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Brasserie Forty 4

Jonathan Schofield gets grim over a butter-fingered lunchtime

Written by . Published on July 31st 2008.


Brasserie Forty 4

Disappointment. What colour is it, what’s its texture, how does it taste?

Let’s answer the last of these. At Brasserie Forty 4 it largely tastes of butter, lashings of melted butter clagging up the mouth and plastering the tastebuds.

My trout could have quite happily lived a life free of dairy products. It was a solid piece of tasty flesh but it was sat on school dinner broccoli and lost without a navigator on a rippling ocean of butter.

This was a shame as I have fond memories of Brasserie Forty 4, although it was a while since I’d last visited. On that occasion three or so years ago I’d enjoyed a perfectly judged sirloin and an equally finely managed asparagus starter. The place had been buzzing with chat and the service had been informally immaculate. It had felt like a real occasion.

A couple of weeks ago a lunchtime meal was, company aside, dreary. Of course every restaurant visit is different. This is as it should be, replicated experience is tedious. This is why the Nando's and Café Rouges of this world, even if they provided great food, would still be dull. Chains want everything to be exactly the same. They want to hold a mirror up to their best outlet and see all the others reflected there.

So we crave novel experiences, but we generally want them to be good, especially when it comes to food. The lunch at Brasserie Forty 4 wasn’t a fresh delight in any way whatsoever. The only distinctiveness was a casual attitude to customers and an even more casual attitude to the food being served.

We had starters of chicken liver parfait (£4.35) and grilled goats cheese (£4.70) and mains of rainbow trout (£9.95) and fillet of sea bass (£10.20). The parfait was bland with the best bit being the accompanying chorizo and onion chutney. The goats cheese was a big lump of taste-free goo which lacked definition and sophistication. The beetroot and wholegrain mustard that came with it was the best part.

But the real flavour of disappointment came with our reasonably priced fish. My trout could have quite happily lived a life free of dairy products. It was a solid piece of tasty flesh but it was sat on school dinner broccoli and lost without a navigator on a rippling ocean of butter. The almonds were an inadequate distraction although the capers were welcome. It was overall a clumsy and careless dish. The sort of dish where you feel the chef probably knows his stuff but couldn’t be bothered.

My dining partner suffered a similar tale of sauce exhaustion, this time with a caviar lemon offering. The heavy, viscous buttery character of the latter slaughtered the caviar and swamped the sea bass. Again very clumsy, very careless. A side of chips (£1.95) was as hard as nails.

We finished with the cheeseboard. There was some interesting stuff, especially a characterful blue. “What are the names of the cheeses?” I asked. The friendly waiter looked puzzled as though I’d just asked him for a brief two minute description of Wittgensteinian philosophy. He went away, came back and said, “The blue one is Yorkshire Blue, the others I’m not sure about really.” We stared at each other awkwardly for a second or two, then he shuffled off. There didn’t seem to be anyone he cared to ask.

A white Burgundy, the Macon Uchizy 2006 (£19.75), was the best part of the meal providing a lovely clean peach finish to a good swig.

The décor was as I remembered from the previous time; crisp and clean with exposed brickwork in a pleasant waterside location above the River Aire. The pictures on the walls were execrable, perhaps they’d been painted in butter.

Rating: 11/20
Breakdown: 5/10 Food
3/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: Brasserie Forty 4
44 The Calls
Leeds
LS2 7EW
0113 234 32 32

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Roger FoodererJuly 31st 2008.

Brasserie 44 does seem to have become more down market over the years. It's lost its mojo. Not to say it isn't a nice place still to go, it's just that the place seems to have been overtaken...it's alomost old-fashioned.

GillyJuly 31st 2008.

it's a shame as I used to really enjoy this place, but last time we went I was very disappointed.

JamesJuly 31st 2008.

This isn't just a Brass 44 problem. I think Leeds generally has gone backwards. Five years ago Leeds was ahead in dining terms of all its northern rivals now all we've got is York Place and sometimes Flannels. Manchester has much more range at the higher levels and Liverpool is getting there. Newcastle isn't too bad either. I wonder what's made us go this way?

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