Restaurant review number 1 of a packed August schedule comes from…. Issho | Kori Bar | Japanese Restaurant. Set alongside its sibling restaurant East 59th on the upper floor of Victoria Gate in the centre of Leeds, ISSHO is one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the city… but is it worth the hype?

Money, Money, Money

If you are looking for affordable luxury, ISSHO probably isn’t the best choice for you. The below lunchtime meal for two with 1 mocktail and 2 diet cokes cost approximately £90. That does include a service charge, but more on that later…

It is recommended by the wait staff to select 3 to 5 dishes each, ‘tapas’ style. We opted for 6 dishes and a dessert between the two of us and that was more than enough.

Tempura Is King

Are you really testing a Japanese restaurant if you don’t order tempura?! Well to make sure I gave it a proper test, we got double… tempura vegetables and the soft shell crab.

The tempura batter was light and crisp, the vegetables incredibly fresh. This was quite possibly the best tempura veg I have ever had – £8 felt a little on the expensive side, but for the quality of this dish it was a fair price on balance.

The soft shell crab was one of the dishes I had been most looking forward to – one of my favourite ingredients! Unfortunately this one didn’t live up to expectations. The tempura batter was again light and crisp, the crab was fresh I am sure, but it just lacked in flavour. The spicy dashi sauce that accompanied the crab was good, however when used it took over the dish. I suspect it was an issue with seasoning, however at £10 for a relatively small portion, a lack of flavour was disappointing.


Everyone will have their go to, either nigiri or sashimi. I would normally get a mix, however in the end we opted for tuna and salmon nigiri. As you would expect, the tuna was slightly more expensive at £10 for 3 pieces, with the salmon costing £8 for 3 pieces.

Both the tuna and the salmon nigiri were beautifully fresh and prepared in our eyeline at the counter in the restaurant. The wasabi provided the perfect level of heat, and the pickled ginger perfect to cut through the flavour and cleanse before diving in for the next bite! For those who maybe haven’t had sushi at a restaurant before I appreciate this will seem expensive for a relatively small amount of food, however for fresh sushi grade fish of this quality, I would say this is a decent price.

As can be seen in the photos, the fish was generally cut well, but by no means perfect. Both the salmon and tuna were neither even in size, smoothly sliced, or neat on the edges. When paying this price, I would expect to see a higher quality finish.

Tiger Prawns

From the ‘Robatayaki’ section of the menu we opted for the tiger prawns with chilli, and whilst not on the menu, chives. Lots and lots of chives!

The prawns were cooked well, although a little well done. They were a very generous size, and the flavour was in general good! It is hard to go wrong with a combination of tiger prawns, chilli and lime!

However the addition of chives was a little strange, I must admit! Coriander would have been a more obvious, and definitely a better choice in terms of flavour. It would seem the chives were selected for aesthetic purposes, however we ended up removing the vast majority to eat the prawns. If an ingredient has a neutral or negative impact on the overall flavour of a dish, it doesn’t have a place!

Four large tiger prawns for £9 feels just about right. Although without the chives, please!

I Like Big (bao) Buns & I Cannot Lie.

I am a huge fan of bao buns – one of the best trends to hit the UK food scene in years… when done right. When done wrong, they can be pretty awful! As you can probably tell from the photos below, these bao buns are certainly done right!

The Spicy Pork Bao Buns. If you visit ISSHO, you have to get these fluffy clouds filled with perfectly crispy and yet incredibly juicy and tender pork belly. The kimchi, crispy onions and cucumber, together with the sesame sauce combine to create a mouthful of pure unadulterated joy.

They come deconstructed, so you can choose how much sauce and sides you add to your bao – but if you’re anything like me that means exactly half of all of them on each one! I was surprised to see kimchi on the plate, but I am not sure why! It worked perfectly. Everything worked perfectly. They are perfect.

I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to eat them in one, but its almost impossible to resist the urge to smash your face straight in to these. If you find some self restraint, then savour every bite. Otherwise order 2 portions!

The cost? £12. The best £12 you will spend all day.


After quite a heavy meal in terms of flavours, we were both in need of something fresh and tart for dessert. We opted to share the Yuzu Tart – a Japanese citrus fruit, often likened to a lemon due to its colour but flavour wise is closer to a grapefruit / orange combination.

The raspberry gel provides a gentle contrast to the yuzu tart. Overall this was a nice way to end the meal. The sesame tuile was however rather non-descript. If you squint, you can just about see it perched on the raspberry gel – it sadly offered about as much in taste as it did visually. I would normally expect a tuile to be dark caramelised sugar, so maybe this one was just undercooked.

At £8 I would suggest this is not great value for money. It was a good solid dessert, but it wasn’t perfect. For a lunch time, I would expect a dessert to be executed to a high standard for £8 – whereas this was just, well, ok I guess.


Now for the all important scoring. I will score each restaurant I visit on 3 different elements; the food quality, the setting, and the price.

Food quality – overall the food was a really good standard. There were some dishes that weren’t quite as good as promised, but there were some that were near perfect. I must admit, the tempura veg and bao buns are significantly boosting this score!

The nigiri and tiger prawns pulled their weight, and were solid additions to the meal, however the soft shell crab and yuzu tart were below expectation. Without these two dishes, the score would have been up in the bao clouds, however with them it ends a little nearer the ground.

All in all it’s a strong performance. 8/10

Setting – the setting is in general of a very high quality. Occupying the top floor of the relatively new and high end Victoria Gate shopping & casino complex, ISSHO has been designed to ooze quality and luxury. On the whole it does its job well especially in the bar area, however some of the attention to detail was lacking in the restaurant. The decoration in this area is trying to be luxurious, but it has a feeling of the emperor’s new clothes.

The restaurant in general felt a little thrown together, with themes that weren’t quite seen through. The metal counter set along the wall running the length of the main seating area is open, which gives it the feel of a buffet bar in a hotel. Maybe this changes at night time, however for lunch the counter is only being used by one person at the far end slicing tuna and salmon. The windows directly behind us were generally quite dirty and absolutely covered in bird poo. The service was largely good, however felt rather standard which did not meet expectations in a place aiming at the upper end of the market.

It could be brilliant, but on this showing it is well wide of the mark at the moment. 5/10

Price – I am going to split this in to two sections – the food first. In general I think the prices are on the limit of acceptability for what you get. I would say 4 dishes were good value, 3 were poor value. To charge top prices, the quality has to be spot on, and it just felt a little clinical. The food lacked some care and attention at times. Even the dishes that I would consider good value were generally quite poorly presented. The nigiri had not been sliced evenly and wasn’t smooth as you would expect. The only dish I would say was presented to a high standard was the dessert, however the execution let this one down a little.

The second element that needs discussion is the service charge. In very small print at the bottom of the menu (and barely visible when using the QR code to view on your mobile, as instructed) it states “12.5% discretionary service charge will be added to your bill”. I must admit to not seeing this at the time, and as I wasn’t made aware of this by the wait staff it came as a surprise when we reviewed the itemised receipt one we got home. I personally think adding a service charge for a table of 2 on a lunch time to be very cheeky, especially when the service on offer was relatively standard. For clarity, in the UK a service charge is not added or expected as standard as it is in the USA. The wait staff are paid significantly higher hourly rates and do not rely on tips as is standard in the States.

When it came to requesting the bill, the receipt was brought to us with the card machine in hand, at which point the waiter proceeded to take my card and type in the amount prior to us having chance to review. Almost as if it is a deliberate tactic to rush the sale to limit the chance of the service charge being queried.

Unfortunately this tainted the experience quite significantly. 4/10


On this showing, I am not sure if I will be back. I just don’t think it offers good value for money, and I am left feeling like I have been ripped off a little with the sneaky service charge. The hype and the prices suggest an experience of the highest quality, however the reality is far more ordinary than that.

Foodie Fridays #1: Life Without Lactose

As a lover of cheese and chocolate, the initial symptoms of lactose intolerance were swiftly ignored and passed off as coincidence, but as time went on the symptoms became more frequent and the consequences more uncomfortable; my lactose intolerance was undeniable.

Which one would you miss most, pizza or chocolate cake? Slide to reveal!

The Moment The Toffee Penny Dropped.

As a teenager I had started to notice a few stomach cramps after eating certain foods. It wasn’t constant, with months in between instances at times, but as time went by they became a little more frequent and so I decided to bite the bullet and eliminate different ingredients to work out what it was that was causing the discomfort. I tried everything else I could think of – chilli, garlic, red meat, chicken and wheat to name a few – and had no success in identifying the problem.

I begrudgingly decided that the only thing left to try was eliminating dairy products from my diet for a couple of weeks. Almost instantly on day 1 the discomfort stopped and didn’t return once over the 2 weeks. To test my theory, I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich. Never had I been so unhappy to prove a theory correct, and locate the cause of a problem!

Now at this point in life my symptoms of lactose intolerance were mild in comparison to where they are now;

  • Tiredness – feeling more tired than usual after eating high lactose foods
  • Mild stomach ache – I wouldn’t describe them as cramps at this point, but definitely discomfort.
  • Bloating – visible bloating of my stomach after eating high lactose foods
  • Excess Gas – linked to the bloating… that gas builds up and then needs to be released!

Due to them being relatively mild, I came to accept these symptoms of lactose intolerance and proceeded to eat cheese and chocolate and everything in between!

Until the curious incident of the mini egg in the night time…

Sweet Dreams Aren’t Made Of Cheese.

Well, not for me anyway!

I had to have surgery on my spine in late summer 2019, and as part of my post op care I was prescribed some super strength antibiotics. The kind that make you feel poorly every time you take them and completely ruin your appetite!

Having not considered lactose intolerance for a few years, I planned to return to eating as usual after my course of antibiotics. I went to the cinema one Thursday evening in early September, and as is my ritual I decided to buy a large pot of overpriced pick n mix sweets – mixed penny candy for those Stateside! I chose all my favourites, including copious amounts of mini eggs.

Now for those who don’t know what mini eggs are – they are a hard candy shell encasing a milk chocolate egg. Yes, milk chocolate. For those struggling to picture them, here they are in all their glory…

So in to the movie theatre we go, and as soon as I hit the seat I am throwing sweets in to my mouth and drinking my extortionately priced Pepsi Max without a care in the world. This is my first time in the cinema in over a year so I am excited and making the most of it.

Am I feeling a little sick from the sugar? Sure.

Am I going to slow down? Hell no!

For anyone wondering the film was Good Boys. From what I remember of it, funny in parts and a little slow in others – however I must admit my concentration wasn’t at it’s best. About 10 minutes in I started to feel my stomach cramping. Insisting to myself that it wasn’t the sweets, I carried on eating them until mid crunch it dawned on me… mini eggs. Chocolate. Lactose.

As a young and normally well mannered Englishman, I feel uncomfortable getting up in the middle of a film to use the toilet and disturbing other people on my way past – they have paid good money to see the movie. However more importantly I think I should add at this point that I have a fear of using public toilets for anything other than a wee.

This fear is partly on hygienic grounds, but it is more the uncomfortability of other people being near by and having use of the same toilet. When I say public toilets, I mean pretty much any toilet except my own and a very small group of privileged toilets. Needless to say of which, the local cinema is not one.

Back to the action… there I am, sat in the cinema, stomach cramps getting progressively worse, the gargling noises becoming ever louder. I am starting to sweat at this point with fear of the impending situation. The official run time of the movie is 90 minutes, however I strongly dispute the time keeper on this one.

After what felt like an eternity, the credits finally started rolling. It was go time – although not too quickly for fear of slippage – I slalomed through the exiting crowds. Squat jogging to keep my glutes tight together, I jumped in the car and proceeded to drive back like my life, or at least the upholstery of my car, depended on it. I got to my driveway and had to exit the car, throw the keys to my partner to park up, whilst I headed straight for the toilet, hurdling obstacles like a prime Kriss Akabusi. I made it to the toilet with milliseconds to spare. As I lowered myself to the seat, the flood gates opened.

It was at this point I could no longer deny my truth – it wasn’t just symptoms of lactose intolerance, I am lactose intolerant. Full stop.


All joking aside, accepting that I could no longer eat food containing lactose was a pretty tough thing to come to terms with. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but it really is hard! Especially when your favourite foods are now super strength laxatives (although much cheaper, I must admit).

The hardest part is the painstaking task of checking the ingredients list on everything you buy. There are so many products that contain lactose that you would think would be fine. Some of the sneakier diarrhoea inducing consumables are;

  • Salt & Vinegar Pringles – some flavours are lactose free… but not salt and vinegar. Why? Who knows. It is listed as a ‘flavouring’ and appeared when MSG was removed. Whether it is to help the flavour bind to the crisp, or to enhance the flavour, I have no idea. There are lactose free flavours, but check the label carefully!
  • White Bread – not all white bread contains milk – but when they do, it hits… hard. In my experience it is normally the cheaper white bread that contains milk.
  • Processed Meat – so the explanation on this one is that lactose and casein is often added to processed meat as an emulsifier to enhance the flavour. Again, it’s not all processed meat, but its a good excuse to avoid the cancerous sodium filled aisle at the supermarket.
  • Quorn – when you think of vegan food, especially if you are in the UK, you probably think of Quorn right? Well, wrong. Almost none of the Quorn brand is vegan, either due to the presence of eggs or milk. So not only does it taste vile, it makes me shit myself too. Its a lose / lose situation.
  • Other vegetarian or meat free brands / products – Quorn aren’t the only ones. There are a number of great tasting meat free products! However a number of them also contain lactose. Unfortunately I found out through trial and error… Get checking those labels!

So these are the ones to avoid, but what about the ones to gravitate towards?

In Queso Emergencies:

Sometimes all you want is that lactose riddled product, be it a cup of tea, a chocolate bar, a cheese board or a free choice of crisp flavours, you just want that milky hit without the guaranteed symptoms of lactose intolerance. Well I have you covered!

Here are my top lactose-free products to replace your favourites;

Milk (and chocolate milk) – Oatly Barista (& Oatly Chocolate)

It took me a while to find milk that was anywhere near good enough as an alternative to the real thing for coffee. But fear not, I martyred myself so you don’t have to. Make sure you buy the Oatly Barista for coffee and cereal – it is creamy and is genuinely better than the real stuff. Make sure you give it a shake to get the barista style froth on top of your coffee. Give it a go – you won’t go back to cows milk afterwards!

For any chocolate milk lovers – Oatly Oat Drink Chocolate. Again, make sure you shake it well before use. Fancy a hot chocolate? Stick it in the microwave for 45 seconds. You are welcome!

Word of warning – do not use Oatly Barista in your cup of tea, it is not good at all! I am reliably informed cashew milk is the way to go for any tea lovers.

Butter – Flora ProActiv Buttery

I have always loved copious amounts of butter spread on to my toast for breakfast. I have also always hated margarine (does anyone like it?).

I have had a few false starts with butter alternatives. Flora buttery was my first go to, until they changed the recipe and added buttermilk! But I have found one even better than that – even closer to the real thing. Flora ProActiv Buttery is a brilliant alternative and helps to lower cholesterol too… healthy and lactose free? WINNER!

Biscuits – Bourbon Creams

A lot of biscuits are milk free, however some of the classics are off limits if you are needing to avoid lactose. However there are a few surprises in there. The new Chocolate Chip Hobnobs are lactose free, as are the regular Hobnobs.

My number 1 winner in this category has to be the Bourbon Cream. A staple of the biscuit barrel in any UK household – the chocolate sandwich biscuit is lactose free!! Don’t ask too many questions about the cream filling, just be happy that it doesn’t contain lactose and move on…

Chocolate – Nomo

This is a controversial one, and I am sure people will disagree… but I find most lactose free “milk” chocolate to taste really bad. It is Hershey style sweet with very little flavour, and often doesnt melt in the mouth like proper milk chocolate does.

Nomo as an entire brand is an exception to this. I am yet to have a flavour I don’t love. My favourite flavour? Caramel Chocolate. This caramel filled bar is a dream! Notable mention to their Caramel & Sea Salt bar (this one is solid rather than caramel filled).

Takeaway Pizza – Papa John’s

Even in my lactose consuming days, I came to be a strong believer that big Papa J’s was the ultimate of the chain pizza joints. Well when it comes to lactose free options, they are in a league of their own! They have a range of vegan pizzas, or you can make your own meat topped pizza with vegan cheese so you aren’t forced to eat vegan just because you can’t have lactose.

Lactose free cheese in general is relatively crap. I have tried a number of options and I have not been very impressed at all. There are some brilliant vegan mozzarella options for pizza toppings, but other than that I would be cautious.

I asked at the top of this post which you would miss most, the pizza or the chocolate cakes? The answer is neither. They are both lactose free alternatives!

If you have any suggestions of lactose free alternatives, particularly cheeses, let me know in the comments below!

Have a good ‘un guys!