From your yard to Limeyard: A trip worth taking

For the first time in my life I have been asked to do a food review. I am reaping the perks of being a board member of South Leeds Life after three years. An invitation to have a complimentary meal at the newly opened ‘Limeyard’ (All Day California Kitchen) restaurant at the White Rose shopping centre’s new food complex beckons.

Oh, and I’m required to write a review on it too of course. I’ve done a bit of research; read some Jay Rayner (The Guardian reviews), and consulted my memory of films with food critics in like Ratatouille. But actually my only research to fall back on is that I love food and I’ve enjoyed it for about 45 years now.  My partner (who is from the deep south: Georgia) will tag along too to share the experience and to test his American taste buds.

Limeyard is a newly established restaurant chain, and up until 4 July 2017 only had two other branches in the country; in Staines and Ealing. They chose Leeds, or should I say south Leeds, as their third home.

It’s west coast theme reflects a fusion of Californian dishes. The décor is industrial seaside chic, a cleverly warm converted warehouse style with a modern freshness.  It’s Friday night and the place is busy with a variety of clientele; and is also clearly family friendly.

We are introduced to a team of friendly staff and are led to our seat, a soft turquoise leather upholstered booth. We feel slightly spoilt as we are offered a choice from a list of 12 cocktails as an aperitif, and go for a traditional margarita and a Mai Tai, both of which were exactly what you would hope for.

I haven’t even started on the food yet but first spend time soaking in the atmosphere – surfboards, high ceiling fans, and prints and photos of surfers in summer-drenched holiday sun. The furniture and decor is a fine balance of smart casual, inviting informal diners or those celebrating a more special occasion. Groups of well designed benches, booths and wicker chairs offered well-defined personal space, but without being too busy.

The music is comfortably audible; American classics circulate the room with “Truckin” by The Grateful Dead and “Travelling of Rhythm” by Bun Hunga and his Combo – check it out!

We sip our cocktails as we try and decide what we are going to eat, no easy choice when everything looks so tempting.

For the starters I order the Portland Beach Crab Cakes, which come presented on a bed of fresh coriander and spicy salsa and lime. The temperature is a perfect hot, and the portion is a healthy size. My partner has BBQ ribs which look a bit of a feast for a starter, covered with a crusty glaze sauce. The buttermilk red onion rings are just right to compliment both starters, and I soon forget about my knife and fork and start using my hands to explore the amazing textures and tastes.

The menu offers a wide range of food capturing the spirit of Californian cuisine; and my eye is instantly drawn to the grilled swordfish, although also tempted by more predictable choices – burgers with a twist, fries, and tacos all compete for attention. Our second main choice seems a safe bet to test the extremes of the menu, buttermilk fried chicken that is even better than it sounds – crispy crunchy golden batter giving way to succulent chicken underneath, accompanied by spicy slaw and more buttermilk sauce. The fish was full of flavour, sat on top of a bed of quinoa and balanced by a heritage tomato dressing which hardly touched the sides.

We didn’t wait to ask for recommended drink parings, but instead trusted our instincts and went for a California wine – a Sauvignon Blanc reserva vina leyda. It didn’t let us down.

The Goldilocks portions are, well, just right – not too big and not too small, leaving room to happily revisit the menu to discover more delights, or to simply fold the menu and enjoy the surroundings and another drink. We on the other hand decided to do both! Having chosen our deserts, our friendly waitress Megan offered a third option – a medley selection from the desert menu which would have been rude to refuse. Pavlova meringue, hot fudge brownie topped with raspberries and hazelnuts, slow-baked lemon and vanilla cheesecake with a blueberry compote, toasted coconut and fresh blueberries, together with frozen yogurt. We arrived at a unanimous but unexpected verdict, with the meringue winning hands down – crisp on the outside and chewy within, a sweet shell topped with melt in the mouth whipped cream and strawberries. Just writing this adds more calories, but it was worth it.

A lot of thought has clearly been given to presentation and the mix of flavours and accompaniments, and the service was informed, friendly and attentive – just when the mind began to wander to the next stage someone would appear at the perfect time. Megan arrives just as we take our last bite, and suggests Espresso martinis to finish – a clever twist that not only rounds off the meal with coffee, but also offers a springboard to more drinks and the rest of the night.

We rose to the challenge and cleared our plates, and look forward to returning soon. Future options to explore include set menus, which Limeyard promotes lunch and early evenings Monday to Friday, 12 noon to 7pm. They’ve also just introduced a new all inclusive children’s menu for £6.50, including an activity programme. Vegetarian and allergy-friendly options are also provided for with the same California-style.

When we first arrived at 8pm there was clearly a buzz about the place, but still spaces as well, a situation set to change once the new cinema opens later this year, so now was the perfect time for a first visit. The walk home was safe and well-lit through the White Rose Centre.

As paying customers we’ll soon be back to sample the Baja California tacos – soft corn tortillas, with a choice of delicious fillings, served by the (Lime) yard….