A couple of months back I wrote about my visit to the Crowne Plaza in my Self Care post – raving about my super soothing spa experience and my appetising afternoon tea delight at the new and improved Bar & Kitchen @LS1 within the hotel. Fast forward a few weeks and, coincidentally, another email arrives in my inbox inviting me back along for a taste of the full package as part of their special secret supper event. One to one guidance and a chat from the renowned in-house head chef Lee Miller, an exclusive sneak peek at the brand new spring menu, and copious amounts of stupendously cooked cuisine straight from Yorkshire’s finest – it was set out to be a gratifying evening all round!
You know they say you notice the intricate details of something or someone on a second investigation? Well that’s exactly what happened with me strolling back into the restaurant tucked away at the corner of the lobby. The second time round I was really able to appreciate the cosy, homely essence of the place; especially at the time of day when the (lack of) sun was about to set and dusk was close by.
The hidden gem isn’t what you usually expect of a hotel – both in modern Scandi inspired setting and delectable food quality – and that’s what makes it so unique. With its laid back, relaxing feel, and interjection of a vast touch of local trade, it steps away from fine dining whilst still bringing in that passion and flare.
Greeted with a glass of prosecco and some fruit mixers upon a marble table, artsy decor, carefully laid tables, swinging chandeliers, and a host of hospitality top dogs, press, prs, and some other lovely Leeds bloggers for chatty, cordial, and welcoming company, any anxieties that I have about attending events alone had vanished in just a few seconds!
To get us started and warmed up before the big extravaganza from the main man behind the delicious dishes as he slaved away attentively in the kitchen, we were delivered a simple platter of tear and share Yorkshire puddings, rarebit, and marrowbone gravy for dipping which was renowned Liquid Gold by a fellow full time blogger Nadine on her first foodie visit (and she was more than right, fyi! I told you the company was grand), so that was of course an instant winner in the eyes of the self proclaimed Yorkshire pud enthusiast; aka me.
After some further musing around as we devoured our appetiser, it was time to gather together and sit down ready for the three course I was more than ready for (note to self: drinking on a fairly empty stomach in post gig recovery after a long day travelling to and fro Manchester isn’t always a swimmingly good idea, swimming being the main word here). I was seated with a bunch of friendly folk, including two staff members who were so affable, so easy to talk to, and genuinely interested in our thoughts, opinions, ideas, and any constructive criticism – it made the experience even more real and authentic.
Lee was just as warm and accommodating, although I was informed he is the feisty kind when he wants to be. I guess fantastic food comes at a price and that price is a streak of bossiness and extreme determination!
Himself and Stephen Hornsby, the general manager at Crowne Plaza, introduced us to the tasting night, telling us what we should expect, what the hard working team behind this newly refurbished and improved space stand for, and talked us through the spring dishes they’re ready to introduce widely.
I was instantly inspired by Lee and the way he spoke about his passion and his career, so much so that for the first time at a food event I took some notes down on my phone. You could really feel the enthusiasm and the zest that radiated from him as he took us on his journey to becoming a chef and what trademark he believes in bringing to a place he’s called home for 10 years.
Lee built his way up as a chef, beginning with an NVQ, a movement of work experience in different places, and now he holds a licence of 22 years in the making which makes him a man of knowledge and expert skills!
What stood out for me, personally, was the established creations he metaphorically and literally transports to the table. He is all about partnering with local Yorkshire produce; on the farms, in the suppliers trade, and even as nearby as down the road. His cheeses are sourced in Wakefield, and some even include the famous cheese served to the queen once upon a time!
The entire arrangement of carefully fabricated dishes are freshly prepared with the Yorkshire flair in mind and developed to match his own penchant for homely dishes. Using the finest ingredients from the local commerce, the menus are synonymous with the region, they incorporate some of the country’s favourite comfort food, bursting with flavours and taste and most important, a contemporary Yorkshire twist! Having this exclusively in their arsenal maintains a distinctive approach they can be proud of!
Something that caught my attention was the mention of how Lee bakes bread. Bread is my absolute weakness but I have to be careful what kind I eat as bloating and aggravation of IBS symptoms is often very common with my doughy indulgence. However, Lee spoke about bringing it back to basics, excluding e-numbers and minimising intolerance with his choices, and he was so on point with what he was saying. The wholesome warm roll straight from the oven wasn’t only just the most deliciously soft and mouth watering roll I’ve ever tasted, it also didn’t give me that horrible aftermath feeling and that in itself gets mega bonus points.
With our gold menu with the option of starter, main, and dessert, I felt like a queen myself as I rolled it out in front of me contemplating on what to go for. In the end I opted for the Yorkshire Charcuterie Board (which we all found out was a bit of a tongue twister to say), the 6 Hour Braised Beef Cheeks, and the Rhubarb and Strawberry Bakewell Tart with ice cream on the side – all absolutely cooked to perfection and probably the best three course meal I’ve had in years.
The board had a selection of cured meats; chorizo, salami, and air-dried royal ham, along with home marinated vegetables and the most pungent house Henderson relish which was gorgeous. I cleared my plate in the shortest amount of time and I couldn’t even stop myself, that’s how good it was. As a fussy meat eater, it’s a testament to the chef – it’s made me want to delve further into the chilled meat section of supermarkets, but I doubt any will live up to the impeccably presented platter.
The main was strips of beef on top of a ball of creamy colcannon mash potato and buried pockets of vegetables covered in Leeds’ very own brewery ale gravy. There’s only one word: scrumptious! The slow cooked meat was so succulent you didn’t even have to chew it, it just fell off the fork and melted in the month. The rich, relishing flavours oozed through with the combination of components and it really did just feel as though as I was back home savouring a traditional Sunday dinner made by the family cooking I adore.
As much as I didn’t want it to end, it had to sometime, and the rhubarb and strawberry bakewell tart was the optimal finisher to a worthy menu basking in the British! You could tell it was homemade straight away. You know when you’ve baked and the stench wafts through the house and then you bite into the spongy pastry and a rush of sweet heaven rushes through you? That’s exactly how it felt tucking into the slice that was crusty around the edges and soft in the middle. It was just the right amount of tangy and catered to my mega sweet tooth!
The attention to detail and care that takes place in the Bar & Kitchen @LS1 is obvious, and once again it was painted to us during the final stage of the night (handed over with the cutest box containing two miniature desserts to try for ourselves… culinary genius and generosity!).
Lee came back out to get the verdict and nothing but positive approval was fed back to him. He said the experience of the night helped him and his team during the constant learning curve and expression of the kitchen and that it put in that curveball helped them understand and develop, to be able to play with real foods and cater accordingly to society.
With so much visible passion and time behind the food, the connection that Lee strives for is instinctively formed. Portions that are just enough to leave you comfortably content, and the simply sharp recipes, are five stars all round. The entirety of the food is totally seamless and not overpowering in the slightest; completely different to most of the naff and bland hotel food I’ve had in the past.
Bar & Kitchen is in a league of its own and although it’s not amongst the major central restaurants, it definitely has the same (if not more) power and promise. Trust me when I say it’s not to be overlooked and overshadowed just because it’s centred within a hotel!
There’s a constant theme running through Lee’s ethic and that’s customers enjoy what they believe in. The intimate community he aims to create is what food is about – getting people together and just purely enjoying it.
And that we did.
Thanks so much to Sam for inviting me, I had a whale of a time and was honoured to be part of an important bunch. I’ll definitely be back, I’ve already raved to my family about how we need to treat ourselves to a trip sooner rather than later!