Thursday, 30 March 2017

Cheap Eats in Leeds - Thai Aroy Dee & Ecco Pizzeria

A few years ago, D and I instituted the practice of aiming for at least one “CNO” a month. Which, for the uninitiated (i.e. everyone apart from us) meant the two of us dining out for a total of £30 or less all in. We all know that it’s pretty easy to eat well if you’re happy to splash loads of cash but can it be done on a budget?

The answer, of course, is yes if you know where to look but we fell out of the habit or, at the very least, became less stringent about the rules. Having recently seen our outgoings increase though, we are on a mission to be more frugal and so have reinstituted the concept of the CNO. But, because, you know, inflation, we’ve raised the upper limit to £40.

Thai Aroy Dee

I may have mentioned TAD before, but if you live in Leeds and are a fan of Thai food I would always recommend you come here rather than the glitzier Sukkothai or the buzzier Zaap Thai. I hesitate to mention authenticity in reference to Asian cooking, as I’ve never travelled there myself, but I have been here with people who know and they tell me it’s probably the most authentic Thai food in the city. Certainly, it’s delicious. The flipside is that nothing here, neither the food nor the restaurant itself, is particularly glamourous which is by the by if you can get a good feed for under £20 a head.

D threw a potential spanner in the frugal works by letting himself get too hungry which meant that he wanted to order a starter, a salad and a main plus rice and a beer. In the end, he was persuaded to share a portion of the Thai prawn crackers (crunchier, spicier and infinitely more addictive than their Chinese counterparts) followed by a minced chicken salad, stir fried minced pork with fermented eggs and a sticky rice. And a beer. I had a red Thai curry with duck and steamed rice. And a sparkling water. Because I’m trying to stop drinking on school nights.

D found the minced chicken salad to be a little delicate, and would have preferred a bit more zing and punch such as was found in the stir fried dish, which he deemed delicious. I can confirm that the spiced mince was heavenly, but avoided sampling jellified eggs because I have issues with anything that looks like jelly and tastes of old egg.

Mince and eggs!
The duck curry was also good. I think the duck must have been poached which left the meat incredibly tender although, where I am used to eating it fried, I must admit missed the contrasting crackle of crispy skin. The sauce was thinner than I expected but packed full of flavour with that classic triumvirate of sweet, sour and hot all in perfect alignment.

Duck curry!
Final bill? The whole lot came to £34.35 which we rounded up to £38.00 with tip. Not far below our limit but we took away enough leftovers to do us both lunch the next day. This might be no frills dining but it is undoubtedly good and definitely somewhere to consider if you’re looking for cheap, cheerful and tasty.


Ecco is located in Headingley, which, if you know Leeds at all you will be aware seems to be mainly populated by students. As such, it is a good place to head if you wish to avoid the city centre but find interesting and frugal places to dine out.

I had been wanting to visit (Ecco rather than Headingley) for ages, being a pizza fiend. It has quite the local reputation, always seems to be packed out and, impressively for such a small place, boasts an authentic wood burning oven. Apparently, to be considered true Neapolitan style pizza there are strict rules with regards the temperature of said oven and the length of time the pizza can cook (60-90 seconds) and Ecco are proud to advertise that they adhere to these standards.

I am not sure, however, that many residents of Naples would recognise some of the topping combinations that Ecco have adopted. D, ever the rebel, ordered an Istanbul “pizza” which was topped with tahini, rather than tomato, over which had been strewn liberal quantities of lamb mince, feta, pomegranate seeds and yoghurty salad. It was delicious, but it was not pizza.

I went for a slightly more pedestrian combination of pepperoni, ham, mushrooms and olives. The base was blistered and blackened which gave a pleasing hint of char, the sauce was good, the mozzarella plentiful and creamy. My personal preference would have been for a little less topping and a slightly thinner base, but I can’t say that I was complaining particularly. Chicken wings, ordered as a starter, and also cooked in the wood fired oven, were good if not exceptional.

Again, this was no frills dining. Tables are set very close together, service is efficient, food is served promptly with a minimum of ceremony. They do not sell alcohol which was not a particular issue for me but both D and the guy at the table next to us looked a little crestfallen at the prospect of pizza sans beer. However, with more pubs in Headingley than you can shake a drunken student at, locating a watering hole either side of your meal (and you will be in and out pretty quickly) is not hard.

Pizza for two (again, we had leftovers that we got boxed up to take away) with a starter and a soft drink came to £22.95 so even with tip we were well under the £30 mark, let alone £40. And I would quite happily go there again, although if you ask me, the best pizza in North Leeds is to be found a bit further up the road at Meanwood’s That’s Amore, where the menu is considerably smaller and the toppings are slightly less liberal.

Overall though, two excellent additions to the pantheon of Leeds CNO venues. But fear not, next month normal service will be restored as we head to Michelin starred (and priced) The Black Swan at Oldstead and pay the equivalent of ten Cheap Night Outs for a single meal. Huzzah!

Thai Aroy Dee
120 - 122 Vicar Lane, Leeds, LS2 7NL
0113 245 2174

93 Otley Road, Leeds, LS6 3PS
0113 278 2828


  1. I love reading about your dining out experiences. We hardly ever do but I like the idea of It! Lxx

  2. I love reading about your dining out experiences. We hardly ever do but I like the idea of It! Lxx