Black Market serves one of the best meals Stan Graham has experienced in his years of reviewing for Leeds Living.
Open for only four weeks, there are inevitably teething problems, which Stan chatted to the owners about, but these are far outweighed by the excellent service and cuisine.
When I arrived my overcoat was taken from me and hung in the cloakroom. Not a big deal you may say but it is surprising how few times this happens and I have to drape it over the back of my seat, where it either falls off or trails on the floor. I was then given a choice of tables, which again was a good touch. I picked the nosy table where I could people-watch if I was struggling with the crossword. A litre carafe of tap water was brought whilst I perused the menu; I had been given the option of tap, bottled still or bottled sparkling. All good.
The items on the menu were varied and seemed to take full advantage of the seasonal availability. It being Halloween, we were in the game season and it was wonderful to see two choices in wood pigeon and guinea fowl. I stuck to meat for the third plate; steak. From the wine list I chose a Rioja (£6.20 for 175ml) which had a lovely liquorice hint, perfect for the meal to come. Before the meat arrived the waitress, whom I found out was one of the partners in the business, appeared with a board laden with home baked bread and home churned butter. There were three variations of each, the cornbread being the star of one half and duck liver butter being the best of the other, just better than the herb butter.
The small plates came out of the kitchen one at a time, about a minute apart, which was fine. First to be delivered was the Tri Tip Fillet with Mushroom Caramel, Horseradish Mousse. The steak was on the rare side of medium and perfectly cooked. It was tender and laid atop the mushroom accompanied by a generous knob of butter. I cannot remember when I have had such an exquisite piece of steak complimented by such flavoursome, but not overpowering, accompaniments. I was in carnivore heaven.
Second to the table was Pan Roasted Guinea Fowl with a Butter Bean Casserole. Once more this was perfectly cooked, with the seasoned skin being on the crispy side and the cassoulet beneath seeing the beans still having a bite to them, neither undercooked nor mushy. Another triumph. Wild fowl tastes a lot like chicken used to do but with a bit of a stronger edge so can stand the flavour of the tomato sauce quite easily.
Last, but by no means least, came the Pan Fried Wood Pigeon with Fennel and Chilli Black Pudding, Sweet Tamarind Glazed Rhubarb. The wood pigeon was again on the rare side, as it should be, with a strong, earthy, game taste and a hint of liver pierced by the tamarind and rhubarb fruitiness. The home-made black pudding with the aniseed-like taste of fennel and kick of chilli was a masterpiece. I am running out of words to describe just how good this lunch was, so I will shut up and hope that you have the point.
The three dishes, along with the bread, meant that I was fairly full by the time my plates were cleared. I will digress here and say that, in addition to the those laden with food, I was provided with a warm, empty plate to eat from, thus saving me from having them and the glasses arranged around me like Phil Collins’ drum kit. Another good touch. I was toying with the idea of just having a coffee and catching the bus home, but I simply could not tear myself away from the place so I asked to see the dessert menu. I decided on Vanilla Sky (£7.95), advertised as Vanilla Creme Brûlée, Vanilla Syrup, Vanilla Cremeux and Tonka Bean Ice Cream. I don’t know about you but I always expect anything made with tonka beans to arrive in a huge toy truck. OK; it’s just me.
When it arrived it was not quite as advertised in that the creme brûlée had become a vanilla cream filled macaron. Just ask me if I cared. Everything was perfect and surprisingly light, leaving a lovely aftertaste. I finally had my de rigour black Americano at £2.35 whilst I convinced myself that all good things must come to an end and I had better get the bus home before the rush hour began.
As I was paying my bill I had a chat with the partners of the business, Justina and Jon, who like many others I have met recently, are passionate about what they do. What sets these two apart is that Jon can certainly cook brilliantly and Justina is perfect front of house. All the signs for this new venue tell me that the two will make a great success of Black Market.
Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living. He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds. He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.