At a place to be revealed with a menu from a never seen before restaurant…….that was the unlikely offer which scores of adventurous diners signed up for with this weekend’s pop up restaurant in Leeds. Destination unknown.
But when The Beast & The Swine opened its doors to the public, they were unlikely to be disappointed.
What a dramatic place setting. Inside Holy Trinity Church, just yards away from the hubbabaloo of Boar Lane (one of Leeds’ busiest streets for a Saturday night) to find yourself sitting in the tranquility of the parish church was faintly surreal.
Under a cat’s cradle of a sculpture spanning the cavernous roof space and surrounded by leaves from books hung on strings all around – the theatre of the event had an immediate wow factor.
Seven courses and a menu of local produce which included Bolito Misto of Yorkshire Wolds chicken and picked carrots.
The were moments of brilliance – in particular, the fish course of Bridlington crab, shoots and a grapefruit dressing was a triumph.
Regular offerings of excellent rosemary focaccia arrived. Starters arrived on sharing platters with a selection of ham, a dense and satisfying rabbit rillettes and heritage vegetables.
The meat course, with it’s pink veal tongue rudely sticking out, was a challenge but the crowd pleasing Wensleydale cheese course introduced a stunning onion and golden sultana chutney with whole spices . If that’s for sale anywhere, can someone drop me a line with details.
The final show of a giant croque-en-bouche completed the spectacle of the evening and for those who had any room to spare. I didn’t.
It all got a bit Alice in Wonderland here. Being presented with a baby’s bottle full of Gin Iced Tea on arrival and seeing people wandering around suckling on them set the tone for an unorthodox approach. There’s no wine list, no choice of bar drinks or over priced water selection. The choice for the evening – red or white.
The wine came served in teapots. We drank it from assorted cups and mugs. Who knows what it was? At a guess, probably a fairly ‘plonky’ cabernet.
If you’re into your wine, this wouldn’t be the best approach to the liquid part of a dining experience so the novelty factor had to distract diners from their usual choices and I think they got away with it.
I went along on this second night and it was clear the team of four -two chefs, two front of house who call themselves We Are the Animals – had got into its stride. The welcome was warm and, although the low staffing numbers meant service could be a little slow, I don’t think anyone cared because the atmosphere was one of an magical adventure.
Having everyone seated alongside the other guests led to a great sense of conviviality than a standard restaurant setting and that openness, together with the stunning venue, made it a night to remember.
They’re looking for new venues, so if the Swine and The Beast – or whatever the We Are the Animals team magics up next – does pops up somewhere near you don’t hesitate – take a pew, pour from the teapot and tuck in.
* A big thank you to the New Ellington Hotel for making us so welcome at the refurbished hotel. With its stylish interior and be-seen-in gin bar, it was the perfect place to escape the madding crowd and settle down for the night.