Review: The Old Steps, Leeds

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Like a little Paris, this snug basement bar and bistro has a charming atmosphere.

Strolling through the door on a rainy afternoon, the accordion and brass music of songs sung in French is delightfully uplifting.

The cheery ambiance was pleasingly reflected in the warm welcome from the chef and the lady tending to the small bar at the far end of the venue’s single room. Six tables with black leather backed seats are arranged neatly along its length.

The black tile effect flooring, red walls and white ceiling give the place a cosy feel and the daylight shining through the street level window next to the entrance prevents it from feeling claustrophobic.

The chef, donned in official chef whites, bobbed across to my table within a few moments of me selecting a seat and helpfully pointed out the specials board on a black board next to the bar. The board listed the sort of cuisine you’d expect from a French themed eatery: goat’s cheese salad, ribeye steak and seafood bruschetta among them; each dish typically under a tenner.

I elected to pick from the ‘Plats du Jour’ menu on the table. There was plenty to choose from, about a dozen dishes, and while The Steps burger – a house speciality with beef, chorizo, bacon and jalapenos – sounded tempting, I didn’t think my appetite was quite up to its billing – it was described as being one for those who were particularly hungry and it could be doubled up for an extra £1.50.

The dish I settled on was the prawn crostini, priced at a very reasonable £6.95.

I got up to order at the bar and asked for a latte as there was a chalk board listing a short coffee selection, only to be informed that unfortunately the coffee machine was temporarily out of order. I was offered an instant coffee as an alternative and settled for this. Happily, the chef insisted that I wouldn’t be charged for the drink, which seemed fair.

As I sat and waited for my food, for maybe five minutes, I could see the chef working away in the small kitchen which is separated from the main room by a wooden shutter.

The food was delicious and the portion very generous.

The crostini consisted of meaty marinated prawns with sweet chili, spices, mayo and lemon juice, served on top of garlic toast, mixed salad (beetroot, lettuce, tomato) and smoked salmon.

The sweet chili left a satisfying tingle after each mouthful but it was not so hot as to set the nose running. It was filling and so great value for the price.

For those looking to wash a bite down with a drink, the taps offered a decent range of ale, including Leeds Pale and Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best.

FACTFILE

Address: York Place, Leeds.

Rating: ****

Ching-He Huang

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