Not many people know about Black Swan’s restaurant on Call Lane in Leeds. Tucked away at the top of the stairs above the well-stocked (and for that matter, well known) bar, its dark walls, graffiti and mismatched furniture give it the feel of an exclusive supper club. You could call it Leeds’ best-kept secret.
But if more people knew about it, I’d never get a table… and what a travesty that would be.
My first trip to Black Swan back in June 2015 was a fantastic experience. Great service, wonderful food and “oh my god, how reasonable?” prices. So when I was invited back for a special blogger night to sample the new menu, I did a little dance in my front room. Yes, this might sound a little sad, but I do LOVE this place.
After ordering our beer flights at the bar, we headed up the wooden staircase…
The cosy restaurant was jam-packed with food and lifestyle bloggers from across Yorkshire. I recognised a few from previous blogger events and got chatting to a few, before we sat on a table with some people I’d not met before. It was a fantastic way to hold an event because it forced you to mingle and get to know new people… and the girls on my table were lovely!
First up, the starters. We were presented with a platter of three different starters in miniature form. Chinese spoons loaded with meat, we were told, were tasting samples of the ‘Duck Oxo Cube’ starter from the menu. As I put this into my mouth, the flavours sent my tastebuds soaring; the sharp celeriac and apple salad was tempered by the soft celeriac veloute as well as the dark and mysterious hoisin notes from the duck.
We’re in Yorkshire, not too far from the coast, so how about a crab and salmon Scotch egg? Oh my goodness, this was divine; the delicate flavours of the fish balanced beautifully with the runny quails egg inside. When I was informed that the full-size version on the starter menu is an actual egg, I started to plan my visit back to Black Swan right away to try this. That’s before I’d even got onto the incredible main courses and desserts!
Other starters we got to taste were the leek and pearl barley risotto, which had some amazing flavours and textures, and the venison carpaccio. I did like this latter dish but next to the other starters, it didn’t quite match up.
Next came the main courses and the friendly waiter placed three dishes in the centre of our table, all of which looked absolutely stunning. I mean, I’ve been to quite a few Michelin-starred restaurants in my time, and I can honestly say the food presentation at Black Swan lives up to this level.
I will start with the potato and spinach gnocchi with artichoke puree because it sounds the least exciting, but I think was the star dish of the evening. My love affair with artichokes began last year in March when Jake and I went to Rome – their pungent, savoury flavour is incomparable. The puree in this dish was so full of flavour… it almost reminded me of the earthiness of truffles. This complemented the little oblongs of handmade potato gnocchi so beautifully… I was just sad that there was only a small amount of it for me to try… (*sad face*).
The seabass and the lamb dishes were also stunning… but I found myself still pining after the gnocchi whilst eating these. Perhaps I could become a vegetarian after all?
The lamb rump was cooked perfectly, slightly pink in the middle, and was very juicy. This was served alongside soft and tender lamb breast as well as purple sprouting broccoli and was drizzled with a flavoursome fresh mint jus.
The sea bass looked equally appetizing with its crispy delicate skin as it perched atop a chef’s spreading of butternut squash puree and roasted squash. Though the fish was absolutely delicious, my favourite element of the dish was the giant mushroom and truffle filled pasta shell; such an unusual addition but it really exemplifies head chef Ollie’s creativity.
Next, we all dived in for the assiette of desserts, which were all very pretty to look at. The dark chocolate tart had that slightly caramelised homemade taste as if it had just been pulled from the oven. This was crowned with a large chunk of honeycomb, which incidentally, is possibly my favourite thing to eat in the world ever. (Yes I am now imagining a day when the wonders of science will make it possible to have a honeycomb-only diet). Needless to say, this pudding was epic on all levels.
I thought it would be impossible to beat the chocolate tart until I slid the spoon full of ginger crème brulee with stewed rhubarb into my mouth. The delicate creamy brulee was offset by the sharp, sour flavours of the rhubarb, which in turn was hit with a spicy tang of ginger. Yes, my favourite pudding in the whole entire world (crème brulee) had been made even better with the addition of rhubarb and ginger. Finally, there was the spicy rum poached pineapple topped with a raspberry and sorrel sorbet. I liked the pineapple but I am not sure it worked with the sorbet – it tasted a little too medicinal for me.
Overall, it was a fantastic night. I met some lovely fellow food bloggers and tasted some incredibly inventive food. Head chef Ollie is only 24 years old but he is a genius! I still can’t believe how good value Black Swan is – it really feels like you should be paying at least £40 a head for the standard of food you get.
Get yourself down there to try out the new menu (before I eat all of the gnocchi, honeycomb and crème brulee…)