Escape the student stereotype of baked beans on toast, and sample foreign cuisine in Hyde Park!
As a nation we have grown accustomed to regularly eating food from elsewhere; Indian and Chinese takeaways are commonplace in the British kitchen. A study done by The Telegraph in 2010 found that six out of ten British home cooked meals are derived from foreign culinary traditions. It is unsurprising then that there are so many good restaurants in Britain that offer tasty and authentic food from many different cultures.
In Hyde Park, we are lucky to have an abundance of independent restaurants; ideal for student gatherings. Whilst trying out such restaurants I decided to consider not just the quality of the food but to what extent their ambiance and atmosphere was a true reflection of the country they are representing.
Mamsy’s Café, Hyde Park Road
On arrival at Boddington Halls in my first year I met another first year student who, much like me, was fresh out of her Gap Yah. “Baaaabe”, she droned “you simply have to come to Mamsy’s, the Pad Thai is just like the one I had travelling on the Khaosan Road!” For those of you who have not had the pleasure of “travelling on the Khaosan Road’”, it is the least interesting part of Bangkok owing to the number of genie-pant wearing eighteen year olds that are drunkenly wandering up and down it. However, I took her up on her offer of joining her for Thai and headed to Mamsy’s that week.
Unfortunately Mamsy’s does not feel like being in Thailand. The atmosphere was lively and the café is clearly very popular with students, making it a very enjoyable experience, but apart from the menu nothing struck me as being particularly Asian. The food itself is delicious but do not go expecting spice; it has been toned down clearly to suit our Western tongues. Whilst the décor (quirky artwork and posters) and cosy feel to the place are very agreeable and the service is good, I personally think that Mamsy’s would still thrive even if it served English food.
Akmals Tandoori Bistro, Woodhouse Lane
You’d expect that not many people, even students, would be enticed by a restaurant that is in the same building as a former block of public toilets. However, this does not deter fans of Akmals. The family-run restaurant does have a distinctly Indian feel to it because of its tightly packed tables and chairs, open-hatch kitchen and tasty curries served in silver tins. The menu is extensive and very good value, yet Indian food is often known for its portion sizes, which could be larger. Akmals reminded me of a traditional Parsi café in Mumbai owing to its extensive menu and proud owner (who served us) who was very chatty and keen to recommend various dishes.
La Besi, Clarendon Road
If it is an authentic character alongside wonderful food that you are after, then look no further than this charming Italian. On my first visit to La Besi I was slightly put off by the restaurants unappealing exterior and its unfortunate view of the ever-beautiful engineering building. However, as the saying goes, do not judge a book by its cover.
La Besi is run by a Sicilian family who were inspired by their passion for Italian food and a dream to share it with customers in the Leeds area. Everything from the starter plate of olives to the limóncello shot to wash down your meal is exquisite. The enthusiastic owner, who is always keen for your feedback will also enjoy teasing you because of your terrible attempt at an Italian accent. What makes this restaurant so authentic is this always-friendly service and in true Italian style all food is freshly prepared so your short wait is always worth it.
With its generous portion sizes and good value prices, La Besi will have you questioning whether you will ever order a dominoes or frequent Pizza Express again.
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