It’s 7.45pm on a Wednesday night and Bundobust is rocking. Four or five staff are ducking and weaving behind the bar pulling pints for a queue 10 deep.
The formica topped canteen tables and wood chip benches across two rooms are all taken.
The babble of a hundred rising voices under low ceilings competing with the music is seriously loud, at least for anyone over 40, which means just the two of us.
This is Bundobust, much hyped by the food bloggers since it opened a month ago, Leeds’ newest big thing, pairing Indian street food with craft beer. Of course, beer and biryani is nothing new, we’ve been heading off for a late night curry in Bradford since the Karachi began serving cheap curry off Pyrex plates all those years ago but this venture brings together two impressive names, Mayur Patel of Prashad and Mark Husak from Sparrow Bier Café making street food and esoteric beers cool.
If you haven’t yet discovered it, Sparrow is the bar-cum-café du jour of Bradford’s North Parade, with its 60s vibe and 100 beers. Prashad, you will well know from this newspaper, is the stellar family Indian restaurant that began 23 years ago when Kaushy Patel made Indian snacks for her Bradford neighbours, progressed to a 20-seater café and shot to fame in 2011 by making it to the TV final of Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant.
Since then they’ve collected a host of awards, rosettes and press coverage, moved to bigger premises in Drighlington, and with mentoring from Ramsay himself, now hold aspirations for a Michelin star. While Kaushy teaches, writes cookery books and provides recipes for these pages, daughter-in-law Minal is behind the stove. Kaushy’s eldest son Bobby (Minal’s husband) is the business brains, leaving younger brother Mayur, who had spearheaded the move to Drighlington, looking for something to call his own.
That something came to him when he teamed up with Mark Husak for a curry and beer matching event at Prashad and after a few more trial runs and pop-ups the idea took root on Mill Hill in Leeds.
It’s a good fit. Mill Hill has always had a raffish character. This is where Bibi’s sprang up in the 1970s. With the adjacent New Station Street boasting Friends of Ham, Laynes Espresso and the Brewery Tap, it makes for a refreshing independent food and drink quarter.
Timber cladding and a bold red sign superficially give it the look of a Texas steak house but inside the up-cycled doors, bare light bulbs and exposed brick keep it simple through three low-slung dining areas. And the food? Twelve small dishes, all vegetarian, mostly vegan, mostly gluten free, presented in a polystyrene cup with a plastic spoon, – this is street food remember.
Four or five cups make up a decent meal for two, priced from £2.50 to £6. We start off with excellent spicy mixed nuts (£2.50) and a pint of Saltaire Gold (£3.50). The nuts are salty enough for us to be accelerating towards our second pint.
There are no cask ales on the menu and none that we could see at the bar, only keg, and some 50 bottled beers. I do appreciate the effort in sourcing all these exotic brews and that it’s all the rage but perhaps 50 and up is overdoing it for even the most fervent beer scholar.
It was a shame we couldn’t actually sample a pint of their own brew, the intriguing Bundobust Coriander Pilsner – it was off (£4.20). The staff were full of apologies, even offered a free drink of our choice. No need, we said, and settled for a pint of Camden Pale Ale (£4.20) and a cup of house chai, a hot drink of tea, milk, ginger and cardamom.
The rest of the menu included deep fried okra (£3), which anyone who has only met okra in its glutinous form, should try. Crunchy, deep fried sticks in a batter and a spice mix of garam masala, ground mango and salt, they were wonderously crisp, spicy and very salty. There followed a series of subtly spiced south Indian snacks with more than a hint of Prashad about them: mini massala dosa recalled the rolled up crispy pancakes that are a signature of Prashad served with lentil soup and coconut chutney.
Ragda pethis are potato cakes with spiced peas and a kick of sour tamarind finished with crisp noodles. Idli sambhar are steamed rice dumplings with lentil soup and coconut chutney again and finally for a dose of freshness, a salad of lettuce, cucumber and red cabbage, dressed with a mustard seed and lemon.
Five dishes were plenty for two, all of them cheap, filling and tasty and making the best of economical ingredients the essence of street food.
So far, so delicious, a street café that cleverly bridges the gap between Kaushy’s original homely snacks in Horton Grange Road and the up-market restaurant Prashad has become.
And the name? “It’s an Anglo-Indian expression,” explains Bobby Patel, “meaning an arrangement or coming together.” Beer and curry has always been a good arrangement. The coming together of Prashad and Sparrow Bier makes it better still.
Bundobust, 6 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ. email email@example.com or online at www.bundobust.com. Price: £15 per person plus drinks. Open: daily, 12-9.30pm, drinks until 11pm