La Grillade is a typical French restaurant, just like the places you’d find in any sizable French town.
Except it’s in Leeds. That makes it special.
The restaurant is housed in the basement of a Victorian terrace, and looks uninspiring from the outside. Down the stairs, it’s a different world, a series of small dining rooms housed in vaulted cellar rooms, tiles on the floor, stylish white cloths on the tables, white rustic walls, naturally.
The other thing that makes La Grillade special is the food. The short menu is packed with traditional French dishes, steaks and mussels, boudin noir and fish dishes from the South. Each dish is simple, straightforward, classic.
I had rillettes de porc to start with, three large spoonfuls of gloriously chunky pate, the pork cooked for a very long time and shredded coarsely before being allowed to set in it’s own fat. Tony Bourdain writes in his superb Les Halles Cookbook that rillettes get “to the heart of what’s good: pork, pork fat, salt and pepper”. He’d love this example.
For a main course, we had a rib eye steak, a huge, thick slab of mature beef cooked to medium rare perfection on a sizzling hot grill, with frites, thin and crisp in the French style, and confit de canard, a duck leg cooked for hours in it’s own fat, served on flagelot beans braised in a rich tomato and wine sauce. The beans were earthy and deeply flavoured, the duck magnificent. I’m a huge fan of confit duck – the practice of cooking meat entirely in duck or goose fat produces some of the most densely flavoured and delicious meat you could ever hope for. It’s worth trying at home, but if you don’t have the patience, this is exactly how it should taste.
Dessert was a large chocolate mousse and a tart aux pommes, crisp puff pastry at the edges, soggy in the middle, apples tender and sweet, vanilla ice cream on the side. Simple and delicious.
La Grillade’s kitchen is open plan and in plain view of the dining room. This is good for two reasons – there’s nowhere for the chefs to hide, so they have to run a clean and efficient kitchen, and it also lets lucky diners have a peek into the mysterious and endlessly fascinating world of a professional kitchen. I could watch dishes flying over a kitchen pass all evening.
French cuisine is the heavyweight of the culinary world. Others may pretend, and many have improved over the years, but a simple menu of French classics has the weight of centuries of food history behind it. The menu at La Grillade demonstrates just this – these are simple dishes, cooked with quality ingredients by a skilled brigade who know that the simple things are the best.
0113 245 9707