Review: Ox Club, Headrow House, Leeds

Ox Club

Photo: Tom Joy

Meat – I’m a big fan.

So much so that once I established there was at least one vegetarian option on the menu at Headrow House’s new restaurant, Ox Club, I had no reservations about making my herbivorous boyfriend watch me devour a steak in the name of journalism.

I am no stranger to the wares of its chef, Ben Davy, whose delicacies I have stuffed my face with at Belgrave Music Hall, where he has carved out a reputation as the culinary spark behind resident eateries, Patti Smith’s Burger Co and Dough Boys Pizza.

So I was expecting good things from his latest venture, a collaboration with Headrow House owners Ash Kollakowski and Simon Stevens, to bring what they claim will be an “adventurous” new dining concept to the Leeds foodie scene.

A tall order, you might say, but one with legs as it turns out.

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We started with a plate of ham hock rillettes and burratina with smoked mozzarella – dishes which were neither too over-facing or stingy in their portion sizes.

The former managed to avoid the mistake often made with terrines and pates of over-seasoning and rather danced a fine line between ‘just enough salt’ and ‘wait, could it do with a pinch more? No, I’m mistaken,’ while the latter comprised a silky blob of Buffalo milk mousse whose delicate smoky flavour nodded to time spent canoodling the charcoals.

Next up was Ox Club’s party piece – hanger steak from the wood grill complete with dollops of salsa verde and béarnaise sauce. The use of a knife was practically redundant as the tender meat fell apart on the plate and, having being cooked to a blushing pink and with a depth of flavour one expects from a cut of this kind, it’s probably the best steak I’ve ever eaten – so much so that I was left lifting the watercress in the hope there was more hiding on my plate.

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It seems unfair not to mention the inventive range of side-dishes which included kale that tasted more like cake than a bitter green leaf through some sort of cider-based sorcery, and an earthy, blackened cauliflower which came with a chunky romesco sauce – highly recommended, both of them.

The only fault I could pick would be with the dessert, a pumpkin pie which tasted strangely of very little other than ginger and felt like an afterthought in a restaurant specialising in grilled goods.

But if you’re going to Ox Club it’s unlikely you’re going to appease your sweet tooth – stick to the obvious and you’ll leave a happy diner.

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The Roast Post: The Old Bridge Inn, Kirkstall

Living out in the ‘burbs has its plus side. It’s quiet, I don’t have to pay nose-bleed parking fees and if I ever let my kitten out of the house, he would probably be relatively safe roaming the streets.
The disadvantage of living in a residential area however is that there’s rarely a pub nearby for fear of drunks disturbing the peace.  So when I heard a new watering hole had re-opened in stumbling distance (or a five minute drive) of my house, I was pretty excited. When I heard it offered a Sunday roast I was practically beside myself with joy.
I badly wanted The Old Bridge Inn at Kirkstall to feed me an awesome meal when we arrived last Sunday – partly because I would like the option of eating closer to home from time to time, but mostly because I was bloody starving.
The long-forgotten pub opened its doors a couple of months ago and has been newly fitted out in the manner of a classy old man’s boozer – all stained glass and mirrored advertising touting the beer brands of yore.
A simple menu of three meat options greeted us – beef, turkey and pork, with a veggie option of a broccoli and Stilton parcel for the herbivore amongst us.  Between us we opted for beef, pork and a parcel and sat back to await our gravy-laden grub. We waited… and waited a bit more. Then 35 minutes later our plates arrived and the critique began.
Perhaps I’ve become a bit of a roast snob in recent years, owing to my penchant for dousing everything in olive oil and crisping it in rosemary and thyme, Jamie Oliver-style. But when I go for a Sunday lunch, I expect my plate of meat and veg to be, well, roasted.
Kirkstall's latest roast.

Kirkstall’s latest roast.

I don’t doubt the beef and pork had seen the inside of an oven for several hours and the potatoes and parsnips had certainly received an appropriate basting. But the carrot and Brussels sprout sides smacked of a mass boil, varying between overdone and undercooked depending on shape and size.
The gravy – our waitress proudly told us – had been made with meat juices and did contribute to the overall flavour of the meal.  Two Yorkshires improved matters (because who doesn’t love a totally unnecessary second pud?) and the meat was nicely cooked, but the size of the broccoli and Stilton parcel was laughably small and left our veggie diner hungry for more.
On the whole, the food was average, though portion sizes were good. In fairness, it’s early days for The Old Bridge Inn, having only opened its kitchen a couple of weeks ago. Possibly with a few tweaks, I would give their £9.50 roast a second spin, but I’m sad to say I won’t be banging down the door.
5.5/10

The Roast Post: The Midnight Bell

Once upon a year ago, I had a blinding roast beef dinner at The Midnight Bell, so I was rather hoping to repeat the

experience when we visited last Sunday.

In the absence of lamb, and for the sake of continuity, I opted once again for some cow-meat and waited eagerly for its appearance.

The service was speedy, but, as I’ve come to realise during my extensive roast search, it isn’t out of the ordinary these days for pubs to present their meals at high speed given that many of them pre-cook much of the meal to cope

with the rush of hungry mouths. I have no beef (pun not intended) with such service, on the proviso that everything is piping hot. Unfortunately, it was not the case at The Midnight Bell.

Juicy does it.

Juicy does
it.

But first! The good news.

A heavily-laden plate was placed before me  offering a vast

array of side dishes cooked in a variety of creative ways. It

can be difficult to distinguish one roast from the next when you

eat as many as I, but this is one area in which  The Midnight Bell excelled.

Alongside the staples of meat, roast potatoes and Yorkshire Pud, was a healthy portion of cauliflower cheese, a melee of chunky carrots and swede, a slightly unnecessary but non-the-less enjoyable dollop of mash, and a spoonful of sweet, braised red cabbage – all languishing in a thick and tasty gravy.

The meat was thinly carved and melt-in-the-mouth tender, and apart from my own personal preference for blushing beef, I can’t fault the kitchen in that area.  I inquired after the nut roast and was informed the flavours were good but a little pile of cashew nuts on the side of the plate spoke of a dissatisfaction with the texture.

Now for the bad news.

While the red-wine soaked cabbage was a tangy addition, the swede was a tad hard and the carrots a little on the cold side. I discovered a rogue green bean whose solo addition made me wonder whether it had escaped another pan in its

bid for freedom from a rolling boil. If it wasn’t an escappee, where were its brothers and sisters? Lastly the cauliflower cheese was practically scalding, but lacking in the, well, cheese department.

Big portions, well flavoured meat and a nice selection of veg  scores The Midnight Bell plenty of brownie points – especially at a reasonably priced £11.95 – but varying temperatures let the side down. 

7/10

The Roast Post: The Adelphi

In my experience, I’ve found a juicy roast can fix just about any of Sundays woes. Monday doom? Drown your sorrows in gravy. The world’s darkest hangover? Get some meat down you. Bit povo? Get a Taste Card and go to The Adelphi.

Which brings us to The Roast Post. Since moving to Leeds three years ago, I’ve sampled many of the city’s lamb and beef
 offerings, and as a self-confessed authority on the subject, I’ve taken it upon myself to start documenting my 
quest for the perfect roast.

Plus, with the winter months upon us, what better way to justify the outrageous amount of meat I’m about to consume on a weekly basis?And I’m starting with a tough act to follow: the aforementioned Adelphi.

Now before I gush about how great their roast is, it does come with a disclaimer. If Scottish Boss Man is running the show, you can guarantee yourself some damn fine service. But have the bad luck to show up on a particularly busy Sunday and you run the risk of sitting outside, in the cold, with a second-choice beef in front of you while smokers puff in your general direction.

Thankfully, Scottish Boss Man is running the show when we stop by today. We are sitting at our table within a minute, our order in at the bar, and before I even have time to read the second paragraph of the Sunday Times magazine, our heavily-accented friend is back with one lamb and one nut roast.

“That was quick!” I say, with a touch of suspicion. “Aye, it’s been slow-cooked so it’s ready to go straight out,” he drawls, setting it down and making sure all of our condiment needs are met before striding away.

The Adelphi's lamb shank

The Adelphi’s lamb
shank

As promised, the meat falls off the bone with an ease that suggests its been clinging on simply for presentation’s sake. The potatoes are on top form – the peppery skins crisp and just the right side of burnt, while the middle squidges out in a heavenly carby goo.

On the side are herb-sprinkled Chantilly carrots, a Yorkshire pud the size of my face and a serving of peas dotted with broad beans which were strangely elusive when I try to chase them onto my fork.

The whole meal floats in just the right amount of juicy gravy and as I stuff it in my face, I remember to inquire about the nut roast. I’m reliably informed it’s “chunkier than usual”, which I understand to be a compliment as the plate is scraped clean.

I, on the other hand – despite skipping breakfast – have never managed to finish an Adelphi roast and feel a bit disappointed in myself as I watch the remnants of my meal being taken away.

The woman next to me orders a sticky toffee pudding. I resist the urge to steal it from under her spoon and begrudgingly concede defeat in that I cannot possibly eat another morsel.

With a Taste Card in our possession we pay for just one of our meals, bringing our bill to £18 including a pint of Blue Moon – just another reason to keep going back to The Adelphi on a Sunday.

9/10