Round Two: Trinity Kitchen Warmly Welcomes Street Food Vans

Nathalie Blonder ventures to Trinity Kitchen to check out what the new food vans have in store…

It’s no secret to anyone familiar with Trinity Leeds that they pride themselves on their in-house food court with a difference, Trinity Kitchen. This colossus of a shopping centre was in itself a breath of fresh air to the citizens of Leeds in need of a mall experience without having to treck *cough cough, White Rose, cough*. I’d left it a good few months before venturing to the centre myself to allow for some breathing room because of the sheer number of people that would cram into it to check it out for themselves. Anyway, I wasn’t aware of Trinity Kitchen until I’d seen all the hype that was being generated through social media toward the end of 2013, and like any curious foodaholic, when presented with the invitation to check out the food van switchover, I simply could not resist.

For those not aware of Trinity Kitchen, and raise an eyebrow at ‘food van’, you can check out what it’s all about here. The food I had the pleasure of sampling came from five very different but very brilliant sets of hands: Yu Kyu, The Marvellous Tea Dance Company, The Magnificent Milkshake Company, Manjit’s Kitchen, and Original Fry Up Material.

My first impressions of Trinity Kitchen were initially cynical as I looked around at the gaudy industrialised feel of the place. However this was offset when my nose caught up with my eyes – an extraordinary combination of smells clashing and contrasting as they undulated in the air. The busy marketplace atmosphere was convincingly mimicked in this strange indoor setting, complete with a continuous buzz of conversation, the sounds of sizzling oil and the clanging of pans as the chefs cooked away, and of course the food vans themselves that were-painstakingly winched up to an upper floor of the Trinity Centre.

The van I was eager to check out first was Yu Kyu, a mobile establishment with a limited but delicious tonkatsu menu. What I loved immediately about this one was how inviting food was that I’d never tried before; I have only eaten Japanese food a handful of times before but I couldn’t wait to get my chops around a katsu sarnie. Even more adventurously I asked for pork instead of chicken -I was delighted to hear from the staff there that the meat was locally sourced and free-range!

The sandwich was ready within minutes, and well presented – the glazed brioche bun made it look like something you’d see on the telly. The pork was tender and succulent, pleasantly surprised that the fried breadcrumbs it was encased in were not soggy but crisp and very tasty. Having said this the textures of the bun and pork were overpowered slightly by the strong saltiness of the ‘Japanese’ brown sauce, and this also made the red cabbage difficult to detect. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed it and most definitely worth paying a bit more for it than you would a Big Mac.

Yu Kyu’s neighbour, The Marvellous Tea Dance Company was the next place I went to where they serve a huge variety of different teas and confectionary on authentic British china, prepared in a florally decorated flat-pack garden shed. There was definitely a twist to this place that I liked as all the sweets were bedazzled by edible glitter and the marvellous tea lady who served me had a 50’s hairstyle in blazon red, a nose piercing, and a really charismatic personality. The dry, air-conditioned environment of Trinity Kitchen didn’t do the poor brownies any good as they sat out on display, having their moisture sucked out of them. I’m sure straight out of the oven they would have been of a much higher quality, alas the short-comings of the mobile catering business.

Inches left of The Marvellous Tea Dance Company sits the wondrous Magnificent Milkshake Company. I absolutely love this place, the concept and the products. They combine the stereotypical American milkshake diner theme with the most quintessential British desserts – a beautiful combination. The milkshake I sampled was the chocolate cheesecake and I’m going to struggle here to effectively put the experience into words. They somehow managed to incorporate all the elements of a chocolate cheesecake in a smooth and creamy liquid form, and weirder still the flavour came in their respective layers: chocolate first, then biscuit, finished off with thick whipped cream. It’s a shame that their set up was so boxed in so that I couldn’t really see what went into the milkshake’s making but that won’t but me off going there again. The only trouble is what flavour to choose next? Lemon Meringue, Eton Mess, Crème Brulee, Banoffee Pie, Rhubarb & Custard, or a Mocha one I’ve forgotten the proper name of!

After all that sweetness, I was in need of something savoury with a hint of spice, and there was no better place to go than Manjit’s kitchen. I loved their set up as they combined their food van with an attached market stall table. They laid out all the ingredients that go into their food and customers were welcome to watch the food being lovingly prepared by Manjit’s team of skilled hands. By this point I was getting full so I simply tried some panir – tender Indian cheese marinated with subtly spicy chilli. Their wraps went down a treat and there was high praise all round for their varied Indian menu, so there was no doubt that £6 a pop was well worth the satisfaction that comes with sampling their food.

Finally, last but by no means least, Original Fry Up Material, and it should be noted here that I don’t use clichés lightly. I’m extremely cynical of deliberately unhealthy food establishment, especially when their slogans include ‘live and let fry’, so you can imagine how shocking it is that not only did I ended up eating one of their ‘Cheesey’ burgers and then going back the next day to eat another! It is clear that they guys that run it are proud of their company and explained to me in detail the amount of care that goes intro rustling up their grub. I was amused by the amount of secret stuff went into it though: secret sausage and burger mix, secret seasoning, secret burger sauce – there was no getting that out of them.

I was eventually convinced to try a cheeseburger, and I was unremarkably disappointed by what I tasted. There were definitely hints of a variety of flavours within in it but it was thoroughly whitewashed by how salty it was. However, this is the impressive bit. One of the staff came over to me to make sure that I was enjoying my meal, and after explaining to him its downfall, he immediately took my burger away to make a new one. The second attempt I sampled was a lot better, tasty even. Flavours this time combined beautifully, and the fluffy but not soggy bun was a nice addition to the variety of textures already there such as the crunchy lettuce and tender beef.

All in all, I cannot help but praise the Trinity Kitchen in their choice of food establishments which provide an option for every kind of taste. The brilliant customer service was second to none, topping some of the more notable restaurants I’ve been to, and of course the food speaks for itself. I left the food court that evening full and happy, and I simply could not have asked for more.

Here are some of Pete Cuff’s clever gif work of the evening!