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No 3 York Place

Hazel Davis enjoys a cool culinary tryst on a sultry summer night

Published on May 15th 2008.

No 3 York Place

I knew I was going to enjoy No 3 York Place when I made the reservation. “Certainly Madame, we look forward to seeing you,” purred the French accent at the end of the line. The only thing I regretted was booking a table for two when I clearly should have just sashayed in wearing a slinky black number.

In fact, come to think of it, the décor is interminably dull but, I'm not sure that that matters, because all I can remember is the food. Smith and Lefranq’s vision holds good, No 3 York Place is ALL about the food.

I knew of the restaurant’s reputation, of course, as “the close second to Anthony’s” and, having enjoyed a visit to the Boar Lane behemoth just recently, York Place had a lot to live up to .

Arriving with a friend one hot, late Saturday night, we had to weave our way through throngs of drunken Loiners and dodge limousines full of bawdy hens and boorish lads so it was a blessed relief to enter the cool, quiet of this understated establishment.

Situated in the former Guellers Resaurant on (funnily enough) York Place in the heart of Leeds’ financial district, the restaurant is headed by co-owners chef Martel Smith and maitre’d Denis Lefranq. These boys relaunched it in 2006, with a view to altering its fusty, expensive legacy. Smith and Lefranq promptly dispensed with the more formal, showy aspects which had blighted its reputation and went straight for fine food at affordable prices.

With very plain décor, wooden floors, spotlights and glass, a central divider makes the restaurant feel more intimate than it really is. Well-placed booths mean you can have a secluded and intimate meal. This isn't always the best for a writer and meant I had to crane my neck to get a good gander at my fellow diners. This is not a place to watch or come and be watched. Mind you I did catch a relaxed, moneyed clientele with healthy tans (I imagine from second homes rather than bottles) and with no desire for a loud party.

In fact, come to think of it, the décor is interminably dull but, I'm not sure that that matters, because all I can remember is the food. Smith and Lefranq’s vision holds good, No 3 York Place is ALL about the food.

For my starter I had a delicious warm pithivier (a puff-pastry tart) of goats cheese, red onion marmalade and walnut dressing (£8), my companion had the risotto of garden pea and mint (£6 and “really quite excellent”). Our mains were a pot roast breast of chicken, morteau (smoked pork) sausage risotto with thyme jus (£12 and just right) and confit of duck leg, pomme cocotte, pear and cinnamon purée with port wine sauce (£13), which my companion declared “the right side of over-cooked, really tender and falling off the bone with very complementary fruit.”

3 York Place is very masculine in its menu and design. But it’s no criticism whatsoever. The options are meaty, rich and strong – with the odd concession to fish – and vegetarian alternatives are only available if you ask nicely. There is minimal fuss. Food is served efficiently, politely and quietly. Choices are remembered and eyes are scrutinised for sudden desires.

When the main course arrived my friend realised his buttered potatoes hadn’t. Reluctantly we alerted attention, received them immediately and were told that they were now on the house.

Pudding followed (in time-honoured tradition) and when mine arrived it was the delicate and moreish iced pecan parfait with toffee sauce with two amaretti biscuits shaped like nipples. My companion had vanilla panna cotta with warm figs which he said was beautifully viscous with strong vanilla flavouring.

The wine we chose – a lovely mellow Chilean Merlot (£16) –worked with the food perfectly and, followed by pick-me-up espressos, rounded off a very pleasant experience.

There is nothing massively innovative about the cooking at 3 York Place, there is no foliage or fancy dressing up. But it’s really not necessary when you are getting just downright good food. A few flavours well done seem to be No 3 York Place’s ethos. Well done indeed.

Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 8/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: No 3 York Place
York Place
0113 245 9922

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