Leeds city centre has and is undergoing a massive transformation in dining terms.
Where once was plastic chain burger bars and pizza restaurants, with little else to excite the palette, there are now gleaming temples to gastronomy, many of them independent, with plenty of flagship branches of well known eateries.
New restaurants seem to spring up weekly and appear to stay the course.
In addition to the large pedestrianized city centre which has linked, up-market shopping centres, (yet another high class centre opens on 20th October 2016), some streets on the fringes of the centre have been newly pedestrianized to cater for this burgeoning restaurant and street café scene. It is a fabulous city to live in or visit with so much going on.
Call Lane, now in one of the many thriving parts of Leeds’ city centre night scene, was not always the welcoming place it is currently.
The White Swan pub, or the ‘Mucky Duck’ as it was known locally, was in a fine building halfway down the street. The date stone, high up on the ornate brickwork reads 1884.
By the 1970’s and 80’s this was a very run down area and the pub fitted right into that bracket. It was the haunt of ‘city centre drinkers’ and prostitutes in what had become a red-light area, one which people shied away from, especially after dark. It was an incredibly seedy place.
Prior to the dawn of the new millennium, the area began to slowly change and a number of premises in the street began to change with it, bringing new bars, cafes and restaurants thereby raising the integrity of the locality.
With the more unsavoury element swept away the area began to acquire a new reputation as a place to be seen in the very fashionable night spots and the younger crowd flocked there.
Having been empty for some time, the White Swan was acquired by two local businessmen who were well known on the Leeds nightlife circuit. The pair gutted the place, knocking down walls, creating new areas and an outside upper floor terrace. The décor stuck to the tried and tested with exposed bare brick walls, wooden floors, mismatched wooden tables and chairs with painted murals prominent. If it works, don’t fix it was the motto.
To rid any lingering taboo about the area, the White Swan became history as the Black Swan emerged from the redevelopment and took flight, opening in October 2014 to many gushing reviews.
My partner and I had heard about the high quality of the food on offer and took the opportunity to combine my passion for craft beers, by attending a food and craft beer sampling evening organised by local Ilkley Brewery.
In normal circumstances, the ground floor of the Black Swan is a large open plan bar with draught and bottled beers to choose from whilst devouring the freshly made sourdough pizzas (2 for 1 on Tuesdays).
The relaxed upper floor is where the finer dining takes place.
Talented chef Ollie Edwards works his magic by preparing and creating hearty Yorkshire influenced dishes on site, using all locally sourced products of course.
Bread, dairy, meat and vegetables all come from local family run businesses. See www.blackswanleeds.co.uk for menus.
It was to the first floor that we repaired to meet three tables full of similarly minded people and a Director of Ilkley Brewery, Luke Raven.
Luke ran us through the format of the evening. This was not the usual ‘pairing’ where someone else decides what beers go with what food, rather it was up to ourselves to make informed choices as we went along, a much better option.
Luke kept the crowd entertained with a very informative and interesting presentation of the craft beers on offer. His passion shone through.
With nine plates of exquisite food courses and eight craft beers this was a sensational evening (I think!). Each course was beautifully presented and a work of art, the flavours just excellent. The Soy Sticky Beef and Pan Roast Pork Fillets were my particular favourite dishes, whilst of the beers, Ilkley’s Mayan, a spicy chocolate chipotle stout and Siberia, a seasonal rhubarb beer took my fancy.
The pub offers a traditional Sunday Roast, has a large range of cocktails and of course, craft and draught ales. All staff encountered were hugely knowledgeable and friendly.
With a chef as good as this, the Black Swan has joined the places to be seen and be royally entertained in Leeds and this achingly hip place is as good as any you will find anywhere.