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Food Review COOK North Leeds

Tom Goodhand visits the new shop on Moortown Corner offering high quality ready meals

Food Review: COOK North Leeds

It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but "high quality ready meals" is just what the COOK stores do. The chain has over 50 stores across the country, but until recently Leeds folk have had to trek to Harrogate or Ilkley to get their hands on COOK’s food.

However, this autumn COOK North Leeds opened on Moortown Corner, bringing with them over 80 dishes which are all as simple as removing packaging and shoving them in your microwave or oven.

So what’s different about COOK from calling into your local supermarket? Well, their food is all made by trained chefs, by hand, using only the kind of ingredients a normal household will have in their cupboards – so you’re not stuffing a load of additives, preservatives, colours and stabilisers down your throat with every bite (although there are, we spotted, a few E numbers in a chicken jambalaya one pot that we tried).

To give this shop a go we popped by the new Leeds store one Friday evening to pick up a few meals’ worth of food and give it a try. As you walk into the shop, it immediately looks impressive. Although fundamentally you’re just looking at loads of chest freezers, the place is well decorated to make the most of the space. The feel is like that of a country kitchen with wooden worktops for the sales desk, a huge sink and cookbooks, with nicely tiled floors.

Despite being relatively new, the staff seem to know several of their customers already, while more people pop in for the first time, excited having visited other stores elsewhere in the country.

The freezers are divided into meals for one, two, four, party food and puddings, with further divisions based on food type (classics, Indian, one pot, children’s and so on), the shops are, apparently, popular with a variety of people: those living alone who don’t want to cook, couples or families fancying a proper meal without the expense of eating out, and people ‘cheating’ at dinner parties (you can even buy casserole dishes to stick your food in to really trick your guests – but you’d be a bad person for it).

Rather than lie to our friends, we get a couple of meals for two and excitably shove them in the oven as we get home. We start off with two Moroccan-influenced dishes: a spiced lamb tagine (£4.99 for one) and harissa chicken (£3.85 for one). Both are brilliantly spiced, with a deep, long-lasting heat, rather than a quick, blast-your-face-off hit. Both bear the marks of good marinating and an excellent selection of spices and herbs. We finish off the meals with ridiculously rich, gooey chocolate fondants (£4.50 for two), which are truly indulgent.

The one pot meals – a Mediterranean pot with red peppers, lentils and cannellini beans (£2.99) and a chicken jambalya (£3.49) – are perhaps a little less impressive. Designed as a good lunchtime fix (each takes five minutes or so in a microwave from frozen), the actual food is good, but the supposedly ‘guilt free’ dishes are a little too low in calories for anyone but dieters.

We also (not all in one night, we should add) give two curries a spin and find them, unsurprisingly, far better than your average microwave meal and vastly superior to cheap takeaways (and these come in around the £4 mark, so may well cost less). While takeaways boast the bonus of not having to leave your house, COOK also home deliver (although you need to book a time in advance during their opening hours) within five miles.

What COOK really has going for it is the ease of what it offers. The food is good – the meat dishes come with real, substantial hunks of meat and loads of flavour – and of enough quality to make it well worth the small leap in price from most supermarkets. While we’re not sure we’ll be cheating on a dinner party any time soon, we know where we’re heading next time we can’t be bothered to cook tea.

Posted on Wednesday 11th January 2012

COOK North Leeds

331 Harrogate Road, Moortown, Leeds, LS17 6QD

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