Simon Richardson gets attacked by his food at the Vice group’s newest restaurant
Dough has risen in the form of another opening from the Vice group on a seriously quick turnaround. The name is a nod back to Dough Bistro, the much loved first venture from Luke Downing and chef Laura MacLeod, who has taken the front seat this time as executive chef. As I walk in, the smell of fresh paint and varnish linger in the air and I can almost hear the heavy breathing of the team that have worked so tirelessly to bring Dough to the city.
It really works - despite probably being borderline offensive to millions
The bar is immaculate, and the perfect place to start with a couple of cocktails – a perfect 3 Wood Manhattan (£9.50) and a lovingly prepared Creole Sazerac (£8.50). I’m instantly at ease – how could I not be, accompanied by the genius of Steely Dan? The rest of the room is almost finished – missing a couple of touches here and there, which will no doubt come over the next couple of weeks. A large neon sign catches my gaze – “Same same but different” –there’s no doubting the similarities to the original restaurant or, more recently, to the group’s Pudsey restaurant, Feed. If the food can match either of these, we’re in for a treat.
The menu is small and well-focused. Snacks, starters, mains, desserts. I let my belt out a notch. A scotch egg as a snack? My kind of place. The juiciness of the scotch egg meat (£5) provides an audible soundtrack to the dining experience, with an intense brown sauce almost bringing a tear to my eye and a layer of delicate pink onion to provide balance and texture. The egg trickles across my cheek.
The samosa (£4) is perfectly crispy on the outside, but when I cut through to the middle, my teeth are instantly hugged by the melty quicksand that is Dairylea. It really works - despite probably being borderline offensive to millions. And then there’s a layer of minty raita to back it all up; despite myself, I think it’s superb.
For starters, beef tartare (£8.50) comes under a blanket of green things and flowers that I desperately brush away to get to the meat – satisfyingly large chunks of it - with cured egg yolk and a line of parkin that has me looking around for police presence before I attack it. The wasabi doesn’t really come through, which is a shame, but my desire for a spicy kick is met quite spectacularly with the “Not a Prawn Cocktail” (£9). The prawns come as prawns should – shell on and full of fresh juice, with an explosion of gochujang – that’s Korean red chilli paste to you or me. Pow! I’m sitting up a bit straighter in my chair now, which coincides perfectly with the arrival of the wine. I can’t overlook a bottle of Barolo (£34) on a menu, and it’s so fierce that it growls at me as it’s released from its prison.
The flank steak (£15) is so red that jungle creatures would be instinctively warned off eating it. The meat is smoky and the bearnaise and chimichurri accompaniments provide onion, garlic and herbs – all the intensity you might wish for in a dish such as this. From across the table, the wine sneers and whispers “Is that all you’ve got?”
The other main, ponzu venison (£18), is beautifully presented, with a crisp leaf of kale hiding the meat, but small white leaves of cauliflower adding a clever pop of colour to an otherwise dark dish. The venison is perfectly cooked, with the ponzu covering almost the entire flavour spectrum at once – sweet, salty, bitter… if it needs a bit of calming down, then the black pudding porridge provides that, with all the density of haggis. The only problem is that it’s so filling, I’ve gone full Mr Creosote before I’ve finished it.
The crispy potato side (£4.50) is textbook, but the corn on the cob (£6) comes with a covering of coconut that ends up mostly on my nose, leaving me feeling like I’m on a drugs binge for the second time this evening. Why haven’t I thought of coconut and sweetcorn before?
We finish with a lemon meringue pie (£7), its enormous whip of scorched egg white curling to one side like a sticky hipster hairdo and, yes – you’ve guessed it – covering my face once again. The other dessert, the ice cream sundae (£8) is similar in many ways to Feed’s hangover cone; the salty crunch of pretzels, the soft, but overly large marshmallows and the sweet, cold ice cream. It’s not as good as the sister dessert, but this is partly because it’s almost impossible to eat without spilling over the floor – I’d rather eat it in the takeaway box that the starters and sides come in.
It’s testament to the work ethic and talent of the Vice Group team that they have managed to get the food at Dough so right so quickly. And the food is undeniably fun – in fact, I’ll need three napkins and a 14-hour sleep to mask how much fun it’s been. Everyday supermarket ingredients are married with fashionable, fine dining touches in a way that has you giggling along with them, like you’re part of their family. Space-wise, this is a restaurant that will need to find its identity – opening from 8am until 2am means wearing many different hats, and this is a tricky juggling act that will take time to perfect. But one look at Pudsey’s excellent Feed – itself only 3 months old – will tell you that Dough is in safe, expert hands, and I for one can’t wait to watch it develop.
Dough in the City, 72 New Briggate, Leeds
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Scotch egg 8, samosa 10, prawn cocktail 9, tartare 7.5, flank steak 9, venison 7, sundae 6, meringue 7, crispy potatoes 7, corn on the cob 8.5, Barolo 10
Quick, attentive and laid back
Chilled out but with the potential for a bit of late-night madness