We've converted a grand old bank into our first restaurant to open in the North of England and it's a real beauty. We were inspired by the wonderful old ceiling downstairs and stayed as close to the original as we could.
Then you get into the building and actually, the aesthetic statement totally rings true. It's possibly helped by my huge enjoyment of exposed brickwork, but the designers managed to source some wonderful vintage desk lamps, and little modern touches like the brightly lit stainless steel bar don't detract from the industrial (dare I say Northern?) feel.
The restaurant doesn't take bookings (NOT a fan but we had time to kill) and the Sunday night when we went there was a 40 minute waiting time, but that was alleviated by literally the most wonderful gin martini I have ever experienced. On the menu it's called a Double Grape Martini and has bits of cucumber and stuff in it, but the sharpness of the citrus and veg was enough to give a refreshing kick. This may be betraying my uncultured roots a bit, but I was very pleased they used Beefeater as standard and didn't just stick to Gordon's to keep cocktail costs down.
We were eventually seated in a candlelit alcove away from the main body of the restaurant and immediately served the Top Italian Bread Selection. It didn't come with the rosemary and lemon gremolata as advertised, but the olive oil and balsamic we got instead was probably better. I have never had balsamic vinegar that good. It was fruity, and knocked the one at Art's Cafe out of the water (sorry Art's, still love youse).
My smoky scamorza arancini was perhaps a bad starter choice. I didn't find the mozzarella to be all that smoky and there wasn't nearly enough arrabiata to go with. G had the cockles linguine which was surprisingly well-balanced with some strong garlic. There was enough chilli in there to starve us of winter colds for several months.
Scallop and squid ink angel hair is just going to be good - it looked fabulous on the plate - and there was nothing there to disappoint with gentle, subtle aromas from the capers and the garlic oozing through the salty squid ink. G's fish in a bag promised bolder flavours with anchovies and fennel, but, being served with cracked wheat, rather tempered it. A lot of flavour was soaked up and lost and, while the fish itself was cooked perfectly, it meant there wasn't much left to go with it and it ended up being a bit of a disappointment. Having said that, we were so impressed by the initial flippin' bread we could've just eaten several portions of it and gone home happy...
I wanted the walnut tart but there wasn't any left so went for the boring choice of ice cream. There were lots of flavours, but no-one pays much attention to ice cream and it wasn't nearly as good as G's panna cotta. SO much vanilla. Probably double double cream it was so creamy. Mmm.
So at this point we ask for the bill, feeling quite content with what had been a lovely, romantic evening... then we see the full price. The sneaky buggers don't include the VAT on the menu. It added almost an extra tenner on per head, and almost caused the cotta coronary. Unfortunately, our waiter was simply marvellous so we paid without a squeak. We'll also probably go back, but next time we'll be prepared for the eventual rueing and fist shaking.
35 Park Row
0113 322 5400