It’s a critic’s nightmare but a simple statement of fact. In the Foundry I forgot I was reviewing.
You have to analyse it like this. The food was fine, the service casual but excellent, the wine chosen well, and the atmosphere easy. In those circumstances a writer can relax and lose it a little.
This is disturbing when you look over your scant notes, but when it happens you know you’ve hit on a place with a long future. The Chinese might call it feng shui, but there’s a balance and a calm about The Foundry which seems to seep out from the mellow brick of the 200-year-old building and infect those dining there.
It also infects the staff. The sure and comfortable way you’re managed from the moment you enter is deeply impressive: the people here know what they’re doing which gives guests the confidence to relax.
Not that the decor is special as such, in fact it’s almost a cliché of industrial renovation. We’ve seen it all before: the stripped back brick walls, the incidental artworks, tables without cloths. The only point of difference from a thousand other restaurants in listed buildings up and down the country is that here you get the odd picture or three of Leeds United.
Apparently the owners are big Leeds fans which explained their absence on the night we arrived. Millwall were the visitors to Elland Road and were about to compound Yorkshire’s footballing misery, by dumping the local team out of the League One play-offs. Within the traditional boundaries of Lancashire there are seven Premier League clubs, within those of Yorkshire, there’s Middlesbrough and Hull, both hanging on for grim death.
Not that we were concentrating on men chasing a leather sphere through mud, more refined matters were on our minds.
We started with chicken liver pâté and Cumberland sauce (£5.95) and the white asparagus with poached duck and hollandaise (£8). The pâté was big and slab-like but good mingling subtlety with clumping full-on flavour: the sauce was a joy, a rich, zesty, port-laden treat in deep red. They should jar it and sell it as a take-out.
The asparagus was the one jarring bum note of the whole visit. The egg was fine and the hollandaise exemplary but the new season asparagus seemed traumatised - as anaemic as the performance of those Leeds players in their white shirts. They were relentlessly stringy too (the asparagus, not the players): damsels trapped in towers could have braided them without harming a hair on their heads, to let lovers clamber up.
But then the mains came and I forgot all about the asparagus.
I had the stuffed saddle of rabbit (£18). This came with one of the best grain mustard sauces I’ve ever had, a fine mix of smooth, creamy, sharp flavours. The stuffed saddles had been expertly put together. The stuffing was vital, complementing and enhancing the sweetish but dainty taste of the rabbit. Like the beast in the wild, rabbit can be a shy creature when it comes to expressing itself on a plate.
But twice as good again as my rabbit, even with its fine qualities, was the Beef Rossini (£18) with Madeira on a brioche croute. This should become a Foundry special, they should photograph it and replace the Billy Bremner picture with this complete midfielder.
Look at the picture on this page, which I’m not sure does it justice. The dish was beautifully constructed, layered in lush strata from the brioche and sauce right all the way through the meat to the topping. As for the flesh, it was a juicy, yielding flavour-sodden star.
Aside from maybe a tiny doubt about the consistency of the brioche, the Beef Rossini showed that the kitchen was on top of its game, that The Foundry is forged on sound principles starting with the food.
The sides (£2.50 each) of swede and carrot and green veg were equally well-handled, the former being slightly more fulfilling than the latter. A shared crème brulee (£4.75 - £9.75 with a glass of dessert wine) cracked open to reveal a balanced soft centre which was never too sweet.
Meanwhile the wine list was more than capable. A zippy, juicy, citric Gavi La Battistina (£19) helped maintain the mood and proved good company throughout the meal. It paled, though, next to a cracking glass of nectar-like Muscat Beaume de Venise (£5.50) over the dessert. A good ending to a fine meal.
As for the scores at the end of the night: my dining companion won 3-1. The choice of the pâté starter, the Rossini main and the swede side all bettering mine. That rabbit was worth a consolation goal. As for the Foundry, Leeds United might remain mired in the lower divisions, but this place is Premier League.
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