What with one thing and another I have not done a Let’s Do Lunch for quite some time. As those of you who have been reading my articles for will know, I am asked cover the openings of new restaurants which is very nice but it means that the experience I am privileged to enjoy is not the same as that of a casual customer. I have no problem with this as I make it plain that this is the case, but my Let’s Do Lunch articles are different in that I call at premises incognito so that I can review an establishment through the eyes of a normal customer. I am given free rein so I can choose my own venues which I normally do about two minutes before my visit.
Such was the case this time as I was looking to visit a part of the City Centre which I had not frequented before, not easy when I have been writing this column for two and a half years. It then struck me that I had not been to the new Victoria Centre since it opened other than to review the casino during National Afternoon Tea Week (don’t ask!). I figured that it would be a good time to go as the dust has settled on the new development and so it is now fair game. I didn’t want to do a Let’s Do Lunch article before now as it would not have been fair; not fair on the restaurants as they are bound to have teething troubles and not fair on you, dear reader, as new businesses try a lot harder in the first few weeks of existence before they settle into the way they will be trading for the years to come. Anyway that is where I went.
There are several interesting places to eat at lunchtime but the one which caught my eye was East 59th which is an American style restaurant on the third floor and not that easy to locate. The menu outside looked promising with the half rack of ribs being particularly inviting. When I walked out of the lift I was welcomed to the premises by a lady behind the reception desk who escorted me to a table for one. I was then greeted by a waiter who not only gave me a copy of the menu I had seen outside but also an Express Menu which is available from Noon to 7.00pm Monday to Friday. Much as the ribs appealed they were not on the Express Menu so I thought that I should change my mind and order from that. This must be one of the best value lunch deals in Leeds as for £9.95 you choose one of the main courses on the special menu, a snack from the main menu, a choice of a 125ml glass of house wine, half a pint of Perone or a soft drink, and a take away brownie for afters.
For my main course I chose the Hot ‘n’ Sour Glazed Chicken Burger with guacamole, lettuce, red onion and sriracha in a brioche bun. The chicken did not come minced in a patty but was a piece of breast in batter and was absolutely perfectly cooked, being moist and succulent. It could easily have been bland as the avocado and lettuce hardly put up much of a fight in the taste game but the onion did its job and the sriracha gave the whole thing a hot kick up the brioche. For the accompanying snack I ordered the Perreroncini peppers stuffed with feta but I was told that they were not available. As nothing else in this part of the menu seemed to go with a burger I asked if I could have fries in lieu and this presented no problem. They came in a small metal bucket and were nicely crisp. The house wine I chose was a Nero d’Avola which was very palatable. What I liked about the wine list was that along with a glass and a bottle it was possible to buy a 37.5cl carafe which is great for lone diners and especially so in that most of the options were exactly half the price of a full bottle. I decided to have a black Americano coffee with my brownie which came wrapped in paper. Well, it was listed as being take away. In addition to its moist and chewy texture, there was a layer of chocolate on the brownie which made it feel very sinful.
So far so good, but when the bill arrived it was for over £20. The coffee was good but not worth the cost of the rest of the lunch. I pointed out to the waiter that I had been charged for the components individually rather than for the Express Menu deal. He apologised and returned shortly thereafter with a correct bill but minus the Americano which he said was on the house for the mistake. There was 10% service charge added which I had no problem in paying as it was exemplary. I have said many times before that it is easy to be good when everything goes well but it is how matters are handled when things go wrong which separate the wheat from the chaff, and in this case they could not have done any better.
I must say that I enjoyed my lunch at East 59th and, had the weather been a bit warmer, I would have enjoyed it even more as there is a roof terrace complete with dedicated bar where it would have been good to dine alfresco. On second thoughts, the illusion of dining in Manhattan may have been ruined had I eaten outside as there would have been no constant screaming of police sirens and car horns to accompany the food.
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.