Gallery FortyOne continues to astound.
The Italian restaurant has made a real name for itself in recent years, not least because it has scooped three of the Yorkshire Evening Post’s coveted Oliver Awards since 2012, when it won Best Newcomer. It has also been voted Best Suburban restaurant twice, in 2013 and again this year, which is no mean feat.
Given its location, on the fringe of a small row of shops on Commercial Street (toward the end of Kirkstall Road and just round the corner from Kirkstall Retail Park), it’s somewhat out on a limb, so you’d expect it to suffer in terms of passing trade.
In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Word must have spread.
We pitched up on a Wednesday shortly after 6pm expecting to walk straight in and sit down at a table but were surprised the find the place absolutely heaving. So much so, in fact, that as we surveyed the room of diners, we wondered whether they’d be able to seat us at all.
“Of course we can,” came the curt response to our inquiry from the maitre’d, an efficient, dark haired woman whose English brimmed with brusque Italian confidence.
Moments later we found ourselves seated in the main restaurant, an eclectic mix of chic and retro, with stripped-back bleached wood and white tiles on the floor giving that laid-back Mediterranean feel and the walls sporting a sumptuous collection of bold art pieces, mirrors with thick, dark wooden frames and fairy lights draped over a feature fire place.
It’s always nice to walk into a restaurant and feel at once relaxed and given the place was already pretty full and there was a gentle hum of conversation, we did just that.
The menu here is easy to navigate, being presented on a large single card but there’s something to suit everyone, with a good range of starters from classic Italian antipasto for two at £7.95, bruschetta, pate, soup of the day and deep fried calamari as just a sample.
And it’s the same with the mains, with plenty of options to vary pasta, pizza (including a ‘build your own’ option) and risotto, together with a decent array of meat and fish dishes, not to mention some substantial sounding main course salad options and a good selection of sides, including the likes of golden fried zucchini (£3.50), rocket leaves & parmesan shavings (£3.10) and asparagus with lemon and extra virgin olive oil (£3.95).
There’s also a children’s menu option with spaghetti, pizza and chicken options, from an affordable £4.75 per dish.
Also worthy of mention is the early bird menu, available from 5pm-7pm every day (except Mondays, when they are closed), which offers two courses for £9.95 and three for £12.95.
We started by ordering sautéed mushrooms mixed in garlic with shallots, white wine and cream (£5.95), which was nice, although the garlic tasted a little burned; and white bait (from the specials board), a sizeable portion of crunchy fishy bite-sized treats, delicately cooked and served with a sour cream dip.
For our mains we ordered bolognese pizza and risotto pollo funghi (chicken, mixed mushrooms, cream, garlic and parmesan cheese), at £9.65.
Both dishes were good, the pizza having a light, thin base and the risotto done just right - it was real comfort food, packing lots of deep, rich flavours and one Oliver would heartily eat again.
Service was on the whole good, albeit for a slight glitch with the dessert order, which took some time to come owing to a delay in us firstly being given the menu and then our order taken.
We were conscious of the time and so asked whether it would be possible to take our desserts home. This wasn’t a problem and only a few minutes later two ample portions of chocolate fudge cake and vanilla cheese cake (£3.95 each) were duly delivered to our table in white take-away boxes and suffice to say both proved delicious once we got them home.
Together with drinks, our final bill rolled in at a very respectable £54.30, which was more than reasonable for the food we received and the service, which Oliver has to say was good, despite the slight delay - the maitre’d being quick to remedy the mistake and being both friendly and efficient throughout.
This is a great little restaurant with a smashing menu and food which feels authentic, hearty and well worth the money.
The atmosphere at Gallery FortyOne - which presumably takes its name from its address, that being 41 Commercial Street - is also to be commended.
Once inside the restaurant, you almost forget that just the other side of the glass is one of the busiest commuter routes in Leeds but that, in part, is part of its magic.
The two hours we spent there flew by - it would be easy to spend much longer here. The dining room was a mix of couples, families and larger parties. There’s a decent selection of wines, with a bottle of house white starting at £12.95 and ranging up to more expensive options, which even then won’t break the bank.
In short Gallery FortyOne has made itself part of the urban landscape in Kirkstall and for all the right reasons. Some hard work has gone into creating a relaxed, informal atmosphere in what is arguably a forgotten corner of Kirkstall and they have the quality of food and confidence of service to do it justice.
Judging by its popularity, next time we we’ll ring ahead just to make sure of a table.
Address: 41 Commercial Road, Leeds, LS5 3AW
Telephone: 0113 274 0041