When on the look-out for new dining experiences sometimes it can worth taking a detour off the beaten track, following this advice my friend Jenny and I secured a Thursday evening booking at Leeds City College’s training restaurant The Food Academy.
The Food Academy does just what it says on the tin, it is a fully functioning restaurant that is used to train students enrolled in vocational catering and hospitality courses. These students not only design the fine dining menu, they cook and serve the food under the guidance of industry professionals, Anton Scoones, Head Chef and Luke Hepworth, Restaurant Manager and handle with the day to day running of the eatery.
Based a short walk from town at the new Printworks Campus on Hunslet Road (sandwiched between Crown Point Shopping Park and Costco) the modern surroundings and impeccably laid tables soon had us forgetting that we were actually in a college.
Now before our visit the jury was out on what to expect from this experience, however the smiley welcome of the front of house staff reassured us that we were in for a pleasant evening. Once seated we were handed the four course set menu to have a browse over whilst we predictably ordered a bottle of Prosecco (I say this because if you know Jenny and I you know we like our fizz), and at just £17.50 a bottle it’d be rude not to!
Each course on the menu had four options (with a decent selection for vegetarians), with a serving of Winter Vegetable Broth squeezed in after the starter. On deciding what to order our waiter knew the menu inside out and was therefore well equipped to give out recommendations, he also informed us that the students rotate between serving and being a chef, so they really do know what they’re talking about.
To start I opted for the Queenie Scallops whilst Jenny chose the Round Green Venison Carpaccio. The scallops were served on a bed of homemade Linguini Pasta with sultanas, courgettes, and ginger, the dish was topped with a smooth sauce, and although pasta can be rather filling for a starter the Linguini was delicate, fresh and not at all over bearing. Jenny’s Venison Carpaccio was perfectly portioned and the crispy oatmeal flatbread gave the dish an added crunch. To accompany out starters we were also served a delicious mini rosemary bread loaf (baked at the Campus bakery), serving it warm with a big knob of butter was a great comfort touch for the winter nights.
For course number 2 we were presented with the Winter Vegetable Broth and a wedge of the Bakery’s toasted Sourdough. The soup with an addition of barley was hearty, warming, and would also go down wonderfully for a cosy winter’s lunch.
On to the mains and I stuck to my love of seafood and chose the Roasted Cod Loin, Lobster Cannelloni, Saffron Oxo Cube, Pepper Rouillie and Poached Celery, and being a sucker for meat Jenny had the Cider Braised Pork Belly (At this point I think it’s important to remind you this is the menu created by college students… All I’m saying is watch out Heston!) My cod was cooked superbly with the flakes just melting away from one another, however the star of my dish was the Lobster Cannelloni, a perfect pasta parcel stuffed with flavoursome Lobster meat. The pork belly was served with homemade black pudding and although it’s not to everyone’s taste it was to Jenny’s, she also appreciated the sweet, tangy rhubarb and apple sauce to go with the juicy piece of pork.
Not normally ones to eat four courses in one sitting we thought dessert was going to be a struggle, and being undecided on what to choose we asked our other server Sasha what she’d suggest. Sasha talked us through each dish but she had a clear favourite in the Iced Rhubarb Mousse with Cinnamon Porridge, so that was order number one, and for our second option we went for the Dark Chocolate Truffle (we both had full intention of sharing).
I compared the rhubarb mousse to a deconstructed crumble, the sharpness of the rhubarb was supported by the cold ice-cream like mousse, and the cinnamon porridge bar added a sweetness and texture. Now if chocolate is your thing you must order the Dark Chocolate Truffle, served with a brandy snap and pistachio cake, the generous portion of chocolate truffle is rich, decedent, and definitely one worth sharing. As with all our dishes from the evening the presentation of our desserts was very impressive, it was clear that a lot of creative thought had gone into how The Food Academy wanted to portray their food.
Throughout our meal the service was faultless with Luke ensuring that our Prosecco, and water, remained topped up at all times. In between courses it was interesting to chat to the staff, to hear about their training, and their aspirations.
Normally for a four course meal in a top notch restaurant you’d be expecting to pay above the odds, this fine dining experience will set you back just £18.00 per person or £10.00 two courses and 13.50 three courses at lunch time, and not only will you have a delightful meal, there is also the sense of contribution to the future of our local hospitality industry. The set-up of The Food Academy is done to a high standard, and the students are supervised at all times, and it could quite comfortably sit alongside other well established restaurants in the city.
If you’d like to book a table at The Food Academy, or are interested in finding out more, take a look at their website at www.foodacademyleeds.co.uk.
It’s well worth a visit!