Jenessa Williams gets stuck in to salt beef sandwiches, potato latkes and chicken soup
It’s a rainy Sunday in Leeds. It’s been a hard week and you need to get out of the house, but the small rivers forming in the drains and the hum of wind are feeling distinctly autumnal and the sofa is looking pretty tempting. You need soup, and you need it fast.
We’ll definitely have this ‘Jewish penicillin’ on Deliveroo speed dial next time we come down with the sniffles
Located just off of Street Road, somewhere between Roundhay and Chapel Allerton, is Ira B’s. Owned by the born-and-bred Leeds lass of the same name, it feels like an appropriate place to spend our day of rest. Lavished in jolly slogans, retro posters and comfy, American-diner style seating, it’s the epitome of Jewish hospitality. You can eat in, take out or order off Deliveroo, but in the spirit of review, we get ourselves layered up and on the bus, in the pursuit of something to cure our grey-skied blues.
We’re greeted warmly and amicably with offers of hot beverages as we tumble through the door, all dripping umbrellas and steamy glasses. Although the flat white (£2.50) is nothing to shout about, we don’t hold it against them – it does the job and this isn’t a coffee shop. If anything, it’s something of a local community hub – customers around us include a lone regular with his newspaper and slice of pie, two 20-something girls gossiping over epic schnitzel sandwiches and a young family, whose small toddler is enthusiastically bashing his way through an oversized waffle topped with ice cream in between rounds of Connect 4.
For our hungry bellies, we decide to go a little more traditional with an array of the classics. We of course need to try the schnitzel, but we opt for it as a side (£3) –moist hunks of meat that dunk satisfyingly in the thousand-island style sauce, complete with just a hint of spice (although perhaps lacking a little in salt).
The lack of salt makes a little more sense when the chicken soup (£6) arrives - a plentiful pansize, it glistens with tiny globules of well-skimmed chicken fat, half-concealing the stodgy matzo balls lurking within it’s depths. A spoonful reveals a surprisingly clean flavour, very similar to a consommé but bulked out by noodles and a dipping of potato latke (£2) – the perfect midpoint between a fritter and a hash brown. Despite the generous portion, its flavour doesn’t tire – we’ll definitely have this ‘Jewish penicillin’ on Deliveroo speed dial next time we come down with the sniffles.
Of course, it would be rude to enter a Jewish eatery and not try out their salt beef. Ira B’s version is something of a local classic, known as 'the Grobbler' it’s their best seller, served with coleslaw and potato salad, skewered with pickles and your own latke (so you don’t have to nick your mate’s). Served as a full deal, a half with a soup or simply a half on it’s own, we’re pretty grateful to have opted for the half-sized portion (£5.50) as the wall of meat is brought out to us, drips of gherkin mayo racing down it’s sides like raindrops on the window.
There’s no ladylike way to eat this – contorting your mouth sideways appears the only way to get the true essence of the sandwich in one bite. And what a sandwich it is – well-packed tendrils of juicy, 12-day cured beef perfectly offset by a crunch of pickle. Not too salty, not too sweet, we dance an edge across the surface of the soup and ascend to comfort food heaven. For true decadence, the seemingly ordinary brown bread could be upgraded to challah, but it's a small complaint to make when the beef is so clearly the focus of the dish.
Considering the proportion of Jewish residents in North Leeds, it seems surprisingly that there aren’t more eateries like Ira B’s. But then why compete when somebody has already got things running this well?
While this may not be the most highly refined food you’ll eat in the city (most dishes would have benefitted from a little more seasoning), it is most definitely a highly comforting offering, tailoring well to palates of all ages with a menu that allows for nutrition and indulgence in equal proportion. Ideal for a lazy Sunday or quick midweek lunch, it’s definitely one to add to your takeaway roster.
Ira B’s, 27 Chelwood Dr, Leeds, LS8 2AT
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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.
Salt Beef Sandwich 8, Chicken Schnitzel 6, Chicken Soup 8, Latke 8,
Helpful and happy
Cosy without being overcrowded, lots of fun décor to look at