Simon Richardson discovers his food heaven at the Vice & Virtue group’s latest restaurant
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to walk from my house to a restaurant that I actually want to go to.
Bearing this in mind, it does feel a bit like Feed – from Vice and Virtue owner Luke Downing – has been sent, like a knight in shining armour, to simultaneously save and ruin me.
Vice’s restaurant has received rave reviews since opening, but Feed is a different animal – a deliberately laid-back reaction to the overworked, overly serious lifestyle behind the burnout of so many promising chefs. Then again, it’s open from 8am until midnight, so I hope they’ve got staff beds out the back.
It’s just the ingredients of a cheeseburger stuffed into crispy pastry... and it’s magnificent.
As soon as I walk in, the small team, including head chef Jono Hawthorne, greet me, almost unnervingly warmly. Everything oozes hospitality and I’ve been offered all manner of drinks before my brain has even registered that I’m not outside any more. There are a few keg options, including Brooklyn Summer Ale and Shed Head, as well as an enticing wine list and a list of barrel-aged cocktails that cause my liver to kick like an unborn baby.
It’s not snooty – nowhere that plays the Charlatans at that volume ever is – and I immediately feel both relaxed and simultaneously up for it.
The menu recommends a few small bites, then two or three small plates, a main each and a couple of sides. It’s very much a sharing vibe.
We start with cheeseburger spring rolls (£4.50), a trio of Parmesan-smothered doughnuts (£3) and a ‘jaffle’ – a cheese and spag bol toastie. The latter two dishes are decent enough, but the spring rolls could accompany me to a desert island, where we would make our own sweet music together for eternity. It’s just the ingredients of a cheeseburger - gooey melted cheese very much included – stuffed into crispy pastry and it’s magnificent.
A beautifully-presented flower-covered crab tartine is deliciously fresh. Fried chicken (£7) is also excellent, making me realise that 99% of my other encounters with fried chicken have been mostly underwhelming. The accompanying Sriracha provides a delightful kick and I immediately find myself wondering if it’s available as a main.
There’s also a steak tartare (£8) on the specials board, but while it’s textbook in terms of its texture, when it comes to tartare I’m like Laurel and Hardy – I like my capers. It’s also the third dish so far that’s covered in parmesan; I’m starting to really get through the water.
The mains – two meat, one fish and one vegetarian option – are fairly standard, on paper at least.
The flank steak (£13) is perfectly cooked to retain its juiciness, but the real excellence comes with the intense umami flavours of the sauce and the refreshing crunch of the pickled kohlrabi that forms a protective dome over the meat.
The nduja pork chop (£12) is a hefty chunk of meat, yet they've managed to keep it from being dry, which is no mean feat with such a thick chop.
The stand-out though, is the cod (£11), which comes concealed under a layer of oil-black seaweed. Black cod in Leeds, from a chef who previously worked at Man Behind the Curtain…? Whether or not this is a “wink wink nudge nudge” moment or not doesn’t matter at all. It’s a superb dish; the cod melts in my mouth and disappears like a dream, with the delicious flavour of the bonito butter adding to the smoothness and the sauerkraut providing a sharper contrast. It’s totally different to Michael O’Hare’s dramatic creation, but just as good.
We have two sides; potatoes (£4.50) drizzled with a fat emulsion and the beetroot (£5) which is perhaps the most striking dish of the evening. It’s divisive - my partner is mad for it, but my taste buds can’t cope with the combination of sweet and savoury provided by the popcorn and sherry sauce.
As you might expect from a restaurant so closely connected to Vice and Virtue, the barrel-aged cocktails (all £7) are on point; the mezcal Negroni is smoky and sharp, the Sazerac all rich spice and orange flavours.
We order the Hangover Cone (£7) dessert. Jono - who finds time to serve and explain the dishes as well as cook them - describes it as “everything I want when I have a hangover”. It’s an upside-down ice cream cone with pretzels, chocolate, marshmallows and crispy bacon, and not only is it a tasty, very naughty end to the night, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
We settle up having spent three hours in Feed – it feels more like one.
There are some really powerful combinations at work in Feed. It’s a small, energetic, talented team serving exceptional food in unpretentious, lively surroundings. The drinks are brilliant, the playlists are deliberately loud and upbeat and even the toilets are fun, with marker pens supplied for your personalised messages to the world.
To be honest, I can’t find fault with it, which is great for me, but perhaps less so for them, as they may need a crowbar and the local police to ever get me to leave.
Feed, 163 Richardshaw Lane, LS28 6AA
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.
Spring Rolls 10, Doughnut 7, Jaffle 7, Crab 9, Tartare 8, Fried Chicken 9, Flank Steak 8.5, Pork Chop 9, Cod 10, Beetroot 6, Potatoes 8.5, Hangover Cone 10
Friendly, attentive and helpful. Faultless.
Some might find it a touch loud – I loved it