Crafthouse doesn’t so much scream elegance as gently whisper it in your ear as you saunter in.
The interior is all subdued charcoal grays and barrister gown blacks with individually engraved cutlery and glass so shiny and pristine they must have an army of elves working round the clock.
You’d think a place like this ought to be lodged in some grand old grade-I listed building, with a mile-long driveway and blokes wearing top hats greeting you at the door (but it’s always the carpets that lets those places down, I’ve found).
On one level, it’s a cultural mismatch that this exists on the 4th floor of the Trinity shopping centre (and although the sign outside says as much, the lift says it only goes to floor 3). But there it is, with views no grade I listed country bolthole could even make a stab at. From here, you can see the top of the Trinity glass dome, the tower of the eponymous church doesn’t look so high (because you’re half way up it) and you’re just about on a level with the town hall clock.
Service is better than good. Smiles and ‘can I take your coat’ at the door with the maitre’d, then smooth-as-you-like table chat and menu delivery. Everything is spotless. Glass gleams, the views from the windows draw you in and the very down to earth string sculpture (if I can call it that) separating two parts of the main dining area harks back to Leeds’s industrial past. In fact, the only thing that annoys me (and even then only mildly) is that I think the music is a touch too loud.
There’s an a la carte but this is a lunchtime visit and there’s a 2-courses for £18.50/3 for £20.15 deal on, so I go for that, kicking off with artichoke and celeriac soup, which looks like a work of art and comes with black pepper cracker dotted with black truffle cheese and tiny pickles. The soup itself is creamy but with deep, satisfying flavours, well seasoned - a simple dish but done so well. It was served with warm bread rolls with redcurrants in and a swirl of butter.
Me main was black truffle orzo (a kind of short-cut pasta which looks a bit like risotto rice but it much smoother). Silky smooth, cheesey, perfectly seasoned, it was comfort in a bowl. All that was washed down with a glass of barrel-fermented Verdejo (£9/125ml): great legs. Overall, a triumph but is it right to compare it to places with smaller bank accounts (it being part of the D&G empire)? Probably not but it’s horses for courses, isn’t it?
Leeds needs these posh haunts just as much as it needs its independents, because while the former offer a kind of salt of the earth rustic charm, built from the ground up and where the passion of the owner is flown at full mast, its not lost on me that Leeds has in recent years elevated its claim to be one of the dining destinations of the North, if not the country. And that needs places like Crafthouse.
Crafthouse, 5ft and 6th floor, Trinity shopping centre, Boar Lane, Leeds, LS1 6HW