Leeds has many things going for it. From its amazing parks, shopping experience and people, it is a place we all as residents truly love and admire.
And now it is a happy duty for Oliver to report that Leeds now has an extra string to its bow in the shape of a genuinely first class Mediterranean restaurant Convive.
Open for only a few months the restaurant is the brainchild of Martin Pickles.
Mr Pickles is best known in the city for his decade-long ownership of the Flying Pizza restaurant in Roundhay.
After leaving the iconic Italian restaurant Mr Pickles ventured south where he ran the Garrick Club’s restaurants and private dining rooms for five years in Covent Garden, London.
However, always a true Yorkshireman, he wanted to return home. That’s when he decided to join forces with his long-standing friend Martin Hicks to open Convive at Weetwood Hall.
It is no exaggeration that this eatery, tucked away in the splendid grounds of the hall, is a masterclass in Italian cuisine and offers one of the best dining experiences this reviewer has enjoyed anywhere in the world.
Without hyperbole, the food it serves stands alongside anything one may consume in any fine Italian restaurant the world over.
Moreover the actual location is wonderful. It amazed me to discover that Convive has the capacity to seat 120 people. The reason for my astonishment is that the eatery has a uniquely intimate feel to it. You could almost be sitting in a tiny cafe with only room for a handful of patrons. Whether it was incredible foresight by the architects or simple good fortune is immaterial. The fact remains that Convive possess what all great restaurants strive for - namely the capacity to be a genuinely nice place to spend time.
A huge part of this appeal is that guests can enjoy their dining experience from an alfresco area under a retractable roof within the gardens. It is just next to this area that myself and dining companions take our seats.
Our first order gives a signpost as to what we can expect for the rest of the meal. An appetizer of a small plate of hand stretched garlic and rosemary bread is ordered to get the meal started.
A run of the mill choice it is, without question. However nothing was ordinary about the food itself with the bread baked to utter perfection. At this point we begin to get excited.
For the starter course we opt to share a trio of arancini, risotto which has been moulded into balls and then fried.
The trio consists of one made from Morcilla black pudding, one from a ragu and one from wild mushrooms.
Sublime does not do it justice. The chef who came up with these recipes is undeniably highly talented. It is while conversing with the hugely friendly waitress that I learn that Convice will eventually be twinned with Mediterranean restaurants across Europe, creating inspiration through innovative chef swaps and ingredient sourcing on quality food and drink.
She also tells me many ingredients used in the kitchens will be sourced from local Yorkshire farmers.
Delighted with what has come so far I opt next for a Ossobuco, which is a slow braised shin of veal served with a risotto cooked with bone marrow and saffron. My companion meanwhile selects an option from across the Adriatic sea with a Musaka. It is on this course that the wow factor really kicks into gear. My own course is an utter delight, with the bone marrow giving a powerful and earthy taste to the risotto. Veal is not something I eat very often but this course was among the best I have eaten anywhere.
The portion is slightly on the large side, but this is not bad thing as I find myself almost not wanting the course to finish, so tasty is the food. My dining partner is equally enamoured with her course, praising the flavour and texture of a dish that many chefs could just effectively dial in without too much thought.
We did not opt for wine during the meal but the selection is vast, with a number of Europe and the New World’s countries represented.
If there was to be any complaints one could argue the prices are on the high side but quality of this sort unquestionably justifies the price.
We both agree we will without a doubt be returning to dine here as soon as possible. I for one would like to sit under the glass roof at night time.
So take it from me; one of the area’s best Italian/Mediterranean restaurants is right here in a quiet Leeds suburb.
Address: Otley Road, Leeds, LS16 5PS
Telephone: 0113 3885700
Opening Times: Monday to Sunday - 10am to 11:30pm