It is the age old problem that all unimaginative and romantically-challenged husbands face once a year; where can I take the wife for her birthday?
Well-aware of my own lack of original thought processes, I canvass YEP towers for innovation.
The overwhelming message that comes back from my judicious colleagues is that, for the best romantic meal in Leeds, there can be only one option: Kendell’s Bistro.
It is a name I have heard for many years now, synonymous with high quality French dining and service in just its short few years of doing business in the city.
However, it is one I have yet to personally investigate, suddenly my dilemma is no more. A baby-sitter is booked and a table is booked. Allez Kendell’s.
We arrive on one fine summer’s night to the bizarre spectacle of a gaggle of tracksuited men lining the pavement running up to the bistro. Each has his own ‘pitch’, consisting of a sheet of plastic with T-shirts bearing the faces of a boy band I have never heard of. Sharp journalistic senses can never be dulled and some minor inquiries reveal that a band that performed on Britain’s Got Talent are performing at The Wardrobe next door.
Undeterred by this bizarre spectacle, my wife and I enter the bistro and are quickly shown to our table. We are seated at the opposite end to the kitchens, something most diners prefer but something I actually quite enjoy. Seeing the hustle and bustle of the kitchen with the artisans at work forms part of the dining experience in my book. I am aware I am in the minority.
The decor is clearly a nod to Paris-chic. Candles abound, as do arty posters of France and pieces of quintessentially French bric-a-brac.
It’s only a Tuesday night, a clear indication of the popularity and reputation of the venue.
Kendell’s is different in many ways, not least of which due to the fact that, as a diner, you are not given a menu.
Rather customers peruse the large blackboard on the restaurant’s main wall.
The reason for this is that, as a restaurant, Kendell’s Bistro likes to give its customers a constantly updating menu.
There are no perennials, no dishes that the eatery is renowned for.
Their view is that everything they prepare is quality and that what they serve should be dictated by what is in season and what their chefs come up with.
It’s a great and admirable approach.
After taking our seats we order drinks, a G&T for me and a glass of rose champagne for the wife (a drink she has only on special occasions).
Perhaps it is the noise or a lapse memory but when our drinks come the rose is just wine and not champagne. By the time we notice it seems churlish to raise it. Nonetheless the sense of occasion feels nullified.
Kendell’s is all about classic french cuisine, something that clearly informs our selections.
I opt for the Foie gras on the basis that I cannot remember the last time I had it. It comes cooked in what I think is cognac and manages to be rich without being too heavy.
My wife opts for the croustade. Served in a pastry case, with a poached duck egg, truffle oil and Béarnaise sauce it definitely looks like the plumb choice of the too.
Main course was a tough choice for me but in the end I opt for the sea bass, reasoning that it is such a great fish to eat even in amateur hands that it can only be sensational when handled by top quality chefs.
Roasted in lemon and herb, and served with a side of dauphinoise potatoes it is utterly divine.
As is often the case for vegetarians, my life has far more limited options for her main course. She plumps for the mushroom lasagne and is not left disappointed, raving abut how succulent the mushrooms are.
For our wine we select a touraine savignon which works well with all of our options.
The restaurant’s cellar is clearly sensationally stocked. You could spend an hour deliberating over the best wine to choose.
Desert time comes.
This prompts the lengthiest period of deliberation.
My wife goes for the chocolat marquise, a layered construction of pastry chef excellence. Myself I choose the parfait and am not disappointed.
If I had had room I would have loved to have selected the cheese course but by this stage I am ready to admit the limitations of my stomach’s capacity.
Kendell’s is a heavy-hitter, of that there is not question.
It is self-confident and bold, its staff appear relaxed and in control throughout, clearly buying into the deeply French sensibility that service does not equate to servitude.
The price is on the high side, but I was always brought up to understand that quality costs money and that you should always buy the best you can afford.
And, what I lack in imagination I endeavour to make up for in unyielding care and attention. Her happiness is priceless and when she says afterwards what a wonderful meal she has had I doth my cap to Kendell’s and ruminate for a brief moment on a job well done.
By the time we exit the restaurant a small posse of excitable teenage girls is queuing for a glimpse of their heroes.
They would be better suited queuing for Kendell’s. It may cost a lot of their pocket money but it will leave them with an experience far richer and developed than a reality TV flash-in-the-pan ever could.
Address: Kendell’s Bistro, 3 St Peter’s Square, Leeds LS9 8AH.
Tel: 0113 243 6553
Opening times: Tuesday - Saturday Evenings 5.30pm onwards.