Dough in the City has nothing to do with hedge fund traders or fat cat bankers but is a new bar, cocktail lounge and restaurant in New Briggate adjoining the highly regarded Vice and Virtue. It is owned by the same people but will exude a more laid back atmosphere whilst maintaining the high standards of its sibling.
I attended the preview/launch and was invited to play a game of Hunt the Restaurant. The final touches were still being applied to the ground floor space, which is where Dough in the City will be situated, so the event was held upstairs in the newly refurbished Vice and Virtue. Gone are the Art Deco fixtures and fittings, which the first time I went reminded me of the original Ivy Restaurant, and taking their place were a wood covered bar and kitchen counter, with the pale walls making the room feel much lighter and brighter than before. Although the venue was upstairs the food and drink were from the new downstairs venue. Confused? Me, too.
The aim of Dough in the City is to utilise the cooking techniques of ‘fine dining’ but making it more accessible, not to mention cheaper, thus giving more people the chance to experience a high standard of preparation and service. If that sounded a little condescending it was not meant to as the owners’ and chefs’ aims are purely altruistic. Ingredients will be seasonal and locally sourced wherever possible, with novel twists applied to familiar dishes.
This was apparent from the outset when the first dish, Samosa, filled with chicken bhuna and Dairylea and served with mint sauce, arrived in a take-away style foil container. The portion of two samosas was meant to be shared and a plate was supplied for this purpose. I thought that the samosa was just a little greasy but this was understandable, as the small kitchen designed for individually prepared meals in small numbers, was being utilised to serve twenty covers all at once. Under those circumstances, I was very surprised that that was my only slight quibble.
The idiosyncratic theme continued with the second cocktail of the night served to accompany it, coming in a small milk bottle. It was called Aunt Phylis’ Cream Soda and made with vanilla vodka, coconut and grapefruit liqueur and home made mango cordial. I have to say that I wasn’t wild about it on its own, but the flavours complimented the spiciness of the samosa a treat. If you’re wondering about the first cocktail, it was Poppy Fizz, comprising poppy liqueur, vodka, lemon and topped up with Prosecco; a very palatable way to start the evening.
The second dish sampled was Fried Chicken with kimchi and pickled mooli, served on a bed of fermented pineapple. The note I made at the time simply said ‘flavour assault!’ The chicken was coated in a (probably) secret concoction of which the Colonel could only dream. The meat was beautifully succulent and had so much taste that it easily held its own against the intensity of the kimchi, the innocent looking strands of mooli and the taste bomb which was the fermented pineapple. It is cooking like this which makes a meal out a special occasion. The drink to go with this dish was London Fields Brewery Hackney Hopster, a citrus hinted pale craft beer, which again was a perfect pairing, and at 4.2% not silly strong.
Next up was another delight – Smoked Flank with roast onions and chimichurri, accompanied by Dauphinoise Potatoes with gremolata, parmesan and pepitas. The other week I was raving about a portion of tri tip fillet I was served in a restaurant, and here we have flank, its next door neighbour in the sirloin area of the beast. Not for nothing is flank also known as butcher’s steak as it is just about the most flavoursome one that can be fried. It does need to be served medium rare and sliced thinly. Here, it was done to perfection. I really hope that this is the beginning of a trend to utilise the more neglected cuts of meat which seem to have been ignored by restaurants. The half roast onion was perfectly caramelised to bring out its sweetness and the ‘petals’ added decoration. The chimichurri gave a piquancy but complimented the overall taste rather than overpowered it. When you have a great piece of meat cooked just right you don’t need to mess about with it. The dauphinoise potatoes referred back to the playful element and, although comprising layers of thinly sliced spud, topped with parmesan, gremolata and pepitas, they were cut so as to be shaped like big, chunky chips. The taste again was a wonderful combination of perfectly cooked, simple ingredients. A glass of Malbec retained the simplicity of the dish that a cocktail would have ruined.
For the grand finale, time to really let rip and have a load of fun. Before I describe it I’ll tell you about the cocktail, which was Yorkshire Iced Tea comprising gin, lemon, Yorkshire tea and mint, a refreshing drink, which it needed to be, given the richness of the pudding.
Dessert was Dough Ice Cream Sundae. That is the full description, but the dish is almost a food quiz. Along with the obligatory ice cream, fresh cream and cherry on the top, I listed six other components, obviously added as much for fun as taste, but succeeding on both counts. Hands up anyone who has ever found a salted pretzel in a sundae. There were two in mine, along with a chunk of banana fritter exactly like the obligatory Chinese restaurant dessert of the sixties and seventies. There was also a chunk of cinder toffee, a piece of raw banana and a pool of peanut butter. The final component was the most telling and I don’t know whether it was meant to sum up the whole dish but it certainly did for me. Given the name of the establishment and the madness involved, what else could be included other than doughnut. Dough nut – geddit?
Although the new home for Dough in the City was not quite completed, we were assured that come Saturday 17th November it will be ready to throw open its doors to the good people of Leeds and I sincerely hope that they pass through them in their droves. With food and drink of this standard and the imagination expended, how could they not?