The place: Modestly calling itself ‘a bar that sells Indian street food’, Bundobust is big on craft beers, providing a platform for independent brewers such as Kirkstall Brewery and Northern Monk, and offering limited edition ales and collaborations. Its menu is succinct, tempting and all-vegetarian, from spicy nuts to massala dosa, a mini crêpe with potato and onion dry fry, lentil soup and coconut chutney. The room is thriftily decorated with upcycled corrugated plastic and woodchip, old rice sacks and no-frills wooden benches. 6 Mill Hill, Leeds, bundobust.com
The reviewer: Tony Naylor is a Manchester-based journalist who regularly writes for olive magazine, as well as Restaurant magazine and The Guardian. You’ll also find him blogging online for The Guardian’s Word of Mouth.
The service: Where there is any – you order at the bar, and collect your own plastic cutlery and paper napkins – service was terrific. The bar staff were knowledgeable about the extensive craft beer range, offering tasters and opinion while explaining the ‘randaliser’ (a bar-top contraption that infuses beer, in this case with fruit, as it is served).
The food: If your previous experience of Indian food is of oily, one-sauce-fits-all curry houses, then Bundobust’s vegetarian snacks and sharing plates (served in dinky, waxed-paper tubs), will blow your mind as comprehensively as – picking just one classic from the beer menu – Sierra Nevada’s 7.2% Torpedo IPA. From addictive popcorn seasoned with garlic, turmeric and chilli, to a lentil-thickened, idli sambhar that boasted a serious depth of flavour (think supercharged, meat-free mulligatawny), this is elegantly spiced food whose heat is expertly modulated. Even the onion bhajis are beautiful: aromatic with garam masala and ajwain, filled with lush onion and cauliflower, the batter lifted by threads of spinach.
The only really challenging dish is a mango kulfi ice-cream: rich and lactic, but packing a peculiar almost savoury edge. Pawa bataka – warm spiced rice and peanuts – and the ragda pethis mushy peas are more satisfying. Likewise, the bhel puri, a cold ‘salad’ of puffed rice, potato, sev and samosa, bound in sourly tangy and sweet tamarind sauces. I could eat buckets of it.
The bottom line: The design is clever – stylish even – but Bundobust is a no-frills space: essentially, it’s a chipboard canteen. I loved it; your gran may not. The food is excellent, the beer on point, and the staff are enthusiastic ambassadors for both. If I lived in Leeds, I’d be in every week. Great curry, great beer. It’s a no-brainer, right?
Sustainable Restaurant Association Rating (thesra.org): 6/10
As a vegetarian restaurant, Bundobust scores well for healthy eating – most menu items are vegan. But many of the vegetables it uses, like okra, are sourced from outside the UK and are airfreighted. The chefs are encouraged to use every bit of the vegetables and the restaurant recycles everything it can.
Written in November 2014 (main image provided by Bundobust, Leeds)