Modern Italian diner makes most of post-industrial backdrop

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AS A relatively newcomer to Leeds, there are still whole new areas of the city which I have yet to properly explore.

I’m not alone. Even colleagues who have been here for their whole lives find parts of the metropolis that have changed beyond all recognition.

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Such is the vibrancy of the restaurant scene in this northern powerhouse that even stalwart Leodiensians can often discover new dining destinations in parts of the city they are otherwise relatively familiar with.

One such area is Brewery Wharf. I was last here 20 or 25 years ago when the potential was there for all to see. Now it has been transformed into a burgeoning after-work party quarter, not as frenetic or gaudy as the city centre and with its own bohemian style, a feeling which is only enhanced by its post-industrial backdrop

So when my wife and I and two other couples held a little reunion, Brewery Wharf was the place to go.

It was quieter than we expected for a Saturday afternoon/early evening. Perhaps, though, we had beaten the crowds.

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We wandered through the new shops, bars and restaurants on the Wharfe and into the Calls before choosing our dining spot: Ciao Bella at 22 Dock Street.

It’s a beautiful building of restored brick, metal and wood, looking both modern and historical.

It is also a friendly, spacious Italian restaurant with a neat menu, chatty staff and pleasant décor. Our party of six dined and drank well for £106.45.

Four of us had the two-course option (£11.50) and two went for the three-courses (£13.50).

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This early bird menu runs from noon to 7.30pm and comprises five starters and seven main courses.

Star of the starters was the homemade chicken liver pate with toast. It was beautifully presented with crisp and fresh salad. The soup – pasta and chicken – was delightful, too, and the bruschetta was good and, more importantly, plentiful.

The main course menu was decent too. The salami pizza went down well . It was packed with meat and very tasty, while the grilled salmon with lemon was served on a bed of salad. Also good. We added fried chips of zucchini – or courgette – which went down very well indeed.

Less well received was the penne boscaila. This sauce is made from slices of mushrooms simmered with garlic, white wine, onions, shallots, bacon rashers and black pepper. It sounded great but was sadly bland.

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Better was the pollo diavola, a tasty and highly-seasoned chicken in tomato sauce which the menu said would be served with rice. Instead it came with wonderful chunky chips.

Two other pizzas were on offer – margherita and funghi – and service was prompt and with came with lots of smiles.

The desserts were a little more limited: ice cream, tiramisu and dessert of the day, which turned out to be a chocolate torte. For an extra £2, they were the bargain of the day, which made up for the wine being £13.95 a bottle. I know this is not a lot by restaurants standards but it’s still a fortune compared to supermarkets.

We had a couple of bottles of wine between us – a soft, gentle Sangiovese Merlot (£13.95), with sublte notes of blueberry and (hiding away on the back of the palate) cherry. There was also a pleasingly fruity Castelbello dry white (also £13.95), which came with hints of citrus, peace and spice.

Add to that three liqueur coffees £5.10 each), which helped us round off the meal and bring to an end a very pleasurable night. In terms of value for money, it was spot on, especially considering we had a party of six.

The Oliver Awards will be taking place on March 12 at Elland Road Pavilion. This year marks the 10th year of the awards, a significant milestone in the Yorkshire Evening Post’s ongoing support of the dining industry in Leeds and beyond.

The awards have consistently identified restaurants which have gone on to achieve national recognition. One such restaurant is Tharavadu, which has won our Best Indian category for the last three years running and is now Michelin Recommended.

With the awards just weeks away, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have entered and also to wish those on the shortlist the best of luck for the night itself, which this year will be hosted by Look North news presenter Harry Gration.

A list of winners will be published in a special supplement in the YEP the Thursday after the awards. Don’t forget to buy your copy.

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