Richard Miller discovers some deftly handled dishes treated to a bit of chef’s devotion

THE website for Grand Cru certainly pulls no punches. On it, there is talk of ‘luxurious grand dining’; which are words that I’m not sure have ever been strung together to describe a restaurant in Birkenshaw before now.  

This new opening, from a relocating couple who’ve done the hospitality rounds, is also, apparently, ‘in the heart of West Yorkshire’. A bold claim to make, culturally speaking, for a location from where the most famous export is a couple of members of the dad-rock band Smokie.

We start with a wispy tomato mousse, a metaphorical two-fingered salute to the grey and drizzle outside

Indeed, the whole set-up – that name, its size, the fit-out – makes quite the statement. Beyond the automatic front door of this prominent old building (once the Birkenshaw Industrial Society Limited) is a hefty bar, at which you can perch on a stool with a cocktail pretending to be sophisticated, or be honest with yourself and get a pint. There are soft furnishings in gold hues. There are chandeliers. In the gents there’s a hand dryer that I’m not qualified to use.

2019 09 28 Grand Cru Exterior
The Birkenshaw Industrial Society Limited facade

For an industry going through a challenging period, Grand Cru appears to be an expensive throw of the dice. Going by tonight’s visit, however, the locals are doing their bit to ensure it’s a success. The only free table we can bag is at 6pm, and an hour later there’s the merry buzz of a full room that might just be on to a good thing.

2019 09 28 Grand Cru Pass
Chef-patron Bernd Wolf in the kitchen

We start with a wispy tomato mousse (£9), a metaphorical two-fingered salute to the grey and drizzle outside. It’s a delicate concoction with a subtle panna cotta wobble that’s almost too clean and condensed, and needs the accompanying prawns – attentively seared and laced with garlic – and the dots of gutsy romeso sauce to sharpen it up.

2019 09 28 Grand Cru Tomato Mousse
Tomato mousse appetiser

On the other hand, an exemplary crab bisque (£12) – pale but powerful – contains no shortage of intense seafoody oomph and fennel jolt. All concentrated flavour and deft execution, this is the kind of slavishly finessed dish you might usually expect to get a solitary ladleful of at a place that charges you double and goes on to bag a Michelin star or two. Delve deeper and you’ll discover three scallops bobbing about within it, fat and buttery, that have been equally well looked after. A bottle of the zesty French Sauvignon Blanc, at the lower end of a list that can be as reasonable or as showy as you want, is – by pure fluke – a sound choice to go alongside.

2019 09 28 Grand Cru Bisque
Scallops with crab bisque starter

From three meat options and three of fish, plus a grill section and a handful of veggie alternatives, we land two slabs of crisp-skinned sea bass (£22) in a decadent lemon butter sauce, dotted with tiny, tart capers and topped with toasted almonds for textural edge.

2019 09 28 Grand Cru Seabass
Pan-seared fillet of seabass

Swerving the Cajun chicken pizza, which has evidently got lost elsewhere and found its way onto this menu for grown-ups, we turn to the classic Beef Tournedos (£29), whose thick, well-peppered wodge of fillet has been deftly handled and cooked until evenly pink throughout.

2019 09 28 Grand Cru Beef
Tournedos of prime fillet of beef

As good as the piece of meat is, this old-timer’s all about the glaze, which hums of stock, booze and a chef’s devotion. Like liquid marmite with a slug of Madeira chucked in, it’s punchy without being overpowering. Finely diced wild mushrooms and crozzled shallots finish things off, while vibrant green beans and a dish of dauphinoise spud (£3.50 each) make for strong support acts.

2019 09 28 Grand Cru Sides
French-style sides of Provencal beans and Dauphinoise potatoes

Unashamedly ritzier than your average neighbourhood gaff, Grand Cru talks a good game. Thankfully, there’s a kitchen that can back it up. OK, we’re not pushing culinary boundaries here, but they don’t half do this stuff well. Forget Smokie, Birkenshaw has a new export to sing about.  

Grand Cru, 559-565 Bradford Road, Birkenshaw, BD11 2AQ  

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2019 09 28 Grand Cru Receipt

The scores:

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.

  • Food 8.5/10

    Tomato 7, bisque 9, sides 8, seabass 8, beef 9

  • Service 4.5/5

    Old-school smooth, cut through with local warmth

  • Atmosphere 4/5

    A room full of diners onto a good thing, but maybe turn the lights down