Well, I've been living here about a year after leaving DC so it's probably time I started contributing a bit more over here on the International Board. I would love to see a proper board just for the UK with locals posting, I miss the DC Community!
But I digress...
Having been on a project in Leeds for quite some time now, finally decided to try Anthony's Restaurant in Leeds. It took a few attempts, as reservations can be hard to get less than about three weeks out for a weeknight, and when I booked a few weeks ago, I was told that the weekends were fully booked through August already.
My boyfriend came up from London for the evening to try it out, and since it was near my birthday (who needs an excuse though, really?) we decided to go for it and try the tasting menu at £55 a head. Upon entering the restaurant, you are seated in an upstairs lounge kind of area, and given beer and wine menus and some olives. You pick what you want to drink and then they give you the menu. I asked to see the menu first so I could decide what to drink, but this was pretty much for naught as the chef's menu is just that -- chef's menu. We settled on a £23ish bottle of Gewurztraminer, mostly out of a lack of decisiveness. There were about 4 pages of wines, ranging from about £18 to ridiculous. Two pages of (mostly imported) beers were also available, at about £4 a 330ml bottle. We were given glasses of our wine and
told shortly thereafter that the chef was ready for us and we could go downstairs.
The dining room is downstairs in the basement, and nothing special at all. Yellow walls, no adornment, pretty uncomfortable chairs, and pretty poor climate control. (Granted, it's been ridiculously hot up north this week.) There was just one little portable air con unit. I'm glad we went for an earlier seating (8 pm) as the place got much hotter as the evening went on.
I was pretty engrossed in the conversation, but I will remember as well as I can. We started with an elderflower and something foamy shot thing. It was alright, a bit cloyigly sweet (a theme). Then we had a very interesting dish of pomelo and barely cooked corn kernels. Not particularly good to speak of, but interesting. The bread was just plain and white. Pleasant enough, especially as the courses were quite small and not really coming at a quick enough rate for my taste. But then, I was quite hungry to begin with.
The highlight was a lobster salad with lovely tangy dressing and watermelon. What a delight. The second fish dish was baby squid in a lovely sauce with root vegetables. Also, very delicate and well done.
The meat dishes were first a really odd combination of salmon marinated in a teriyaki (cloyingly sweet again) and pork belly, served with a strip of beetroot. It was quite a contrast, but I thought both meats were a bit overcooked and chewy. The main meat dish was squab. Again, a bit overcooked and oversauced.
There were two dessert dishes, neither particularly memorable. A bit of ice cream, bit of fruit. We were offered a cheese course at additional cost, which I thought was a bit tacky. I would have preferred the cheese to begin with, but we didn't ask for it instead of the other desserts (don't know if they would have done that anyway). A combination of thinking it was a bit tacky and probably being too full to really enjoy it kept us from indulging.
The staff were all quite formal, and appeared to be mostly foreign women of all ages. One waitress spilled some of the sauce for the squid dish on my boyfriend's plate and hurriedly whisked it away. They all seemed terrified they would do something wrong. It was a bit stiff and offputting, frankly. Not really a polished formal service, more like kids helping out at a dinner party under duress.
Overall, I was not terribly impressed with the quality and innovation. The fish dishes were really well done. I would consider going back, but would probably order ala carte and steer clear of the meats.
I also thought the price was a bit much. We went to Club Gascon in London last week, and got a better quality meal, with wine flight for £60/head, no extras. Anthony's could, in my opinion, also greatly benefit from instituting some wine flights. I realise this can be difficult, especially with the menu changing nightly, or based on patrons' needs, but the wine flights are usually my favourite part of a tasting menu. :)
I can see how Anthony's is operating so well still in Leeds, but I can't imagine there is much repeat business. The atmosphere doesn't particularly lend itself to romantic dinners or business meals, and the food just doesn't really stand on its own, especially at those prices.
Anyone else been there? Or can recommend other restaurants in Leeds or places in the UK with tasting menus?