The Light, Leeds RESTAURANT REVIEWS
by Emily Lawley
The Light in Leeds has been transformed from a traditional shopping centre to more of a one-stop destination for all of your food, drink and entertainment needs. There is an unusual mixture of shops, including an O’Neill for your trendy surfer-inspired gear, a shop selling the crafty creations of local artists and designers and then a fitness supplement store. Plus, there is a coterie of well-known restaurants and a Vue cinema. It is ideal for a relaxed day out or as a place to start a night out before hitting some of the local bars.
With a night of sampling the food and drink at four of The Light’s restaurants ahead of me I do feel a little nervous about one of the choices. The main courses are to be eaten at Frankie & Benny’s – not my first choice for Italian-inspired food. But I go with an open mind and I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food in each venue.
We start with drinks at Café Rouge. This is a great venue for a large group (there were 25 of us), with an open area near the bar that has space for tables to be pushed together. Promising the ‘je ne sais quoi of French dining’, the décor and ambience does give a relaxed Parisienne feel. There are classic French posters adorning the walls, warm colours on the walls and candles on all of the tables. I go for a large glass of the house Rosé (£5.55) and my date opts for a soft drink.
The Light Leeds: “Dark and classy”
We snack on a selection of olives (£2.95) that are great to whet our appetites. But my only gripe is that they have their stones in. Not the best for a romantic or civilised experience when you have to either nibble on them like a squirrel or lob a whole one in then try to discreetly dispose of the stone at the end. With a large selection of small dishes designed for sharing on their menu, including bread with houmous and mini chorizo sausages, it is a good venue choice for some pre-night out/cinema drinks and nibbles.
Next we head to Miller & Carter Steakhouse for some starters to share. Access is out on the main street rather than from inside The Light itself. The atmosphere is dark and classy which instantly excites you about the quality of the food. We are seated on a long table in the middle of the restaurant. This gives us a view of the kitchen through the large glass pane window they have. It’s always the sign of a confident kitchen if they are happy for the customers to see what is going on as they prepare the meal.
The Light Leeds: “Crowning glory”
The selection of starters is quite eclectic and not all as you would expect from a steakhouse. We have some delicious homemade Nachos (£7.95) that are light and pillowy due to being made in the restaurant. Far superior to the overly dry the shop-bought ones we are all used to. They all have different flavours too, which is a nice surprise. We also try their Lime Marinated Salmon Crostini (£6.95) which matches the gorgeous richness of the fish with the sharpness of radish, tomato and citrus perfectly. Plus there’s some Lemongrass & Chilli Tempura Prawns with a sticky Sweet Chilli Jam (£6.50). The jam is great but I don’t get a hint of the lemongrass or the chilli in the prawns. Perhaps they need to be marinated for longer.
But the crowning glory was their amazing Bourbon Glazed Pork Belly Bites (£5.95). They are so succulent and cooked to perfection. You don’t even have to use a knife to cut them. They are enveloped in a sweet, smokey glaze that is one of the best I have tasted. The ‘bites’ are a decent size and you just want more with each mouthful. Even my pork-phobic date can’t get enough of them!
The Light Leeds: “A bit overdone”
We then head to Frankie & Benny’s for our mains. As I said before, the restaurant is not my first choice for Italian/American cuisine. But I know they have a large menu full of variety. So I am sure there will be something that suits my tastes. With traditional American Diner booths to sit in and walls covered in photos of well-known Italian celebrities and landmarks you do instantly get a feel for the 1950s ‘Little Italy’ district of New York that the restaurant hearkens back to. The selection of main courses we are served give a fairly good idea of the choice available, despite there being no pizza on offer (much to the displeasure of my date who is an avid margarita pizza fan).
I started with a taste of both pasta dishes, their veggie Pasta Verde (£10.25) and the Smoked Salmon (£12.45), both of which promised to be bound in a creamy cheese sauce with watercress stirred through. I have to admit I was left disappointed – there was no unctuous sauce to be seen and barely any fish in the Smoked Salmon dish. The broccoli too in the Pasta Verde is a bit sad and overdone. A few pieces of pasta later and I am finished.
The Light Leeds: “Impressed with the layout”
The platter is redeemed a little by the Bacon Cheeseburger (£11.75), a staple of any American menu. Mine is nice and juicy and seems to be handmade. The seasoning is just right and the addition of the crisp bacon and a little cheese tops it off nicely. We also try the Hand Battered Fish, Chips & Peas (£10.95) which are fine. Although I personally wouldn’t eat fish and chips from anywhere other than a chippy or on the beach! A Chicken, Bacon & Honey Mustard hot baked wrap (£9.95) is lovely and crispy and a great light alternative to a big main course.
Finally we go to Browns for our desserts. I have to admit I had been looking forward to this visit all night. Browns are renowned for their brilliant cakes, Afternoon Tea and sweets. As you walk in it is hard not to be impressed with the layout of the restaurant. You step onto the mezzanine level that overlooks the bar with a grand piano and the other guests sit on the tables below. I spot their Eton Mess (£6) on the menu outside and, as one of my all-time favourites, I give it a try.
The Light Leeds: “An eclectic mix”
To my delight they start to bring out the Eton Mess… and nothing else unfortunately. So we don’t get to try any of the other delicious-sounding sweets on offer. The dessert is served on a plate which is a little unusual as, due to it being a combination of pieces of meringue mixed with cream and fruit you usually eat it from a tall glass or a bowl and mine did seem to have a serious Leaning Tower of Pisa look by the time it got to the table! Each of the elements of sweet, crunchy meringues, syrupy cherries, cream and hazlenuts work well together. But the balance could be better and I would love some cherries to have been mixed through the dessert to cut through the richness of the cream. They are placed on the side like an afterthought.
All in all the evening gives me a great overview of what The Light has to offer. The restaurants are an eclectic mix. You wouldn’t necessarily be visiting them all for wonderful gastronomy but you are guaranteed to enjoy some very tasty food in a relaxed atmosphere that is ideal for a catch-up with friends or the start of a great night out in Leeds.