You might have read in another Leeds Living article that I had a jolly night out at the opera with my colleague Charles Eager so, as it was being staged at Leeds Town Hall, we decided to meet at Assembly Underground, which is bang next door.
The good news is that Assembly Underground has the Vocation Bar, with its selection of fifty taps, and several street food stalls, but the bad news, at least as far as Charles was concerned, was that there were only two outlets I had not covered but, ever the gentleman, I gave him first dibs. Actually, there were three outlets I hadn’t tried and so I decided to arrive a bit earlier than arranged to give me time to sample the wares of Underground Coffee, the new kid on the block, but they close at 5.00pm so that was out.
As luck would have it, Charles said that he would love a pizza, so he had his choice from The Pizza Authority which probably has the worst sited pitch in the place, being tucked away at the far side of the bar rather than in the main hall. Mr Eager had just returned from a trip to Bologna, the foodie capital of Italy, so I was happy to take his word on the taste and authenticity of the food, although not so happy that I was going to pass up the opportunity of giving a second opinion when he offered me a slice. Why can’t I find the female equivalent of Charles? He is intelligent, not bad looking in an academic kind of way, but best of all a really cheap date! Not only did we have the least expensive beer from Vocation, mainly because it was of a sensible strength so as not to send us to sleep should the opera prove soporific (it didn’t) but he also went for the basic pizza, named Justice, comprising tomato, fior di latte and basil at £7.50.
The Pizza Authority pride themselves on using only fresh and authentic ingredients and Charles confirmed that it was as good as any he had eaten whilst in the home of the oldest university in Europe. I don’t know about that as I have never been, but the slice I had was magnificent, being soft and almost fluffy. They make it using an authentic pizza oven, which is behind the counter for all to see.
This left yours truly with Hobson’s choice. Hobson must have been a discerning chap as well, especially when it comes to burgers, as it was Slap & Pickle. Here, too, the accent was on the quality of ingredients with 40-day dry-aged beef from Swaledale used to make the patties. Their blurb says that they use a ‘smash’ technique to cook the meat to keep the patties juicy, and juicy they indeed were. I must say that when I saw the price of £9.50 for The Baconator I thought that it was a bit on the expensive side, but when it arrived and I sunk my gnashers into it I thought it was a bargain.
The bun contained double cheeseburger (6oz) topped with smoked bacon and dressed with lettuce, pickles and S&P burger sauce. The beef is a mix of chuck and short rib, which is not ground to a paste but chopped to give a wonderful texture. The cheese managed to hold its own against the other flavours, as did the bacon, which looked and tasted more like pancetta than your average rasher. The best accolade I can give these burgers is that they are just like the ones which I make for myself when I am watching the NFL on autumn Sunday evenings: the beef, the whole beef and nothing but the beef.
My only problem now is that I have reviewed all of the outlets in Assembly Underground but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be back, as I have found the outlets to be universally brilliant. Most of them have won awards and all are passionate about the food they make and sell. I really would urge you to give the place a try. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit through three hours of opera afterwards; you can stay and have another beer.
All photographs by Stan Graham.
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.