Restaurant review: Restaurant Bar Grill, Leeds

Lamb Navarine. PIC: Simon Hulme
Lamb Navarine. PIC: Simon Hulme
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I think we all know by now that location is absolutely, definitely everything and, in this regard, Restaurant Bar and Grill is a winner.

There is no question that it has the prime spot in Leeds. It dominates City Square with its handsome front, its elegant steps and its European-style outdoor seating area.

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It is marvellously central, bang opposite the station and so inviting as to not so much tempt as drag customers through its doors by sheer force of style.

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Inside, the city’s former main post office does not disappoint. The ceiling soars, the bar looks divine, there is an instant impression of gleaming glass, solid wood, shiny chrome and quality table linen.

And noise. Restaurant Bar and Grill is loud. Its lofty structure amplifies every sound. On a warm Friday evening the joint was jumping, the bar was heaving and the noise meant conversations at the table were conducted at a constant and consistent shout.

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Which is fine, if that is the atmosphere you are seeking. You might be in the mood for a busy, buzzy, noisy night. But don’t book for a Friday night if you are not.

We had booked for 7pm, which is early-ish, and we came to regret it. The bar was packed, everyone was having a rip-roaring time.

On the sparsely populated restaurant side, we felt a bit like we were doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

It got better as time wore on: tables filled a bit, the candles began to glow as the room darkened, but there was a sense of competing with the bar throughout the whole evening.

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With hindsight, a seat outside would have been more pleasant, a meal outdoors as the sun went down - but it wasn’t offered as an option. Perhaps we should have asked.

Once at that indoor table, service was brisk, and impersonal. In a very short time, drinks orders were taken and fulfilled, menus were handed out and we were offered the bread and olives option. I don’t like that.

A restaurant customer deserves to be brought a bit of bread to chew on as they ruminate over the menu as a matter of course. Staff shouldn’t immediately have to try to upsell it to us with olives from the menu.

And that menu at Restaurant, Bar and Grill is long, with lots and lots of options and it’s quite difficult to navigate, so there is more of a canteen than restaurant feel to it. But any type of meal you might want is catered for.

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If you want a particularly special cut of steak or a piece of beef that has been dry aged for 28 or 35 days, then it is there; but equally so are the fish and chips with mushy peas, or the burger in a bun.

There are about a dozen starters on offer, ranging through various fish, meat or vegetable choices; from soup to Thai fishcakes to beef carpaccio or grilled asparagus.

Scallops Thermidor was a light starter. Three scallops were served in shells in a pool of buttery, lemony sauce and with a bit of wilted spinach. The sauce was good enough to make me pick up the shell to drink it down, but it wasn’t cheap at £10.95

Crispy duck salad with watercress, soy and sesame was a lovely mix. The sweet duck meat was mixed with beansprouts for contrast and crunch, and the nutty, glossy sesame oil added depth of flavour.

From the huge choice of mains I went for lamb navarine, which is usually a kind of lamb casserole. This version came with mashed potatoes, a few carrot batons and some pieces of young turnip which had been cooked separately from the meat.

The lamb was off the bone, meltingly soft and served in a thick, tomato-based sauce. It wasn’t quite as expected but it was good, simple and richly flavoured.

Pulled pork was the other main, served in a brioche bun with red cabbage, a little pail of “house cut chips” which turned out to be thinly cut chips, and a shot of barbecue sauce to pour over the top.

It was cheaper than my choice - £11.50 compared with £17 - and I wished it was my side of the table. The lamb was good, but the pulled pork with its sweet smoky sauce had the edge.

Our fourth waiter of the night came to offer dessert. Each of them had been efficient and polite, but they all had the preoccupied air of someone working a busy shift on a busy night so Restaurant Bar and Grill is not the place to go if you like to feel specially looked after.

The classic desserts of cheesecake, creme brulee, brownies and sticky toffee pudding are all on the menu and, in addition, there is a good selection of ice creams and sorbets for those who can resist the lure of the creamier, heavier puddings.

But who could resist a Knickerbocker Glory? We couldn’t. It turned out to be a more grown-up, sophisticated version of the retro seaside special - as sophisticated as a glass full of ice cream, sorbet and sauce ever can be. It was delicious with layers of creamy ice cream, refreshing sorbet and chocolate sauce.

A dish of chocolate and hazelnut truffles with coffee completed the indulgence before we stepped out into the night leaving the sound of Restaurant Bar and Grill behind.

Really, it depends on what you are looking for. If you want quiet, intimacy and a short seasonal menu, you won’t find it here.

But if a high energy, statement venue with a big choice of food and a bar that gives great opportunity for people watching is more for you, then this is the place you will find it. The bill, with two drinks, was £73.

FACTFILE

Address: The Old Post Office, 3 City Square, Leeds LS1 2AN

Hours: Mon-Fri: noon-11pm; Sat 9am-11pm; Sun 9am-10.30pm

Tel: 0113 244 9625

Website: www.individualrestaurants.com

Star Rating:

Food ***

Value ***

Atmosphere **

Service **

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