A perfectly cooked steak and a glass of deep, rich red wine; there are few pleasures in life more satisfying. And I say that with all due apology to the vegetarians out there.
Yet, in the five years I’ve had the enviable task of writing about restaurants I’ve discovered that in this country, at least, it’s difficult to list venues outside of the capital that deliver that combination to any satiating standard. So, when the invite landed in my inbox to have dinner at Fire Lake Grill House and Cocktail Bar, I was keen to see if I could add Leeds to that exclusive list of places…
It’s safe to say I can.
This quirkily decorated eatery in the city centre takes up the majority of the ground floor of the new-look Radisson Blu hotel (READ A FULL REVIEW OF THE HOTEL ON SISTER SITE HOTEL DESIGNS HERE) and is the first Fire Lake restaurant outside its birthplace of Minnesota in the United States. The ‘industrial chic’ décor I was promised in the invitation is evident immediately on entering — from the metallic pendant lighting fixtures hanging from the high ceilings to the copper-coated cocktail shakers that line the bar. And while on the subject of cocktails, they are one of Fire Lake’s specialities; the menu is extensive, so expect to find the classics as well as locally-inspired creations. I enquire about the Whisky Baht ‘At I had read about beforehand; a nod to Yorkshire dialect I’m reliably informed by a member of staff.
I’m shown to a booth table which offers a clear view of the kitchen and the serving pass, and it’s from my lofty viewpoint that I get to see the ‘Fire Lake ethos’ in action. I’m told by my host for the evening — the wonderfully passionate and well-informed manager Rick — that as many dishes on the menu as possible are cooked in a josper; a special charcoal oven which brings a unique, smoky flavour to the meat.
I’d have to wait to sample it for myself, as first up is my starter of crab croquettes with smoked ricotta, tomato, garlic chutney and – rather oddly — spring onion. These are a great way to start the meal, although I note the sparsity of the food set against the huge size of the plate. The same mismatching of portion and plate occurs with the main course, which is a 225-gram fillet steak from the ‘Butcher’s Block‘ section of the menu served with a flat-cap mushroom, fries, shallots and normally a tomato (which I decline) and an additional ‘jar of greens’ — essentially a side salad.
Presentation issues aside, the steak is superb and ideally cooked for my ‘medium’ taste, with the added ‘smokiness’ evident from the first mouthful. This is accompanied by a 2013 bottle of Californian Pinot Noir (Gnarly Head), excellently recommended by the aforementioned Rick from the diverse and balanced wine list. I am advised to sample the selection of Yorkshire cheeses for dessert, with which I would normally take a glass of port but instead have a 2008 bin-end bottle of Muscat de Rivesaltes; and as someone who usually avoids dessert wine it makes for a pleasant change.
Once I’m suitably wined and dined, I’m shown around the restaurant’s different dining spaces — particularly impressive touches are the huge, striking wall display of Leeds-born actor Peter O’Toole as well as the floor-to-ceiling fire pit which makes for a unique spot for a drinks reception or an ideal meeting place for networking groups.
Indeed, as I retire to my hotel room I conclude to myself that the Fire Lake comes across as a perfect locale for lunch or dinner, either business or pleasure. Sure, the presentation of food could be better and some might baulk at the prices — but with excellent food, unique and left-field décor, a professional and knowledgeable team at the helm and its central location, I can see Fire Lake cementing itself as a stalwart of the Leeds dining scene for a good few years yet…
Reviewed in January 2016