The Leeds Loves Food festival happened this weekend, and we ate at The Living Room on Saturday as part of it.
The Living Room is one of those self consciously fashionable places.
You know the sort.
It has the feel and look of an upmarket bar bordering on a private member’s club. It’s a fashionable place, and it looks stylish and polished.
We were hungry when we arrived, having stopped off at the old Courtyard, rejuvenated and transformed from mainstream bar (read ‘hell on earth’) into a bohemian, shabby place called A Nation of Shopkeepers.
The change couldn’t be greater.
We nearly missed our table at The Living Room because we spent too long drinking Leffe and listening to obscure old French hits from the 1940s at Shopkeepers, but that’s for another time, and there will be another time, hopefully soon.
Jenny said later that she thought the contrast between Shopkeepers and The Living Room was total, one arty and beatnik, the other glossy and slick, each from a different world.
The Living Room had developed a ‘taster’ menu for the festival, and offered us a platter of small portions of five of their best starters and five of their best main courses.
A chance to eat the whole menu, something I’ve always aspired to, but always had the good manners not to actually do.
There was some confusion over our wine order. It seems that I ordered a bottle from the future, from a wine list that didn’t come into force until August. Why I had it in my hand was slightly puzzling, but we eventually settled on a decent Viognier, after three attempts to choose something they actually had in stock. At least they knew what they did and didn’t have in the cellar.
The platter of starters arrived.
I went straight for the tiger prawns, deep fried in a light and crunchy beer batter. I nudged a piece of lettuce over the prawns, to hide them a bit, and secretly hoped that Jen hadn’t spotted them, but she had, and – selfishly, I thought – took her fair share.
A bowl of small honey glazed pork sausages was good, as were skewers of teriyaki chicken with sesame seeds, set on fire by a tiny spoon of bright green wasabi. There was a pot of marinated olives, and a superb humous. The texture of the humous was spot on, and unlike my many versions, wasn’t overpowered with garlic.
Top marks for starters, then.
The five main dishes were introduced by the excellent waiter. Sometimes, waiting staff are never there when you need them, or they’re stood over your shoulder for the whole meal. Not this time – the service was impeccable. Professional, friendly, well informed, knowledgeable and courteous.
There were a couple of safe bets on the platter of mains. I thought they’d try something like this. Pulling a platter of five separate dishes together at the same time must be a challenge for any kitchen, and it seems sensible to include a couple of big hitters, dishes guaranteed to please the crowds. I’ve got simple tastes when you deconstruct everything else, so I was quite pleased with a plate of pork belly, steak pie, some fish, pasta and salad.
The slow roasted pork was absolutely superb, tender, seasoned well, with perfect crackling and a bed of mustard mash. I could have eaten a whole dish of both the pork and the potato.
The steak pie was equally successful, a rich wine sauce covering well cooked lean beef hidden under a pastry lid, served in a little ramekin. How could a pie like that fail in Leeds?
We also had a couple of small pieces of sea bass, pan fried until crispy, which came with a fennel bisque. The fish was very good indeed and didn’t have that combination of burnt skin and undercooked flesh I’m used to turning out from my own kitchen. Pan frying fish is still a mystery to me. Please could somebody explain how to do it, preferably the bloke who cooked that bass on Saturday?
Other dishes included a mushroom ravioli and a Caesar’s salad, which left me undecided. The lettuce was very fresh and crisp, but there was too much dressing, and a little too much parmesan and pepper in the dressing. With less dressing, it would have been great.
We skipped dessert and finished with a coffee.
On the strength of the dishes we ate, I’d try The Living Room again. The food was very well cooked, and offering people the sort of food they actually like to eat never did any restaurant any harm. The taster menu was a huge success.
When we left, the downstairs bar had filled out and the music had been cranked up.
Closing time was a long way off.
*Full disclosure – Leeds Love Food footed a huge chunk of our bill, as part of the festival, which was very decent of them indeed. Thanks very much.