Mad Frans Leeds: How the restaurant in the heart of the city's business district is bouncing back from the pandemic
When Mad Frans opened in 2019, it was heaving with office workers catching up over lunch or enjoying post-work tipples.
The Whitehall Road restaurant prides itself in serving high-quality British grub, served with perfectly-paired wines and cocktails.
But for a venue located in the heart of the city's business district, the last 18 months has been about survival - as offices emptied and footfall vanished almost overnight.
As restrictions ease and workers gradually return to the office, the restaurant is launching a tempting new A La Carte menu next weekend which they hope will fill seats once again.
“It's been difficult for everyone, but even more so for us," Mad Frans general manager Tom Riley told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"Luckily we were given a rent-free period by the owners of our building - and that saved us.
“When everything opened up, the Leeds City Centre venues were packed with people again. But because we don’t have all the office staff back, we're still finding it hard to get back to where we were."
Tom, who has worked in hospitality for almost two decades, has been at the helm of the restaurant since its launch.
He helped to design the restaurant from scratch with owner Ryan Fraser, from the layout and paint colours, to the menus, wine list and cocktails.
The 34-year-old added: “It was nerve-wracking, but I knew we had a formula that would work in the long run. It’s just taken time to build up and get our name out there.”
Tom remains positive that the business will bounce back, with demand rising for the restaurant's bottomless brunches and Sunday roast dinners.
He's created the new A La Carte menu with head chef Dan Brady, which is filled with British gastropub classics such as the Parma ham-wrapped monkfish served with a chorizo and scallop reduction, wilted spinach and sun-blushed tomato crushed potatoes.
Tom, of Morley, said: “We’ve brought in elements of fine-dining and gastropubs, as that’s the background both myself and Dan came from.
"It’s twists on British classics which are well-presented, using Yorkshire produce wherever we can. And they look great - there’s a ‘wow factor’ when the plates arrive at the table.”
Tom loves being a part of the thriving Leeds food scene, which he believes tops the offering of other major cities.
“It’s so versatile and broad, but everything is close together," he added.
"You can go from fine-dining British cuisine to a street food vendor, to a dirty takeaway and a curry in the space of one street. And even in the high-end places, there isn’t much pretension in Leeds. You never feel like you don’t fit in."
There's a no-frills approach to service at Mad Frans, creating a laidback atmosphere for diners to enjoy their high-quality grub.
Tom added: "It’s always difficult to try somewhere new and have that trust; it is expensive to dine out and people work hard for their money.
"But what we’re bringing with the new menu is value for money, we’re here to give you a good time - with some excellent wines and cocktails that pair with your food.
“Just give us a try, you’d be mad not to."