Harvey Nichols 4th Floor – Restaurant Review
Harvey Nichols 4th Floor
by Matt Callard
There’s a moment during the brilliant Peep Show when David Mitchell tries to persuade an irritating girlfriend of his to move north. “There’s a Harvey Nichols in Leeds that everyone keeps going on about,” he tells her. Before adding, bitingly: “As if that’s the answer to something.”
Everyone does keep going on about Harvey Nichols. And perhaps, once, it actually was the answer to something. The answer to: ‘What are we going to do with Leeds?’ When it opened in 1996 (the first Harvey Nichols outside of London, lest we forget) it added a final salvo of recognition to the architectural splendour of The Victoria Quarter. Leeds was suddenly, definitively, and in no small part down to the brand new Harvey Nichols, no longer a jaded seventies anachronism, no longer the butt of jokes, no longer perceived by some as the dour epitome of northern grimness. It was an answer, of sorts, to the city’s critics, the planners and, most importantly, the people – who now had one more good reason to be proud of their city. Heck, Leeds was now a shoppers’ paradise.
“Celebratory, sample-size chunks”
Still is, of course – even more so – but a haven for foodies? Not quite yet. But it’s getting there. Richard Walton-Allen is a champion of Yorkshire produce and has been the department store’s only Head Chef since the venue opened. He’s built-up a good following over the years, developed a worthy reputation, and not just from the designer-disciples taking a moment out from their label browsing, but from Leeds’ ever-growing food scene (and believe me, Gucci comes a very poor second to gnocchi in their worlds).
So much has his reputation grown, in fact, that he’s developed a Tasting Menu. Described as his ‘Greatest Hits Collection‘, it compiles his best ten dishes from across the last decade into celebratory sample-sized chunks across 10 servings. It’s intended as a ‘thank you’ to the fans and, perhaps , as a small, self-congratulatory pat on the back for a decade of dining excellence. It’s stunning.
But we’re here to sample the a la carte and, out of curiousness, to see how the menu has developed since we last dined here, in those innocent pre-credit crunch days of 2007 when MPs could be trusted with pocket money and Susan Boyle was just a lonely spinster in a roomful of mewling moggies.
My starter of Potted Shrimp Risotto with Nutmeg and Lemon (£8) was a small joy. Deliberately salty, the zesty lemon cut right through it and the nutmeg balanced the dish out superbly. The consistency of risotto is a small bugbear of mine and, I’ve found, a good Litmus Test of a restaurant’s capabilities (a basic dish, simple to prepare, patience required, not easy to master). This was perfect – nicely tacky and ideally moist. Here was ten years of food experience on one plate.
For Mains I plumped for in-vogue Pork Belly (£12.50) accompanied by Pickled Red Cabbage. The layers of fat on this age-old dish are, of course, crucial to its success and the outer crackling layer was delicious, tempered only by a slightly under-done layer of fat inside. Great vegetable side dishes and an innovative Apple and Fennel dressing were fine accompaniments.
The Fourth Floor has always been an enjoyably light and airy space and service buzzes about breezily and efficiently. There’s no doubt about it – it’s a pleasant place to eat. It’s also excellent for a gratuitous bit of celebrity spotting, if that‘s your thing. Ex-Liverpool jelly legs ‘keeper Bruce Grobbelaar, anyone? Six out of ten for that one, maybe.
“A dash of glamour”
The Chocolate Dessert selection to finish was initially a much-needed blast of sweetness but came a little too overloaded with sugariness for me to finish it – I longed eventually for a snap of bitter amid the sweet. Instead I wished I’d taken my partner’s advice and plumped for the Baked Alaska for two, which looked enviously divine on a nearby table.
If you fancy some culinary reminiscence, the Tasting Menu is an excellent summary of Harvey Nics’ first decade in Leeds, but if you just want a good place to eat with a dash of glamour, step up to the Fourth Floor. Here’s to the next decade.
Breakfast – Mon – Fri 10am – 12 noon, Sat 10am – 11.30am
Lunch – Mon – Fri 12noon – 3pm, Sat – Sun 12noon – 4pm
Afternoon tea – Mon – Fri 3pm – 5pm, Sat 4pm – 6pm
Dinner – Tue – Fri 5.30pm – 10pm, Sat 7pm – 10pm
On-line reservations available.
The Tasting Menu is priced at £55 per head, or £80 including paired wines.
Advance bookings are essential for the Tasting Menu and need 24 hours notice – the offer runs until early July.
0113 204 8000
107-111 Briggate, Leeds LS1 6AZ
Editor’s Update: Chef Richard Walton-Allen has since left Harvey Nichols. The head chef at the time of writing, and still serving modern European food, is Lee Heptinstall.