Chapel Allerton is not short of quality restaurants, but one thing it has arguably lacked has been modern British cuisine of a high standard.
New opening Black Market hopes to change perceptions of fine dining by providing a less formal and more welcoming experience than is often found in traditional high-end restaurants.
It’s located in Stratford House, a listed building on Stainbeck Lane that has had a chequered history. Several business ventures here have failed - most recently Buca di Pizza, which closed in the summer in an adjacent unit after a tenure of just a year. It’s a mystery why success has eluded previous tenants, as it’s a great central location and an attractive building - albeit awkwardly masked by a wall which somewhat obscures it from the road.
We were greeted by manager Justina and found a cosy, intimate dining area with a warm atmosphere and quirky decor. It was a Thursday evening and most tables were full, but the room had been carefully arranged and didn’t feel crowded or overly busy - more akin to a convivial supper club.
Black Market values creativity and self-expression in its chefs, and the main menu is limited to a small number of bespoke dishes that they can spend time and effort preparing to the highest standards. There’s also a small plates menu, with four options for £18. The menu changes regularly to incorporate seasonal produce.
Meat, fish and game are staples - gammon, monkfish, scallops and even woodpigeon breast were all on the menu. Myself and my companion ordered several dishes to share, including gammon with a fried quail’s egg, tenderstem broccoli, the monkfish, salmon fillets, green beans, mac and cheese and cheesy chips.
I had initially been apprehensive about fine dining, as I don’t have a sophisticated palate, but it was easy to appreciate the quality of the dishes. The cheesy chips were a quirky take on a more mainstream option, and overall the menu felt accessible and not intimidating for those with less gastronomic expertise.
The dessert choices also had some interesting twists, such as sheep’s milk ice cream and a death by chocolate with hazelnut twirls.
The wine list was extensive and there was also a good range of cocktails and alcohol-free mocktails, although we were abstaining on this occasion.
The service was a little slow but staff were friendly, attentive and clearly passionate about what the business is trying to do.
Justina then took us on a tour of the kitchen, where we met head chef John. The pair have worked hard to fit out the premises themselves - a steep learning curve, apparently - and source their ingredients locally, often shopping at Kirkgate Market.
They plan to make further alterations to the kitchen to allow John and his team to host cookery classes and demonstrations where guests would be able to watch the chefs and work and enjoy the theatre of the experience. Knowing how many foodies Chapel Allerton is home to, I can see the classes being hugely popular with those looking to improve their culinary prowess.
Justina doesn’t just want to be an evening establishment - Black Market is open for weekend brunch, serving classics such as pancakes and eggs benedict, and apparently does a mean Sunday roast.
As with most fine dining restaurants, portions are small, so it may not suit diners with gluttonous appetites.
Black Market is perhaps more of a ‘special occasion’ destination than an after-work casual dining option, but it is relaxed and welcoming, and I wish it the best of luck in one of Leeds’ most discerning suburbs. It’s niche enough to have customers coming from all over the city, but seems equally likely to cultivate a loyal local following as well.
Black Market, Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton