There are three things that immediately make Crafthouse slightly special.
The first is the unusual entrance. The glass lift on Boar Lane transports you up to the restaurant on level five of Trinity Leeds shopping centre. It’s an exciting way to begin an evening out, although slightly unnerving for those of us with vertigo, as your feet are whisked away from the street below.
The second is the atmosphere. Leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the city centre, you enter an oasis of calm as soon as you step out of the lift and into the dimly-lit entrance.
We were greeted on arrival and coats taken before we entered the dining area. It’s a sleek, industrial-look restaurant serving a British menu and was busier than I expected at 8pm on a Tuesday (Hallowe’en) evening, but all the diners were strategically placed so everyone had their own space and it immediately felt very relaxing. We were seated next to a window overlooking the city’s rooftops.
The third thing that stands out is service. Once shown to our table and handed the menus, our waitress was back very shortly to take our drinks order. The slick service was appreciated. Having just taken our children trick or treating and with the prospect of a 4am wake-up call from one of them, plus work the next morning, we weren’t in the mood to hang around. Staff were eager to please so I’m sure those keen for a more drawn evening would be able to enjoy more leisurely service. And even though we wanted to be relatively quick, we didn’t feel rushed.
I chose a cocktail to start - a Granny’s Greenhouse Sprtiz (£8.50) – a refreshing mix of raspberry and blackberry liqueurs paired with prosecco and elderflower tonic, while my other half opted for a glass of 2011 Spanish Rioja (£8).
The drinks arrived swiftly and then the waitress was back to take our food order. Some of the descriptions on the menu were a bit of a mystery and she asked if there was anything we needed explaining. I chose the wild mushroom veloute with olive oil caviar and autumn forage (£7.50), after I confirmed it was soup. My other half opted for the haggis with sweetbread, langoustine and green peppercorn (£12).
While we were waiting, we were offered a warm bread roll which was baked to perfection, its crusty exterior giving way to the softness inside.
The arrival of the veloute was a theatrical affair with the waitress constructing it at the table by pouring the soup on top of the other ingredients in the bowl. It looked quite small in the middle of its huge dish but it was absolutely divine. The silky smooth texture of the soup contrasted with the crunchiness of the other ingredients. It was wonderfully rich and probably a good idea that there wasn’t too much of it.
The haggis was three small balls with a poached egg in the middle and a foam sauce. The light sauce provided a welcoming contrast to the deep fried haggis and complemented it perfectly.
For the main course, I had my heart set on the butter poached native lobster (£30 for £500g) but I was too late as the waitress informed me that she had just sold the last one. When I couldn’t decide between the salmon and halibut, she asked if I would like a recommendation and suggested the halibut. I followed the recommendation and was glad I did. The Atlantic halibut (£17) came with a truffle puff, leek and wild mushroom. It was beautifully light and delicious.
My other half chose the venison Wellington with hay smoked celeriac, faggot and ale onion (£24). Although he thought the pastry was a bit soft, the meat was melt-in-the-mouth pink and cooked to perfection. It was perfectly complemented by its accompanying sauce.
We both struggled to choose desserts as they all sounded delicious. We were tempted by the Crafthouse dessert selection for two (£18.50) but in the end we both opted for the sticky toffee pudding souffle with crème fraiche ice cream and hot toffee sauce (£9.50). Boy, we were glad we did. I’m sure all of the desserts are delicious but the beautifully light souffle combined with the ice cream and rich hot toffee sauce was a taste sensation.
I had a fresh mint tea to finish and we ended the meal comfortably full.
The whole bill, including a 10 per cent discretionary service charge, came to £109.18.
Crafthouse arrived in Leeds in 2013 and has won a string of awards for its consistent quality. It’s not a cheap option for a belt andbraces three-course dinner but it ticks all the boxes for an occasional treat or to celebrate a special occasion and we’ll definitely be returning.
The YEP Oliver Awards are now open, with 16 categories to choose from. We want you to recommend your favourite restaurant. You can enter here: www.oliverawards.co.uk
FACTFILE - CRAFTHOUSE, LEEDS
Address: 70 Boar Lane, Leeds LS1 6HW
Telephone: 0113 897 0444
Opening hours: Monday 5pm–10pm, Tuesday-Saturday noon–3pm, 5–10pm, Sunday noon-10pm