NEATLY hidden between rows of pre-war cladded houses on the outskirts of north Leeds you could be forgiven for thinking you have made a wrong turn when looking for Leeds Seventeen.
But as we pulled up outside the restaurant, named after the postcode where it is situated, we knew that we were going to be in for something different.
After all, Oliver had heard that its menu included squirrel, and that’s not a claim every restaurant can make.
Leeds Seventeen arrived on the dining scene nearly three years ago but its quiet, unassuming nature means that it could get overlooked on the Leeds dining scene map.
But, tempted by the call of that squirrel, it was only going to be a matter of time before Oliver ventured there to try it out.
Unfortunately for us this was just not meant to be.
Due to popular demand, the squirrel had sold out the day before our visit.
The attentive staff rushed into the kitchen to double-check with the chef to see if he had a secret supply stashed away and could rustle one up; alas he could not.
The waiter told us that the dish had proved to be so popular with diners that they had simply run out – but we were told that there was currently a batch braising in the back ready for diners the following day.
Just as we were left browsing over the rest of the menu, another member of staff came over to apologise again for the distinct lack of squirrel.
That was just a small set back because there were still plenty of options .
The restaurant’s intimate surroundings, furnished with candles and full of paintings of some of Leeds’s most famous buildings, proved to be the ideal setting for a cosy meal for two.
Sometimes such intimate settings can be quite overbearing yet, even though the restaurant was busy, the staff still made the time and effort to guide us through the menu and made us feel as if we were the only table there – even though there was a party of at least 10 next to us.
Nothing seemed too much trouble for the staff.
For instance, we even turned up for our table a few minutes early and they were more than happy to take our coats and seat us.
We could see why they had gone to so much effort because the food was definitely something, and definitely equal to anything you would expect to find in a top restaurant in the heart of Leeds city centre.
For starters, Oliver opted for the peppered chicken liver with toasted brioche, watercress and a red wine and shallot dressing for £5.75.
My dining partner chose the belly pork with black pudding and apple for a reasonably priced £5.95.
The chicken liver was rich and creamy and had an excellent melt in your mouth texture followed by the crispness of the peppery crust with the sweetness of the toasted brioche.
My dining partner, who claims to be a black pudding connoisseur, was left hungry for more and could have quite happily licked the plate clean.
So far so good.
We were spoilt for choice with the main courses so I decided to try the lemon and mint crusted lamb fillet with fondant potato, garlic wilted spinach, thyme jus for £15.95.
The lamb was tender and pink and the crust helped to give it an extra edge from being just an ‘ordinary’ fillet of lamb.
My dining partner opted for the hake for his main course for £13.95 and wasn’t disappointed.
Before the main courses arrived we both wondered whether we should have ordered a side dish to accompany them; there was no need to have worried.
The portions were so rich and filling that we were frantically hunting out the smallest scrap of room to try and squeeze in a pudding.
It was a tight fit but we were in for a treat when it came to looking over the desert menu.
Oliver was left torn between the chocolate fondant and the blackberry cheesecake.
But, never being one to turn down a chocolatey treat, I decided to opt for the hot chocolate fondant and pistachio ice cream for £4.95.
My dining partner decided to try the restaurant’s signature pudding aptly named the Leeds Seventeen treacle sponge for £4.95.
We were left wondering what could have been so special about the treacle sponge to make it the restaurant’s signature dish.
After all, it was just treacle and sponge.
But this was more than just a sponge.
It even came served in its very own golden syrup tin with a creme anglaise just to add an extra special Leeds Seventeen touch.
All together our bill for the three courses and a couple of glasses of house wine and a beer came to the reasonably-priced £65.95.
The restaurant’s head chef, Wayne Brimicombe, has worked for both Gary Rhodes and Jean-Christophe Novelli, so it was easy to see why the food was of such a high standard.
The only fault was that our empty glasses were left on the table for at least 10 minutes before someone came over to ask if we would like a refill.
But that is definitely something we were more than happy to overlook.
I’m sure that Oliver will visit again – even if it is just to sample the squirrel.
• Leeds Seventeen, Nursery Lane, Alwoodley, LS17 7HW
• Opening hours: Lunch, noon to 2.30pm. Dinner Mon to Wed 6.30pm to 9pm, Thurs to Sat 5pm to 10pm, Sun noon to 5pm.
• Tel. 0113 266 2594
SERVICE ....................... ****
***** EXCELLENT **** VERY GOOD *** GOOD ** AVERAGE * POOR