Sunday, 28 August 2011

Anniversary Celebrations at Anthony's

Anthony's is renowned as being the best restaurant in Leeds, and one of the best in Yorkshire. Although there is no Michelin Star, it's been in The Good Food Guide's top 50 for the past three years and many will tell you The Good Food Guide is the new Michelin Star rating.

It's a family affair with dad, Anthony Flinn, running the show as managing director and son, Anthony Flinn Junior, running the kitchen as head chef. Both have worked in top restaurants across the world, including the much acclaimed El Bulli.

Now the pair are settled in Leeds and they're doing well at spreading their love of food. There's the flagship restaurant, Anthony's, on Boar Lane, Anthony's Patisserie in the Victoria Quarter and Piazza by Anthony on the lower ground floor of the Corn Exchange. In case this wasn't enough there is now Weddings by Anthony too!

Unfortunately they're a bit too late to sort out our wedding, but we managed to discover Anthony's on our first wedding anniversary where we fell in love all over again. Not with each other mind, this was all about the food.

And it's been all about the food ever since which is why we've been every year. Normally we'd pop over for lunch on the train, but this time we wanted a night away. So I booked us in for 8pm and sorted out the (very) near by Marriott Hotel.

After a quick drink in the hotel bar, we made our way across Trevelyan Square to the restaurant. I'll admit to being nervous as questions started running through my mind. Would it be as good as last time? Would they have our reservation? Would they let Gav in with his jeans and trainers?

No worries on all accounts. The waiter who is known as the one with Russell Brand hair welcomed us and seated us at one of the comfortable sofas in the bar area.

We were served some olives and left with the menus. We'd already decided that we would probably go the whole hog and go for the taster menu, so it really didn't take us long to decide. Keeping things easy we went for the wine flight too.

We ordered a glass of Deus (amazing beer produced the Champagne way) each and we waited to be taken to our table. The wait was excruciating; simply because we knew what was coming.

The wait wasn't actually that long; I even had a little of my drink left when Russell Brand told us that the kitchen was ready for us. We were then taken downstairs to the formal dinning room. Think stiff white table clothes, white walls, smart glassware and Sheffield cutlery.

However cutlery was not required for the first course, Sheffield or not. Russell Brand handed us a tub of straws and asked us to each take one. Noticing our raised eyebrows, he assured us that there was nothing untoward going on and we took our straws.

Our first course was an amuse bouche of mushroom veloute. It was served in a short necked round bottle, hence the need for a straw! We unscrewed the lid and inhaled. Mmmmm; there were some good mushrooms in there.

Straws dunked, we sucked up the mushroom froth. It was good; mushrooms were strong and the seasoning was right. However, all I could think of was cuppa soup. Oh my! How uncouth! Can I redeem myself by assuring you that I had images of the Waitrose wild mushroom cuppa soup rather than the Batchelor's variety? No? Ok.

Bread was then served.  Mini loaves of bread were very cute and the selection of butters were a really nice touch.  There was Parmesan, salted and my favourite; toast.  The bread was good, but it was the butters that made us work our way through the loaf.

Served up next was the first of 3 starters and I was pleased to hear that it was Anthony's signature dish; Risotto of White Onion, Espresso and Parmesan Air. I've had this on both my previous visits so it was only right that I had it again tonight.

Parmesan air packed a real punch. Does it have fewer calories than its solid form? If so, I need to learn how to produce this at home. Risotto was perfectly cooked with al dente rice and a delicate onion flavour. The espresso was hidden at the bottom of the dish. Of course it works with the subtly flavoured risotto, but the truly bizarre thing is that it also worked with the Parmesan. Two strong flavours, each amazing in their own right, probably shouldn't work together, but they do.

Wine was the 2009 Albarino Casal Caeiro Rias Baixas from Spain. Now, to be fair I'm no wine connoisseur. I know what I like and I can appreciate a nice wine, but I can't do an Olly Smith and report back on the bouquet or tell you how it complemented the dish. It was white and tasty, which in my books makes it a decent pairing for a white onion risotto.

BBQ Tuna, Smoked Duck and Carrot Purée was up next. As could be expected, it looked fantastic. There were two slices of tuna with squares of beetroot and smoked duck, all brought together by the carrot purée. The Tuna was seared on the outside and left with an almost sashimi state of rawness to the centre. It was packed with BBQ flavour, and given Anthony's reputation I'm guessing that our tuna had never seen a BBQ in its life. If I had to be critical, I would have to say that I would have preferred the outside of the tuna to have been a little less cooked, but that is more of a question of preference.

The additions of the beetroot and carrot puree were good with the tuna. But with only one small square of the smoked duck, it was difficult to decide whether to pair it up with something else on the dish or eat it on its own. In the end I popped the solitary square of duck into my mouth. It was good, but more would have been appreciated. Wine was the 2009 Riesling, Rene Mure, from Alsace, France and although I prefer drier wines, I still enjoyed this one.

Next was the last, and my favourite, of the starters; Chicken Wings, Chicken and Garlic Cannelloni and Lemon Cream. The chunks of deliciously moist chicken wing meat were packed full of all the flavours of a Sunday Roast; there was even crispy chicken skin to be had. The cannelloni was chicken meat stuffed with a soft and mild garlic purée.

The dish had crispy strips of lemon peel scattered over it. These were good; bursting with real zesty freshness with each small crispy bite. The lemon cream however was a lemon pith purée so it was very bitter and far from good. How it made its way onto the plate, I don't know. Thankfully there was very little of it, so it did not ruin the dish for me. Wine was the 2009 Pouilly Fume Les Chailloux, Jean-Claude Chatelin.

Mains began with Mackerel, Braised Ox Tongue and Escabeche Onion Purée. The Mackerel was beautifully cooked. The flesh was moist and melted in the mouth whilst the skin was perfectly crispy. It was easily the best bit of mackerel I have had, ever. Braised tongue was rich and tender. There was also a slice of pressed tongue lurking under a dollop of horseradish cream.

The passion fruit jelly was refreshing against the smokiness of the mackerel and the richness of the ox tongue and the horseradish cream was gorgeous with just the right level of horseradish heat. The shallot was an unusual one and aside from looking pretty, I don't really know what else it added to the dish. Wine was the 2007 Sancerre Rouge, Pinot Noir, Lucien Crochet, France.

The last of the two mains was Saddle of Rabbit, Deep Fried Whitebait and Confit of Duck Leg. Gav thought that the rabbit was a little dry, I didn't. Being a light meat, it was good with the whitebait and I was pleased to find a big fat croûton in amongst the salad of leaves and al dente crunchy strips of green beans.

Wine was the 2009 Urlar Pinot Noir, Gladstone, New Zealand and I think it's fair to say that by this point, I was starting to feel a little tiddly! So things were a little on the hazy side for the rest of the meal.

Our first dessert was stunning, that is very clear. Pumpkin Cake, Warm Cinnamon Espuma and Treacle Ice Cream was served with the 2009 Moscatel, Finca Antigua, Spain. As we dug into the bowl the waft of warm spices hit our noses. There's something really comforting about the smell of warm spices isn't there?

The pumpkin with the cinnamon reminded us both of carrot cake; something we both love. As we dug to the bottom of our bowls we hit the (melted) treacle ice cream. Using ice cream meant that the warming taste of treacle was there but the sugary sticky texture wasn't. Everything worked together in the bowl and it was my favourite dish of all which was strange for me as normally I'm all about the savoury.

The second dessert was Smoked Chocolate Brownie, Mascarpone Parfait and Pecan Brittle. We couldn't help but compare the brownie to those sold by Heavenlies of Sheffield and I have to say that Lorna's gooey chocolate brownies came out tops for us, but that is down to taste. The mascapone parfait was creamy and a good accompaniment to the brownie.

The absolute highlight for me however was the wine; Yalumba Muscat, Rutherglen, Australia. It tasted of Christmas; fruity and spicy. One that I'll be looking out for back at home.

Phew! That was the last of it! We'd originally planned to go for a few drinks afterwards, but as it was well after 11 by this point, we decided to round things off with a port before heading back to the hotel. And, although it was very late in the day, the waiter happily complied with our request.

In fact, service had been excellent throughout. We were served by 3 different people in all, but they kept service consistently good. It was professional, and yes it was formal, but it was friendly and easy too, especially with Russell Brand who was happy to engage in conversation.

So, did we enjoy? Oh yes! The food was excellent, the wine went down very well (too well?) and service was spot on. Portion sizes were just right, given the number of courses and we were satisfied, but not stuffed.

It was perfect for our anniversary celebrations and I hope to return again next year.


  1. Ah, nice review. However, you missed out the most important point: the price.
    £5? I don't believe you.
    £50? Bargain.
    £500? I hate people like you :).

  2. Half way to hating me is about right....