Every restaurant in the world strives for good service. Or should.
In many ways, it’s what separates the good from the bad, the meritorious from the mediocre. It doesn’t matter whether it’s family-run place or a big name chain, fast-food or fine dining. Service counts a lot in the eyes of the diner. In fact, even slightly above average service can often be the saving grace of a restaurant which might be lacking in another area.
Thankfully, The Agora on New Road Side, Horsforth, excels at service. This was illustrated to me as we sat perusing the menus at this small but delightfully appointed restaurant and, quite by chance, I happened to knock my fork off the table. I picked it back up immediately and examined it, before giving it a quick rub and putting it back on the table.
Perhaps that tells you something about me. Well, so be it. With two kids to feed most nights and yours truly doing the cooking, practicality usually rules the roost when it comes to things like that and so, perhaps on occasion I take my bad habits out with me. So, rather than asking for a new fork, I was quite content to live and let live. However, as I went back to the menu, within moments a keen-eyed waitress glided by (she actually did appear to glide, at least that’s how I remember it) and quickly and quietly replaced said fork with a new one, all without saying a word. I remember thinking at the time, that not only had they done themselves a massive favour but they had also just nailed my intro with that single, fleeting, understated act of conscientiousness. Suffice to say the standard of service continued throughout the evening, with a quiet but assured performance from the staff.
The Agora had drawn my eye for some time. It’s located toward the end of New Road Side, not far off the roundabout.
The decor is uncluttered, clean: white walls largely devoid of the object d’art which can often distract or are merely there for the purposes of self-glorification; and decent, high-backed comfy chairs and, get this, we got a table that didn’t wobble.
I mean, we were not even at the stage of ordering our food yet and already I was more than impressed with the place. But it would be a shame to abandon the review there (for me and you), so here goes.
The tall, slender menu, like the decor, is unostentatious and offers just two pages for starters and mains. And thank God, because sometimes the last thing you want to be doing when you go out for a meal with your other half, is to start paging through the dining dish equivalent of Who’s Who.
I was not driving on the night, which meant I definitely was drinking and so I started as I meant to go on by ordering a pint of Efes (£4.90), a beer I’ve always found to be crisp and refreshing and moorish.
My partner, meanwhile, who was driving, ordered a tonic water (quite pricey at £2.10).
Starters came in the form of hummus (£4.20) and Dolmades (£5.50). The latter (vine leaves stuffed with rice) turned out to be delicious, with a nice hint of mint to just lift the whole thing. The hummus I always think is a good way to judge any Mediterranean restaurant, because it can so often be underseasoned (or not seasoned at all) but this turned out to be right on the money and so we took our time scooping up large wadges of it with the basket of bread provided.
Mains were Beef Stifado (which should have been £14.95 but they gave it to us for £13.95 as part of a two-course deal, even though the other dish, my main, Fruity Lamb (£15.50) was not included in that. So, again, hats off.
Both dishes sang from the hills. The stifado was all it should have been, with great big chunks of glistening meat, onion and potato and a deep, rich, glossy gravy that could have been served all on its own as a stand-along dish.
The Fruity Lamb came with almonds, plums, sultanas and apricots. What a combination. I was worried the fruit might take over, that such an infusion would overpower the lamb but, actually, it seemed to work quite well, the various flavours sitting nicely in the background for the most part and doing a great supporting act: apricot was the most assertive of these but it seemed to complement the lamb rather than take anything away from it.
Mains over and done with, we had a little rest and I ordered another Efes (when in Rome and all that). But it wasn’t long before desserts called us, mine in the form of my absolute favourite dish of all time, Tiramisu (£4.50) and my partner’s: Baklava £4.75). Now, my own mother makes an astounding Tiramisu and I’ve sampled them across Leeds and I have to say this one was right up there with the best (although it still doesn’t beat my mum’s), while the baklava was sweet and nutty. All told, the bill came to £65.10 + £1.50 for paying by card, which brought the total to £66.60.
Address: 207-, 209 New Rd Side, Horsforth, Leeds LS18 4DR
Opening hours: Mon-Thurs 5pm-10pm, Friday & Sat noon-10pm, Sun noon-9pm
Telephone: 0113 469 0927