Sam’s Chophouse on the corner of South and East Parade in the city centre has bedded in well now, indeed its next birthday will be its second. The restaurants around this area have multiplied: most of them the same as you can see on any city street across the UK, with exactly the same menu. This can be a little boring if you can’t create atmosphere.
Sam’s can be found on two streets in Britain, one in Manchester and one in Leeds. It is interesting to note that this small group (with Mr Thomas’s in Manchester), run by the excellent Roger Ward, has gone for subtle differences in each establishment. This means that all the venues have their own identity with Roger’s chefs given room to interpret the Sam’s philosophy as they see fit. Roger - once a big swinging dick, in corporate terminology, in the advertising world – understands that people want to think they’re in for something special not formulaic.
One of the terrible hardships of being a food critic (or greedy fat bugger) is that we get invited to taste new menus. This is how I got to be staring at five starters in Sam’s in Leeds one afternoon. This is not an impartial review and I can’t score it as such but I thought it would help you, dear reader, in deciding where to go for a good feed in the coming weeks.
Let it be said that Roger is a pal and I tasted this with him, his brother in law Mark Evans, and the local gaffer Steve Smith. Here is what I think.
The food is really, really good. Solid British food with clearly defined flavours. Each dish has a balance of good looks with great texture. A great example of the Sam’s style was the potato cake topped off with a rasher of well-sourced grilled bacon and a honey of a poached egg. The liver parfait was smooth, unctuous and sexy with flavour. Lots of it. Even the soup went down well with me, I never order it normally.
The fish pie was well constructed but needed more seasoning and not just salt and pepper. Essentially a seventeenth century dish, it could have done with the fashionable spice of the time, nutmeg. In my humble opinion.
A stew which had been bubbling away on top of the stove for three weeks blew me away. This one was seasoned to perfection, sticky, softly chewy and spent an age in my mind. I can remember it vividly six weeks later.
The sea bass with mussels, crayfish and saffron-flavoured white wine sauce was a dish of three halves, eat it without a starter.
A lovely vegetarian main was the beetroot, red onion and Yorkshire fine fettle tart: the lovely flaky pastry supporting tangy beetroot a ‘Yorkshire Fine Fettle’ cheese.
The puddings were awesome. I am running out of space, so I shall let the photos speak for themselves.
I can recommend Sam’s for a number of occasions, celebrations, business dinners, affairs or simply getting high on the good life. The atmosphere is Gentleman’s Club with fizz, the service is excellent and the food is in the top five in the city centre. Go.
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