Fire Lake, The Radisson Blu, Leeds

Fire Lake blazes a trail
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It’s fair to say hotel restaurants often get overlooked. Seen as somewhat of a side project to keep guests fed and watered, they don’t always get the credit they deserve. But that’s about to change.

Fire Lake opened at The Radisson Blu hotel last week and is raising the bar. Keen to try it out, we pop down on a Sunday evening.

We walk through The Light to the hotel entrance, where it splits off in two directions – one that takes you past the bar and another that leads you past the reception area.We are a little unsure which route to take as there aren’t any staff to greet us. But we eventually venture past the reception where a member of staff helpfully hands us over to the restaurant manager.

Fire Lake’s main bar area is fairly empty and there are just a few tables taken, with couples quietly chatting away. It’s quiet, although that may be because it was a Sunday, or perhaps the word’s still yet to get out about this new addition to the city centre.

We get the choice of where to sit and opt for a table tucked away at the back of the restaurant. It’s been a while since we’ve been here but there has been a huge investment in the hotel since our previous visit.

The restaurant’s new look is a world away from its predecessor. The decor is now modern and sophisticated without being harsh or cold. It has warm grey walls, booth areas, quirky patterned floor tiles and even a fire place. The tables have a stone-type top to them and the chairs and booths are in fairly neutral colours.

Our helpful waiter Simon comes over and hands us some menus. Taking us briefly through each section, he then explains the cocktail menu.

Despite the original Fire Lake sites starting in Minnesota (where the Radisson brand was also born), it’s clear they want to fly the flag for Leeds too. The menu proudly states that ingredients are grown locally so that diners can ‘experience the wealth and depth of real Yorkshire food’. Not only that but they go to the trouble of listing their farmers and producers on the menu, from Harewood to Longley Farm in Holmfirth.

The dishes and cocktails also have Yorkshire-inspired names and the decor has sly references to the city, from a rhino on one wall to Kaiser Chief lyrics, plus an impressive mural of Leeds actor Peter O’Toole as a huge feature wall.

As we peruse the menu we discuss how impressive it is to see a hotel restaurant have this much pride in the region.

To whet our appetites, the waiter brings over some complimentary focaccia, which he gently pours olive oil over. It was devoured in seconds and was a lovely start to the meal.

There is a decent choice of dishes on the menu, with starters ranging from £6 for the pea soup and ham soup (with Yorkshire-sourced ham, of course) to £12 for oysters. I go for the grilled asparagus with Parmesan, hazelnuts and lemon for £8, which is faultless. The beautifully-presented dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate, with the zesty lemon adding a lift and the asparagus cooked to perfection.

My dining partner goes for the ‘Bloody Sticky’ pork ribs, with black fermented garlic and orange marmalade. After attempting to eat it with a knife and fork (as the restaurant is quite sophisticated), he soon throws in the towel and uses his hands, with the manager kindly bringing over a finger bowl.

The napkins on the table come with miniature pegs to attach to your shirt as well, which we agree is a nice touch.

We also order two cocktails – one ‘I Used to Love it but then I Had T’Quila’ and a ‘Forced Fizz’. They are both delicious without being too boozy.

We are encouraged by Simon the waiter to order from the ‘Cooked on Coal’ section of the menu, which includes lobster, sea bass, steak and chicken. This is where it gets a bit pricier, with lobster at £34 and a chop rib of beef at £35. But there are cheaper options such as the chicken at £14 and Yorkshire sausages, homemade ketchup and charred potato mash at £13. I go for the 225g ‘simple fillet’ steak, with tomato, mushroom, crispy shallots and fries at £28. For the price tag, you want it to be worth the money. And it absolutely is.

The meat is incredibly tender and the coal adds a great flavour. The peppercorn sauce comes in a separate glass bottle and is a great accompaniment, with a light gravy-like consistency with whole delicious peppercorns in it.

My partner has ‘The One and Onglet’ steak, which is pepper-dusted, crusted and covered in marrowbone gravy and served with classic fries. It goes down a treat, with the succulent meat not staying on the plate for long.

The dessert menu has half-a-dozen choices, from a Yorkshire cheeseboard to warm cinnamon doughnuts. We go for the selection platter for two people at £10. It certainly has the ‘wow factor’, with four desserts each, including ginger cake, chocolate mousse, liquorice ice cream and a lemon posset. It’s almost too much to finish but every part is delicious.

After a lovely discussion with our waiter and a glass of prosecco, the bill comes to £93. Considering the feast and top quality food we had enjoyed, we felt it was money well spent. It’s only the restaurant’s opening week but everything was faultless, from the food to the service.

It seems Leeds’ latest addition to the dining scene is about to really fire things up.

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