Mixing up the ingredients to fine-dining in Leeds with a radical plan at Vice and Virtue

Squad goals: The line up at Vice is like a who's who of the city food scene.
Squad goals: The line up at Vice is like a who's who of the city food scene.
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They say if it is not broken, don’t fix it.

So when one of Leeds’ most decorated restauranteur and the most talked about chef in the city right now joined forces - they decided to rip up the rule book somewhat.

The cocktails have been re-created too.

The cocktails have been re-created too.

Vice and Virtue, the brainchild of Luke Downing, picked up best fine dining restaurant of the year at The Food Awards England on Monday. Earlier this year it took the same accolade at the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Oliver Awards and a few more in between.

However, Downing and Jonathan Hawthorne, who brought cheeseburger spring rolls and ice-cream cones piled with pretzels and bacon to a £60 a head tasting menu, along with Laura MacLeod (Downing’s partner and herself a chef) have temporarily closed Vice and taken on a side street Indian restaurant.

But what they will be bringing to the city’s food and drink scene, is still fine dining - just not as you might expect it.

Downing said: “Fine-dining is changing, it is not like it was before. When I started there was only really Man Behind The Curtain and I wanted to push myself further. We led the way in that field and a lot have come on the scene now. If you want to be elite you have to change - and not in two years when everyone else is doing it.”

Simple, not fancy - effective.

Simple, not fancy - effective.

Downing says he wants to make good food (yes it will be expensive but worth it) for it to be more accessible, without the stuffy air and also to reduce the pressure on his kitchen staff.

So Vice, on New Briggate, will do fine dining tasting menus on the top floor (with Japanese and American influences as well as just British) and has had a decor makeover.

The middle floor, which was the bar where guests waited before their Vice table was ready, will be The Cocktail Lounge. It will be open just for drinks and with bar snacks.

And the former Indian takeaway will see the return of Dough. It was a bistro which Downing opened in West Park some years ago.

Clare Morrow is joining Vice from The Domino Club.

Clare Morrow is joining Vice from The Domino Club.

It will be like a modern pub, open late so people who work in the hospitality industry also have somewhere to eat, drink and socialise after work.

Food will not be dissimilar to Feed (the trio’s hipster venture which has taken Pudsey of all places by storm) so think things like steak and a signature dessert is in the making of a folded crepe with creme brulee and toffee popcorn.

It will do Sunday lunch and on Monday nights there will be kitchen takeovers where upcoming, independent chefs can do their thing.

He has roped in a few familiar faces too to take him and Vice, which will re-open next month, on its journey.

Clare Morrow, previously of the Domino Club; Simon Tate the former general manager of Shear’s Yard and Pete Hays who has worked at The Hedonist and Dakota.

Downing said: “These are huge personalities to come on board. I have almost handpicked the people that I wanted to get involved.

“It will be something the city has not had before and the only thing I can think of is Feed.

“Jono and I put our personalities and attitudes into a place, not bothered about what people think. That is what the public want.

“It is really important as a restauranteur and a chef to remain wholeheartedly into what you are doing, if you lose any of that reinvent so the passion is still alive.”