon or parachuting on it! Apparently a new trend in the USA is the Anti-Bucket-List (according to Glamour magazine’s November issue) a list of things you’ll never do, some examples were ‘I’ll never climb Mount Everest’ and I’ll never bungee jump’ and whilst I don’t have any urge to do these today I wouldn’t like to say ‘never’, it seems such a waste of energy to put together a list of list things you don’t want to do!

Another take on the Bucket List is the idea of a List of One put forward by Jonathan Fields in his blog (
I think its great to do one thing a day, and it isn’t the first time I’ve come across it, but personally I need the bigger picture - a list of goals to work towards. My quest to become a brand manager has also spurred me on to develop my social media and ‘e-skills’ to this end I try and do one thing a day to work towards this goal whether it’s finding new people to follow on twitter or reading a ‘how to blog’ or contributing to a groups discussion on linked in. Today I figured out how to add a countdown clock to my blog, my first gadget! (or widget? – there is so much to learn)

Fitness is another biggie, and on Monday my aim was to set out my goals and objectives for #6 Getting Fit starting with a 5 day guest pass at Fitness First from . Unfortunately my body rejected the idea with a mammoth migraine, so back to the one thing a day I’m doing 30 mins of yoga a day until my body recovers, for some reason I feel like I’ve been battered with a base ball bat, probably form trying to hold up a head that feels as heavy as a bowling ball!

So I end up doing loads of ‘one things’ to bring me closer to my 30 list!

Do you have a Bucket List or a List of One? Or a 30 b4 30 project (or 40 b4 40 etc…)
Or are you an Anti Bucket Lister?
Let me know how you keep motivated to achieving things on your list!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Chapatti Failure

#7 Learn to cook Indian food

So I thought I’d start off with something easy…something basic…something like a chapatti…unfortunately the end result was nothing like a chapatti.
The instructions were quite straight forward – add sufficient water to the chapatti flour to form a dough. But there was no water to flour ratio. The flour is quite thick, almost wholemealy and didn’t seem to want to mix with the water either with a spoon or by hand, and I must’ve added to much as I ended up with a rather sticky ball of dough that I couldn’t get a rolling pin near. Tried to flatten it with my palms and do a bit of pizza-base-stylee stretching. Still feling optimistic at this stage I popped it on the hot griddle pan, a couple of minutes each side. Total disaster! When it came to time to flip it over it just stuck to the pan. Still I scraped it off and tried to cook the other side. But it was too thick to cook through, and I still had raw dough in the middle so as an emergency measure I tried a few minutes in a hot oven – the result resembled a rock hard brick more than it did a chapatti.

Back to the chapatti drawing board for me!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Marketing – the most fun you can have with your clothes on

-malcolm mcdonald-

A few weeks ago now I attended a marketing lecture at Leeds Met, a free lecture to both students and professionals, Professor Malcolm Mcdonald was the guest lecturer, the 1st chartered marketer in the UK, and professor at the Cranfield School of Management. At 73 years old, Malcolm is writing his 44th book, and goes for a 3 mile run every morning, he is not your average 73 year old granddad snoozing in his slippers in front of the telly. He was a really entertaining speaker, surprisingly funny and had some great boardroom anecdotes, with a lovely phrase ‘odious little toad’ (which I am going to steal to describe someone i know). All in all I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a lecture so much in my 4 years at uni and 2 years CIM course (no offence Neil!).

The lecture title was Ten Crucial questions Boards of Directors are asking their marketing managers and the answers they should be receiving.

As a practitioner I found this lecture really useful, not so much for the actual answers to these 10 questioners but the ability to apply what Malcolm was saying to the real world, to my work world. Often as a student, (even as a CIM student in the earlier years of my marketing career with limited exposure to senior management and directors) it can be difficult to apply the knowledge you are receiving with the practical application in the real world – especially in areas that are out of your job scope or control.

A lot of what Professor Mcdonald was saying wasn’t new or groundbreaking but was presented in a way that made sense and was put into context. This wasn’t a purely academic lecture but was sprinkled with real life examples, the best of course were examples of how to do it badly!

One of the key themes that I took from this lecture was know your market.
What’s happening in your market, how big is your market share, how much of your profit comes from market growth. This got me thinking, because as a marketer I like to think that I know my market, but why don’t I know my market share? Because it isn’t one of the KPIs that the company I work for reports on. But thinking about it logically it is something I can roughly calculate. For example if my market is under 16 year olds, and I have a million customers a quick trip to the Office of National Statistics website tells me there are around 11.5million under 16 year olds in the UK*, therefore market share would be less than 10%

And of course knowing your market goes hand in hand with understanding your customer, understanding what they want, what they need, to create your sustainable competitive advantage.

Another key indicator that is interesting to me is how many customers do you loose in a year? Whilst we probably all know how many customers we have and how many new customers we are getting do we know how many we are losing to competitors, or alternative products?

A faux-pas that Malcolm touched on was ‘barometer marketing’ – attributing your success or failure to the weather, which a lot of companies do, how many times have your heard “we’ve had a good season, because it’s been sunny, or snowy etc.” And a timely tweet by TheGrocer proves my point “News update: Slow summer hits Heineken volumes - Heineken has blamed a poor summer in Western Europe for a fall in t...”. It doesn’t show any understanding of customer behaviour, beer sales are down because it’s cold – what?! people don’t drink beer when its cold?– check you sales this winter, say around Christmas or New Year!

I also learnt that I am a statistic, I make up the small 10% of ‘price shoppers’, people who choose brands based on the lowest price. I am loyal to only a few brands, and buy these brands from the cheapest retailer, or wait until there is a sale or I have a voucher, or I can collect points to earn a discount voucher. But 90% of shoppers are not price sensitive to this degree - The theory being that you don’t need to compete on price if you’ve a good differential advantage (which you can create if you know your market!).

You may also be interested to know that I am a late adopter I don’t need to buy the latest thing, that’s why this blog is so late to be published as I had to write it down with good old pen and paper on the train, then typed it up later offline and then upload using my mobile dongle, with the ancient speed of dial up!

So how am I of all people a marketer…because its not about what I want or how I shop, its about understanding who my customers are, understanding how they shop, understanding what they want (and of course creating that unique differential advantage).

To learn more about Professor Mcdonald visit
For information on any of his 43 books visit
Take a look at forthcoming events at Leeds Met

*based on report published in 2008