Piazza by Anthony

October 1, 2009

A trip up to Leeds this weekend for a friend’s wedding. I went to university in Leeds and don’t go back enough – everything looks the same yet different, old neurological pathways start activating as I walk around and I don’t know that I know where I’m going until I get there. It’s disorienting and a bit uncomfortable but a bit exhilarating at the same time. We ate noodles at Fuji Hiro for lunch and wandered round a gallery of local artists’ work, beautiful things we couldn’t afford. We bought tumblers attached to toy VW camper vans as a wedding gift. We visited Tom’s sister and her husband in their new house and I now have serious house envy – I want a kitchen with a slate floor and a big dining table and an oven with six hobs sitting in its own little nook. We stayed with a friend from university who has an actual garden! And a conservatory! Major southerner house envy.

And the shops…no wonder I got through my student loan so fast. And Urban Outfitters wasn’t even there before! One of the places I used to love shopping was the Corn Exchange, a big round multi-level Victorian building with lots of independent boutiques, market stalls full of people selling handmade bags, jewellery, mirrors and cushions, bead shops, shoe shops, card shops, it was a fantastic place to spend a Saturday afternoon in the heady carefree days of studentdom.

Some time in my absence (and without consulting me I should add) the Corn Exchange was taken over and has now reopened as a food emporium. Except, it’s almost empty. The only food on sale is at Piazza by Anthony, a restaurant which now occupies the bottom floor in the cavernous depths of a building now fronted with closed, whitewashed shops. Piazza is circled by numerous enclaves selling the food you can buy at the restaurant: a patisserie, bakery, deli, fromagerie and chocolatier. A good idea which instantly enchanted me (an entire floor of places you can buy food will do that) and I’d heard good things about the restaurant, a lower priced outpost of Anthony’s other, also well-regarded, flagship restaurant.

We went on a Sunday, post-wedding, for a late lunch. And this may have been the problem. With several dishes being unavailable, a long wait to be served, and a few ingredients seeming slightly past their best, we got the impression that the place had already wound down for the week and we were slightly inconveniencing them with our presence. Not that it was bad – Tom’s duck breast with rhubarb was beautifully tender, both elements pink, juicy and flavoursome (although the hazelnut sauce that was meant to come with it? Don’t know what happened to that). I had milk-poached smoked haddock with crushed new potatoes, which was every bit as soothing and comforting as I’d hoped, although the potatoes were a tad tepid while the broad beans, peas and lettuce we ordered with it were mouth-scorchingly hot. Another side of buttered sugarsnap peas and bacon wasn’t really bacony enough and the peas were overcooked. A shame, a few small details were off putting when in general the menu looked brilliant and the main elements all worked.

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And we only got oil with our bread, and there was a really nice dark fruity bread I wanted butter with. I was a bit hungover at the time. I may have been a bit cranky.

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If only I still lived in Leeds, I would go back and give Anthony’s a fair trial. Or perhaps I could just visit more often.

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