Monday, March 05, 2007

Harvey Nichols - Fourth Floor Restaurant

Fri 2 Mar 2007

Following straight on from the beer and food masterclass, Andy and I stayed put and had our dinner in the Fourth Floor Restaurant. We could have chosen from the very reasonably priced (£17 for 2 courses, £22 for 3) prix fixe menu, which matched food with beer, and while that would have been more in the spirit of the evening, we were rather taken by some dishes from the a la carte menu.

The first thing that impressed was the quality of the bread and the lightly salted French butter. So often you go to a good restaurant and, for some reason, get served rubbish bread. And I, at least, tend to remember this: Cafe 21 in Newcastle being a case in point. But not so at Harvey Nichols: the meal started as it intended to go on.

I started with lamb cooked with a harissa coating and served with a goat's cheese and rocket salad. The lamb was very barely cooked and incredibly tender, and the heat of the harissa cut through the richness of the goat's cheese perfectly. It was a very simple plate of food which worked remarkably well. Unfortunately, in the drinks department I'd veered away from the beer and opted for a glass of Sancerre. While the wine was a lovely, delicate, dry and very apple-y example of a sauvignon blanc it was completely swamped (not unexpectedly) by the harissa.

Andy stuck with beer (more specifically, the Schneider Weisse) and started with what was basically a glorified potato dauphinoise. It was absolutely delicious: laden with good butter, cream and cheese, and the potatoes still with some bite and shape. A really simple dish, executed well and not served in an overwhelming portion.

For main course I chose grilled pork with a potato and beetroot hash and a kind of apple salsa. While I did feel my pork was a little overcooked, I was inclined to overlook this because the potato and beetroot combination was fantastic (for some reason, it would never have occurred to me that the earthiness of beetroot would go so well with potato - obvious, when it's pointed out though!), and the apple salsa (tiny cubes of apple dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and lashings of parsley - I think) was stunning. Everything on my plate worked very well together and, when matched with my green apple Sancerre, it was even better.

Andy opted for venison, which was beautifully tender and juicy - and must have been good because I didn't get very much of it!

We finished off with coffees, even though parts of the dessert menu were very tempting.

Now, this all sounds like rather unqualified praise - and given that the Fourth Floor won Best Restaurant in last year's Let's Eat Leeds awards, that is what you might expect. But, there is one huge drawback. And that is the service. The waiter we had was, in a word, atrocious. He leaned across the table and us, didn't so much carry plates as wave them around in the air, and when he asked us if we were enjoying our meal he didn't look at us and wandered off before we gave an answer! I actually caught the eye of someone at another table who was also 'enjoying' this unique style of service, and almost collapsed in giggles as this diner rolled his eyes!

The final bill was around the £75 mark (this included the 10% service charge Harvey Nicks add), which I didn't think was over the top - or at least, it wouldn't have been, if the quality of service had matched the lovely food.

1. Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor Restaurant, 107-111 Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6AZ, phone 0113 204 8000

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