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The Bird By Vineet, Leeds.


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Gary,

Has this place appeared on your radar yet? I know Leeds is your stomping ground and you're a man who likes a bit of spice in your life.

Cheers

Thom

--

Each step you take through Alea Casino in Clarence Dock bounces a little off the carpet. I wonder if it's part of the sophisticated psychology behind the neon and chandelier chance-palace; a gambling bubble carefully engineered with muzak and bouncy carpets ready to cushion the blow of losing your next month's rent. Or maybe they're just new.

It's the first venture outside London by Vineet Bhatia, the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star and widely considered one of the best in the country. Alt: The Bird By Veneet: Leeds has got a cracking new Indian

This would make sense. Alea Leeds only opened in September and while I'm sure it's a marvellous casino with its red-soaked environ of both womblike safety and edgy euphoria, it's not why I was there. No, I was making a beeline for the restaurant.

The Bird by Vineet is tucked away in the back corner on the first floor to the right of a bonkers peacock mosaic. It's the first venture outside London by Vineet Bhatia, the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star and widely considered one of the best in the country. While Vineet isn't regularly installed in the kitchen, the place very much bears his mark and as such it's not slap-dash boozy curry, but contemporary Indian cuisine.

The actual restaurant is both showy and slick: low hanging lamps and red tube lighting illuminate the chocolate and cream hues of the angular interior design; a grand high ceiling oversees stylishly set tables and an open kitchen stage. It's modern design with a vague feeling of 1980s yuppie aspiration.

The completely affable maÎtre d' sat us at the chainmail window and left us to peruse the options. Vineet's menu is racy south Asian with a few alarming twists (Yorkshire cheese naan? Er...). There's certainly some innovation at play, however the most shocking thing about it are the prices. Even prior to tasting I was impressed – £6.95 for a main? On service and setting alone, this is hard to believe. What on earth can it mean for the food?

Popadoms (£1.50) kicked things off well: light, fragile with a deeply satisfying crunch and served with a couple of sweet fruit chutneys. The starter was a no brainer. The tapas platter (£6 per person) featured six mini Indian snacks presented impressively in stand of cute little cones. The chicken lollipop, despite having an overly child-friendly name, was a bone of brittle spicy batter revealing a lesson in moist succulence beneath. The crispy masala rice are cheesy rice balls – I know, hear me out – with a fluffy centre of gooey, textured, creamy loveliness that was just so right. The fleshy chunks of white fish inside their crunchy tandoori shells, the meaty lamb sheekh kebab with its indulgent cheese centre – there's an obvious danger of these being greasy disasters, yet all were superb.

To follow we overfaced ourselves with a few mains. The lamb biryani (£7.50) was a beautifully baked dish of tender dry lamb and rice under a crust lid. Each grain seemed to have been lovingly coated in a hearty spice mix with a fragrant presence of cardomon throughout. In contrast, the spicy Goan fish curry (£7.95) had its perfectly flaking white fish in a rich turmeric-laden sauce. A proper little hotty, the dense kicking flavours evolved for a good minute after the mouthful.

On the milder side, the saag paneer (£4.50) of spinach and Indian cheese was a creamy, pillowy delight loaded with warm nutmeg, mild spice and a garlicky depth. We mopped it up with a thin, almost artisan pizza-ish onion and coriander naan.

Often with curries there's the temptation, nay the need, to mix it up to mask the flavours in a big spicy sauce blend. But here, each dish was so cleverly constructed and expertly executed that to mix them would be like mixing Mozart and dubstep: wrong.

Thoroughly stuffed but unable to resist the dessert menu, I went for a raspberry delice (£4) which was a devilish layered girder of fudgy brownie, light mousse and a tart raspberry coulis served with a pistachio ice cream. My dining companion Ben is usually scathing but his between-mouthful utterances had been of a “spectacular”, “brilliant” and “flawless” nature all night. He went for the orange and ginger pudding with cardomon custard and ginger ice cream (£4). This soft centred sponge sandwiched between ice cream and custard was a hot-cold tower of Christmas spiced comfort. It elicited yet more uncharacteristic gushing from across the table.

The altogether excellent food totally distracted us, but The Bird By Vineet is definitely in a casino. The music, the glitz, the view of cheesy fire screens and betting tables. By all rights, The Bird should stand on its own, serving food that's thoroughly exciting and astonishingly reasonable.

The prices are less than half those of Vineet's London restaurant Rasoi and around the same as curries elsewhere that have systematically abused my innards. For delicious dishes and stunning value, it's absolutely worth seeking out the back corner of Alea Casino and, if you're feeling lucky, there's always the opportunity for a flutter on the floaty traipse through.

Rating: 16/20

Breakdown: 9/10 food

3/5 ambience

4/5 service

Address: The Bird By Vineet

Alea Leeds

4 The Boulevard

Clarence Dock, Home of the Royal Armouries

Leeds

0113 341 3267

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

See the article in it's original form at Manchester Confidential (ported across from sister site Leeds Confidential) here.

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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yes it has, it got a blinding review in the yorkshire post so i said at work we should try this at which point my colleague piped up that she had and said it 'wasn't all that' (she had of course already told me this at length oops)

Other problem is that it is on what is rapidly becoming the wrong side of town in a new build flat development that is dying on its arse a recent £2.5m italian closed its doors as have others

Despite that thought about going but when push came to shove easier to roll out of all bar one to the usually excellent akbars (though york branch edges it in the lamb chop stakes)

you don't win friends with salad

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Despite that thought about going but when push came to shove easier to roll out of all bar one to the usually excellent akbars (though york branch edges it in the lamb chop stakes)

And you say I am a creature of habit! :biggrin:

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Other problem is that it is on what is rapidly becoming the wrong side of town in a new build flat development that is dying on its arse a recent £2.5m italian closed its doors as have others

£2.5m for an Italian restaurant in Leeds? In LEEDS?

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Other problem is that it is on what is rapidly becoming the wrong side of town in a new build flat development that is dying on its arse a recent £2.5m italian closed its doors as have others

£2.5m for an Italian restaurant in Leeds? In LEEDS?

?? Financial capital of the north--that Leeds you mean? With serious old and new money? That Leeds? Surrounded by some seriously expensive village property? That Leeds?

Or was it some other Leeds you were thinking of? ; - 0)

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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Other problem is that it is on what is rapidly becoming the wrong side of town in a new build flat development that is dying on its arse a recent £2.5m italian closed its doors as have others

£2.5m for an Italian restaurant in Leeds? In LEEDS?

?? Financial capital of the north--that Leeds you mean? With serious old and new money? That Leeds? Surrounded by some seriously expensive village property? That Leeds?

Or was it some other Leeds you were thinking of? ; - 0)

He meant Leeds, Kent perhaps... Perhaps.

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I was here a couple of weeks back for a corporate do, and had reasonable expectations off the back of the YP review. Sadly they were shambolic re: the service and much of the food was only lukewarm and not enough to get more than a spoonful. So (much like Gary's colleague) can't really see a reason to go back when Akbars and Aagrah are so reliable.

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Other problem is that it is on what is rapidly becoming the wrong side of town in a new build flat development that is dying on its arse a recent £2.5m italian closed its doors as have others

£2.5m for an Italian restaurant in Leeds? In LEEDS?

yes, was called @larocca, they tried to copy bibis, which despite it's location is/was according to restaurant mag one of the busiest and most profitable restaurants in the country, iirc they also compared it to the ivy which bibis beat on all metrics.

you don't win friends with salad

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Ok, maybe I was being a bit London-centric, but £2.5m?  What were the chances of that investment generating a return worth the risk?

You should try asking the same question of either Ithaca or Vermillion in Manchester. Both, reputedly, cost around £4m to design and build, and the former opened about eighteen months late.

Ithaca is the city centre high end "Nobu-ish" restaurant, chi-chi cocktail bar and members club, whereas Vermillion is the enormous 300+ capacity Thai restaurant out in the arse-end of East manchester with a design job by Miguel Cancio Martins.

I look at Ithaca - 25 restaurant covers and four midweek-lunchers on the 50% discount menu, and Vermillion - marooned by the cancelled "supercasino", and wonder where that £4+m million return is going to come from over 5 years, 10 years or possibly even over eons...

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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[

I look at Ithaca - 25 restaurant covers and four midweek-lunchers on the 50% discount menu, and Vermillion - marooned by the cancelled "supercasino", and wonder where that £4+m million return is going to come from over 5 years, 10 years or possibly even over eons...

Cheers

Thom

I hesitate to say how much The Modern cost.

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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First post here, I have been reading eG quite a while now but just got around to joining :wink:

I have eaten at The Bird a couple of times, Vineet Bhatia's involvement is very much the design of the menu rather than spending time in the kitchen (outside of the grand opening & any other future big events I would imagine)

To be honest the food there when I have been is pretty much on a par with Aagrah/Akbars but with better presentation & smaller portions (not so small they leave me hungry though by any means), probably the best thing they do is the desi tapas which are tasty & a bit different :smile:

I think some of the problem is so much publicity was put out about Vineet Bhatia the only Michelin starred Indian chef that people have ended up going there expecting something special & service like you would get at a Michelin starred/Michelin aspiring restaurant, you simply ain't gonna get service or a front of house like you get at Anthony's :smile: go there expecting an Indian much like the other decent Indian places in the city with a few different choices on the menu (particularly in those desi tapas) & you won't go far wrong.

This is their menu anyway: The Bird Menu

I hadn't heard that @Larocca had closed down until I read this thread, is there anywhere in the city left that actually serves foie gras now then? @Larocca was the only place I knew that still had it on the menu :shock:

Just to finish up, if people do want Asian food (or a pretty damn special curry) in Leeds that really is a cut above the rest then look no further than Chino Latino in the Park Plaza Hotel (I can't see a thread for Chino Latino around here), they have an head chef who came from Nobu, you can see the obvious Nobu influence throughout the place & it is quite stunning in all respects, you will pay an higher price there though which is fine when the standard is so high :biggrin:

This is a pic of their Black Cod with Spicy Miso & their Lobster, Scallop & King Prawn Coconut Milk Curry from my girlfriends flickr account:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3527/318223...b51a9dba2_b.jpg

Edited by ChrisLeeds (log)
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just seen that the long awaited leeds mumtaz opens on sunday, now that is good news.

mumtaz bradford is usually pretty brilliant so it might even make the trek to clarence dock worthwhile, given we used to drive to bradford for lunch.

(and you've got to love a restaurant that has quotes on their website on the food from as diverse a range of characters as the queen, amir khan, shilpa shetty, dawn french & david cameron!)

Edited by Gary Marshall (log)

you don't win friends with salad

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