It was less Leeds, Leeds, Leeds and more New York, New York, when Oliver braved a chilly winter’s evening with two companions to Manahatta, on Merrion Street, for a catch up.
Stepping inside the restaurant and bar, which is owned by Arc Inspirations - the company behind The Pit and Arc, the anticipation of spending a relaxing evening in the Big Apple styled loft apartment, complete with bare brick walls, leather upholstered booths and splashes of neon, was momentarily paused.
Our greeter informed us that it didn’t have our booking, but, not to worry, a table was free and we were shown to a booth.
Given that I am not restricted in the leg department, it was still a bit of a feat to clamber up to the seat.
Giving a hand to one of my dining companions was the first of many laughs for the evening.
Spirits were raised further when we realised that a selection of cocktails were on a happy hour two-for-one deal.
And so, attentions were first turned to the cocktail menu. The three of us all plumped for a refreshing raspberry cooler, made with Ketel One Citroen vodka and Gifford triple sec along with grenadine, raspberry and soda (£7.50).
Once liquid refreshment was sorted, served by a waiter in a natty apron, our attentions turned to the food. The vegetarian in our group had plenty to choose from the menu.
Being a pescatarian, she opted for beetroot cured salmon with horseradish cream and a mini loaf (£7.95).
While the salmon and horseradish cream were wonderfully light, she said the mini loaf was disappointingly rock solid.
If you’re looking for a bite of the Big Apple, Manahatta offers laid back style and flavour along with great surroundings
My other dining companion chose the marinated three beet salad with goats cheese, pink grapefruit and watercress (£6.50), which she said was a great combination.
The sharpness of the grapefruit and the texture of the beetroot complemented the creamy goats cheese, kicking what could have been a fairly dull dish up a notch.
I selected the Yakitori beef skewers (£7.95) Japanese styled kebabs, which had tender beef coated in a fantastic sweet and salty sauce.
Given the stateside slant to the food and surroundings, you’d be forgiven to think we’d be leaning towards the burgers or steaks (except, of course, my non-meat eating friend), which included an 8oz New York strip (£19.95) and Limousin fillet steak (£27.50).
However, we all turned to the fish and seafood options. I decided on a king prawn and crab risotto, served with fresh coriander, red chillies and Italian cheese (£14.95).
The risotto was creamy and packed with flavour, although the plump prawns were just a smidgen overcooked for my liking. My vegetarian companion selected moules frites - fresh mussels served in a garlic and white wine cream sauce along with skin on fries (£11.95).
The mussels were pleasingly all open, the cream sauce was flavoursome and the fries crisp.
My other dining partner opted for sea bass, served with fragrant rice, pak choi, kale and Thai green cream (£15.95).
While the seabass was bordering on overcooked, she said it was better than most (unbattered) fish served by bars.
The combination of flavours was pleasingly spot-on for a Thai dish – the sauce wasn’t too heavy or overly spiced, while the fragrant rice and pak choi rounded the dish off well.
These were accompanied by another round of cocktails. Mine was a Rapscallion (£7.60) - a punch of Santa Tereso Gran Reserva, maple syrup, pineapple and passion fruit syrup, lime and Gosling’s Black Seal rum float.
This took my taste buds on a journey from sweet to tart to creamy.
The others in the party ordered a passion fruit caipirinha (£7.50) - a twist on the classic Brazilian tipple, and an Aperol spritz - the aperitif served with Prosecco, soda and a twist of orange (£7).
The service was friendly and attentive, although slightly disjointed as one of the meals with two plates were not served together, and there was a slight delay in one of the cocktail orders but, all in all, it didn’t impact on the night.
As we debated whether to order a dessert or not - all being nicely full by the ample portions - we noticed as the night progressed the music moved through the decades, from Motown and Disco through to sounds of the 90s and today - a subtle but interesting detail.
In the end we decided we just wanted a taste of something sweet to bring the dining to a close.
Luckily, despite the American delights of red velvet cheesecake (£6.50) and pecan pie with ice cream (£6.50), we all agreed on salted caramel chocolate torte with honeycomb ice cream.
The slight bitterness of the chocolate, the salty sweetness of the caramel and the creamy ice cream, with the crunch of honeycomb offering a contrasting texture to the smoothness of the torte, were a heavenly combination.
If you’re looking for a bite of the Big Apple, Manahatta offers a laid back and stylish flavour, along with great surroundings and good value for money.
Our party of three enjoyed starters, mains and a shared dessert, along with two cocktails each for £94.25 (the cocktail happy hour saved £22).
Sunday March 27 sees the return of the Merrion Street food festival. There will be a range of street food stalls from the bars on Merrion Street and a spacious outdoor seating area directly outside Manahatta, which will be serving £5 Festival Cup Cocktails and Sunday roast sandwiches.
Address: 11 Merrion Street, LS1 6PG
Tel: 0113 2456275
Opening times: Mon-Weds 5pm-11.30pm, Thurs noon-1am, Fri & Sat noon-3am Good Friday hours may differ), Sunday noon–11pm