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Review: The Food Academy

duck egg and soldiers

As the brainchild of The Flannels Group and Leeds City College, The Food Academy brings an interesting enterprise to the table and showcases some of the emerging young talent that Leeds has to offer in the hospitality and arts industries. What’s more, unlike some common misconceptions of restaurants utilising the talents of students would suggest, The Food Academy doesn’t compromise the quality of the food and service on offer. You can expect to receive top-notch cuisine in a welcoming environment with a difference, with the contribution of experienced professionals in the business.

Launched on Friday 4th November, the establishment replaces the earlier Anthony’s Restaurant and is situated on the third floor of luxury retail store Flannels on Vicar Lane in Leeds city centre.

It has to be said that due to its positioning, the restaurant may not be particularly noticeable to passers-by who are unaware of its existence, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort making your way through the store to visit it. As we stepped out of the customer lift and walked through into the bistro itself, we were presented with a beautiful and airy open space that boasted an element of opulence with a rustic edge – a space that surely is one of its unique selling points.

As my colleague and I were escorted to our table, I took the opportunity to take in the restaurant’s features, from its magnificent high ceilings and wooden beams to the endearing slate place settings. The menu offered an impressive range of food and drink suitable for any time of the day, including All Day choices consisting of sharing platters, salads and sandwiches, and an A La Carte lunch menu. It also offered lighter alternatives to breakfast, classic afternoon tea, and options for children.

I opted for the Line Caught Sea Bass Fillet, complete with a toasted almond mash, broccoli puree and Ricard foam (priced at £12.50), for my main and the Selection of British Cheeses with Porter Cake (£7.00) for dessert. Meanwhile, my colleague went for the Roasted Breast of Corn Fed Chicken, with sweet potato champ and lavender honey (£12.50), then the signature pudding Duck Egg and Soldiers (£4.50).

When the mains were delivered to the table, the dishes were immaculately presented and exhibited an array of wonderful, eye-catching colours that left us eager to get started. Though my colleague was initially surprised with the size of the modest portions, I decided to delve in and judge the dish on its merits at the end of the meal – and I wasn’t disappointed. Yes, the portion sizes aren’t massive; however, there is no need for them to be. The Sea Bass was delicious and perfectly cooked, while the almond mash complimented the fish well. My colleague, on the other hand, was blown away by the lavender honey and seasoning of her dish and she felt suitably content with her main.

Next up was dessert and we both thoroughly enjoyed our choices. The cheese selection hit the spot; however, it was my colleague’s dessert that stole the show. The Duck Egg and Soldiers offered a playful and exciting take on the traditional breakfast dish and reminded me of the experimental cuisine that has become synonymous with top British chef Heston Blumenthal. The dessert comprised of a real duck eggshell with its contents removed (with the egg white then used in the making of the dish) and filled with soft meringue and lemon curd to form the white and yolk of the artificial egg. Charming shortbread soldiers and a sliver of lemon drizzle cake accompanied the egg, along with a scoop of light and refreshing lemon sorbet; the latter provided the perfect palette cleanser to round off the meal.

In addition to the stimulating cuisine, the student apprenticeships offered by The Food Academy to top graduates from the college’s catering and hospitality course was a real attraction for me. The student project is a great platform from which students at the further education college can expand their skills and are given the opportunity to shine further. Jane Tingle, who works front of house in the restaurant and is training to be a restaurant manager, said: “This is a great opportunity, providing me with the relevant experience of the industry while working full-time.”

The Food Academy also hosts an impressive collection of students’ works from the Leeds City College Creative Arts Faculty, and there are plans to organise student musical performances at the venue in the future.

Speaking of the relationship between the two establishments, Flannels CEO Neil Prosser said: “The partnership and collaboration between ourselves and Leeds City College is something which will bring together the interesting elements of food and art, ensuring fine quality dining, surroundings and customer service – all of which are of the upmost importance to us.”

The Food Academy at Flannels’ opening hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-4pm and Sunday 11am-5pm. The restaurant is also available for corporate functions and private receptions.

For more information visit the website.

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