Anja Madhvani finds out if this Leeds institution is in good hands
OVER the years, The Foundry has gained a reputation for excellent food, and has a loyal customer base of mainly young professionals sharing bottles of Tattinger, and families celebrating special occasions. Matt Healy of Masterchef fame and his team have their work cut out for them taking on this Leeds stalwart.
We made the most of a warm evening with a drink outside. I was pleasantly surprised to see a well-curated beer list sitting alongside classic cocktails and an extensive wine menu - beer had been sadly neglected under the restaurant’s previous ownership.
The glassware is refined - it’s refreshing to see beer served properly in a restaurant, and is representative of the care displayed here. We also indulged in a bottle of Txakoli (£30), a delightful wine I rarely see on menus. So, off to a pretty good start - although there aren’t many non-alcoholic drinks on the menu, which is a little unfair on non-drinkers.
Diners seem thrilled to have the Masterchef contestant no longer confined to their TV screens
We snacked on habas fritas (£3.20), chorizo in cider (£6.50), and a portion of bread with fabulous Heroina extra virgin olive oil and fifteen year old Pedro Ximenez balsamic (£3.20). Such a wonderfully crisp sourdough makes for some very decadent dipping. The slight Basque theme to the snacks seemed a little removed from the rest of the menu, but I’ve decided not to lose any sleep over it.
The place looks clean and fresh, re energised by a few simple changes. A warm grey paint now coats the bar, and soft furnishings add a pop of colour. Xpletives, a mural by local artist Nicolas Dixon adorns a wall by the entrance, and a blue neon reading ‘Food To Swear By’ illuminates the kitchen pass.
We order small plates to share. Torched mackerel (£8.00) is a beautifully dressed plate with dots of beetroot puree topped with thinly sliced radish and apple with a garnish of red amaranth, micro coriander and edible flowers. The mackerel is cold, clearly on purpose, but a little unexpected after the torching. The fillet is quite small, but the plate is pretty and the flavours work well together.
Asparagus, wild garlic, peas and duck egg (£8.50) is nothing ground breaking, but who cares if it’s perfectly executed and seasoned? The star was the beef tartare (£8.50) served simply with an egg yolk on top - again salted to perfection. This dish takes every element of a great burger and presents it with class and sophistication, no gimmicks; coarse cut beef laced with mustard, gherkin, capers and onion. A small cheese and onion brioche toastie on the side brings a sweet blue cheese tang.
The waiter Ben is great, but a little rushed off his feet, so occasionally Matt comes out of the kitchen to help. This is the sort of thing I love to see from a business owner, no fear of rolling up sleeves and getting stuck in. Diners seem thrilled to have the Masterchef contestant no longer confined to their TV screens, but sitting at the end of their table taking their order.
Our first large plate is baby chicken ‘Kiev’ (£21.00) which - thankfully - doesn’t resemble something Kerry Katona would tote in an Iceland ad. It is a coarse minced chicken ball, not dissimilar in texture to a scotch egg, which emits luxurious garlic butter upon cutting. There are two chicken legs with delightfully crispy skin and two chicken breasts - though these are perhaps a touch dry - and the naughtiest of potatoes crisped in duck fat. Some wild garlic and puree almost complete things, though I think a sauce of some description would have been a welcome addition.
Next, hake loin with confit fennel, and charred clementine puree (£19.00.) Cooked fennel is one of life’s great joys, when warming sweet liquorice flavour comes to the fore. This is offset with the bitterness of charred clementine puree and some segments of blackened clementine, bringing just the right amount of juice to the plate. Needless to say, the hake was spot on.
We revisit the wine menu for a final glass, this time an Austrian orange wine, Zero GMT (£7). I’d like to thank whoever curated this list, its motto ‘White Wine To Swear By’ certainly rings true.
For dessert, we opt for the créme brûlée éclair but this is the one element I find disappointing. Choux pastry and a very delicate crème pâtissière adorned with a caramel sauce, decorated with edible flowers is all very pleasant, but the magic of créme brûlée is the fun of cracking the top. Chocolate and hazelnut fondant (£7.50) brings more to the table. It’s piping hot, oozing molten chocolate, which contrasts well with the cool raspberry sorbet, very natural in flavour. A chocolate crumb and some delicious caramelised nuts bring a lovely praline element.
Dessert is washed down with Manzanilla sherry (£4), and the sherry is then washed down with a double espresso. Both are excellent.
It’s a wonderful evening. The space is bright and spacious, yet an air of intimacy surrounded each group of diners. Our waiter Ben does everything with elegance and charm, exuding confidence and genuine care in his role. Perhaps I spent a little more than I would have liked, but the quality of ingredients speak for themselves and it’d be naive to expect larger portions for the price point.
It’d be nice to see a couple of side dishes available, and perhaps more vegetarian options. I didn’t find the menu particularly progressive or challenging, but fine dining doesn’t have to push the envelope, it just has to be done well. This restaurant is a Leeds institution, and continuing such a legacy must be done with sensitivity. Bravo Mr Healy, here is a chef who has proven himself to be very capable, and it’s exciting to see him making his mark on the city.
Matt Healy X The Foundry, 1 Saw Mill Yard, Leeds, LS11 5WH
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: put the kettle on instead, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: made by God him/herself.
Broad beans 7, sourdough 8, chorizo in cider 7, asparagus 8, beef tartare 8, mackerel 7, hake 8, chicken 7, créme brûlée eclair 7, chocolate fondant 8
The space is bright and spacious, yet there's still an air of intimacy
I daren’t score any higher, or Ben may stop aspiring for greatness