I’ve written about 3 York Place in Leeds a number of times and had some delightful meals there but, boy, does it spell trouble.
The first time I ate there was under chef Simon Gueller after his move from Rascasse. It was a stormy period and he eventually moved on to the Box Tree after a bust-up with the builders. Next came Martel Smith but maybe he read some writing on the wall and he left for a quieter life at the The Dawnay Arms at Newton on Ouse.
The last time I was there, a few years ago now, was with the Independent’s restaurant critic Tracey MacLeod. We enjoyed a convivial and rather smart lunch under the immaculate eye of its boss and maitre d’ Denis LeFrancq who is Belgian but so worldly he could be from anywhere. He was always first at the door to welcome you, suave and elegant in his pin-sharp pinstripe suit, then pouring the wine and explaining the dish of the day. So it was a bit of a shock to see that Monsieur LeFrancq and his business cohort Jeremy Gillis were in the dock at Leeds Crown Court on Monday pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud.
Their scam involved advertising wine at rock bottom prices supposedly from restaurants that had gone bust in the recession. It’s interesting to note that from only five days advertising on the internet and the likes of the Daily Telegraph, Lefrancq and Gillis managed to trouser £380,000.
Customers who thought they had spotted bargains had in fact been duped by surpluswine.co.uk. They passed on their credit card details but their wine never arrived. BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours exposed the scam last year but by the time the police turned up at York Place LeFrancq and Gillis had done a runner. Then LeFrancq was arrested in Prague and extradited. The two now await sentencing. They won’t be having their last meals at York Place; it shut up shop just before the fraud unravelled.
On the same street, add in the collapse of the foodie supermarket and the various false starts at the Ellington and it looks as if York Place should be renamed Bermuda Triangle.