In recent years Leeds has made a name for itself in foodie circles through the street food revolution that has swept across the land.
Cheap and cheerful but also innovative with an emphasis on provenance this type of food has proved a big hit with punters.
For those wanting to push the boat out on a grander gastronomic experience the city has also started to make a name for itself once again.
Leeds chef and entrepreneur Luke Downing has been at the forefront of this move. When he opened Vice and Virtue the idea was to bring fine dining to the masses, to deliver Michelin-star quality dishes at affordable prices.
It aimed to be the “fine-dining jewel in the Northern Quarter crown” and has since won plenty of plaudits for its bespoke approach.
The concept is a smart one. Vice being the first floor bar and Virtue being the upstairs restaurant where there’s a choice of two tasting menus - a seven-course Virtue menu (£50) with the option of three wine matching packages ranging from £40 per person to £240 pp (for rare and exclusive drinks), and a 10 course Prestige menu (£65), with drinks packages ranging from £55 to £300.
We opted for the Virtue menu and plumped for a bottle of red wine (£44) rather than one of the drinks packages.
The idea of a tasting menu fills some people with dread and it isn’t necessarily for everyone, but if you visit the website you can find out what’s on the menu, which changes each month.
I have a nut allergy that was mentioned when we made the booking and which the staff were aware of when we arrived. So brownie points there. You might assume this would be done as a matter of course but you’d surprised how often it isn’t.
Vice and Virtue is stylish but without the snobbery that used to be associated with high-end restaurants, and in some cases sadly still is.
We walked up to the Vice bar where the welcome couldn’t have been any friendlier. We were shown up to the restaurant where the warm buzz of conversation and laughter was equally enticing.
The relaxed atmosphere was helped by the fact that the clientele was a happy mixture of young and old, couples and groups. The fact they were smiling was also a good sign.
The decor is a nod to the Art Deco of the 1930s but with a subtle modern twist which along with the jazz music adds to the general bonhomie.
So to the food. To begin with there’s a selection of canapes and amuse bouche which is a nice way to get started.
The first dish was a Whitby crab salad which came with crevette (prawn), verdita jelly (a quick Google search revealed that it’s made up of lime, pineapple, mint, chilli and coriander), bisque foam, tortilla and mango. We both thought this was nice but found the jelly a little too sharp and overpowering.
Next was a king scallop accompanied by a vanilla mayonnaise, pickled leek, caviar, leek crisps and black pudding. The highlights here were the immaculately cooked scallops and the rich, crumbly black pudding.
The mushroom and olive tartare complete with whisky smoke and quail’s egg that followed was close to culinary nirvana. This was arguably the highlight of the whole meal and worthy of just about any restaurant I’ve been to - the whisky smoke giving it a dash of theatre without in any way overwhelming the dish.
Next up was Saddleback pork tenderloin cooked sous vide (in a water bath) with celeriac, Parma ham and apple where the succulent meat was the star of the show.
The quality of the ingredients shone through again with the duck breast dish that came with a fondant potato, truffle emulsion, cherry sauce (minus the pistachios for me). My only criticism is it could have done without the arancini which was a little claggy and didn’t really add a great deal.
We finished with a delightful sticky date pudding that came with tonka bean and kumquat and finally a chocolate and a tasty beetroot torte which satisfied my sweet tooth cravings but was a pudding too far for my partner.
The service was excellent throughout - attentive without being overbearing - and we never felt rushed, while the portion sizes were generous, perhaps even too generous in places.
The final bill came in at £174, which included two glasses of white wine and two glasses of dessert wine. When you’re talking this kind of money you’re starting to nudge Michelin-star territory. So is it at that level? In parts definitely but overall perhaps not quite.
That said, for lovers of fine-dining in Leeds who are looking for somewhere to indulge their passion, or those seeking a meal for a special occasion it’s worth forking out for.
Address: 68 New Briggate, Leeds LS1 6NU
Opening hours: Vice Bar - 5pm-3am Wednesday to Friday, 12pm-3am Saturday and Sunday
Virtue Restaurant - 5pm - 11pm Wednesday to Sunday
Telephone:0113 345 0202