I’ve written previously about the Deer Park, more specifically about their Sunday lunch option. I mentioned in my last post that I have eaten at the Deer Park a few times but had never blogged about it. The food has always been relatively expensive for what it is especially when ordering the lamb dish (as I normally do) which costs near to £20. The previous head chef is a friend of D’s and whilst under his care I never had a bad meal here. We returned last weekend to have one of the worst meals I’ve had since… well probably since Bar Soba if I’m being honest.
We visited Friday night desperate to relieve the burdens of work over a glass of wine whilst not having to worry about cooking dinner or washing up afterwards. A takeaway was mentioned but the pub was favoured. A bad experience at the Roundhay Fox and an even poorer roast dinner has left us to resign the Fox to a drinks only pub. The nearest other pubs (without public transport or taxi) are the Thomas Osbourne and The Deer Park. The Thomas Osbourne resembles a large Wetherspoons or whacky warehouse without the kids so I’ve never felt inclined to go. The Deer Park it was.
We arrived approximately 6.30pm and asked if there was a table for two available, a rather moody greeter/waiter pretended to look on the computer and fanny around not really doing anything before saying yes and walking off. I guess we were to follow him, something he made apparent half way down the restaurant (side of the pub) when he turned and gestured at us with his hand.
Once we were seated I began to examine the tired looking drinks menu contemplating whether to have a glass of wine or something else entirely. The waitress appeared eager to take our drinks order, not knowing what I was going to eat and therefore couldn’t decide which wine to pick I chose a ginger beer to refresh me in the meantime. D asked what was on the taps and the waitress checked her little electronic notepad and reeled off all the lagers, seeing his face she asked whether he meant the ales to which he replied yes and ordered half a Leeds Pale.
When my drink arrived I was presented with an alcoholic ginger beer which I had to send back for a non-alcoholic version. One should never assume!
The menu at The Deer Park changes regularly and I was struggling to over what to order, there wasn’t anything that was particularly grabbing me. I noticed something new and quite risky (for a local pub) on the menu, and being the food blogger I am, I couldn’t resist ordering it and seeing how they handled this challenge. That challenge being confit of duck bedded on a waffle with sweet potato fries. So much could go wrong with this dish, so much could go right. I’m almost certain you can guess the outcome already.
Before I dissect the mains let’s start with the starters. D and I both ordered the deep fried brie, I’ve had this before and it’s a pretty fail safe option. My only criticism about this dish is I preferred the condiment that was served before, the mango marmalade was okay but I much prefer a berry paired with my brie.
D ordered the pork belly (without the scallops) for his mains. It wasn’t great, with a lot of fat present. I know, I know pork belly is fatty but this was half meat half fat maybe a touch over on the fat side. The top of the pork belly was without crackling and we presumed this had been removed to make smaller pork scratching that was present beside the pork.
If you follow me on twitter or Instagram you will no doubt know that I have recently purchased a waffle iron, following this acquisition I became slightly obsessed by waffles making all sorts of concoctions from sweet to savoury dishes. D noted that it would be a true test of DP’s culinary skills if they could impress me with their waffle. I dug in spooning duck and waffle in to my mouth. I almost spat it back out again. The duck was cooked slowly in thick gravy and the waffle was incredibly sweet. I could taste the sugar granules within it and the slight preserved taste you get with pre-cooked food. I know many chefs have successfully succeeding in pairing savoury and sweet dishes, the most obvious example being sweet and sour chicken from the Chinese. This did not pair; I’d go as far as to say this combination was divorced on unamicable terms. I ate the duck from atop the waffle trying to pretend that what I had just experienced was but a bad dream. I had much better duck leg at French restaurants (perhaps the more sensible place to have duck leg) and even in the chain Giraffe; I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a prepacked dish that was warmed up to serve. The sweet potato fries had potential to be good as I suspect when freshly made they were crispy, however by the time they reached our table the thick gravy had seeped in to them and they were starting to cool and congeal.
There was a lot left on my plate when the waitress came to take it away, I looked at her expectantly waiting for her to ask me how it was but she avoided my gaze and quietly removed our plates saying nothing at all. I can only presume this happens too often so they have given in asking whether everything was okay with the meal.
We’d ordered a bottle of Malbec to share between us (£20) and so set about making our way to the bottom of it. Finding myself feeling quite drunk from the lack of food consumed we grabbed a waitress and asked for a dessert menu. D joked that I had already had my dessert it had just come mashed up with my main. Ha di hah.
I ordered the sticky toffee pudding. Surely you can’t go wrong with sticky toffee pudding even if it is vacuum packed or comes in a tin? Wrong.
There was a skin layering my toffee sauce and the middle of the pudding was cold with only the outer edge being warm. The ice cream was fine. I still ate it, I was famished.
When we requested the bill, now the longest standing (sitting) customers due to trying to finish off the bottle of wine I was shocked to find that it was just short of £80. Granted we had three courses and a bottle of wine but for food that was so substandard I could barely stomach it this was not the price I was expecting to pay. To compare, a few days later we dined at The Reliance where we ordered three starters, two mains (steaks), two additional sides and two glasses of wine the bill came to £70 and the food was far superior in quality. I felt robbed by The Deer Park and it’s fair to say I won’t choose to dine there again.