We all have our favourite restaurants, our go to places, our cosy little retreats, places which, when you walk in, it feels almost like home.
Well, Gallery FortyOne in Kirkstall ticks all those boxes for me. Situated on the main drag out of Leeds, just opposite the huge set of traffic lights close to Morrisons, it’s almost a landmark in its own right, because apart from a short row of shops opposite, comprising a carpet shop and pizza takeaway, it’s the only thing there. And while it may be located on the automotive river-in-perpetual-flood that is the A65, there’s parking round the back and if that fails, plenty of nearby side roads. For me, however, it’s one restaurant which is close enough to walk to (which makes a welcome change) and so, on a balmy Wednesday, I did just that.
I imagine that in the not too distant future, when we’re all driving round in noiseless, pollutionless electric cars, the walk there will be even more pleasant. It was nice enough, though. There’s something quite relaxing about sauntering down to your local restaurant. All that’s missing for me at this point is a winding country lane hemmed in by 12ft high hedgerows, leading from my house to the restaurant.
But enough about the journey there. Gallery FortyOne is a previous winner of our Best Suburban award (2013/15) but it’s a tough world out there, the Leeds dining scene has evolved significantly in the last few years, so does Gallery FortyOne still have what it takes?
The good news is the welcome is still as warm and friendly and as relaxed as ever. It’s often hard to find the gap between being over-polite and informal but the waitress who greeted us exuded an effortless charm.
We pitched up shortly after opening times and so there were only a few other people in but having driven past it literally dozens of times, I can testify that it normally looks quite busy. In fact, if you ever do have the misfortune to be inching your way along the A65, Gallery FortyOne, with its glass extension giving off a warm glow, can look rather inviting.
The interior is a blend of subdued browns and ochre, a marble-effect tiled floor, with sturdy wooden chairs and glass-topped tables. On the walls, you’ll find numerous oversized paintings and Venetian blinds softening the view from the A65. It’s nicely done out, very clean, with everything just so. As it should be.
Drinks orders were taken promptly - large Peroni (£6.10) and two Diet Cokes (£1.95) - and bread, oil and balsamic was brought (even though it didn’t end up on the bill). Getting down early has its advantages, in that we could take advantage of the early bird menu, which offers two courses for £12.95 or three courses for £15.95, Tuesday-Thursday 5pm-7pm. So, that’s what we went for.
That said, I was almost tempted to go off piste by the main menu, which taunts you with deep fried French brie served with fruit of the forest sauce (£4.95), lamb shank (£12.95) and grilled sea bass (£14.95). As another aside (and another feather in its cap as far as I’m concerned), there’s also a dedicated children’s menu, which although it only extends to four dishes (pizza, spag bog, grilled chicken/chicken scallop) offers dishes costing £4.95. They say it’s the small things that matter and the very fact they’ve thought about this is a feather in their cap (and being a dad of two, a box-ticker for me).
But my diminutive dining guests and I decided to stick to the early bird, ordering bruschetta, heaped high with ripe-as-you-like tomatoes, onion and basil, with a nice hit of garlic underneath. I ordered duck pate, which came on thick toast, a slice of orange on top. The pate was good, I ate the lot but could have been a touch richer. Mains were cheese pizza and grilled salmon, served on a bed of salad, with a wedge of lemon and two wilted asparagus stems on top. The fish was done to perfection.
Desserts came in the form of hot chocolate fudge cake and a cafe mascarpone, a scoop of which came topped with honey - simple but decadent. All told, the final bill was £67.80, which is great value.
The YEP’s Oliver Awards launch today, marking our 11th year of honouring those in the local dining industry. There are some big changes in store this year, not least the fact we have decided to extend the awards by creating a new ‘Best Brewery’ category, to reflect the growth in microbrewing. Over and above that, we are proud to reveal a new panel of expert judges, who will be using their industry knowledge to help us find worthy recipients.
In the meantime, please nominate your favourite restaurant at our website: www.oliverawards.co.uk
GALLERY FORTYONE, KIRKSTALL
Address: 41 Commercial Road, Leeds, LS5 3AW
Opening hours: Mon (closed), Tues-Sat 5pm-10pm, Sun 12.30pm-9pm
Telephone: 0113 274 0041