The latest high up, high end dining experience in the northern city of cool

A the risk of sounding like a complete t**t; I’ve been lucky enough to dine in some pretty amazing restaurants across the world – London, Dubai, Las Vegas, LA, Paris, The Dordogne, Toronto, Palm Beach; Florida. Some with Michelin Stars; some without.

I know a good (and a bad) restaurant when I experience one. I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for and a good culinary experience is worth the money one has to shell out for it, and any 12% service charge that’s slapped on top. My mum however, would disagree. Her favourite dining experience being ‘The early bird at La Rue in Saltaire.’ Tips generally stretch to some loose change on the silver tray, regardless of the bill amount. Bless her; I’ve warned her never to holiday in the States.

Leeds has always had a scattering of decent places to eat, but recently the foodie scene seems to have exploded with Greek Street, Foundry Square, the opening of the Trinity Centre and other areas of the city boasting some seriously fantastic places to dine. Obviously my intention is to test them all out; first on my long list – what is widely acclaimed to be Leeds’s latest high up, high end restaurant; Crafthouse on the 5th Floor of the Trinity Centre.

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This joint is the sister restaurant to the Alchemist, and when I asked the waitress how long we had our table for I expected a similar response to the one I got from the Alchemist on Greek Street a few weeks prior which was (in an abrupt tone) “two hours. Not a minute more”.  And sure enough at 6pm, when our two hours were up at The Alchemist, we were being hounded by the pushy waiter to leave the table. Needless to say I wont be going back there.

I was pleasantly surprised when our polite, chatty, friendly waitress at Crafthouse informed us that our 6.30pm sitting on a Friday night was the only sitting for the table we were escorted to and we could have it as long we liked. I liked this place immediately.

Granted, at 6.30pm on a Friday night I was a little disappointed that it was all but empty, but it was Good Friday. Anyway, the place soon started to fill up nicely. The decor is very masculine; lots of glass, steel and dark wood, open kitchen, extensive selection of wines and champagnes on display and a really lovely private dining room; perfect for small parties.

G&Ts were served to my girlfriend and I in tall cut crystal and we ordered a bottle of Gavi, which at £34 a bottle was not cheap; but, expected in a joint like this and it was delish. Of course you can always opt for the standard eighteen quid bottle of house white if you so wish.

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Food is promoted as modern British; mains include a selection of Aberdeen Angus steak cuts, sea bass, lobster, lamb, rabbit and even muntjac deer. Starters however are more French than British in my opinion with escargot, lobster bisque, and ducks liver featuring.

We both went with the three course set menu, which at £23.50 a pop was a steal for what we got. The highlight of my meal was the wild mushroom veloute; served poured into my bowl by the waitress over a unusually sweet but delicious mushroom macaroon. Mushroom lovers; if you had a weakness for Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup back in the 80’s you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven when you slurp this stuff off the shiny spoon.

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I ordered chicken for main course. corn fed chicken, pomme bern, spinach puree, arden peas and heritage carrots to be exact. If you are thinking ‘you ordered chicken?’ I’ll quickly share one of my dining secrets with you; you can separate the wheat from the chaff of restaurants by the quality of their chicken dishes and whilst I would categorically NEVER order chicken at a Harvester (in fairness, I would never step foot in a Harvester), I do, now and again order chicken in a decent restaurant in hope that it will be a delicious, juicy, organic, free range, corn fed, gluten free, preciously reared bird. It was beautifully presented and pretty tasty too. As far as chicken dishes go. We were on the set menu so we were a little limited – the sea bass and 12oz fillet steak were off limits. I wasn’t disappointed though. Far from it. And neither was Leanne as she tucked into her spinach risotto with rapeseed oil, burnt butter and aged parmesan risotto. Not quite as elegantly presented as my chicken, but then there is little one can do with a plate full of sloppy rice.

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Whoops! I forgot to mention that we were served up a freebie in-between starter and main course. Leanne put this down to me shamelessly name-dropping a few restaurants that I’d dined in worldwide whilst the waitress poured my plonk. That and the sheer number of photos I was taking of everything and anyone in the place. Whatever, it was I must have impressed her; next thing the manager has come out to shake my hand!

Anyway, whatever I did, it worked, and we were served up charcoal cured salmon with fermented corn, wild rice, burnt onion, pickled Tokyo turnip and popcorn flower – straight from the al a carte menu and wonderfully tasty; but more so it’s unexpected little gestures like this that make a good restaurant a great restaurant. A restaurant that I will not hesitate recommending to anyone wanting a fine culinary recommendation in Leeds.

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Dessert was also delicious – it contained rhubarb and I love rhubarb so it was always going to be a winner.

Coffee? No way. We made our way down to Angelica on the floor above and were talked into buying a bottle of Moet; a snip at £40. Regular Bank Holiday offer apparently – well it would have been rude not to. Cheers.


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