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Bar 166, review

Xanthi Barker feels sorry for some biscuits in Horsforth

Written by . Published on May 18th 2011.

Bar 166, review

DRIVING out into suburban Leeds on a Saturday night is peculiar.

It’s so counter-intuitive that you feel you might have accidentally wandered into the opening sequence of a bad horror-film. Houses disappear. People disappear. Cars speed up, whizzing past so quickly the eerie silence becomes almost constant.

DSCF2765.JPGWhen we finally reach 166 Town Street, we almost walk straight past the place where we’re supposed to be eating, assuming the building is just an extra-large house. Then we notice a painted sign that seems to mark it out as a country pub.

Inside, the experimental menu and smartly dressed clientele plead otherwise. It seems we have stumbled upon a big-night-out in Horsforth. On one side, Bar 166 is brimming with short-skirts, striped shirts and cocktails, whilst through the glass wall the dolled-up middle ages sit down to dinner. Neither glam nor grown-up, we are led like children to our over-sized table, the waiter clearly confused when we ask for some drinks.

Pumpkin and cumin gnocchi involves an upsetting amount of spice coating what could be the deep-fried thumbs of chubby children.

He brings us two glasses of Australian Chardonnay that, contra my disbelief at the description, does actually taste ‘creamy’ and we pour over the unusual menu. There are both standard and ‘special’ dishes, all fine-tuned versions of English classics that sounded extremely promising.

DSCF2747.JPGThe promise continues to make our tongues ache as the beautifully presented starters arrive. A roasted vegetable stack with red pepper jus (£5.90) is colourful against its black slate and Gretchen’s goats cheese and thyme panna cotta (£5.90) looks delightful. But the aubergine is near-impossible to cut through and the panna cotta is reminiscent of phlegm - perhaps these dishes were not intended for consumption at all.

The panna cotta also has nothing of goats cheese about it; unless the goat was severely anaemic. Strangest of all are the home made crackers it’s served with - a little like triangular communion wafers - these will make another cameo appearance later on.

DSCF2748.JPGMain course is a braised beef wellington (£13.90) for Gretchen, who is pleased with the minimal latticed pastry and plenty of tender meat. It comes served with truffle mash that definitely trumps everything else. Pumpkin and cumin gnocchi (£11.90) involves an upsetting amount of spice coating what could be the deep-fried thumbs of chubby children. My stomach turns and I pray for pudding.

It would take a serious screw-up to disappoint me with any dish involving sugar and fat, but the last hour has been so expensive and underwhelming that I am nervous.

DSCF2752.JPGMy prayers are answered, if not by a suburban sugar deity, then at least by instantly appearing, large servings. The sticky toffee pudding sauce is piercingly sweet, and the smattering of raisins is welcome in the thick sponge. The mango crème brûlée (£5) has a perfectly faint hint of mango and is smooth enough to make up for being nearly liquid.

But for some reason the communion-wafer crackers have returned. This time covered in icing sugar. Incognito, they are no easier to swallow. Besides, the disguise is terrible. So terrible we begin to feel sorry for the little triangles. Definitely time to leave.

It’s all a bit Masterchef-left-out-in-the-rain. Or just food left out in the rain. Who knows? Outside it is a balmy evening and there is just enough time to get back into town before the sun has finally set.


Rating: 11/20

Food - 4/10
Service - 4/5
Ambience - 3/5

Bar 166
166 Town Street
LS18 4AQ

0113 258 2661



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Craig MartinJune 8th 2011.

I’m very disappointed at this review for quite a number of reasons

1. I’m from Horsforth and don’t understand why its peculiar? I’m not sure which way you drove out of town but Kirkstall and Headingley are both extremely populated!

2. Why describe middle age people as 'dolled up', how about dressed appropriately for a smart venue especially on a Saturday night? (maybe you should grow up?)

3. The waiter was 'clearly confused when you asked for drinks', maybe he didnt understand your accent straight away as i note from your name you may have one?

4. How can a panna cotta be compared to phlgem? Do you know what it is supposed to be like?

5. The review is inconsistent from other reviews such as the James Martin Kitchen where his food was marked out of 5 and ambience was out of 10? However this was reversed for Bar 166. Some reviews haven’t got scores (maybe they paid for these ones)

6. You describe the menu as 'experimental' in one sentence and then 'English classics' in another, which is it?

7. The opening two paragraphs set a bad scene in someone’s head that has nothing to do with the restaurant that puts people in a negative frame of mind. Why do this? You have just insulted everyone who lives in the suburbs of Leeds.

All in all, I don’t think I’ll bother reading anymore from you as clearly your judgement is biased towards city living. I think you guys have done a really poor job and need to consider your future reviews. I feel sorry for this (Leeds born, according to their website) business owner.

Simon BinnsJune 9th 2011.

Hi Craig,

Thanks for the comment - for some reason, our review policy hasn;t been added to the foot of this particulat review, so here it is:

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

Any food and drink articles that don't have scores are because they are hosted, and that should always be made clear in the piece.

Anything scored is impartial and paid for by us.

I'd ask you to stick with us though, because we always give our readers the right to disagree.

AnonymousJune 14th 2011.

I too, like Craig, am from Horsforth and find the initial reviewers comments both offensive and absurd. What kind of mollycoddled life have they had if they describe driving to a charming suburb such as Horsforth as "peculiar" and wandering through a "bad horror movie"?

The review is consistent with the opening paragraph, however, and continues to stink of ignorance and a severe lack of personality.

We are proud of our roots on "Elm Street", as much as we are the restaurant you have so seemingly disrespected. Bar 166 has been frequented by myself and partner since the place opened, and as we agree, and I'm sure many will tell you around here, the place was a godsend to the townsfolk. We'll take what's on offer here any day of the week.

I'm glad you made it back to the bright city lights before the sun set ...In Horsforth, no-one can hear you scream!

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