I was sent an invitation, via Twitter message, to visit this place when it first opened. Sometime in late 2015, I think? I usually don’t rise to that sort of thing, unless it’s a one off event, so I waited until now (Aug 2016) to try it out.
I’ve read lots of good things about The Cat’s Pyjamas, some of which I found to be accurate, some not so. The big myth that needs to be dispelled is that The Cat’s PJs is NOT the Headingley version of Bundobust!
Those of you who have been will know that Bundobust is excellent, a beer bar that does food, excellent food and excellent beer, but you can walk in and just have a beer. The food is ancillary to the main function and comes presented in little pots, snack size essentially. Okay, you can pig out and get four or five pots between two and make an acceptable meal out of it, but it’s NOT a restaurant.
On the other hand, The Cat’s PJs is a restaurant that serves excellent beer, but it’s not a drinking place and the alcohol is ancillary to the meal, hence the comparison with Bundobust must end and can go no further.
The first thing we were asked on a Thursday at 5.30pm was, ‘have you booked?’ No, but we were pleasantly informed we could have a table until 7.00pm. This was echoed to yet more customers and it was clear that come seven o’clock the entire place was booked out, which bodes well. NB no students in town in August neither, or very few anyway.
The place is exactly what you would expect an Indian styled gaff doing craft beer (essentially their words, not mine) to be like. The chairs must be the heaviest in Leeds. A bit of a design flaw there, my old Mum couldn’t have moved one on her own. There are two rooms, I favoured the downstairs, upstairs looked a bit like it was a converted first floor room in an ex retail unit, nicely done out, but uniformly rectangular. The comfort blanket that is the bar is on the ground floor and you could see directly into the kitchens where cleanliness and efficiency appeared to be of the highest order. The upstairs Lavs, complete with Bollywood wallpaper, were spot on too.
I’ll start with the beer NMBCo. Mango Lassi, Heathen IPA 7.2%. The nicest beer I drank all day and I visited some good places and had some good beers too that day, I tell you. Tropically fruity, dry and slightly sweet at the same time, not cheap, £3.10 for one half, unfined and unfiltered, worth every penny though and eked out with copious amounts of Corporation pop, it went well with the food. Mrs C’s Camden Hells was a shade cheaper at £2.90/half. The beer range was quite interesting, both bottles and the draught list. No cask ales but some splendid key keg stuff, as well as a cider and Kingfisher. The value conscious will note from the pic below that as well as being all the money, there was a hefty premium on a half pint. My tip to get around this would be to have an advance visit to a small Tavern in the same Town that sits at the end of the Arndale centre’s Arcade and Markets equally impressive beers at more reasonable prices.
The food was however, tremendous. Indian inspired, as opposed to the Pakistani and Bengali fare served up in most W.Yorks curry houses. The Kolkata Chaat starter was almost nearly as good as Bundobust’s, but you did get more of it. Sorry, I did say I wouldn’t, didn’t I? The Tandoori prawn starter sublime. Rogan Josh and Kheema Matar were like you would make at home. Now I’m not Asian, but I do a lot of Asian inspired home cooking, to traditional family recipes that friends have given me over the years and I can tell you that this is The Dogs … The real deal … The Cat’s Pyjamas in fact. I had to look it up, but that’s what it means.
One Pulao rice and an outstandingly fluffy Garlic Nan completed the beers, two starters and mains and came to 5p shy of £40. Service was excellent, quick and friendly and, ‘No, I couldn’t manage a pudding mate.’ If you subtract the six quids worth of ale from the total, it came to around seventeen pounds each. For the quality of the food we ate, I thought that represented excellent value, on top of which I gladly left the customary staff 10%.
I know I said I wouldn’t mention Bundobust again, but the above comments on beer prices versus food echo loudly all the way down Woodhouse Lane into the city centre.
Verdict: I’ll definitely be going again. The food is sheer authentic quality. You can have a good ale with it if you’re feeling flush. Make sure you book when you go. I’m in love with their logo too.