Confidentials checks out the all-day dining venue recently launched within a former Casino on Leeds Dock.

Apparently, the small parcel of land on the River Aire Waterfront, just down from Crown Point Bridge, is named after a Josiah Fearne, a former Lord executed for murder in 1749. In the coming months, the elliptical island will house an allotment for the Fearns kitchen to cultivate seasonal ingredients, herbs, and flora. The restaurant, which opened in May within the new office space, Department on Leeds Dock, is part of a a placemaking initiative, led by award-winning Manchester hospitality brand, All Work & Social.

Home grown produce must be a dream come true for head chef, Jade Crawley. Brought up in a household that harvested their own vegetables and regularly enjoyed fishing off the coast of Cornwall, self-taught Jade has always been interested in sustainable produce. In 2020 she helped to put Eat Your Greens on the map, with a menu showcasing the finest organic ingredients. Then, at The Tetley, she flipped the menu on its head, focussing entirely on plant-based delights, with a few ethically sourced seasonal meat specials on the weekend.

I’m inspired by the people and places around me, and I want to tell their stories through the menus

Now heading up a reputable team at Fearns, low intervention dishes take inspiration from Jade’s childhood and travels through Europe, each with a hyper-local twist. You’ll spot Yorkshire Squeaky cheese on the veggie breakfast, Longley Farm butter on sourdough baked by Cellar Door Bakery, and dainty sugar free cheesecakes from Leeds based, Abundance Foods. “We take care to work with suppliers who align to our vision and share a passion for quality produce,” Jade explained. “Our butcher, Sykes House Farm, is based in Yorkshire – I talk to the development chef often to discover more unusual cuts of meat that might be overlooked in the aim to reduce waste, and to learn more from the experts.”

2023 07 03 Fearns First Look Jade Crawley
Fearns head chef, Jade Crawley Image: Memphis Medium

Jade also prepares a house oil and herb pesto from the vegetable cut offs that would otherwise land in the bin, and there’s a fantastic highball mocktail on the impressive list of alcohol-free options, which uses discarded citrus peel to make the syrup. Even the folded paper menu itself is made from spent grain, a by-product from the beer brewing industry.

Vegans missing the seasoned crunch of the McDonald’s Chicken Select will go nuts for the deep-fried smoked tofu, dotted with blobs of rich aioli above a slather of peppery chilli jam. Meat eaters will love the crispy pulled lamb flatbread with yoghurt, celeriac and pea puree, scattered with jewelled pomegranate seeds, or the lemon chicken salad dressed with slices of juicy gordal olives, brioche croutons, and a tangy orange dressing.

“The challenge in this industry is always to find balance,” Jade reflected. “We work on that in the kitchen every day – creating food that has an element of discovery yet also offers something for everyone. A menu that is balanced can suit any occasion and dining style; if you want something light to accompany drinks, or you’re indulging with a feast.” Indeed, you can share the tapas -style small plates out on the large outdoor wooden tables, with the riverside breeze blowing in your hair, or a hearty Sunday roast accompanied by a Bloody Mary and the rhythms of the resident DJ.

2023 07 03 Fearns First Look Interior
Inside Fearns Image: Memphis Medium

How will the restaurant’s location affect footfall? It’s no secret that many enterprises have struggled on Leeds Dock, which can often feel like a cultural no-man’s land. Jade remains confident that their presence will help to regenerate and revive the area. “I believe [this] is one of the most exciting neighbourhoods in Leeds at the moment,” she said. “There’s a number of independent eateries, The Royal Armouries, Condition gym, Channel 4, ‘Steph’s Packed Lunch’, and regular events including the Waterfront Festival taking place in July. With over 1800 residents nearby, and even more to come from nearby developments such as Citu on our doorstep, we’re a great community to be part of.”

2023 07 03 Fearns First Look The Department
The Department Image: Memphis Medium

Department, which feels like a densely designed airport lounge, is a contemporary hub for creative, media, and digital businesses. Alongside fifty companies upstairs, there’s an ethical fashion pop-up by Commonsense Clothing, and bottle shop by 2 Many Wines on the ground floor. As the concept gains momentum, there’s even aspirations for a floating events platform plus rentable desks out on the water.

Jade too has big plans afoot, hoping to team up with some of her favourite chefs for their Sunday Service, which is already proving incredibly popular. “I’m inspired by the people and places around me, and I want to tell their stories through the menus,” she added, buoyantly.   With an ambitious track record, watch this space, as this young chef has plenty to bring to the table. Just long as said table remains firmly on dry land!

Fearns Leeds Dock, Department, 4 The Blvd, Leeds LS10 1PZ

Follow Fearns on Instagram

Follow Sarah Cotterill on Twitter

Read next - The Hyde Park Picture House restoration project nears completion

Read again - Summer Menu launch at The Collective Inc.

Get the latest news to your inbox

Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!