When I think about casually eating pasta, it’s usually me cuddling a big bowl of it on the sofa, in my pyjamas. There’s melted cheese involved and sometimes fish fingers. Perhaps less casual and more embarrassing to be honest. But eating it on a Saturday evening in what is usually a doughnut shop by day sounded quite special.
Doh’hut partnered with pasta aficionado, Jesse Dodkins, to trial their inaugural ‘Casual Pasta’ offering earlier this year. Punters turned up from 6pm onwards and it was one pan, pasta by the plate, first come first served. It attracted massive queues and was even re-incarnated as an ‘at home’ cooking kit. Now it’s back, this time as a pre-booked sit down evening meal every Saturday, which I attended last weekend.
Walking into Trevelyan Square at dusk, doh’hut was glowing with the promise of comforting carbs. Stepping indoors, it was minimalist and intimate, with candles and plants dotted about and seating along the open window looking out onto the square and even at the counter, so you could catch a glimpse of live action pasta. There was no decision-making required, since the whole menu was the perfect portion for two people – so we ordered the lot. Drinks were provided by Chapel Allerton champions, Wayward Wines and we ordered a whole bottle of natural white wine plus two glasses of fizz because we were so excited.
The first plate to arrive was the focaccia, which they advised you not to eat all at once, so you had a little bit left for mopping up pasta sauce later on. This was, indeed, the hardest thing to do and we had to place our dedicated leftover piece out of eyeline otherwise our fingers would have crawled over and started tearing at it, without thinking. It was fresh out the oven, minutes earlier, delicately adorned with thin slices of orange like pressed flowers inside a crumpled book. It really caught me by surprise as I mindlessly threw it in my mouth. Wow – this was juicy, marmalade-y, morning crêpes anointed with orange juice, a sweet and bouncy sponge cake. Now it was even harder not to eat this all in one go.
Next up was Italian-imported burrata surrounded by plaited ribbons of zingy courgettes. You know it’s good burrata when piercing the top with a knife and opening it up feels like you’re about to start mixing some very expensive paint to base coat the ceiling. It was fresh and creamy like yoghurt and went hand in hand with balancing out the marinated courgettes, soft like silk and delicately dressed in something lemony with a sprinkling of salt.
I was really excited about the next course because we’d been informed these were fresh tomatoes picked straight from the farm which Andy’s Tomatoes happened to set up during lockdown (they also supply Pizza Loco). What arrived was simply a plate of unadulterated heritage tomatoes. I was even a little intimidated by how raw they were – it was very much, ‘here we are, take it or leave it’. These tomatoes had more confidence than I did. They were drizzled in basil oil, with a touch of Maldon salt, and making your way around all the different varieties on the plate was like a visit to the sweet shop. Some you sliced into like a cut of steak, except they were soft and refreshing like watermelon. Others burst in your mouth like grapes, releasing flavours of sherbet lemon or red wine. Some were sunset shades of red and green like little apples and others were traffic-stopping, vibrant red. I couldn’t get enough of them. Once the plate was cleared, we carefully rationed out some of our remaining focaccia to soak up every last drop of basil oil.
Then, the main event arrived. Hand made pasta. Hand shaped. Hand filled. Hand cut. The filled pasta was parcels of beetroot, doused in sage butter. The long pasta was cacio e pepe. Just like those unapologetic tomatoes, this pasta made a statement on the plate. It was the perfect kind of al dente. In the bowl of cacio e pepe, each strand of pasta carried a glossy stream of cheese swimming with flecks of black pepper, whilst every inch of the filled pasta was coated and wrapped up in a scarf of decadent, fragrant sauce. Cutting open the parcels of beetroot you could be mistaken for bursting open a bottle of hair dye, it was bright, potent pink. It’s usual earthy taste was completely softened, as it was soothed by butter and cradled in pasta. Yum. Then for the final time that night, we blessed our plates with the remaining focaccia until they were dishwasher clean.
The evening was testament to what it’s like to let the food do the talking. Giving yourself over to the kind of magic, simple flavours can conjure up. The alchemy of good cooking lies in this simplicity and doh’hut hits the nail on the head with their Casual Pasta offering. I left that evening, so full and so happy. At the heart of it all, is dough – something doh’hut are on a mission to master in every sense of the word, not just doughnuts and pasta – so make sure you watch this space.
doh’hut, 2 Trevelyan Square, Leeds LS1 6ED