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The Cross Keys review

Simon Binns finds a gem on the edge of the city

Written by . Published on February 4th 2011.

The Cross Keys review

Sometimes it’s nice to be on the edge of things. It’s less hectic and allows you to be a bit more relaxed and refined.

So as we walked through the city centre and out the other end, through the doors of the Cross Keys, it was encouraging to see that plenty of other people agreed.

There was a long queue winding up the stairs and the ground floor was half full with drinkers and diners. As we pitched up near the bar, two creative types were talking theatre. Others were trying to pick a favourite from the list of guest ales.

Impressive list it is too. I opened with a dry, orangey Newark and lunch buddy Grimesy went for a bottle of white Duvel. Happy days.

The lunch menu is small, but perfectly formed. Seven mains is a good size – enough room to offer a bit of variety but use good ingredients and keep the kitchen focussed. Why pubs have menus that run into pages and pages is beyond me – if I want 47 choices for main course, I’ll go to TGI Friday’s.

I decided upon the Gressingham duck leg with bubble and squeak – over-priced by a quid or two at £10.50 if I’m picking, but it is only a leg – while Grimesy plumped for beer battered Pollack and chips with mushy peas and tartar sauce (£8.95).

The leg had a fair amount of meat on it, well cooked and pink where it should have been. I could have done with a bit more of the bubble and squeak although the small amount sat beneath the duck was tasty enough.

The fish and chips were solid if unspectacular. Pollack’s a funny one. It can taste like sweaty soap on a bad day, but it is dense and moist and can actually be a decent replacement for cod, or haddock.

This fish was just as it should be, encased in lovely light batter. The chips were really good too, golden and crispy, while the peas had plenty of integrity along with the contractually-stipulated mush. Good stuff.

Fish 'n' chips

A young chap from the kitchen popped out to the bar for something and was eager to see if the plates were clean. He was genuinely chuffed we’d liked it.

Desert was decided after a brief conflab with the couple on the next table – whisky and walnut tart with clotted cream (£5.50) for me, marmalade bread and butter pudding (nice twist, £5.50) for Grimesy.

The tart might have had a minute too long in the oven, as it would have benefited from being a bit less firm in the middle. The taste was good enough though, especially paired with a glass of golden, honey-flavoured Moscate Passito (£3.20). The pudding was as puddings should be – simple and fun and served with custard.

The Cross Keys does good British food in a sensible, uncluttered way, and the venue itself makes sure both sides of the gastropub coin get due care and attention.It’s worth the few extra minutes walk beyond Granary Wharf and back into town – especially if you’ve overdone it on the puddings.

Breakdown:7/10 food
3.5/5 service
4/5 ambience
Address:The Cross Keys
107 Water Lane
LS11 5WD
Tel: 0113 243 3711

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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