Piazza by Anthony, Leeds - Restaurant review

The famous Leeds Corn Exchange has been restored to its former glory, or maybe even better, by a one-man eatery machine

Piazza by Anthony

The Corn Exchange, Call Lane, Leeds LS1 7BR T: 0113 247 0995 E: piazza@anthonysrestaurant.co.uk W: www.anthonysrestaurant.co.uk Open: Every day 10am-10pm

Look skywards from the old trading floor; the beautifully curving iron and timber structure finishes in a magnificent glass dome. It's like being inside some mighty airship or a starlit planetarium. Stunning.

For the last 25 years Cuthbert Broderick's iconic Victorian oval has been a quirky home for indie traders selling everything from Goth gear to juggling balls. Last year the building's new owners, Zurich Assurance, decided that Leeds needed 'a world class food emporium' and amid considerable controversy the little shopkeepers were sent packing.

There's little early evidence yet of the promised food emporium in the vacant first and second floor shops but descend the sweeping staircase and you're in Leeds' most audacious new venture, Piazza by Anthony. That's Leeds' indefatigable super-chef Anthony Flinn, of Anthony's Restaurant, Anthony's at Flannels and Anthony's Patisserie. Hasn't this man heard about the recession?

On the stone flagged piazza sits a �1 million investment. A 116-seater brasserie and around the perimeter, boutique food shops including a bakery, a patisserie, a chocolate shop, a wine shop, a deli and temperature controlled cheese room. All Anthony's and all intended to work symbiotically with his restaurants. A caf� serves his salads and sandwiches, a rotisserie sells his takeaway roast poussin. Alongside the open plan kitchen is his bar, conference room and private dining room.

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Amid all this high aspiration, the brasserie menu is remarkably modest. From whisky porridge (�3.95) and bacon sandwich (�5.50) for brunch through to steak (�12.95) and chips (�3), sausage and mash (�8.25) and mushroom risotto (�8.50), there's something for most tastes unless you are a vegetarian. Two of us lunched on black spaghetti with roast baby squid and garlic oil (�9.50), followed by sea bream, spicy tomato cous cous and wilted spinach (�8.50). The squid ink spaghetti was accurately cooked, the baby squid beautifully tender and the topping of miniature leaves artfully 'on trend' but the garlic oil which would have given the dish real ignition had gone missing, lost perhaps in an overpowering slug of cream. Not quite what it said on the tin.

By contrast, the sea bream was terrific, a perfectly timed fillet of sweet tender flesh and crisp skin on a heap of full flavoured tomatoey couscous and some iron rich spinach. A side dish of carrot and ginger puree (�3) was equally excellent: sweet, smooth, soft. Think liquid velvet in a cup. It looked like baby food and had the texture of baby food but was a luscious, grown-up concoction to wallow in.

From a dependable pudding menu of bread and butter pudding, creme brulee, chocolate fondue, ice creams and sorbets (all �4.50), we chose a pink grapefruit sorbet which had a delicate grapefruit flavour if rather too sweet, and a textbook blackberry and pear crumble with a perfect ratio of fruit to crumble and a jug of proper custard.

Good coffee, smart service and a steely glass of French Terres D'Azur Sauvignon Blanc completed a top-notch lunch. High standards shone at every turn from the first class ingredients to the stylish cutlery and glassware. Drop such quality into such a sensational setting and you have a must-visit new destination for Leeds. And that's something to shout about in these straitened times.

Review by Jill Turton

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