Simon Richardson finds himself in a melted cheese daydream
Next time you’re up near Chapel Allerton, you might want to take a stroll down the Harrogate Road towards the Esso garage, opposite the Lidl. It’s only a matter of five minutes, but let me tell you this: you’re burning a few extra calories that might make the difference between your clothes ever fitting again, or you waddling around like The Incredible Bulk for the rest of your life, murmuring dairy-filled drivel at passers-by.
There are two cheese rules here: 1) It must melt and 2) There must be a lot of it.
Alley Cats isn’t going to sit you down and take you through its gastronomic repertoire. You won’t get some idiot in dark glasses off the Internet sprinkling salt all over your lap from six feet in the air, wrist crooked like some kind of sodium swan either.
It’s a diner, a hang-out and a music-focused joint with retro spilling from every corner. The outside would make a great summer evening spot with its cosy, well-lit feel. The inside, meanwhile, is designed to be full of excited chatter. A bit of good old-fashioned atmosphere.
If you’re on your own, you could just spend an hour looking at the walls with vinyl, slogan-heavy posters and old booze logos everywhere you look. They have a small vinyl collection to flick through and a few old consoles for if you fancy a bit of post-work one-upmanship. This is organised clutter – small enough to feel snug, but with enough seating that it could get pretty raucous on a Saturday. I’ve come for the food though and I’ve come hungry.
Starting with a couple of beers as a loosener is a given. There’s Camden Pale (£4.75) and the Alley Cats ‘Beat Club’ Pilsner (£4) along with a selection of cans and bottles, with a notably Belgian-heavy lean. We order an obscene amount of food, then turn our attentions to the table top game of Klask. I won’t spoil it for you – it involves magnets, goals and a lot of feeling uncoordinated, but is exceptionally fun (I won by the way – IN YOUR FACE, Miguel).
First up is the chicken Parmo (£9). As I’m not from Teeside, I didn’t grow up eating fourteen of these a week, but I reckon I can still pick out a good one. We get a crunchy chicken escalope that isn’t at all dry in the middle, slathered with a bechamel that I briefly consider syphoning off and necking as a pint. Can’t argue with that. It comes on a bed of thin fries with a garlic sauce that conjures up guilty memories of Domino’s gone by.
The mac ‘n’ cheese (£3.50) is a bit disappointing though – good texture but lacking in a standout cheese to knock your socks off (a ‘head cheese’ as my partner calls it).
The mains – if there is such a concept at Alley Cats – are burgers. An extensive separate menu, recently launched, with a Dexter’s Laboratory concept – a ‘create your own’ with hundreds of potential combinations. We’re too tired though, so we choose one they prepared earlier like weary Blue Peter presenters. They come wrapped in tinfoil that has almost gone see-through from the grease – oh yes! I came for diner food and this is most definitely it.
The Reuben (£9) comes with an epic chunk of pickle, providing ample juicy crunch, combining with the sauerkraut to give a massive amount of flavour. I barely notice that I’m absolutely covered in cheese from nose to hoodie. This is filth at its finest.
The chicken burger (£8.50) is just as liable to grease you up. There’s bacon, sauce, insignificant lettuce that has been part mutated by the melting ooze of a bright yellow cheese and a bun that can scarcely contain its precious cargo. I need to dislocate my own jaw to get a good bite. Perhaps the chicken was a bit too crisp? It’s too late to pay too much attention – I’m in a cheese daydream. There are two cheese rules here: 1) It must melt and 2) There must be a lot of it.
By the time we leave, I’ve already plotted the three most efficient routes from my house to the nearest hospital. I’d like to say that if I lived in Chapel Allerton, I’d be in here every week, but there’s no way my conscience or my waistline would allow it. When all’s said and done though, Alley Cats is about enjoyment. Good music, naughty food and a relaxed place to have some fun and a few beers with your mates. And that’s just fine by me.
Alley Cats, 38 Harrogate Road, Leeds, LS7 4LA Tel: 0113 345 1820
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Parmo 7, Mac ‘n’ Cheese 5, Reuben Burger 8, ‘Road Runner’ Chicken Burger 7
Friendly and familiar
Laid back and relaxed – you can breathe easy and let your belly hang out