MAKING THE GRADE : Jill Turton visits a restaurant in the heart of Leeds which puts its staff of apprentice chefs to the test.
ELL, nobody’s perfect,” said Osgood Fielding III in the famous last line of Some Like it Hot, and nor is the Food Academy. Why would it be? It’s run by newly qualified apprentices from Leeds City College and if it’s not yet the finished article, then it’s not doing at all bad.
Surprisingly there’s nothing on the menu or the signage to explain that it’s run by the college and that these are students working towards their NVQ level 3. Perhaps they want it that way – to be treated as a proper grown-up restaurant – but anyone not in the know might not have given the benefit of the doubt.
But if there are creases to iron out in the kitchen, there is no arguing with the location – the gorgeous beamed and white attic space above Flannels, the posh clothes store on Vicar Lane. It used to be Anthony at Flannels and looks much as it did then: wooden floorboards, tall windows, a bar running the length and a changing exhibition of contemporary art on its white walls. What student wouldn’t be pleased to be given his first job here? And if the starched white tablecloths have given way to wooden tables, there are still the cool leather dining chairs and white linen napkins. It was always a soothing retreat from city centre shopping – it still is.
As in Anthony’s day, the Food Academy serves breakfast, brunch and lunch but not evening meals. The menu starts the day with porridge or eggs benedict and the like, goes on to fish and chips, burgers, sandwiches, “grazing plates” and afternoon tea. There is also a more ambitious three course set menu, £15 for two courses, £18 for three, which we went for. Decent off-the-peg wine list. Bread rolls.
Memo to manager Becky Price. Please tell your students to take the butter for the bread rolls out of the fridge earlier. It was virtually unspreadable.
The set menu admirably steps out of the comfort zone and pushes the bar a little higher than your average modern British menu, a welcome attempt at offering something more challenging with dishes like “textures of aged lamb”, or chestnut apple, crispy kale and watercress salad. “Textures of aged lamb” sounded interesting and ambitious. Too ambitious as it turned out. It was off.