The food and drink scene in Leeds is booming, with new restaurants opening seemingly every week.
With chains and brands coming from London, celebrity restaurants opening up from the canal to the arena and enough bottomless brunches to fell even the most hardened fizz fan... we are spoilt for choice.
But casting aside the neon lights of your average city centre night out and the promises of 2-4-1 cocktails and endless tapas, I and two companions opted to go to a part of town I admit I am not as familiar with.
The chosen destination was Kendells Bistro, a restaurant whose reputation goes before it. Indeed, I heard of long before making the move to the city from the countryside.
The Quarry Hill setting for this cosy little bistro could not be more of a contradiction.
Tucked away up a side street, just off the inner ring road, with the imposing presence of the relatively new Victoriagate shopping centre baring down upon it, you will find a rare and wonderful thing, an independent bistro full of olde worlde charm and rustic elegance.
It might be winter outside but inside there’s the soft glow of candlelight and a genuinely warm welcome.
Considering the love head chef and owner Steve Kendell has for Parisien bistros, we might very well have been in a charming little eaterie on the backstreets of Paris. Such is the contrast between that and what is going on outside.
Even for mid-week it was comfortable busy, making for a relaxed atmosphere. An extensive a-la-carte menu is chalked on blackboards hung on the walls (usually a sure fire sign it changes with the season and the ingredients).
Indeed, their website says as much: ‘At Kendells our menu changes daily depending on fresh seasonal ingredients. This is why there’s no printed menus, all our dishes are on the blackboard. If you can’t read the blackboard binoculars are available!’ How quaint.
On offer are things like Canard au Cassis (duck breast, shredded duck pastille and blackcurrant sauce), Foie de Veau (calves liver, bacon, fried shallots, sage and mash), escargot bourguinon (Burgandy snails, garlic butter and puff pastry) or Gratin Lyonnaise (French onion soup, cheese, croutons).
We chose from the tea-time menu, opting for Salade Frisee, a starter of smoked bacon with poached egg, croutons and lettuce, Boudin Noir - black pudding, apple puree and onion confit and Parfait de Canard, a smooth pate with cointreau liquor.
The Salade Frisee was light and just right to whet the appetite while the black pudding was warm, delicate and a far cry from what you would expect to be slapped on a fried breakfast. Even I was converted to that one, while the pate was intense and rich.
For main course, or plats principaux, as they say in France (and Kendells) the three of us chose Supreme De Volaille (roast chicken breast with mixed greens, cream, dauphinoise and tarragon, £15.90), Jarret de Jambon (ham hock in a white bean broth with mash) and Boeuf (braised beef cheek, mash and onion gravy).
The ham was so tender it fell off the bone and was not over-seasoned, as is sometimes the case. The mash, meanwhile, was perfect: creamy, and light. The beef and chicken dishes also passed muster, both were tender and light. Which brings us neatly on to desserts, which were the opposite of light but in a good way.
The strawberry Gateau au Fromage and Tarte Amandine, a pear and almond frangipane tart, certainly did not come out of a freezer and the portions were the kind your grandmother might cut. It was a proper pudding in every sense of the word and just right to round off what was a superb meal.
Price-wise, they offer two courses for £19.95 or three for £21.95 or £28.95 if you throw in half a bottle of wine. In total, with a couple of coffees at the end, our bill came to just over£80. For three people, that’s not at all bad, especially considering the quality of the food, the wonderful atmosphere and the consummate service.
Speaking of which, the staff were spot on: efficient, attentive but not overwhelming. In summary, thought, what I really loved about this place was that delivers good, wholesome food. There’s no fanfare or fuss, they just let the food do the talking, which is how it should be. It was homely and rustic and charming to the last. One thing is for sure, if you go for a meal at Kendells, you won’t be going home hungry.
Kendells is no stranger to winning awards but as the city changes around it, bringing an inevitable deluge of chain restaurants, it’s heartening that independents like Kendells can still survive and thrive.
If you’re dining out in Leeds and want something special, this has to be on your list.
Address: Kendells Bistro
St Peters Square, Leeds, LS9 8AH
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 5.30pm till late
Telephone: 0113 2436553