Thursday, 18 May 2017

Le Pain Quotidien - Victoria Gate Leeds

Le Pain Quotidien has restaurants all round the world and in England they have a few restaurants down south. I would deem them fairly well established but they didn’t come to my attention until they landed in Leeds, more specifically Victoria Gate.

Le Pain Quotidien, or 'the daily bread' in English is a Belgian restaurant built on the foundations of a good bakery and serves only organic produce. In Victoria Gate the bakery sits on the ground floor with the restaurant above, for those unaware of its existence I can see how it would be very easy to skip by not realising that upstairs is a beautiful light dining room which is a perfect place to enjoy, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or possibly a couple glasses of (organic) wine and a charcuterie board.

I urge you to not just skip it by. Le Pain Quotidien is well worth a stop and a look in, let them tempt you upstairs, take a few minutes or hours out of your day to relax and unwind in their charmingly decorated rooms with antique mirrors, ornate flooring and balconies.

I had visited Le Pain Quotidien for brunch shortly before Christmas and in all honesty it hadn’t struck me as a place to go for an evening meal. I was invited to come along during the evening to show what they could offer on an evening, something which Leeds appears to be missing out on at the moment.

Such a calming atmosphere beautifully decorated. 

We arrived just before 7pm on a Saturday night. I was surprised to see some of the shops in Victoria Gate still open as many of them were advertised as only open until 6pm on the Victoria website. I had looked as there was a specific store I had wanted to pop in to before our meal, as it turned out it was open, hurrah for me but not so great for the stores (or restaurants that might take in post shopping trade). We were the only people in the restaurant at 7pm and only one other couple came in to dine whilst we were there. It was a welcome relief after making our way through the city dodging the all-day drinkers and seeing a few restaurants and bars already fit to burst. Perhaps we’re just getting old but I do like to hear what my dining partner has to say without having to compete with the music or large rowdy groups of people all crammed in to a small space.

Big glass windows perfect for people watching. 

LPQ offers the same menu through from lunch to evening with a range of open sandwiches (tartines), salads, charcuterie boards and hot dishes. There are a number of specials which change frequently alongside their dessert offerings too.

All the wines listed on the drinks menu are organic and their cocktails appear to change seasonally, for instance at Christmas I chose a Bucks Fizz from the menu and this time around I opted for a Mango and Pineapple Mojito, a much more summery drink. D chose a GINger and carrot cocktail, I’m not carrot juice’s biggest fan so I wasn’t expecting to like it but I was surprised by the fiery ginger that dominated the drink which made it much more palatable for me. Although warning to the coriander-haters as this drink comes with a substantial bunch hanging out of the side of it. My cocktail too was delicious, although a little on the dangerous side with it being so refreshing, I could have easily have made my way through a few glasses and ended up on the wrong side of tipsy.

Bright, fresh, summery cocktails. 

As the menu is used for lunch, where you might only indulge in one dish, we found ourselves having to query whether the charcuterie would be a suitable starter, as there are no obvious starters on the menu. We were told by the waitress it would be a great starter and that she would come back and take our order for mains when we were ready. We ordered the mixed meat and cheese charcuterie board (as opposed to just meat or just cheese) and set about looking over the menu again trying to decide what to have for our mains.

Charcuterie of dreams. 

When the charcuterie arrived I was surprised by its size, I could have definitely eaten just this with a few glasses of wine! The cheese and meat were not scrimped on with sizeable slices, much thicker than I am accustomed to. Bread was served alongside we ate a slice each but then neglected it not really wanting to fill up on bread. The selection of cheeses were standard (nothing too ‘out-there’) but of good quality and I'm told from local suppliers. The cured meats included chorizo (two ways), fennel salami and ham. Too frequently I have felt that restaurants have nipped out to Sainsbury’s and served us the Spanish Selection neatly on a plate, this was definitely not a Sainsbury’s pick up. D was immensely impressed and repeatedly declared how impressed he was whilst fighting with me over the remaining fennel salami. I particularly liked the additional accompaniments such as the slices of fresh apple which paired perfectly with the blue cheese and the tart mini gherkins.

Check those chunky slices. 

Feeling quite full by this point we asked for a 10 minute break before our main courses. I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it was to make a decision on our mains, there were many dishes that took our fancy and with them all so different it was hard to make the final cut. In the end D took the recommendation of the waitress and ordered the chicken and leek pie which came with vegetables.

Chicken and Leek Pie 

The pie was a ‘proper’ pie in the sense that it wasn’t, as some would say, a casserole with a lid ( I personally don't have an issue with these types of pie FYI). Gravy was provided separately and judged appropriately by a Yorkshireman; I'm glad to say it passed the Yorkshire approval. Although not a fan of chicken pie (I once had chicken pie and then contracted a stomach bug and it has ruined it for me ever since) I did have a slight taste and was impressed by the flakiness of the pastry, the retention of a firm bottom despite the filling and again no scrimping on ingredients, such as the chicken.

Smoked Chicken Club

I opted for a tartine, these seem to be the stars of the show and appear first on the lunch/dinner menu. My tartine of choice was the smoked chicken with crispy chorizo and hardboiled egg. Once again I was astonished by portion size, it was huge! I had also mistakenly ordered a side of roasted baby potatoes which I’m sad to say I barely touched.

Roasted baby potatoes. 

The tartine was delicious, the chorizo crisps were a delight and the thinly sliced egg paired well and brought the dish together with the smokey aioli. My only criticism of this dish was the plate it was served on. It was much too small, slippery and had no sides and therefore I found myself making quite an embarrassing mess on the table...

Crispy chorizo and thin slices of boiled egg made this sandwich. 

Having had much organic wine in Copenhagen in Relae we were both eager to try at least one glass of the organic wine that LPQ had to offer. We ordered a glass each of the House red a merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon. A large glass (in theme with the rest of the meal) is a substantial 250ml, that’s a third of a bottle of wine! In comparison the bar we visited following LPQ served their large glasses of wine in 175ml measures. It was a great full bodied wine without much dryness.

Organic red wine in plentiful portions. 

Unfortunately on this occasion we were too full for one of their incredible looking desserts (displayed in the cabinet downstairs) but I have had one previously and I am tempted to say that I will pop in again shortly just for coffee and cake, or perhaps a Belgian hot chocolate and a massive cookie.

As mentioned before me and my pals visited for brunch just before Christmas and we did manage to fit dessert in! (Amongst other things.) Here's a peak at what we ate...

Belgian Hot Chocolate - not for dieters for indulgers. 

Smoked Atlantic Salmon and Beetroot Caviar Salad 

Proscuitto & Mozzarella Di Buffalo Tartine 

Mushroom toast - field, chestnut, porcini, creme fraiche, chives, Dijon mustard on toasted organic brioche. 

Chocolate Bouche 

Belgian Waffle 

Did I mention they have beautiful floors downstairs?

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