Restaurant review: Dough Bistro, Leeds

Hand fished scallops on cuttlefish ink spaghetti, garnished with caviar.
Hand fished scallops on cuttlefish ink spaghetti, garnished with caviar.
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It would be remiss of me not to mention at the outset that Dough Bistro is now the proud recipient of this year’s Yorkshire Evening Post Oliver Award for Best Suburban restaurant.

The awards took place on Monday but the restaurant was visited some time before that: the problem being our awards have become so popular that it’s now sometimes difficult to get all the reviews published in the paper in the time allowed, given we only run two a week (Oliver and Little Oliver) and taking into account the curve balls life throws at you in general, although that said rest assured every outlet which entered the awards has been visited.

Given they won, you might then deduce there is no point in reading this review (since you already know the outcome: their winning being, for the most part, based upon it), but you would be wrong.

Dough Bistro has won several previous awards, including Best Suburban in 2013 – the award it now holds again – so it’s perhaps worth considering why they won the award.

They beat off stiff competition from the likes of Friends of Ham, Ilkley, Pinche Pinche, Chapel Allerton, The Boundary House, Methley and The Moody Cow, Apperley Bridge (for the full list, see the special pullout inside this supplement).

But how?

You might drive past Dough Bistro and not even pay it a second glance. It’s to be found in one of those clutches of shops you see on busy rush-hour roads drunk on traffic. There’s a pizza takeaway next door and a mini market over the road, near the mini roundabout at the top end of Spen Lane, West Park. The exterior hardly shouts at you. Rather, it is understated, if not a little demure.

Tiny little fairy lights in the window lure you toward the door. I almost imagine that if you were passing and felt a slight rumble in your tummy, you would suddenly find yourself ensnared in its trap (there are far worse things to become ensnared in).

Inside raw brick walls, wood floors and various object d’art screams rustic but there’s more than a whisper of class too if you stop to listen. Take the menu. For such a small restaurant, there’s such a lot to choose from.

There’s a menu de jour, tasting menu and à la carte, with some seriously French cuisine on offer. The tasting menu won’t break the bank, either, so if you do feel like going out on a limb and trying something a little different, the chef’s sample menu is £37.50/£60 with drinks (or £47.50/£80 if you want the deluxe version). It includes the intriguing sounding Duck Five Ways, Beetroot and Botanist Gin Cured Salmon, which comes with pickled cucumber, rocket, dandelion oil, goat’s cheese mousse and is served (if you take the ‘with drinks’ option) a delightful Charles de Fère Blanc de Blanc Réserve, and Herb du Provence Saddleback Pork Loin. Sounds splendid.

To start, I ordered Wood pigeon breast, labneh, pomegranate, dandelion honey, pistachio powder (£7) but was told that, sadly, they were all out of our winged friends and so I fell back on the Confit duck, Harrogate blue cheese, filo basket, creme de leek, rhubarb puree (£7.50): dainty, light, the duck finished to perfection and presented in a nice little slivers among the filo, the leek sauce acting as a nice foil to the richness of the duck, while the blue cheese added depth and brought bags of flavour to the dish, while the dabs of rhubarb puree offset the sharpness of the cheese. A great dish and not too filling.

My dining partner, meanwhile, went for Hand caught Whitby scallops, cuttlefish ink spaghetti, truffle caviar (£7.50). For the money and the cooking (this is high end stuff for a suburban restaurant), it’s nothing short of amazing.

The scallops were done just right, hot throughout with the perfect texture and an echo of the sea, while the inked spaghetti on which each was sat just also came with a sharp, briny kick, which lingered slightly, the caviar being purely decorative at this stage (taste-wise: job done).

So far, so good.

While we waited for the mains to arrive, it gave me time to a) bemoan the fact I wasn’t drinking and b) just soak up the atmosphere. Note to self: the next time we come, make sure to take a taxi.

It’s intimate, snug, comfy and lots of other words which make you want to wallow in the moment. I can’t see why this place wouldn’t be packed on St Valentine’s Day. It deserves to be. Great restaurants transport you to another place without you even knowing. It’s a realisation which dawns upon you (usually) only part way through the experience (or perhaps at the end, when it becomes clear it’s time to get your sensible head on again and prepare to re-enter the world of the mundane and do things like pay the bill) and Dough Bistro does that. What’s more, it manages to do it effortlessly.

The mains arrived after a short wait in the form of Hand made Boeuf burger, brioche bun, twice cooked chips, slaw (£11.50), which was surprisingly filling for the price, taking an ordinary dish but elevating it. I particularly liked the slaw, which had a distinctive peppery flavour which, while strong, was more intriguing than overwhelming.

Meanwhile, I had Lamb Roulade, roast new potatoes, apricot, madras emulsion, carrots, pork jus (£16), a perfectly judged dish, the only thing not particularly to my taste being the apricot, which I thought was too tarte to go with the meat. Otherwise, just a real coming-together of flavours, a dance if you will, on a plate, the lamb presented in a tower and again, not so filling that you wouldn’t want to go on for dessert.

If I had to criticise anything it would be the font they used on the menu, which I found a bit difficult to read but other than that I really can’t fault the place.

Together together with a rocket salad £3.60 and drinks (yes, I did have one small beer (Peroni, £4), the whole shebang came to a most reasonable £64.

In conclusion therefore (and having had to re-write the original review to take in the fact they won on Monday night), Dough Bistro is a superb little restaurant and one you might not expect to find in such a location. It was founded by Luke Downing, the hard working chef who recently opened Vice & Virtue in the city centre (which also won on Monday) but is run by the inimitable Laura MacLeod, who runs both front and back of house and who actually trained to be a beautician before she ‘fell into’ the world of cheffing, after growing up in her mother’s tea rooms in Knaresborough, where she worked as a waitress, learning the trade. A good job she did too.

FACTFILE

Address: 293 Spen Lane, Leeds LS16 5BD

Opening times: Sunday & Monday closed, Tuesday-Saturday 5pm-11pm

Tel: 0113 278 7255

Website: www.doughleeds.com

Ratings:

Food *****

Value: *****

Atmosphere: *****

Service: *****

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