Arnolds Bar & Restaurant may be new to Leeds, but it comes steeped in Yorkshire heritage, which is apparent as soon as you spot the charming collection of flat caps that adorn its stylish blue walls. Throw a few local heroes into the mix, alongside a small but well-crafted menu filled classic dishes, and Arnolds could only be more Yorkshire if they had a whippet as a mascot.
Named after the much-loved entrepreneur and philanthropist, Arnold Ziff, the restaurant just so happens to be in the very capable hands of Steve Ridealgh and family, who previously worked their magic at Brasserie 44 across town for several decades.
Arnolds has taken over the former Marco’s site, and if our trip was anything to go by, it certainly adds a touch of class to the rapidly developing Arena Quarter. The interior design is fresh and modern, with a nice touch of opulence without going overboard. The bar area is spacious and inviting, whilst the impressive private dining area tucked away at the back of the restaurant is the perfect setting for hosting.
Keeping within the Yorkshire theme, we began with an ice-cold pint of the award-winning Leodis from Leeds Brewery as we checked out the menu. Classic dishes such the Conift Duck Terrine with hazelnut salad and Oxtail Risotto with aged parmesan and truffle oil have subtle modern twists, without being pretentious.
I started with the Pork Spring Rolls, which came with a creamy satay dip. The minced pork was lean and delicious, and the pastry perfectly crisp, which got things off to a good start. Across the table, the Smoked Haddock Gratin with grain mustard and gruyere cheese also received a resounding thumbs up.
We picked out a bottle of the Soldier’s Block Shiraz to enjoy with the mains, which is a bright, fruity number that goes down a little too easily. It was the ideal choice for my Confit Leg of Duck main, which was accompanied with smoked bacon, spring cabbage and port sauce.
The meat really was fall-apart moist and tender, and the dish beautifully presented. When I saw my companions Holme Farmed Venison Haunch, I had a brief spell of food envy, but of course I swiped a forkful to try. Cooked medium-rare, the meat was perfectly pink, and the dish enhanced with the red cabbage, blackberries and red wine that came with it.
We shared side dishes of Dauphinoise Potatoes and Sugar Snap Peas with the mains, which was just about right. Portion wise, Arnold’s manages to get the balance between hearty and dainty just right, so you won’t go hungry but you’re also unlikely to leave in a food coma.
With that in mind, we decided to end the meal with the Rum and Vanilla Panna Cotta. This delicious boozy dessert looks almost too good to eat, but drizzled with rum soaked raisins and compressed apple, you’re unlikely to leave anything behind.
Having had an almost faultless meal, with impeccable service, it’s hard not to be charmed by Arnold’s. A restaurant that wears its flat-cap with pride and its heart on its sleeve, we can’t wait to return to work our way through their finely crafted menu.
Words and photography by Jordan Fletcher.
Arnolds Restaurant & Bar, Wade Lane, Leeds, LS2 8NJ. Tel: 0113 831 4531.