It was with undisguised glee that Nicola and I skipped down towards the Merrion Centre last week to experience the newly opened Arnold’s Restaurant & Bar. There it lay before us, the new sign twinkling and beckoning us down Wade Lane. Adjoined to the ibis Styles Leeds City Centre Arena hotel, as you step across the threshold you enter a spacious bar area complete with comfy little leather tub chairs nestled around tables. Immediately you notice the lighting, cleverly designed to look like lanterns, they add a lovely warmth. The bar is stocked with such a large range of wine, champagne and local beers it was hard to choose. Relaxed nibbling in the bar area is offered on a tapas-style small plates menu if you can’t bare to leave the comfort of the bar and friendly bartender.
It’s exciting to see an independent restaurant within a chain hotel. We had the pleasure of eating at Brasserie 44 before it closed, and were happy to see the team behind that welcoming us in their new venture. Named after the famous entrepreneur Arnold Ziff who is behind many Leeds developments including the Merrion centre, the new restaurant celebrates his legacy and looks forward to bringing fine dining with a strong Yorkshire feel to Leeds.
Offering food that comes from trusted local suppliers, Arnold’s is clearly proud to be Yorkshire. Quirky little touches like the hat stand occupied by the Leeds sartorial choice of flat cap serving to remind a forgetful diner where in the country they are.
The plush refurbishment of the restaurant has transformed the space into warm, welcoming comfort. Lush carpets and cream leather compliment the soft hues cast out by the soft lighting, the 70 seat restaurant feeling cosy and relaxed.
My haddock gratin starter arrived steaming hot from the oven. The pieces of fish generous and firm nestled within a creamy sauce studded with gruyere, breadcrumbs and a warming hit of mustard. Nicola’s starter of deep fried brie was a large piece cut from the wheel and wrapped in crispy light breadcrumbs. Served with a cranberry sauce and presented with small apricot pieces, it was creamy and very satisfying.
I couldn’t wait for my main as the starter had been excellent and I knew we were in the hands of food experts. ‘Chicken breast’ the menu said. What was presented to me was chicken breast but chicken breast after a serious makeover. Crispy skin delicious and seasoned crunched beautifully. The meat insanely tender and sat in the most delicious creamy tarragon sauce. Orzo pasta melted in the mouth and the parmesan and herb crumb added a crunch. I chose sugar snap peas to accompany my meal and they were fresh and sweet. Nicola had the pleasure of enjoying the lamb rump and this was served with spinach, vine tomatoes and a generous serving of lamb gravy. The meat was juicy, plump and cooked to perfection. The tomatoes a sweet pop in the mouth. The lamb gravy the best I’d ever tasted as I doused my forkful of chicken in it. Dauphinoise potatoes were her choice of side, and they were firm and delicious with cheese and garlic.
The menu showcases Yorkshire’s best, and after a chat with restaurant manager Dave it’s clear a lot of love has gone into selecting the best. Classic brasserie dishes like roast chicken, pork tenderloin, cod and lamb rump come out of this magical kitchen tasting wonderful. The clever head chef Carol is passionate about serving the most excellent food. I had no room for dessert but I wish I had because Carol’s is a trained pastry chef and who I imagine is whipping up the most heavenly treats in the kitchen.
Our dining experience was unhurried and very attentive, the staff clearly well versed in what they do. Arnold’s is an exciting addition to Leeds fine dining. Being in the Arena Quarter makes it accessible and local, convenient for theatre-goers and concert attendees alike. We left feeling surprised and very satisfied. We have unfinished business at Arnold’s, there is definitely a blueberry and almond tart with my name on it.