Arts restaurant (formerly Arts café), is a much loved, creative, independent restaurant located on Call Lane. Following a change of owners, Arts appointed new Head Chef, Simon Turner.
Simon previously worked at The Reliance and it was there where he became passionate about using seasonal, sustainable and local produce. He has brought this ethic to Arts and curated a new menu to reflect it. That menu launched today, June 28th. A friend and I were lucky enough to be given a sneak peek of the new dishes on offer as we attended the new menu launch last night.
We loved the look of the evening a la carte menu, which was well balanced and boasted beautifully crafted, wholesome dishes with interesting flavour combinations.
The choice of starters was good, and we both struggled limit ourselves to just one dish each that we wanted to try. We eventually opted for the crispy pig’s cheek croquette, with cubed and sliced beetroot, and a heavily smoked apple puree; and the gin cured salmon with cucumber ribbons, borage and wasabi. The pork dish was well presented, and the flavours complimented each other nicely. Although we enjoyed the plate, we thought it could have been improved by reducing the smokiness of the puree, as we found it overpowering, and by adding a sauce to the croquette.
The salmon was well presented and summery, with a contrast of colours from the light pink of the salmon to the vibrant greens of the cucumber. The salmon was delicious, and perfectly cured, whilst the cucumber was fresh and cut through the fattiness of the fish fabulously. We agreed that the wasabi flavour was hard to taste, but for me, that was a good thing as I often find it too harsh. We also thought the dish could have been improved by adding an additional texture, perhaps the crunch of a sesame seed cracker, or the softness of some homemade bread.
For mains, we opted for the confit duck leg with Bermondsey Sobrasada, garden peas and baby gem lettuce. We were intrigued by the Sobrassada, which we found out is a raw, cured sausage from the Balearic Islands, and also by the addition of baby gem to an otherwise hot dish. When the plate arrived, we got stuck right in. We thought that the duck was well cooked, with nice crispy skin, and loved the addition of the sausage, which was fab. But we weren’t such fans of the charred lettuce, which we didn’t think added to the dish, and thought the sauce could have been thicker as it was hard to mop up. Overall, though, this was a great dish and one we would order again, but maybe not on a hot summer’s day.
There are lots of vegetarian and vegan options throughout the menu, too. For example, the second main we ordered was the carrot tarte tatin with cheese, hazelnuts and a mountain of greens. We were keen to try out the dish since neither of us had eaten a savoury tarte tatin, and we weren’t disappointed. We both loved the colourful heritage carrots, the sticky pastry base and the mature cheese, which melted as we ate. I also really enjoyed the crunch of the nuts and thought the greens helped freshen the dish. However, for me the dish was too large, and could have been improved by reducing the size by about a half, but overall it was a very tasty main.
Although we were both pretty full when it was time for desserts, we couldn’t resist. We opted for the apricot and cardamom cheesecake, since the flavour combination was unusual, and we both love cheesecake! We were served a generous wedge, which we were grateful for since it was delicious. The base was buttery and rich, and the contrast of the freshness of the fruit and the creaminess of the cheese was satisfying without being heavy. The second dessert we ordered was the vegan chocolate and avocado ganache, which was served with berry compote. The ganache was very chocolatey, which amazed us since it was vegan. We loved the fruity compote which helped sweeten the dish, but we both agreed the dessert needed something creamy (perhaps a coconut cream) since it was too rich to enjoy the whole plate.
Overall, we had a very enjoyable evening and thought the menu was well put together, with good contrasting flavours. We agreed that the price point was good, too (two courses for £17 and three for £21), making Arts the ideal City centre location for a special meal or spontaneous post work supper.
If you’d like to sample the fine flavours of Arts’ new menu, visit the website to reserve a table or call 0113 243 8243
Arts opens from 12 noon until 10 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Feature photograph provided by Chapter 81. All other photographs by Gemma Bridge.