Restaurant Review: The Deer Park, Roundhay, Leeds

In its previous incarnation The Deer Park was a fairly traditional neighbourhood boozer.

The daytime saw its fair share of regulars, while the weekends were busier thanks to an influx of locals who seemed to use it as a stopping off point before heading elsewhere.

The food was never going to win any awards but it was decent enough and affordable, while the drinks were always competitively priced, making it one of the cheapest places to drink in the area.

Last autumn, however, the pub underwent a major transformation which saw it rebranded as much more of a destination bar and restaurant.

While many will have mourned the old Deer Park's passing, it's not hard to see why the decision was taken to go a bit more upmarket.

The Ferraris, Porsches and other assorted supercars that are frequently parked outside the Flying Pizza down the road attest to the fact that there is some serious moolah floating about in Roundhay.

Clearly these are the sort of customers the new Deer Park is looking to bring in - and that's borne out by the updated decor. In the wrong hands this could all have gone very Footballers' Wives, but here they've managed to create a swanky, expensive feel without getting too blingy about it.

The muted tones of cream, white and grey set a crisp, classy tone, while the stripped floorboards and well-balanced lighting create a sense of warmth and intimacy.

Antlers dotted around the walls and pelts hung over some of the chairs are a natty nod to the area's heritage (Roundhay Park started life as a medieval hunting ground) and a perfect fit for an overall look that could have come straight from the pages of an interior design magazine.

It's also clear that while the old Deer Park was somewhere you went for a drink and possibly grabbed some food, with the new model it's the other way round.

Having phoned up earlier in the day to make a reservation, we arrived a couple of minutes early and were greeted at the bar, only to be told our table had for some reason been booked for a much later time slot.

Fortunately, the fact it was midweek meant there was a table available, though it wasn't the best of starts to a service that would be friendly and speedy enough but littered with little mistakes and annoyances throughout.

No offer was made to take our coats - unlike a party arriving later, which seemed a little odd. Perhaps they only use the cloakroom after 8.30pm?

We were welcomed by our waitress, who took our drink order as we browsed the impressive-sounding menu.

The emphasis of head chef Myles King is clearly on meat and fish, with plenty for lovers of both to go at. The presence of dishes such as Scottish Highland venison steak, with poached pears, root vegetable dauphinoise and pancetta (17.95) and duck confit with szechuan roasted pineapple, sweet potato and pak choi with pomegranate molasses (14.95) are a good guide to the sophisticated British-with-a-twist theme.

The specials list changes daily and has plenty of fresh fish on it, but it's noticeable that vegetarians who don't eat fish are poorly catered for. The only suitable main we could find for them was the mushroom risotto with mascarpone and truffle oil (10.95).

Fortunately my dining partner was a veggie who does eat fish, so she plumped for the stuffed mushroom, goats cheese, baby spinach and panagrattato (4.95) to start, followed by the pan-fried cod fillet with Piedmont peppers and buttered spinach (13.95) from the specials menu.

Having flirted with the delicious-sounding linguini with tiger prawns, crab, chorizo, chilli, tomato and white wine (11.95 for a large portion, 7.95 for small), not to mention the roast lamb rack with mini shepherds pie and cumin tossed carrots (15.95) I eventually opted for neither.

I went instead for the smoked salmon, bubble and squeak and hollandaise sauce (6.95), followed by the ribeye steak, rocket, fresh horseradish and frites (16.55), with a peppercorn sauce for a pound extra.

We asked if we could order some rustic breads, roast garlic and extra virgin olive oil (3.95) to tide us over until our starters arrived and, after a surprising bit of umming and ahhing, our waitress said she could manage it.

Very nice they were too – hunks of seeded, brown and white breads with a gorgeously gooey bulb of garlic to spread over them, along with juicy kalamata olives and an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip.

The starters just about kept to that high standard. My salmon was fresh and smokey, working well with the creamy hollandaise. The bed of bubble and squeak was a nice idea but a little too starchy and squelchy, plus it could have done with a bit more seasoning.

My partner's mushrooms were flavoursome and juicy, with a nice hit from the goats cheese and good crunch from the breadcrumbs, or panagrattato if you're being posh.

When the mains arrived my steak, ordered medium, had a nice pink hue when I cut into it and was a very tasty and tender cut of beef, packed with good strong flavours courtesy of the chargrill.

The deliciously spiky peppercorn sauce was clearly rustled up in the kitchen rather than the packet jobs you get elsewhere and the pot of creamy fresh horseradish offered a pleasant contrast.

My only grumble was with the frites. Thicker than the French variety, they looked golden and crispy on the outside but instead of being fluffy on the inside turned out to be undercooked, which was a big disappointment for a chip-lover like myself.

My partner's cod, on the other hand, was cooked to perfection and melted in the mouth, served on a generous bed of buttery steamed spinach. The roasted pepper added another welcome flash of flavour.

Again, there was a minor irritation when the waitress forgot our side order of cabbage, leeks and peas (2.50). A quick reminder and they appeared a few minutes later.

We just about had enough room for dessert, and were pleased we did. My warm brownie (5.75) came with chocolate ice cream rather than the vanilla as advertised on the menu but was moist and not too sweet, the addition of a few raspberries providing a fresh and fruity burst of flavour that complemented the chocolate perfectly.

My partner's spiced apple and caramel crumble with vanilla custard (4.95) had distinctive notes of cinnamon and was a perfect winter warmer.

All in all, this was simple food done well and the bill of 70 before adding a tip felt about right in terms of value.

There was one more blunder to come, however, as we discovered a glass of wine we hadn't ordered had been added to our bill. This was taken off quickly enough when we pointed it out but there was no apology.

Perhaps the errors were down to a shortage of staff. We counted two waiting staff, a sommelier and a chap behind the bar, which didn't seem enough for a busy restaurant and bustling bar.

It was a shame, because those irritating lapses stole some of the limelight from what was otherwise a very enjoyable dining experience.

FACTFILE

The Deer Park, Street Lane, Roundhay, Leeds, LS8 2DQ

Tel: 0113 246 3211

Opening hours

Parking available on site

Disabled access is good

STAR RATING

FOOD....................... ****

VALUE........................ ***

ATMOSPHERE....... ****

SERVICE ....................... **

***** EXCELLENT **** VERY GOOD *** GOOD ** AVERAGE * POOR

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