I was pointed in the right direction, down a discreet corridor which ends in a stairwell, above which hangs a ‘ceiling sculpture’ comprising 18,000 pieces of wood, each hanging on its own thread. It’s jaw-dropping.
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel like Leeds. It’s got a touch of Manhattan about it with its elegant, refined, yet minimalistic swagger. You could plonk Robert de Niro in the corner and he wouldn’t look at all out of place.
Push through the door and you’re met by a smartly dressed person, who asks you how you are and then escorts you to a table. I’ve not booked and it’s only just after noon but already there are a few other tables taken.
Pink blossom trees sprout between nests of tables, behind which looms a black-topped bar, above which hangs a decorative wooden surround, all aglow in soft orange. You eye is drawn immediately to the windows and the expansive views of the city beyond - old stone and brick collide with the sheen of glass and the earthy robustness of corten steel.
I hear the bonsai trees here had to be sourced from a ‘special producer’ and could be older than most of the customers. Head toward the back of the restaurant and there’s an open-plan kitchen so you can see the chefs in action. Along with Tattu, Issho has the accolade of being Leeds’s most instagrammed (yes, that is a word) restaurant.
The kitchen also has a special robata grill, where chefs cook the skewers and robatayaki dishes – it’s a traditional Japanese method similar to barbecueing where food is slow-grilled over charcoal to enhance the flavour. At the far end of the restaurant there’s a sushi counter and just past that is a private dining area that can be hired out.
And I’ve not even mentioned food yet. Seeing as I was alone and on my lunch hour, I ordered from the Express Bar Lunch Menu (Mon-Fri, noon-3pm).
There are various options, ranging from £9 up to the £20 Bento Box, which I choose. It comes with a free drink - a bottle of Kirin Ochiban, a 4.6 per cent lager, crisp with a hint of maltiness. In the box comes edamame (I ate the lot), karaage (deep fried chicken and the best thing in the box), maki roll sushi, sashimi (so so, best with the ginger), spicy tofu bao and yakitori (chicken skewers with burned leak - divine).
But you will be so consumed with the view and wondering whether Robert de Niro might be here, you won’t even care about the food.
Issho, Victoria Gate