My normal modus operandi is to take a bus into Leeds and let the day take me where it will. This week I was asked to venture out of town to sample the food on offer at Butler’s in the newly opened Number One Kirkstall Forge. The building is an office block with six floors, actually there are seven but that’s another storey! It is a couple of miles outside the City Centre and meant a train ride to the newly opened Kirkstall Forge Station, so I whipped out my Senior Railcard and off I went.
The day turned out to be a nostalgic experience as, in 1976 I joined the civil service and after a year’s training I, along with others on my grade, was ‘invited’ to sit a ‘Computer Aptitude Test’. As (bad) luck would have it I passed and was duly transferred to a large computer installation where I was ensconced in an almost completed office and told to await the delivery of a computer. Luckily I was not alone so the days were spent talking about how great things would be once the monster machine arrived and we were allowed free rein.
We were a very small number in a very large building, with no catering facilities apart from a kettle and toaster. Fortunately, there were several decent hostelries nearby where we could take (very long) lunches. Eventually, a staff restaurant was opened and we were able to dine a lot more healthily, and soberly, which was a good thing as by then the machine had been delivered, installed and signed off, meaning that we had to start reacquainting ourselves with the world of work.
Whilst the decor and facilities of One Kirkstall Forge are far more advanced than the 1970s computer centre, the overall ambience was very similar. Both buildings are just far enough away from the nearest amenities to make it a pain to venture out, especially in bad weather, but both so under occupied that there is a limited menu. Eventually, the computer centre was home to 1,500 employees so that the staff restaurant had a distinct buzz about it – not to mention a bar – and I am sure that in the fullness of time and after the construction of the proposed other office blocks on the adjacent plots, Kirkstall Forge will be the same. The big difference is that Butler’s is open as a stand-alone bar/restaurant, whereas our place was subject to strict security and outsiders were not admitted without the appropriate clearance. I apologise for the long ramble but it would be very unfair of me to review Butler’s as the finished product when it is so obviously a work in progress.
As you would expect, the decor is ultra modern and very sophisticated, with a selection of formal dining tables, high breakfast bars and coffee tables surrounded by comfortable armchairs. Staff meetings seemed to be going on all around me with those not speaking to a human being face to face, emailing them via computer. I mentioned earlier that the menu was a little limited but it had a lunch section so I went for that.
The Special of the Day was Black Pudding and Sausage Roll with Salad or Chips for £5.00. It being January and I being a rebel, shunned the healthy detox option and went for the fries. The roll was made in-house and the pastry was spot on, as was the peppery black pudding within. The chips were also cooked to perfection, crisp outside but fluffy within. This came as a bit of a shock as the roll was taken on a plate from the glass heated display unit on the counter to the kitchen and immediately returned with the chips so I assumed that they too had been prepared earlier and kept warm. If that was the case they didn’t taste like it. I accompanied the food with a large black coffee at £2.50. I must say that I was a bit taken aback when I asked for ketchup and was given a sachet for a further 20p. It must be said that the portions were not over-generous so I returned for a piece of carrot cake, £1.80, which was a touch on the dry side but not disastrously so.
It is very difficult to give a verdict on Butler’s because I am sure that as its catchment area for clientele grows so will its menu. The only non-office personnel I can envisage using it are those waiting for a train at the station next door, and as they are only every hour, that may be a fair number, or should that be fare number.
I wish them well and hope that the staff employed in the area are there a little longer than I was.
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.