Restaurant review: Fourth Floor Cafe & Bar, Leeds

Valrhona milk chocolate and hazelnut mousse, feuilletine, clementines and white chocolate sorbet.  PIC:  Jonathan Gawthorpe
Valrhona milk chocolate and hazelnut mousse, feuilletine, clementines and white chocolate sorbet. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Oliver has visited the Fourth Floor Cafe & Bar at Harvey Nichols on a number of occasions since it first opened almost 20 years ago and, on the whole, the reviews have been favourable.

The makeover in 2013 was enthusiastically received and I was glad that the grandeur we waxed so lyrical about at that time has not faded and is just as splendid as ever.

Even after all this time there’s still something quite surreal about tripping through a slumbering department store dressed in your finery on a chilly winter’s evening to take refuge in a glittering oasis four flights up.

We’d reserved a table via the efficient and easy to navigate internet booking service and received both text and email to confirm our reservation.

On arrival, our coats were taken and we were ushered to what must be the worst table in the restaurant; right next to the service desk and within sight of the door to the kitchen utility room which, when opened, revealed an untidy pile of boxes, though Oliver is at pains to point out there are plenty of other tables with grander views and so perhaps on this occasion we were unlucky.

Chef Lee Heptinstall, who could be seen marshalling his troops in the open plan kitchen has put together an impressive menu which manages to stay just this side of pretentious .

While we decided what to order we were served with an amuse bouche in the form of a soft cheese ball marinated in herbs, oil and garlic - unfortunately, it was a little bland.

Another disappointment was the bread basket we’d remembered from previous visits had been replaced by one small slice of bread, although it was delicious all the same.

Staff, without exception, were unfailingly polite and courteous but there were some areas for improvement.

As the designated driver I was on water, my dining companion opted for a glass of Chenin Blanc.

It was a good ten minutes before our drinks arrived and at no time during our stay were we asked if we’d like a refill - I had to summon a waiter on numerous occasions and ask for my water glass to be topped up. While we are sure such oversights may not be indicative of the general level of service, they are nonetheless areas which need constant monitoring.

Things began to look up once the starters arrived.

I had opted for seared scallops, with curried parsnip puree, chargrilled leek, and truffle dressing. (£12)

The scallops were cooked to perfection and were complemented beautifully by the tang of the mildly-curried puree.

My companion chose salt baked celeriac and apple tart with honey roast fig and onion cream (£8.50). The pastry on the tart was crisp and the apple had a satisfying piquancy.

They were both beautifully displayed and a great deal of artistry had obviously been employed in their execution - it was almost a crime to destroy such beautiful handiwork.

For the main course I went for beef served with ox cheek, spiced red cabbage puree, celeriac, broccoli and a red wine jus (£22.50).

The beef was pink and juicy, the ox cheek which came in it’s own little pan, dark and rich and immensely satisfying.

My guest played it safe and had chicken breast with pistachio stuffed leg, choucroute, fondant potato, white bean puree, and kale (£18.50).

We made the mistake of being seduced by the hand-cooked chips (£4) and had added a portion to our mains, along with a dish of cauliflower cheese (£4).

We hadn’t realised how substantial the meals were going to be and struggled to finish them - mindful that we still had to make room for desert.

Another word about service at this point. Once our plates were cleared away we were left with a puddle of sauce on the table from the cauliflower.

No-one attempted to clean it up and the waiter who brought the desert menu only narrowly missed it as he placed it on the table.

I had to call him back to bring a cloth and even then he missed a great dollop and I had to use my napkin to finish cleaning up.

Anyway, back to the deserts. There’s a small but interesting selection to choose from but mindful of my waistline I tried to find the least calorific.

I eventually opted for the Tonka bean panna cotta, with caramel popcorn and port compressed figs (£7.50). The panna cotta was light though bland but was livened up by the caramel popcorn which had a satisfying crunch.

The Valrhona milk chocolate and hazelnut mousse (£8.50)chosen by my companion was altogether different .

It arrived looking like a mini yule log with chocolate interior and crushed hazelnuts clustered around it and sitting on a plinth of feuilletine. It was rich, dark and my companion pronounced was quite delicious.

The final bill for food and one glass of wine came to £101.48 including a discretionary service charge of 10 per cent which, had I being paying more attention, I would have declined to pay.

Though not an extortionate amount, for this sort of money I expect a far higher level of professionalism from staff and far greater attention to detail.

What does seem to offer greater value for money is the two-course set meal for £17.50 (three courses for £20 to include a welcome cocktail).

There were a number of large-ish parties of women who had undoubtedly availed themselves of this offer and seemed well-satisfied with their lot.

FACTFILE

Address: 107-111 Briggate, Leeds

Website: www.harveynichols.com

Email: leeds.reservations@harveynichols.com

Tel: 0113 204 8000

Opening times: Daily. See website for more details

Food ****

Value ****

Atmosphere ***

Service ***

l

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