Friday, June 27, 2008

Why hasn't Anthonys in Leeds got a Michelin Star?

The other night we celebrated me not being that ill from pneumonia by going out for dinner at Anthony's in Leeds. We've been meaning to go for quite a while, since trying other restaurants which had been recommended by word of mouth to us which were frigging awful. This place, our 'social network' had told us, was not worth going to. So I enthusiastically booked it. We're also enthusiastic converts to 'molecular gastronomy', aka foam. El Bulli allegedly started this off - the World's number one restaurant. And as I learned from the web, chefs at Anthony's were trained at El Bulli.
Aesthetically, I have to say it is stuck somewhere in the early nineties. Those, what have to be considered now revolting brown leather high backed chairs, with matching brown oil paintings, which looked like they were picked up on Ebay. Husband quite liked the velvet underskirt of the tablecloth, I felt a bit like a footballer's wife. The restaurant is in the basement which is a questionable marketing technique. There was no natural light to appreciate the colour of one's plate. Our first encounter with the wine list was not as good as such an experience should be. As we both wanted the taster menu (which can't be that unusual) I was expecting, like at other expensive establishments, that we would have a recommended glass of whatever for each - or every other- course. This was one of the most blinding experiences on honeymoon in the Loire- the Vouvray perfectly matched the Foie gras for example. But nothing was specifically recommended. So we settled for a Sancerre and Fleurie for simplicity's sake.
We weren't given a menu of what we had chosen, until the end.
But the food was impressive. We had eight courses. I love small, numerous courses. The first course, pig cheek - nice but should it have been the first course? For the first course you want something refreshing which cleans the palate, not the heaviest, richest dish on the menu. That was a mistake. The second course was marvellous - risotto in expresso foam. You wouldn't think this would go, but it was delectable, the cheesey parmesan contrasting with the foamy and bitter coffee and succulent grains of rice. Too much of it if anything though - but this is Yorkshire. Then a wonderfully diverse course. And I could hear Gordon Ramsey shouting down my ear as I devoured it - How many flavours on one plate? I disagree with his bulliness on this. He says one can only take about four flavours at once. Anyway this course was duck (such dainty slices, microscopic) tobacco rhubarb, avocado. And there were grapefruit flecks. It looked a picture. The tastes were divine, there were more than four. And refreshing. It's a dream come true when one looks at a plate and thinks ' should I eat that?'. I didn't want to disturb a work of art. Then there were two fish courses, better if anything or at least on a par. Again the slitherist of slices of ox tongue with tuna and horseradish. Gorgeous. Followed by Red Mullet, filo crab sandwich and passion fruit foam. Divine. The Lamb dish which followed was perhaps again too quantative but delicious. Then two desserts - cucumber and cheese cannelloni. Nice. And apple pork and sage (parfait, filo and icecream) respectively. Lovely. But the cheeseboard was perhaps the highlight of the evening. There were about 30 cheeses to choose from - they had their own menu. We picked seven. You could pick eleven or thirteen. Then they went off and printed our own little cheese menu. So I've got a little list here if ever I want to get our favourites - bit of a problem as they all were. They were served on a thin long platter with plenty of accompaniments, nice breads, pickle and grapes. It was a perfect finish.

I think if they improved the wine selection, training for the sommelier, order of the taster menu and ambience of the place then it wouldn't be just deserving of one Michelin star but two. And at two hundred pounds for what was a great example of Northern creative genius - worth every penny.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's really useful as we're just getting ready to go out there tonight. I like the level of detail in your appreciation and criticism.