DOS HERMANOS OOP NORTH: DAY TWO ( MORNING EDITION ) ANTHONY'S LEEDS.
I never imagined that running a restaurant would be easy work, but I also, never imagined that it would be quite as gruelling as it appeared the next morning.
Let’s just stop for a brief moment and pay tribute to Sarah Marshall. Through out our visit she put up with three drunken forty some things and her husband lurching through her precious domain with unfailing good humour and cheeriness.
She also seems to have discovered the secret of perpetual motion as, for the whole time we were there, I do not think I saw her stop for a moment. From the second I dragged myself out of bed and sat across the breakfast table from a bleary eyed Paul, she was a non stop dynamo. She made and served breakfast to the paying guests, cleaned up afterwards, moved to the guesthouse and cleaned the rooms, put the laundry on, re set all the tables for lunch and, before we left for Leeds, I am pretty sure I saw her wielding a vacuum cleaner with frightening efficiency.
Truly, she is hewn from that material which makes the Northern woman a very special creature indeed.
The breakfast was splendid and set me and Paul up for a little wander around the village and a brief jaunt to Kirkby Priory. All very welcome after the excess of the day before and the horrors of the day to come. When we got back after our walk Robin was up and about but there was no sign of Gary. It transpired that he had managed, in his drunken state the night before, to leave his keys behind the bar and lock himself in their living area. Numerous phone calls down to the bar where we were gassing achieved little and he was about to launch himself from the kitchen window before we realised what was going on and had Sarah come and rescue him which she did with the words “ bless” as if this was not an irregular occurrence.
By 11.30am, we were ready to head off for the next round of restauranting and caught a taxi to York and a train to Leeds which Robin, quite accurately, identified as “ The Shoplifter Special” By 1pm we were banging of the door of
Anthony Flinn began cooking at his eponymous restaurant about three years ago and was, quite rightly, showered with accolades and singled out as one of the brightest and best of young cooks in the country. The front of house presence of his father and wife added to a level of professionalism that made this one of the destination restaurants in the country.
They aimed high for a star and, shamefully, did not receive one. I suspect this took the wind out of their sails a little and they now seem to be to be consolidating the business by opening other outlets like an impressive looking patisserie in the town centre.
I had not been for well over a year and was concerned that the failure to get a star and the distraction of new businesses would mean that the main restaurant had lost its edge. This was compounded on arriving by the news that, despite proclamations to the contrary on the website, Anthony would not be cooking our lunch but leaving it to his second chef.
Now his second has worked at Champignon Sauvage so must know what he is doing, but this is not his food and he cannot have the same connection to it as the man who created the menu.
So it was. Don’t get me wrong, this was a meal of a very high standard but there was a certain lack of attention to detail and an absence of the “ wow” factor which spoke of a place which has hit the wall and is struggling to maintain the passion it once displayed.
The service, led by Olga was as spot on as ever and we took little time in deciding to take the whole table on the tasting tour for £60 a head for nine courses.
A small amuse of a swede veloute had a surprise blueberry at the bottom of the cup which did not altogether work. What did work, though was a delicious crumble of brown shrimp with a pistachio top. Lovely.
I always look forward to the bread here which is some of the best on offer anywhere and even more enjoyable when served with Anthony’s spectacular butters and a lawny olive oil. I recall it being warm. Here it was stone cold. Either this is my memory serving me poorly or the restaurant doing the same. I think it was the latter and is an example of some slippage.
A perfect white onion risotto was topped by Parmesan “air” ( these boys and their foam guns, eh?) and dried espresso flakes ( not for me because of my allergy to coffee ) I am uncertain that the foam added much to what was an otherwise superlative rice dish.
My star dish of the meal was a small sliver of seared tuna on top of a slice of ham hock terrine with pickled garlic.
Each dish came with a small sprinkle of micro greenery which was not for pure decoration but, in each case, added to the final taste. With the tuna came some Rock chives which Paul in his sole contribution to the culinary landscape declared as “ ah, oniony” Bocuse, he ain’t.
Annoyingly, two or three of the dishes were subject to hugely aggressive seasoning to the point of being almost inedible. A Venison carpaccio with home made black pudding came with a skewer of tiny squid that were so over salted, my diastolic levels almost went through the roof. A shame as it was a clever idea for a dish ruined by poor execution.
Another high point next, a chunk of cod with wild rice and a cannelloni of crab and pork came with yet another foam, but in this case it did not detract from the quality of the ingredients.
A breast of squab with a macaroon made of foie and vanilla was an interesting if not altogether successful combination. Gary felt his squab was too rare to finish and both HP and I dived in at the same time to make sure nothing went to waste.
We had two dessert courses, one was amongst the most memorable of the year, the other was too but for all the wrong reasons.
A chestnut custard was topped with a beurre noisette ice cream and a slick of croissant veloute. Stunning. The veloute was like a sweet liquid bread pudding. I could have devoured a huge bowl of it for breakfast.
A flop though was yet another cannelloni, this time made with a malt loaf surround and stuffed with caramel. Put simply, it just didn’t work. The malt loaf thingy was actually quite nasty.
Petits were as good as ever but, shamefully, they did not have fresh mint tea only offering a bag. I never quite understand this. They can spend ages growing these extraordinary micro greens but can’t get any mint. Ho hum.
With snifters before and after and Gary making sure he got through their stock of Riesling and Chorle Le Beaune, the bill was about £110 per head which included a charge for the exemplary and friendly service.
As I said, there is no way that this could ever be described as a bad meal and indeed there were some parts of it that were up with the best I have ever had there. There was however little to raise an eyebrow, nothing that spoke of the imagination of this hugely intelligent cook. More it had all the hallmarks of a menu designed to be cooked by a talented second chef when the main man was not in occupation and to offend as few people as possible.
It spoke of freewheeling rather than pedalling furiously and Anthony Flinn is capable of better. So much better.