Cielo Blanco – Leeds Trinity

20130526-124828.jpg

The recently opened Leeds Trinity shopping arcade is a big improvement on the grotty 70s maze that used to be there and has brought a number of shiny new stores to add to the city centre. Disappointingly this does seem to have largely been done by encouraging existing shops to move to the new space, leaving their old stores empty, but most of those do seem to be being relet so that over the coming year it will have added to the city rather than merely cannibalised existing shops. It has also got a number of new restaurants but unfortunately most of these are parts of larger chains which already have branches in the area. One exception to this is Cielo Blanco, a Mexican cantina owned by the same family which runs one of our favourite bars from when we lived in the city centre, Oporto. Thankfully, it isn’t just another Tex Mex place catering to the bland “burgers and cocktails” diner- there’s a TGIF for that. It specialises in “street food” that works well for shoppers and local workers looking for something a little different while out in the city centre.

I went for lunch on Friday with my wife and a friend who was up visiting for the weekend and we opted for the street food selection where we each chose three dishes for a very reasonable £10.95 each. Unusually for such menus, there was no restriction on the choice of dish – often restaurants exclude the pricier dishes from the deal, but Cielo Blanco didn’t. All the food was very fresh tasting and varied with zingy salsas and dips to brighten up the potential stodge of deep fried empanadas and quesadillas. The range of Mexican beers served ice cold in frozen glasses was good too, even though, unfortunately having to drive later on to pick up OMB from school meant I couldn’t go through the list! The staff were attentive and enthusiastic about the cuisine and the place was very professional and slick in a way that independent one offs often fail to be. It wasn’t surprising that the aspiration is for the restaurant to be grown into a chain in the future.

It is certainly worth a visit if you’re in Leeds and worth looking forward to if they manage to expand the franchise to other cities.

There’s Always Next Season (repeat every May)

20130520-095851.jpg

Well, that’s another season over and another heartbreaking play off final defeat to add to Brentford’s bulging wooden spoon cabinet. For several boring reasons I couldn’t make it to the final this time and had secretly hoped that perhaps the club, being contrary, would spite me by triumphing in my absence. Instead, all we have is Harlee Dean’s second half goal to ensure that our play off record is not quite as bad as Sheffield United’s (they too have lost seven play offs but they’ve also managed not to score in any of the finals they’ve made).

There will be countless post mortems but ultimately what will be remembered will be the penalty miss against Doncaster . Such fine margins are the stuff of the game. Watching on TV, the game at Wembley seemed a microcosm of the season. Two goals at each end of the first half were enough for Yeovil to leave Brentford with a mountain to climb. As with Doncaster, they were a well drilled team that were tough and hard to break down and which was set up to defend their penalty area. Unlike Sheffield United, equally damned as Brentford in their red and white stripes, Yeovil snuffed out Donaldson’s play out wide. Dean’s firmly headed goal early in the second half gave hope and Brentford attacked relentlessly but without much luck or enough guile to break through. Perhaps Rosler could have done something, perhaps one of the players could have raised his game once more but it was not to be. If anything, Yeovil had a clear cut penalty decision waved away in the second half, with the referee adding insult to injury by booking the fouled player for dissent.

The fact that we were undone at the end of the season by both Yeovil and Doncaster who were savvy enough to negate our most creative players and take the limited opportunities given while we lacked the nous or composure to take the opportunities we made perhaps suggest that promotion for Brentford’s young group of players and inexperienced manager might have been too soon this season. It is noteworthy that the club and manager stated that we were a year ahead of plan in getting this far.

I still believe that the club is going in the right direction and that if the squad and manager stay and we can address a few shortcomings we should challenge for automatic promotion next season. We need a consistent centre forward- perhaps Bradley Wright-Philips- and the confidence to impose our attacking game on opponents rather than to play negatively particularly against weaker teams and away from home. Some have said that the division will be tougher next season with Wolves, Bristol City and Peterborough coming down and Gillingham coming up, but it is too early to tell. The shock of relegation for clubs used to bigger things takes some time to overcome. Ex Brentford boss Martin Allen has not managed to win promotion from League 1 so even though Gillingham will be competitive they shouldn’t be feared. Bradford of course had a heroic cup run and took Brentford to a replay in the FA Cup. But all this airbrushes out the fact that we finished third and were a crossbar’s width away from automatic promotion.

Yeovil went through an early season run of six defeats. That was less damaging for them than the numerous draws we had in games we should have won- a pair of draws against Hartlepool and Bury who were both relegated, the draw away at also relegated Scunthorpe where we missed yet another penalty. Fine margins.