Stan Graham is pleased with his latest Let’s Do Lunch venue, prompting memories of a particular New York eatery which was rather special to him.
I was saddened to read of the closure of the Carnegie Deli in New York on 30th December 2016. Not only did they do great kosher food but also it was a Big Apple institution. It opened in 1937 so just failed to do 80 years.
On the occasions I have been lucky enough to visit Manhattan I have always put aside one morning to call there for breakfast. I would have the corned beef, eggs over easy and home fries with toast and jelly and an endlessly refilled cup of that weak as water coffee that the Americans love so much. The room was like a museum, with walls covered in autographed photographs of the celebrities who had eaten there over the years. There were politicians, film stars, sportspeople and celebrities from other walks of life. The counter was decorated with hanging meats of various types, all cured, smoked or salted on the premises. The main attraction though was a waitress who was probably due for retirement when the place first opened and who insisted that all the male customers take a photograph of her giving them a hug.
‘What has all this to do with this week’s review?’ I hear you ask, and quite right too. The answer is that ordering lunch at Rola Wala put me in mind of ordering a New York deli breakfast, with so many questions that your head is in a spin, hence the same order at the Carnegie each time. The food at Rola Wala is Indian influenced and is custom made using a base which is then augmented by various toppings. This seems to be a growing trend in Leeds as there is a Mexican version in an adjacent unit within Trinity Kitchen, and an Italian version at Wolf on St Paul’s Street. From the base menu of naan roll, rice bowl or cauli bowl I chose the latter at £6.45. For the flavour I opted for Nagaland Lamb which attracted a 50p supplement and from the extras menu I added more paneer for 70p. The young lady who was assembling the contents of the bowl then guided me through the inclusive options of yogurt, chilli sauce (mild, medium or hot) carrot salad, coriander and a wedge of lemon. I completed the lunch with a pint of Camden Pale Ale, a craft beer on tap at £4.75. As the unit is situated in Trinity Kitchen you can take your tray to wherever you like so there was no shortage of tables and chairs.
I tried to deconstruct the elements of the dish as best I could, but as it is meant to be eaten as an ensemble there was no real point. The paneer was firm and chewy, as it should be, in contrast to the lamb which was beautifully tender and flavoursome. I had decided on the medium chilli sauce as I didn’t want to overpower the flavours of the other ingredients and I am glad I did because even this had a fair kick and my lips were tingling for most of the afternoon. I must remember that line for when I write my Mills and Boon book.
The whole experience was absolutely brilliant, from the very helpful staff to the food itself, and I would highly recommend a visit. I would normally have a sweet and a coffee but by the time I had finished I didn’t have much room left and a queue had built up so I didn’t fancy leaving my stuff unattended at the table for any length of time. I did, however, notice that the ice cream was from Northern Bloc, so the quality of food continues through to dessert. As is my luck, none of the waitresses here decided that they wanted to have their photographs taken giving me a hug. They probably thought that I was of similar vintage to their colleague at the Carnegie Deli – and they wouldn’t be far out!
Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living. He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds. He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.