ALTHOUGH Howard’s has been open inside Elland Road for almost a year, our driver has no idea it exists as we head towards the stadium.
But for a small sign on the corner of the West and South stands, there’s nothing much to let us know we’ve arrived either.
Although Howard's puddings don't quite cut it, there's certainly enough on the menu to warrant a return visit.
Outside may not be much to look at, but inside there's a marked difference, and plenty of mahogany.
The restaurant manager, Philippe Lopez, allows us to pick a table, sweeping his arm across a completely empty restaurant.
Howard's may be named after Leeds United's second most successful manager (Howard Wilkinson) but there isn't any yellow or blue in sight. Instead décor is dark wooden panels and pillars; cream walls adorned with black and white prints of the Leeds area and in the centre, a large Turkish-style rug partially covers the tiled floor. The most attractive and eye-catching feature is a domed-roof, creating an atrium effect.
Philippe begins to reel off a dizzying array of specials in a thick French accent. After a busy Saturday match day and a Leeds win, many of the dishes on the board have been replaced with some fairly exotic creations.
Feeling a little adventurous, I opt for a guinea fowl breast encased in a light pastry (£7.50) while my plus one has a smoked salmon terrine (£7.95). A refreshing peach granite (attractively presented ice slush) arrives to ‘keep us going’ before that though.
I momentarily suspect I'm somehow getting preferential treatment and Philippe's sniffed out the writer in me, until I'm relieved to see the granite doing the rounds once other diners arrive.
Our starters exceed expectations. Mine is tender and much more than just a well-presented pasty. A layer of game pate sandwiched between the guinea fowl breast and outer crust ensures it isn't too dry. The thin crispy parsnip strands, spinach and home-made tangy brown sauce on the side perfectly complement the pastry. The contrast of the salmon and butter cream in the terrine melts in the mouth, without being too filling.
For the main course, I find an old favourite but my fellow foodie is more adventurous, sampling grouse (£20) for the first time. My enormous stack of crispy belly pork (£14.50) isn't too salty and is covered in a subtle-tasting cider jus with soft diced parsnips, carrots and a large round fried potato. The dark meaty grouse has less of a wow factor but is equally hearty, with unusual thin potato lattice chips, red wine jus and sweet pear and ginger chutney. Even the basket of mixed vegetables we're given manages to look pretty.
Desserts aren’t as impressive as the savoury dishes but nonetheless no less inventive. My banoffee pie (£3.75) is almost unrecognisable, looking more like a biscuit mounded with too much cream, not enough caramel and the obligatory banana. A brandy snap basket of vanilla ice cream makes it all the more rich, causing an unwelcome sugar rush.
The brulee (£5.50) has unexpected pear pieces inside, a crispy sugar coating a tad too thick, decorative blackberries and pistachio biscuits, subtly infused.
Although Howard's puddings don't quite cut it, there's certainly enough on the menu to warrant a return visit. I'm already imagining treating my parents and can't quite believe I'm voluntarily considering a return visit to a football ground.
Although not emphatic, Howard's is still a home win.
Howard's, Elland Road Stadium, Leeds, LS11 0ES
0113 367 6032
ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £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.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.
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