Kendells Bistro, Leeds

Eating out
Kendells French Bistro Leeds

We ate at Kendells Bistro last week, and managed to spend a paltry £56 for a meal that I’d happily have paid double for*.

Here’s how it went…

Kendells is tucked away between the West Yorkshire Playhouse and the new BBC building.  It looks fairly low-key and unpromising from the street, but step through the door, and you’re in a typical and traditional French bistro, all wooden furniture, low lights, candles melted down the sides of wine bottles (French vintages only, naturally), pictures of glamorous French people on the wall, Edith Piaf singing at a respectably unobtrusive volume in the background…

The menu is chalked up on a massive blackboard, in traditional French bistro style.  In one sense, that’s quite annoying if you’re the type of person who sometimes stares at a menu for a good fifteen minutes before deciding what to order…you do tend to feel a little conspicuous gawping at a blackboard for anything more than a minute or two, but on the other hand, the blackboards serve a useful practical purpose – there’s no point printing a menu because it changes every day.

A moving menu like that indicates that the cooking is ingredient centred. Several of the dishes on the blackboards were marked as sold out, and they were joined by others throughout the evening, a waiter popping up every now and again to chalk on the board.

This is a good sign – fresh cooking that’s gone when its gone, that uses what’s best on the day as its basis.

The menu is split into a pre-theatre/early bird “Tea Time Menu”, and a longer A La Carte menu.  There’s a clever nod to the restaurant’s northern roots there…is your evening meal ‘tea’ or ‘dinner’?

And the food? I haven’t enjoyed a meal quite so much for a long time.

Regular readers may have noticed that I’m going through a black pudding phase right now (homemade Spanish morcillo, coming up soon!), so a dish of a boudin noir tart with apple was an easy choice.  The tart shell was thin and crisp, filled with a sweet onion purée and topped with a couple of slices of a very good black pudding, which I suspect was made from scratch, and if not, was sourced very carefully.

Mains of confit duck with celeriac and a slowly braised beef dish were very good.  The duck in particular was very well done, and not oversalted as confit can be.

My dessert of tarte aux citron left any similar pie I’ve ever made or eaten standing in a cloud of dust – simply the best lemon tart I’ve had in years, whilst a crème brûlée looked good but was a little ordinary.  Maybe the kitchen were too busy perfecting that lemon tart?

The Tea Time deal comes with half a bottle of a perfectly reasonable house wine, or without for a few quid less.

At £56 including wine and coffee, I’d chalk that meal up as an absolute bargain in a very, very good French restaurant that manages to be welcoming, friendly, unpretentious, quietly confident and excellent quality all at once.

Kendells Bistro
5 St Peters Place,
LS9 8

(0113) 243 6553

*This might not be strictly true, Yorkshire resident that I am, but the general sentiment that Kendells early evening menu is very good value still stands.

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