Kate Ryrie enjoys the scran, but loves the surroundings even more
FOR as long as I’ve lived in Leeds, there’s been something oddly magical about Headingley. It could be the tangible nostalgia for student days, it could be the mix of leafily lovely houses and rental digs about to crumble. It could be the hordes of costumed pub-crawlers flailing and failing their way down the Otley Road, or it could be the abundance of artier, indier businesses that come and go from the high street.
Filament bulbs cast a comfortable glow on the exposed stone and bare wood that bring the interior to life
Whatever it is, it’s nice to be in Headingley. And nice, therefore, to be heading (see what I did) to the far end of the suburb, and Heaney & Mill. Boasting a spacious spot with a welcoming rectangle of foliage and seating out front (although the traffic and aforementioned pub-crawlers might make this option less attractive), this independent deli and bistro opened up in 2017, and has since been serving an array of brunches, cocktails, dinners and Sunday roasts to the masses.
We arrive at the beginning of February – midway through the collective end-of-January sigh of relief and fresh out of a bitter gust of wind. Inside it’s cosy, with warm lighting, homely furnishings, a mix of soul and classic rock bursting through the speakers, and a wood burner crackling in the corner. The sigh of relief continues as we peruse the menu.
A decent wine selection – of which I am constantly reminded by a steady stream of waiters retrieving bottles from the rack I’m sitting right next to – gives me the chance to order a powerful glass of Shiraz (£7.60). There’s a hearty cocktail range too, and plenty of softies if that’s more your thing.
We dive right in with starters, plumping for king scallops, served with a truffled chicken sausage and cauliflower velouté (£10). It’s a big and slightly unusual combination of flavours – certainly one to get the juices flowing at the start of your meal – but it works. Our second starter comes in the form of a ‘burratini’ (basically a one-person-sized burrata) served with a tomato ragu and brioche crust. There’s rather a lot of raw onion entangled in the sauce, which somewhat compromises the delicate, creamy flavour of the mozzarella, but it’s a fine start to the meal, nonetheless. The complimentary sage and onion bread rolls that come with a pleasingly tiny saucepan of truffle butter go down a treat too.
Main event o’clock, and we sit before impressive plates bearing gifts of salmon and beef. The salmon is pan fried, with more king scallops, dill gnocchi, and a samphire and fennel bisque (£17). The immediate surprise is the presence of a single scallop, and two rogue king prawns that have clearly been brought in as last-minute stand-ins to complete the line-up. They taste good, but the lack of acknowledgement makes it a disappointment. The rest of the dish is mixed – the gnocchi outstanding, the salmon overdone, and not quite enough sauce to stop dry becoming the overarching word.
The beef dish (£19) is enticingly presented, with beef fillet and cheek sitting prettily alongside an oxtail dumpling and a satisfying scoop of mash. The meat itself is perfect – tender, melty and packed with flavour – it just could’ve done with a touch more gravy to give the dumpling its moment in the limelight. A side of seasonal greens (£3.50) is simple but effective: tasty tenderstem and sugar snap that add colour, crunch and vitamin C.
The evening is a busy one, but the waiting team pulls off an attentive service as tables come and go, the wood burner belches out earthy heat, and the filament bulbs cast a comfortable glow on the exposed stone and bare wood that bring the interior to life.
We wave goodbye to our (almost) clean plates and decide it’s definitely a dessert kind of night. The choice of puds is a little limited with just cheesecake, sticky toffee, lemon posset and a cheeseboard (which obviously doesn’t count), so we plump for one black treacle sticky toffee pudding (£6) and two spoons. It’s delicious: pure spongy sweetness drenched in rich toffee sauce and paired perfectly with a scoop of clotted cream ice cream. And when two ‘creams’ appear in the name of a dish, you know you’re onto a winner.
All in all, a decent meal in a truly lovely atmosphere. The menu needs some more thought and attention to detail for those prices to sit right, but with a little more polishing (and a lot more gravy) this place could be something really special.
, 50 Otley Road, LS6 2AL
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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.
Scallops 6, burratini 5, Sage and onion bread rolls 6, salmon 5, beef 7, greens 5, sticky toffee pudding 6.
Didn’t miss a beat.
Cosy, welcoming and warm.