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Anthony’s, Boar Lane

Hazel Davis enjoys a lovely lunch but isn't sure about a mug shot

Published on January 14th 2010.

Anthony’s, Boar Lane

It’s a Thursday lunchtime at Anthony’s and the basement vibe is a post-shopping relaxed one with the odd suited business lunch. Tables are populated with possible boss-and-secretary pairings and an impossibly posh student and his parents, showing him how they eat while he’s scraping off last week’s baked beans from his housemate’s pan.

The menu is molecular gastronomy at its best. Roast duck with olive oil chocolate bonbons, goats cheese and mango ravioli and red pepper foam sit happily alongside more standard fare.

The clientele are smart but the décor has already dated since its 2004 opening, a time when Katie Melua, Norah Jones and Dido dominated the charts. We hear Melua again, followed by a spot of James Blunt, as we are shown to a secluded table in the corner. My companion, a local radio producer, muses, “It’s like being at work…”

There is nothing really wrong with Anthony’s interior; it’s clean and unfussy but a little bland, like its choice of music. Pristine white tablecloths abound, against a subtly spotlit backdrop and Ikea-friendly artwork.

The service is exceptional, however, and, knowing my companion has to dash off, we are served with impressive expedience. In the time it takes to snatch a Big Mac we have our main course (being figure-conscious starter-skipping career girls). I choose the seabass with seaweed salad and my companion opts for the cod with little cubes of vegetable.

My seabass is delicately cooked, if a little moist for me, and perfectly accompanied by a seaweed salad and baby asparagus. The portions are small but then it serves us right for not having a starter. My friend’s cod is, in her words, “buttery and rich, with wholesome, delicate flavours.” There is bread, lovely, soft-yet-crunchy homemade olive bread with olive oil. I had been wheat-free since Christmas. As of last Thursday, I am no longer wheat-free. Go figure.

Dessert for me is a chocolate financier (like a brownie) with hazelnut ice-cream and sugared hazelnuts. It’s nice enough and slips down a treat but I am already regretting it on sight of my companion’s ginger mousse and rhubarb. The ginger mousse (I know because I rudely help myself) is ice-cold and melts in the mouth. The rhubarb looks terrifyingly like slices of flamingo meat but is soft and sweet.

I shouldn’t be surprised that the food here is nice, though nice isn’t really the word. Headed by Tony Flinn, former pupil of Catalonian super-restaurant El Bulli, Anthony’s won Restaurant of the Year at the usually South-centric Observer Food Monthly awards in 2005, after being open for just a year, and an Egon Ronay star for the same year. With sister eateries in the Victoria Quarter (Anthony’s Patisserie) and at Flannels, Flinn has shaken Leeds’ dining standards to their foundations and brought the city to the wider gastronomic world.

The menu – though our choices today are fairly staid – is molecular gastronomy at its best. Roast duck with olive oil chocolate bonbons, goats cheese and mango ravioli and red pepper foam sit happily alongside more standard fare. The whole tasting experience is also available for £60, a real foodie’s treat.

But what good is a molecular gastronomy restaurant if the portions are small and the service is bad? Luckily, here that isn’t the case. The food, as well as being adventurous and impressive to look at, is ample, served on time and with care. When the waitress realises that my companion is in a hurry, she practically holds the kitchen at gunpoint to make them speed up. Courses are good to go as soon as we have downed our forks and lattes appear as if my magic.

So often, restaurant coffees let the side down but Anthony’s lattes are worth going for alone. Strong and sweet, courtesy of some artificial-looking black Chinese sugar, they are served in the most ridiculously pompous cups I have ever seen. Imagine, if you will, a cup from Alice In Wonderland. A cup with no real handle, save a small wedge not large enough for even a child’s fingers. Beautiful to look at but impossible to hold. A cup which will drive you mad with its beauty but fail to actually serve its purpose. The Anna Kornikova of the cup world.

These ridiculous vessels are Anthony’s only real concession to pretentiousness and we should allow it that, given its reputation but when the coffee is so nice, it seems a shame to lace it with frustration. I will be returning to Anthony’s. But with my own mug.

Rating: 17/20
Breakdown: 9/10 Food
5/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: Anthony's
19 Boar Lane
0113 245 5922

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