NO-ONE likes being the new kid at school.
They’re automatically the underdog, stepping into a world where friendships and cliques have already been formed and the pecking order firmly established.
It’s a daunting experience but one that Shears Yard has willingly thrown itself into.
Opened two weeks ago by the people behind the Arts Cafe on nearby Call Lane, the new restaurant has set up shop amongst some of the most popular names in Leeds’s dining scene.
Taking over the site of the much-loved Livebait restaurant on Wharf Street, Shears Yard is already in with the cool kids, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Brasserie 44 and impressive tapas restaurant Ambiente.
It’s a brave start, and with a sense of excitement and intrigue, my dining partner and I are keen to see if it’s paid off.
Walking through the huge glass doors and down some steps, we’re met by a small, cosy bar area where a few people are enjoying a quiet drink.
The low ceiling and candle-lit, wooden table gives an intimate feel.
We’re ushered to our table and are impressed to find it opens out into a more grandiose dining area with red brick walls and around a dozen lightbulbs hanging above our heads from the high ceiling above.
The decor is modern and understated and we soon realise its simplicity is to ensure the food takes centre stage.
We eagerly look through the menu – a rustic-looking piece of paper attached to a wooden clipboard.
It’s succinct, with just six dishes to choose from for each course.
Nonetheless, we both struggle to come to a decision.
Every single dish is innovative and exciting and despite the fairly small selection, we’re spoiled for choice.
After working up an appetite with some complimentary bread and tapenade butter, I opt for a pressed terrine of poached chicken, chorizo crisps, black garlic, pickled red peppers and manchego sable biscuits for £6.50.
My dining partner goes for venison liver parfait, ciabatta croutes, smoked venison and dandelion salad and apple gel for £5.95.
My dish, which is served cold, looks even more tempting on the plate than it did on the menu.
If I wasn’t so eager to eat it, I could have been convinced it was a work of art.
Each component was beautifully presented and more importantly, the flavours worked incredibly well together.
The same can be said for the venison liver parfait, which has such a surprisingly strong flavour yet a light, smooth texture.
The only downside is that my dining partner has to ask for more bread to smear the parfait over but it wasn’t any trouble for our attentive waiter.
After getting off to such an incredible start, we are both excited to see what’s in store for the main courses.
I choose the plaice fillet cooked in seaweed butter with tempura oysters, cucumber, new potato and caviar crème fraiche for £15.50.
This is yet another artistic triumph. The two fillets are rolled up into neat little packages and drizzled in the seaweed butter.
It’s perfectly cooked but the highlight is the tempura oyster, with its light batter and delicate flavours working so well with its counterpart.
The cucumber adds the crunch that the dish needs and the new potato is a refreshing accompaniment.
I also order a side of cauliflower cheese which is tasty yet a little watery.
Meanwhile, my dining partner is chuffed with his choice of fillet of beef, bone marrow and oxtail croquettes, slow cooked shallots, oxtail jus and watercress emulsion.
It’s the most expensive main on the menu, priced at £21.45, but it’s clear my dining partner would have paid more, making the bold statement that it’s the “best dish” he’s ever eaten.
The beef is cooked to perfection and the jus deliciously rich but the more unusual item – the bone marrow and oxtail croquettes – is the star of the show.
Unlike anything we’ve ever tried before, it was an inventive and welcome addition to the plate.
It’s clear that those toiling in the kitchen at Shears Yard knows exactly what they’re doing and it’s a delight to be dining there.
For dessert, I order a grapefruit posset, served with pistachio coral, fresh grapefruit slices, sherbet and mint ice cream which costs £5.95.
It’s served in a short glass, which lacks a tiny bit of finesse, and the ice cream was slightly disappointing as it lacked flavour.
But this is forgivable after the spectacular meal we’ve just had and it was going to be hard to top the other incredible courses. The posset is still light and refreshing and the different textures make it an interesting dessert.
My dining partner chooses the dark chocolate and blackberry tart, banana choc ice and blackberry gel, priced at £6.50.
The thin, rectangular slice is rich and sweet and I can’t resist but steal a spoonful or two.
With a bottle of rose and a side of chips, the bill comes to just over £85.
It’s a small price to pay for what is one of the best meals we’ve had in Leeds for years, we both agree.
It’s incredible that despite being open for just a matter of weeks, Shears Yard has got everything so right – even its somewhat daunting location.
Leeds’s top eateries are going to have to watch out, because there’s a new kid in town and Shears Yard is sure to be the leader of the pack.
Address: Shears Yard, 11-15 Wharf Street, LS2 7EH.
Tel: 0113 244 4144.