If you find yourself in the Alwoodley area of North Leeds you might, with luck, stumble upon Leeds Seventeen. If you planned to spend the evening in the city centre and maybe seek out a bite to eat, put those plans on hold. Stop and eat here. Leeds Seventeen is hiding its light under a suburban bushel and should stop being so modest.
The exterior is deceptive, resembling the look of a modern pub chain, but don’t be fooled as there is an award-winning head chef in the kitchen. Wayne Brimicombe was trained by Gary Rhodes and Jean-Christophe Novelli but has since developed his career in Yorkshire. Lucky for us, I say.
On a summer evening the front-facing outdoor deck is busy with pre-dinner drinkers so the spacious and informal indoor bar area with big leather sofas offers another space to consider the specials board and main menu. You can even sneak a peek into the kitchen through the strategically placed viewing window if you are that way inclined. The dining room beyond is relaxed but comfortable with some light-hearted references to Yorkshire heritage in the framed photographs of flat-capped gents.
The food is of the modern British variety with a bow to Continental traditions. Starter specials were outstanding and robust in flavour. Buttery wild mushrooms arrived on a slice of toasted brioche, topped with a poached duck egg and a touch of Hollandaise, fragrant with tarragon. The marriage of mackerel with beetroot was celebrated in a perfectly cooked risotto, garnished with walnuts for a satisfying contrast of textures. Starters are priced at £6.95 or less, with the exception of scallops at £9.95.
Attention to detail extends to the use of quality Spanish olive oil with balsamic, offered with bread for dipping purposes. When so many others assume a cheap olive oil and a strident balsamic will do, this version was an unexpected pleasure.
Mains offer an extensive choice and include a vegetarian gnocchi (£8.95), peppered rump steak (£13.95), calves’ liver and hake (£14.50), through to a rack of lamb special (£19.50), with the sublime additions of creamed potatoes, spinach and a shallot and garlic jus.
We all expect Yorkshire restaurants to be using quality local produce where possible so you could be forgiven for questioning how kangaroo fillet has bounded onto this menu. For those that have yet to try Australia’s most enduring national symbol, I can vouch for its deliciousness having lived Down Under. It can be a tricky meat to get right, and I wonder how many takers it gets here and indeed whether Leeds Seventeen is the only Yorkshire restaurant serving kangaroo? Either way I decided Skippy would have to wait for me to come back. The belly pork, sitting pretty on pak choi, surrounded by cubes of sweet potato and a Chinese inspired jus sounded extremely flavourful and lived up to its billing. The seasoning and overall balance of flavours in all the dishes I tried was exemplary.
Many of the mains come with accompaniments but some imaginative side dishes are worth considering if you love your veg. Fine green beans with the addition of caramelised shallots, garlic and parsley butter and buttered Savoy cabbage with bacon and peas were welcome departures from the predictable. The wine list offers enough choice for most tastes with house wines at £13.50 a bottle. A bottle of medium bodied Rioja will set you back £18.00.
A comfort blanket dessert wouldn’t necessarily be my favourite choice during high summer but this one had to be tried. The signature treacle sponge arrived in the golden syrup tin, awash with crème anglaise and moreish stickiness clinging to the bottom. A rhubarb selection on one plate made the most of this most Yorkshire of ingredients. The shot glass of light and refreshing rhubarb jelly outshone both the supporting mini crumble and panna cotta and deserves a solo spot.
So does Leeds Seventeen pass my personal boomerang test? Would I go back? A definite yes, and next time the lady will have the kangaroo fillet.