Date night dining? Look no further: Zoë Perrett says that this supremely-romantic French restaurant will save you a trip to Paris
Twinkling fairylights? Check. Candles in wax-dribbled bottles? Check. Music that perfectly complements – and enhances – the atmosphere? Check. Charming staff, an enticing menu rammed with bistro staples, wonderfully eclectic decor? Check, check, check.
I could go on, but suffice to say that Kendell’s Bistro ticks almost every box for a quite simply fabulous (and rather romantic) meal out in Leeds. Or rather, sort-of in Leeds – because once you’re ensconced at a cosy little table staring into your date’s eyes (or eyeing up the bread basket, whichever you find sexier) over a glass of Champagne, you could swear you’d crossed the channel rather than just the ring road to St. Peter’s Square.
Kendell’s is the sexy, worldly uncle to the city’s rebellious young upstart venues – and over the years it’s been open, its character has clearly developed like a fine wine. There’s a lot to covet, from the fancy-framed vintage posters that adorn every wall, to the mismatched dark wood furniture, to the miniature Eiffel Tower model which protrudes from the wall just above LB’s head. You can get a better look at it all through the pair of binoculars a waiter will set down on your table.
Yes, binoculars; issued to assist you in reading the chalkboard menu which takes the place of a printed one. Through those lenses you can indulge in a spot of not only bird-watching (pate de canard; supreme de volaille), but also read about the day’s extensive meat, fish and veg options.
The aforementioned duck liver pate is a retro treat that’s hard to beat; silky-smooth and well-seasoned, its inherent richness tempered when smeared over crunchy croutons and dabbed with sharp chutney. Moules marinieres provide LB with the excuse to consume yet more chunks of baguette in the sopping up of the mussels’ creamy white wine sauce – rendering him as happy as a couchon in the proverbial.
Old-school establishments tend to favour hearty portions of gutsy, flavoursome fare over daintily-presented, sense-stimulating dishes. Each has its own lip-smacking place in the food fan’s heart, but when you’re in the mood for the former, Kendell’s is your bistro. So learn from LB’s mistake and tread lightly around the bread basket, or you’ll ruin yourself before your proper tea turns up.
For me, that tea is boeuf bourguignon: here featuring ox cheek flooded in a dark, sticky gravy which fully necessitates the presence of a sizeable dollop of buttery mash. For LB, it’s confit de canard in an indulgent menage-a-trois with dauphinoise potatoes and bacon-braised cabbage.
After a small inter-course rest, we utter the fatal line ‘we’ll just have a look at the dessert menu for next time’ and somehow end up hoovering up a forest fruit-drenched cheesecake and a pear frangipane tart. If you’re too full for pud, you’ll want a coffee or a digestif anyway, because Kendell’s is just too lovely to leave until you absolutely have no choice.
And, when you do leave, I’ll wager you’ll already be planning a return visit.
A footnote on the pictures: The lighting in Kendell’s is designed for atmosphere, not Instagram… so the images here are from the restaurant’s own collection. They don’t show what we ate, but they do serve to show you even more of the fabulous things you can eat when you visit.
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Kendell’s Bistro, St. Peter’s Square, Leeds, LS9 8AH
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