Where are the best steaks in Leeds?

steak_intro_2017609a

Hands up who doesn’t like a good steak?

Apart from the justifiably aggrieved vegetarians at the back flicking me the double V’s, I would hazard a guess most people would keep their hands in their pockets. In the UK we do love a good piece of meat and we seem pretty much hard-wired to loving it. Of course, I’m generalising hugely here but meat looms large in our diet and in particular, but we do love a bit of beef.

Our love affair with bovine consumption has been talked about extensively in the context of how expensive meat is to produce and how resource intensive it is to get it from the field onto our plate. We have all seen how the price of said flesh has rocketed in the past few years to reflect this and as a consequence, some cuts of meat have definitely become a luxury item with people even opting to go meat free for one or several days a week.

This rising cost and awareness has made beef  and in particular steak, a once a week affair—or even less— with wallets and consciences joining force to limit consumption. But still it sits at the top of a restaurant menu, the most expensive item and I’m guessing that the reason it still sits there is because customers still crave it. Personally I always find it hard to overlook the indulgence and inherent cave man reflex to order a slab of medium rare beef, although my wife has a more considered, less beefy palate. It’s definitely a blokey thing too and I’ll hold my hands up to that, but the joy of the carnivore is certain to be experienced across the gender divide.

That brings me to one of the most common questions I’m asked after which is the best restaurant in Leeds, and that’s where is the best steak to be had in Leeds? Now there is no simple answer to this. Sure we have plenty of specialist ‘steakhouses’ in the city that would lay claim to this title and we definitely have enough high quality restaurants who say they serve tip top steak action.

It’s all down to the mood you’re in I believe: fancy, informal, quick, leisurely, dirty, clean, flames, saucy. So here is my guide, which is by no means scientific—or exhaustive—but it is based on the hard-won factual approach of hauling my not insubstantial ass around the city in search of beefy nirvana.

Here we go then, in no particular order…

gauchGaucho— top-end Argentinian beef extortion is the game here and if your pockets are deep and you have the eyesight to see your dinner through the gloom, you will be rewarded with steaks of epic proportions and taste. Special occasions only, in my opinion. Nice Chimichurri sauce though.

La-Grillade-signLa Grillade—the only restaurant in Leeds to serve old school French Chateaubriand style fillet. If you can put up with the surly french waiters then you will be rewarded with fillet steak of the gods and proper french fries. Off the scale cheeseboard too.

steak-fazenda-webFazenda—the only Brazilian rodizio in the city where it’s possible to eat your own body weight in meat. Top tip: wait for the good cuts of meat to come out near the end. Watch out for: over ambitious male diners suffering the meat sweats.

Leeds Light opening 2013-1373595175Miller & Carter—small chain of pure play steakhouse restaurants with newish outpost in Leeds. In truth, slightly disappointing but if you must go, the ribeye was very serviceable last time I was there.

Delve-Kendalls-Bistro-Full-Res-001-re-editedKendell’s—Leeds’ best restaurant (I coined that phrase by the way) serves an amazing Cote de Boeuf with an outrageously unctuous cylinder of bone marrow on top. Always a challenge for me, ordering anything else, when I see that on the blackboard. Unfashionably expensive fillet is beautiful here too, pricey but push the boat out. Proper sauces too.

P4308240bThe Cross Keys—I’ve seen grown men cry here when they are told that the steak has sold out, I know, as I was one such man. Unassuming sirloins and twice fried chips have a mainstream following here. Also, Sunday roast beef is the best in Leeds.

bbq-the-restaurant-bar-grill-webRestaurant Bar and Grill—overpriced glamour is what we like in Leeds and you get it in spades here. Food always seems like an afterthought and the steaks are no exception. Oddly, the fish is always good here where the steaks fair to middling (or overcooked like the one in the picture).

cattle-grid-web-668x341Cattle Grid—situated in the worst location, which was the best location 5 years ago, Cattle Grid is an oddity. Part rib shack, burger joint and half hearted steak house it suffers from a serious bout of mediocrity.

let-there-be-meatRed’s—personally I wouldn’t order a steak in here as there’s too much fun to be had with artery hardening burger stacks, proper BBQ ribs, deep fried pickles etc…they do serve a steak if you’re interested, but the real action is dirtbag food from the pit.

crafthouse_menus_653x279The Craft House—swanky Conran gaff atop the Trinity shopping mall (not as bad as it sounds) cooks a mean rib of beef in its josper oven (I have no idea either), and a bank loan is required to foot the bill. The swish setting is oddly unsatisfying and I’ve damned it with faint praise a few too many times.

Rare-5-web-668x341Rare— Leeds’ newest addition to the restaurant scene opening only last week. A daringly simple menu goes for broke with pared back beef, chicken and pork under the watchful eye of a stuffed Longhorn. The said locally sourced rare breed T-Bone steak for two was amongst the best (and biggest) beef I’ve tasted not just in Leeds, but anywhere in the UK.

Rare breed beef, monster T-bone cut, exquisitely seasoned and cooked to perfection—could this be the best steak in Leeds??

Let me know what you think…who do you think I have I missed or what have I got horribly wrong…

 

Star Inn The City

IMG_6108

Lunch in York this week with an old friend was taken at Michelin-starred chef Andrew Purn’s new venture, Star Inn The City. It’s the city outpost of the famous North Yorkshire Star Inn at Harome. I don’t live in York but I understand the city has been abuzz with excitement in advance of the opening getting a table after it being open a few weeks was a bit tricky.

The lunchtime we were there it was very busy—and with 300 covers that takes some doing in a city the size of York. Of course there is a massive tourist crowd to tempt and an underserved local dining population, starved of real quality with only a handful of other contenders. Surprising for an affluent city like York. So if Andrew Purn and his team get this right, it’s a no brainer. Great food, excellent service, superb river front location? You got it!

On the day we lunched tree was a steady stream of lunching ladies and affluent older retired folk but i suggest this reflects the midday trade. The vibe was pleasant, if slightly disorganised at the arrivals desk (or whatever they call it). The staff are well drilled and we sat down at a superb table overlooking the River Ouse with pale winter sunlight filling the airy and modern glass construction.

I went for the market menu—to be fair all of the menu looked great—and for two courses it was a very impressive £14.99. I was certainly expecting the price point to be higher given the provenance of the chef and indeed the food. Prices rise steeply as you’d expect through the steaks but that’s to be expected these days.

photo photo1 photo2 photo3

We both had the chicken terrine starter with bread served in a flat cap, which was an original ironic twist on our Yorkshire heritage which is sure to confound the hordes of Japanese who visit the city. Flavours and colours were bright and fresh.

I’d eyed up the calves liver earlier on the menu and it arrived in a generous slab, served with juniper infused kale and a spanking fired egg. Perfect lunch, on a plate. My fellow diner had the special Brill with belly pork on the side (don’t ask) but he declared it a triumph of alternative surf and turf.

Service was cheerful, efficient and best of all, fast. Wine is reasonably priced, although you could spend a few bob—as we flat cap wearing Northerners would say—on pricey plonk. No need I say as the basic wine is very competitively priced. The room was buzzing with contentment as we left and my lasting impression was one of leitmotif dining without pretence but delivered with consummate skill.

Star Inn The City (I still can’t make up my mind about the pun) will thrive in York I think , if the district dining community welcome it—which they seem to have already—and the tourists can find it tucked away user a bridge, in a park, by the river.

Gail’s Kitchen

Continuing the London theme, I had breakfast at a cool little place in Bloomsbury called Gail’s Kitchen. It’s rather oddly situated in the foyer of the hip MyHotel as their in house/external dining room that serves for all the meals on offer. But having said that it all works reasonably well.

Unusually for London, the cooked breakfasts are all to order. I note that even in the most expensive of central London hotels, the vile breakfast buffet rules supreme and I for one will seek out alternative hotels that offer an edible, human breakfast experience. I generally don’t eat one at home midweek, so it’s a treat for me to do so when travelling and rubber eggs and poisonous sausages do not light my fire.

Anyway Gail’s kitchen is simple, cool and unpretentious in a pretentious kind of way. Clearly the hip choice for breakfast meets, I followed suit and had a breakfast meet there.

Coffee was acceptable and the poached eggs on San Francisco sourdough with bacon jam (I know) was on the right side of funky. I felt cool just ordering it. Either way it was all good, if a little pricey given the Bloomsbury address but worth the extra as other options were corporate Costas or touristy outlets. Service was a little confused, requiring some chivvying although quite amiable.

No pics of food unfortunately this time but I did get a pic of the bill and a handful of cards that came in an old John Player cigarette tin. Lovely touch. Nice branding too.

IMG_3232

Leon

IMG_2651

It’s been a busy old few weeks and this week was no different. I spent two days in London on business but managed to find some foodie love among the work stuff. I try to make time when I’m travelling on business to discover new things from a food perspective – it’s often too easy to go for the hotel dinner for one option after a long day travelling.

I had arranged a breakfast meeting at Leon in Ludgate Circus near Blackfriars. I really like Leon, it strikes me as a chain with a heart. It’s a small London chain of high quality fast but good food restaurants in the cooler parts of the city. I really wished we had one in Leeds.

On this occasion I ordered one of their full english breakfast pots as the menu says ‘Poached egg topped with Cumberland sausage, British back bacon and saucy beans, for those who love both breakfast and England’. These pots are pretty cute and well worth teaming up with some hot buttered toast for a very satisfactory start to the day. And their coffee is excellent.

It wouldn’t be a post from me if I didn’t mention the branding and identity of Leon. It’s really cool, lo-fi and very much of the moment. It captures the spirit of what they are trying to do and the staff reinforce this by also being right on song from a brand perspective – chatty and unpretentious.

photo001