This is the flagship restaurant in Leeds’ much hyped (and IMHO much over-rated) multi-million pound Trinity Shopping Centre. There are twenty odd lesser eating places in the mall, most of them chains doing distressingly good business on the lower floors, but this, along with its more informal sister restaurant Angelica, are top of the bill. Accordingly, they get Trinity's top two floors to themselves complete with wrap around views of the city roofscape (and their ugly air conditioning units) and a unique view of the Trinity Church roof and bell tower.
It may be the opening of the year, but the booking system demands more of you than the UK Border Agency. They require not just your surname but your first name, your phone number, email address, dietary requirements and then ask if it’s a special occasion. It’s an interrogation that sets my teeth on edge.
To get to Crafthouse, you can whizz up in the lift direct from Boar Lane, or as we did, arrive via the shopping mall to be intercepted by a clipboard checker wanting our names again. Once inside the hip, monochrome restaurant, we were name-checked yet again before being allowed to sit at our round oak table and take in the room.
The design is urban cool: blacks, whites, greys, a string room-divider, a sleek white marble bar and an open plan kitchen with a view to head chef Lee Bennett and his team. Glassware is Riedel. Cutlery is Sheffield. Cooking is Josper.
The £12,000+ Josper is every chefs must-have bit of kit du jour, a fiercely hot, indoor charcoal burner and oven. Unsurprisingly, grilled steaks are the foundation stones of the Crafthouse menu supplemented by fish, braised lamb, salmon and veal kidneys.
Starters are largely uncomplicated, working around crustacea like oysters, shrimps and dressed crab. We gave high marks to quail cannelloni with Savoy cabbage and artichoke puree given extra perkiness with a hint of truffle.
A main of Goosnargh chicken came in its own casserole: tasty, falling-off-the-bone chicken thighs, cooked with mushrooms, baby onions and carrots all in an aromatic tarragon gravy and beautiful mash.
But you couldn't judge Crafthouse without judging its meat. Principally sourced from Yorkshire based Ginger Pig, it is reliably good. Steaks are offered with a side dish and a choice of sauce. Our rib-eye was expertly grilled, rare, but well seared from the Josper and helped along by parsley butter and a cone of crispy triple fried chips. Steaks are never cheap and they’re not here. Prices start with a bacon chop at £14 and rise to £33.50 for a 900g Aberdeen Angus beef rib for two. In between are rump, sirloin, rib-eye steaks priced between £16 and £28. Sea bass, Dover sole and Yorkshire coast lobster (£38, gulp, a friend of ours bought five for £33 at Whitby Seafish the other day)) go on the Josper too.
There’s not much thought for veggies. Three dishes in all: vegetable terrine, pea and mint soup and a chicory, watercress, pear and blue cheese salad. Desserts reel off the solid sellers: chocolate tart, sherry trifle, passion fruit soufflé and burnt Cambridge cream – crème brulee served in a shallow cast iron pot - rich in cream and vanilla with a delicate topping of burnt caramel - and a textbook example of the art.
Service was attentive and sharp. The clientele appeared more suit than shopper, and the total experience exuded a corporate proficiency. No complaints then, except for the self-important booking procedures, but after the first time, the Josper will have to be on someone else's expense account. Better value can found in the £25 for three course lunch deal and some decent wines by the glass.
Level 5, Trinity Leeds, 70 Boar Lane, Leeds LS1 6HW, West YorkshireTel 0113 897 0444
Review by Jill, 12 May 2013blog comments powered by Disqus