Kendells Bistro review: French restaurant’s 'dauphinoise disaster' still doesn’t spoil a decent meal

Goats Cheese TartGoats Cheese Tart
Goats Cheese Tart
Sometimes when a restaurant wins lots of awards it stops trying to impress.

They reckon they’ve made their mark and expect to attract diners on their reputation alone and bask in past glories. Not so Kendells Bistro which is owned and managed by husband and wife team Sharon and Steve Kendell.

Sharon gave up a highly successful career as a theatrical costumier and make up artist to join chef Steve in the business and turn 20 covers into 200. It’s a winning team, they continue to attract positive reviews, one of the most recent was a place in the top 50 most romantic restaurants in the UK and they regularly feature in this newspaper’s Oliver awards.

Classic onion soupClassic onion soup
Classic onion soup

What was the service like?

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Our experience from booking the table to paying the bill was a delight with everything possible done to make our evening special.

We were asked if we were heading to the theatre after our meal, presumably to make sure we didn’t miss curtain up, also if we were celebrating a special occasion but with no clue given as to what would happen if we were. We answered in the negative on both counts.

What’s the atmosphere like?Kendells is tucked away down an unprepossessing street on St Peter’s Square opposite the Leeds College of Music and close to the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Black puddingBlack pudding
Black pudding

Once inside you could be in a bistro in any French town or village. Fairy lights twinkle on every pillar and candles flicker in wine bottles, dripping wax onto the tables. The tables are nicely dressed with real napkins and the mismatched furniture gives the restaurant an informal and welcoming ambience. Art deco paintings and posters grace the walls and it’s cosy and warm.

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There’s an enormous blackboard at the back of the room with all the a la carte and specials detailed. Our waitress offered to take a photograph on her phone to save us standing up and looking at it but we went for the easy option and chose our selection from the prix fix menu instead.

The foodComplimentary bread and water were brought to the table and cocktails ordered.

Starters were Tarte du Chevre et betterave (goats cheese tart with roast beetroot) and an herb crumb and Gratin Lyonnais (classic French onion soup). The pastry on the tart was light and cooked to perfection, the beetroot complementing the goats cheese and making for a great combination.

Interior at Kendells Bistro LeedsInterior at Kendells Bistro Leeds
Interior at Kendells Bistro Leeds

The soup was a meal in itself, a great big bowlful, thick and tasty with a wedge of toasted bread topped with melted Gruyere cheese.

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Mains were Confit de Canard (slow cooked duck leg) with cabbage, bacon and a side order of dauphinoise potatoes and Jarret de Jambon (ham hock) with boulangere potatoes and a rosemary broth.

The duck was beautifully cooked and not too dry with the cabbage and bacon a nice accompaniment. It was proclaimed as good, if not better than that eaten at Marche Nocturne in France. Not so the dauphinoise which were swimming in oil. We left them. Our waitress was told and within minutes the manger arrived, apologised charmingly and took the cost off the offending item from the bill.Our complaint was handled with tact and courtesy which is all you can ask for.

There were no complaints over the ham hock, a great slab of meat that fell off the bone, beautifully cooked and delicately flavoured, the boulangere potatoes working in harmony with the meat.

Inside Kendells Bistro, LeedsInside Kendells Bistro, Leeds
Inside Kendells Bistro, Leeds

Room for dessert?To finish we had Tarte Amandine au Poire (pear almond frangipane tart) and rhubarb tart - both, generous -sized portions just the right side of sweet and a great way to end what had been, in the main part, a superlative meal. Even the house red impressed.

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The billKendells is particularly good value if you dine early evening between 5.30-7.45pm (6.45 Friday and Saturday), as we did. The prix fixe includes two courses for £22.95, three for £24.95 and for an extra £6 they’ll even throw in a half bottle of wine.

The factsAddress: Kendells Bistro, St Peter’s Square, Leeds, LS9 8AHOpening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 5.30pm till lateTelephone: 0113 2436553Website: [email protected] scoresFood: 8/10Value: 8/10Atmosphere: 9/10Service: 10/10