Saturday, 21 April 2012

Johnny Fontanes - Leeds, Great George Street

Please note this establishment has now closed as of Autumn 2012

Johnny Fontanes is an all new American style diner opening in Leeds soon. I and a few others were lucky enough to be invited to a preview just before it opens to the public.

The idea of Johnny Fontanes is to bring the American dining experience to the UK, it's not like all this fast food high branded large arches crap were so often led to believe is the all American way. They promise great food, sourced locally, big shakes and specially imported beers and bourbons.

Walking down Great George Street you can't miss it. It's where Brio's used to be behind the town hall, it has massive orange signs so fairly easy to spot.

I was really excited about going here as it's something totally new for Leeds, and the owners have been very pleasant to talk to on twitter answering any questions I had about what they were launching.

We walked in and weren't immediately greeted although the waitress did notice us and then a couple of minutes later decide to attend to us, with it being an invite only event we expected to be pounced on straight away to make sure were invitees. We were told we could sit at the bar or sit down which ever we preferred to do. As no one else was sat down to eat we decided to wait in the bar, but then decided we were too hungry to wait around and made our way to the eating area.

I was a little confused as to what we could have in the £9.99 burger deal - single burger, side and a drink for £9.99 (as this is what was been offered to us for free) so I sent my friend to the bar to ask. I fancied the pulled pork burger but was disappointed to learn that this wasn't available that night. The reason for my confusion was that only 3 of the 6 burgers are labelled single or double, the others didn't have the option. You have to order at the bar and then they give you a buzzing flashing thing for when your food is ready, then you go to the collection point to pick it up. It's funny to watch everyone get really excited when their buzzers goes.

Kitchen Area 

The kitchen wasn't open from the word go but we didn't mind waiting as we were playing guess the tweeter, trying to figure out who was who from their avatars.

When the kitchen was finally opened I think my friend was first at the bar to order. I chose a cheese burger and Cajun fries. My friend chose a single bacon and cheese burger and onion rings. We had already got our drinks at the bar, there wasn't any lemonade hooked up so we both had coke.

I really liked the d├ęcor, it looked authentic inviting and the attention to detail is obvious. I loved all the Coca-Cola branded goods, very American in my opinion.

Our food came out really quickly, probably because we ordered so speedily after the kitchen opened!

Here is my friend's bacon and cheese burger with onion rings.

The burgers are all made from scratch in house that morning and cooked to your taste (medium, well done etc). My friend declared the onion rings to be the best they have ever tasted, and I must admit they were pretty good. Crunchy and warmly spiced they were truly finger licking.

Here is my cheese burger and Cajun fries.

I am always a bit dubious about ordering burgers in restaurants as they are often not cooked in the middle, taste like crap or are piled high with masses of food to try and make them 'interesting'. Here I didn't have to worry about it being processed crap, it wasn't so tall I couldn't fit my mouth around it. It was simplicity done well. Get the basics right and you're on to a winner.

It's good food disguised as junk food, the plastic baskets and table cloths fool you in to thinking you're in a greasy spoon, great for fooling the kids and getting them to eat something better than the massed produced burgers in chains nearby...

I loved this mustard! I've never had it before but I now know why it's America's number one mustard.. I ended up slapping some more on too..

This is a new eatery, brand new. So there are a few little tweaks that need to be made here and there. But you can tell that it's not from negligence that these improvements need to be made it's just what experience will bring them, and constructive feedback also.

It was a little too cold for me in the restaurant, I had to keep my coat or scarf on throughout the meal. My food also went a bit cold before I could finish it, so they could do with putting the heating on a little!

A fair few waiters and waitresses came up to ask us how we were and how our food was, but they all asked the same question. A bit of personality with your customer service will always enhance the meal. Not just another 'Is everything ok for you?'. Think of other things to say, and don't shy away from large groups as I've heard others say they received less service than we did.

On opening night I hope they have managed to get everything in, such as the pulled pork and the lemonade as it would be a shame for them to open without everything available, some people are less open minded than we are.

There was a bit of mix up towards the end of the night when we enquired about dessert. The dessert menus hadn't been printed yet so the waitress had to go grab a clip board to tell us what we could have and we were led to believe they were £4.99 each which we thought was a bit steep for a cupcake or a brownie. It turns out however that they are £4.99 with a milkshake. Which is a lot more reasonable! You can even get coke floats!

Once they get going and get a little experience under their belts it will be great. We will definitely return for the £9.99 deal and perhaps in summer (when it's a little warmer) the dessert deal where you get a big shake that's made from ice cream for £4.99 with a brownie or cupcake.

Keep an eye out for when they open!

Johnny Fontanes
40 Great George Street