Black Swan Leeds

February 28, 2016

Black Swan is one of those places that I've heard so much about, and have been meaning to go to. I remember a few months ago, they launched a new menu and I was so jealous of everyone's pictures, because the food looked so good! Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and an invitation to attend the launch of their latest menu arrived in my inbox. I was unable to attend the event thanks to work, but they kindly allowed me to come in and try it at a later date, which me and Martin did one Saturday. I was really looking forward to seeing what new creations Black Swan had come up with, along with trying some dishes that are still available from previous menus; there was a particular one I had in mind. Read on to find out what I thought about Black Swan Leeds!

Review of Black Swan Leeds
Table decoration at Black Swan LeedsMain bar at Black Swan Leeds
Wall decor at Black Swan Leeds

I had actually been to Black Swan before, as part of a blogger event before Christmas. This was held upstairs, which features a spacious restaurant, and therefore I had seen very little of their downstairs area. Nestled in the bustling heart of Call Lane, Black Swan fits in perfectly with the surrounding bars, food joints and other businesses that have given this street a new lease of life. In terms of decor, think exposed bricks, dark wooden tables, splashes of teal and wonderful mismatched seating throughout. It's certainly quirky, what with the huge drawings of animals on some of the walls, and I loved it. It is very warm and inviting, rustic yet charming, and there's certainly no airs and graces. Behind the bar are dozens of old metal signs, which I think me and Martin took a couple of minutes to look at properly whilst ordering drinks, as well as exposed piping at pretty much every turn. I particularly liked the beer poster on the wall near where we were sat, detailing all the different types of beer and examples of ones that fit into each category. I want to hunt it down and have one for my own!

Beer poster at Black Swan LeedsMagic Rock High Wire at Black Swan Leeds
Beer pump clips at Black Swan Leeds

Talking of beer, we were spoilt for choice with their selection - even more so than usual. There were, I believe ten ales on tap, which form part of the specials board and are on constant rotation. Featuring beers from down the road to the far east coast of America and everywhere in between, craft beer is definitely something that Black Swan take very seriously - and rightly so, too! There was also, of course, a huge number available in bottles, if none of the ones of tap tickled your fancy. I spotted one of my favourites on tap pretty much as soon as we walked in, and I couldn't resist; Magic Rock Grapefruit High Wire, a spin off of their original High Wire West Coast Pale Ale. Bursting with notes of lychee, mango and an extra touch of grapefruit, it ends with a delightfully crisp, bitter finish that I adore. It's the perfect summer drink, but that wasn't going to stop me drinking it in winter! Martin went for something much more appropriate for the winter months with Partizan Porter; coming in at 5.5%, this was dark, heavy and had lingering notes of coffee and dark chocolate. It wasn't for me (not a fan of coffee, even in beer), but it was right up Martin's street and he truly took his time to enjoy it.

Black Swan Leeds menu
Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi at Black Swan Leeds
Black Pudding Potato Cake at Black Swan Leeds

Onto the food, which was of course what we were there for! The menu is fairly small and concise, offering a select few, really thought out options rather than an overwhelming variation of dishes. However, within this selection is something for everyone, from burgers to vegetarian lasagne, so you will more than likely find something that you will like. Everything on the starters menu sounded delicious, but I had one particular dish in mind - which Martin promptly chose for himself! Back to the drawing board for me. I ended up going for the Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi, with artichoke purée and artichoke crisps. I've never tried artichoke before, so I was unsure as to whether I would like it. However, I needn't have worried - at least if it always tastes this good! I don't know what the folk at Black Swan do to give their dishes such incredible and intense flavours, but this was only the beginning of what was to come. The artichoke purée was so smooth and creamy, it practically melted in the mouth. Instead of being bland like some gnocchi that I've had in the past, this one was beautifully savoury and was only enhanced by the adorned spinach. This is definitely the dish to choose if you are a vegetarian; but even if you're not, like me, try it anyway - I think that you will be surprised! Martin's dish, that he stole from right under my nose, was the Black Pudding Potato Cake, which was the dish that I saw so many pictures of when Black Swan launched their previous menu. Topped with a fried duck egg, with capers and Henderson's butter, it looked and smelled to die for. The egg passed the runny yolk test with flying colours, and the potato cake was cooked to perfection; light and fluffy, with a surprise slice of black pudding in the middle! We were expecting it to be mixed in with the potato cake, so Martin enjoyed that very much. The black pudding was rich and of excellent quality, and the capers added an unusual kick that I wouldn't have thought to include with this dish. It worked extremely well, and it's safe to say that the dish was demolished very quickly indeed.

Roast Chicken Breast at Black Swan Leeds
Black Swan Mixed Grill at Black Swan Leeds

Before choosing our mains, we decided to get another drink to enjoy with our dishes. Martin got chatting to one of the bar tenders and he highly recommended Mikkeller/Grassroots Wheat is the New Hops IPA, and convinced Martin to get a pint - which worked out at an eyewatering £9! With obvious aromas of wheat and citrus, this Chardonnay barrel aged beer ticked all the right boxes for Martin, and was very easy to drink. A little later on I went for Ilkley Brewery Tribus, brewed with three variations of hops. This had a strong tropical fruit aroma and taste, and whilst it might not have been the perfect choice to go with my main, it was extremely enjoyable nonetheless. After deliberating for a little while, I chose the Roast Chicken Breast for my main, served with a pancetta rosti, roasted shallots, mushroom purée and crispy kale. When it arrived, I was surprised to be given such a beautifully presented dish - this definitely would not look out of place in a far more expensive restaurant. Now, what I'm about to say I do not say lightly; but this was, genuinely, the best chicken that I have ever had. All too many times, I've been disappointed with dry, tasteless meat, but that was far from the case here. The breast was so tender and moist, with crisp, intensely flavoured skin. I've never tasted chicken quite like it! The pancetta rosti did not disappoint with obvious bites of smoked meat, and worked very well with the earthy mushroom purée that was underneath. The roasted shallots, much like the capers in Martin's starter, added an interesting twist to the dish and somehow didn't manage to overpower the other flavours. I also loved the varying textures between the crispy kale and tender chicken breast - as a whole, the dish worked so well and I will definitely be coming back to have it again; it really was that good. As for Martin, he chose the Black Swan Mixed Grill; beer sausage, rump steak, beer brined chicken, tomato and twice cooked beef dripping chips with added peppercorn sauce. Martin asked for his steak to be cooked medium well, and this is exactly what he got; resulting in a juicy and tender steak that didn't last for very long! I think the beer sausage was his favourite part of the dish, and even made a point of strongly recommending it to friends that we met up with afterwards. I did sneak a bite and can confirm that it was absolutely delicious - even if you don't like beer, you will definitely appreciate how well it enhances the flavour of the meat. The chicken tasted very different to what I had but was equally as tasty, just lacking in the strong herbal flavour that came through from mine. Finally, the chips received a big thumbs up for being twice cooked. Soft in the middle and crispy on the outside, they were just right and there was a generous amount too - perfect for mopping up the last of the peppercorn sauce!

Sticky Toffee Pudding at Black Swan Leeds

After the starter and the main course, to be honest we were not sure that we wanted a dessert. We gave it a few minutes, and in the end decided to just share one between us. The hostess highly recommended the Sticky Toffee Pudding, so we that's what we went for. Let's put it this way, by the time we had finished it, we wished that we had gotten one each! Served with bourbon vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce, the sponge was as soft and as sweet as you would expect - no complaints there. I didn't even mind the dates that were hidden inside, as they had been baked in so well you could barely distinguish between the textures (which is what I really dislike in this instance). The sauce was truly excellent, and you could really taste the salt. We spent a good few minutes making sure that we had every last drop - quite entertaining when there was two spoons fighting over it! The bourbon vanilla ice cream was the perfect accompaniment to the toffee pudding, although I couldn't taste the bourbon as much as I would have liked. As a whole, it was a sticky toffee pudding done well; it satisfied my sweet tooth, it was comforting and familiar, and we couldn't ask for anything more than that. Next time, I want to try the dark chocolate tart, to see how it compares to others that I've tried.

Bar area at Black Swan Leeds

All in all, I was left extremely impressed with Black Swan. I went in not really knowing what to expect, only with the promise of excellent food from reading reviews online, but I was not disappointed. Black Swan is the perfect venue to visit if you're looking for somewhere with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, but don't want to compromise on the quality of the food and drink. As mentioned previous, these dishes would definitely not be out of place in a more expensive restaurant, and I have experienced inferior quality food at other places for much more than you would pay for this. This, combined with a fantastic beer selection and knowledgeable, helpful staff, made for a wonderful dining experience and I honestly can't recommend Black Swan enough. It has already rocketed to the top of my favourites list for places to dine in Leeds, and it truly deserves to be up there with the best. Whether you're going in to try some of the amazing beers that they have on offer, popping in for lunch or sitting down for an evening meal, I guarantee that you will thoroughly enjoy your time there.

Disclaimer: Our meal was complimentary, but this does not affect my opinion in any way.

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