Celebrating National Chocolate Week at FireLake

October 28, 2016

When one receives an email, inviting you to a chocolate-themed dinner, what is one to do? Say yes, of course! I'm the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth - and especially for chocolate. As I'm sat here writing this post, I may or may not be working through a rather large bar of Milka chocolate! However, I'm more used to having chocolate as a dessert, not as part of a main meal. It's not something that I've ever tried before, so my interest was piqued straight away. In celebration of National Chocolate Week, the FireLake restaurant at the Radisson Blu hotel in Leeds showcased a chocolate-themed menu, designed to entice and delight. I was invited to sample it one evening, along with a select few - read on to find out my thoughts on this rather special menu.

Firelake at Radisson Blu in Leeds
Radisson Blu in Leeds

Before I delve into the food, allow me to give you my thoughts on the restaurant itself. If I'm honest, I didn't know anything about the restaurant at all. I had never heard of it; I knew that Radisson Blu must have a restaurant within the hotel, but I'd certainly never given it any thought. As it turns out, it's quite the hidden gem in the city centre, and I'm sorry to have missed out on it. It's very elegant and modern, with high ceilings, unique artwork and a welcoming atmosphere. There is a bar area, with comfortable seating, and the main restaurant itself is a mixture of long tables and intimate booths. The restaurant prides itself on its cocktail menu (I was soon to discover why!), as well as using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. The style of the usual menu is heavily inspired by its North American heritage, and features a range of dishes cooked on an open flame. However, they are proud of the fact that they are based in Leeds, and the names of some of the dishes made me chuckle - for example "A Nice Piece of Tuna", which couldn't sound more Yorkshire if it tried!

Chocolate Martini for National Chocolate Week at Firelake in Radisson Blu, Leeds

To start off the evening, we were seated at the bar. We were promised that a chocolate cocktail was on its way, and I think we were all really looking forward to seeing what it was going to be like! It certainly didn't disappoint; a Chocolate Martini, made with vanilla vodka, chocolate custard and Creme de Cacao. It was a simple affair - a garnish of mint, and that was all - but we soon discovered that there was more to it than meets the eye. I can safely say, hand on heart, that this was the best chocolate cocktail I've ever had. Have you ever had a Frijj chocolate milkshake? It tasted pretty much exactly like that, only with a boozy undertone. It was smooth, creamy, and extremely decadent; I could have had three or four of these, and been very happy with that. However, I didn't want to ruin my appetite for the impending chocolate menu, so I behaved myself and just stuck to this one. But oh, how I savoured it; I was very sad to see it go when I reached the bottom of my glass.

Bread rolls at Firelake in Radisson Blu, Leeds
Chicken and truffle terrine, with chocolate and blackberries at Firelake in Radisson Blu, Leeds

Soon, we were led through into the restaurant, and seated at a prime spot right in front of the open kitchen. I was very happy with this, as I love to see my food being prepared - it adds a whole new level of excitement to the meal. We got chatting to the waitresses whilst waiting for our food, and it immediately came across to me that they were very passionate and knowledgeable about what the restaurant has to offer. Throw in a bit of Yorkshire humour, and you have some great service to match the quality of the restaurant. To keep us going, we had some bread rolls with olive oil, which I was careful to not overindulge in! Our starters quickly arrived, and I knew that I had chosen well. As with all three dishes that I chose, this was created specifically for National Chocolate Week; chicken and truffle terrine, with chocolate and blackberries. I've not had terrine for a very long time; but if this one was anything to go by, I've been missing out. The terrine was very soft and creamy, but with a little bit of texture from the meat, which I really enjoyed. The chocolate was quite intense; slightly bitter, and very rich, complimenting the sharpness of the blackberries beautifully. Alongside this was crackling of some sort - I'm going to guess at chicken skin, but me being me, I completely forgot to ask our waitress to clarify. Whatever it was, it was absolutely delicious and was perfectly crisp, with a good crunch all the way through.

Open kitchen, preparing food at Firelake in Radisson Blu, Leeds
North Yorkshire Grouse, carrots, black pudding and chocolate jus at Firelake in Radisson Blu, Leeds

Now, we're onto the runaway star of the show - the main course. Yorkshire grouse, homemade black pudding, carrots, pickled berries and chocolate jus. I've never had the opportunity to try grouse before, so this was a special treat and I was very much looking forward to it. When I turned around at some point to look at the menu, I caught sight of the chef preparing my meal; this whet my appetite even further, and I was dying to get stuck in! This dish was nothing short of spectacular. Not only was it beautifully presented, but it tasted even better than it looked. The grouse was cooked to perfection, blushing a rosy hue and tender all the way through. I've never tasted meat like it; it had the most wonderful texture, that I can't even think of any words to describe it. It had a subtle game flavour, but it wasn't as strong as I had anticipated - which is a good thing. The black pudding was dark, rich and extremely succulent. It looked rather large on the plate, but actually by the time the dish was done, I thought that it was about the right amount. I certainly wouldn't have wanted any more, but less would have been a bit of a stretch. The rainbow carrots were sweet and juicy, and paired beautifully with the meat in particular. All of this was sat on a bed of chocolate jus, and I was brought some more on the side to add if I wished. I did, of course, but in reality this wasn't necessary; there was plenty enough on the plate already. This was a touch sweeter than the one that accompanied the starter, but it was still dark and almost malty in flavour. As a whole, the dish was more savoury that I thought it would be; it didn't feel like I was eating chocolate in a way, because it all worked so well together. These ingredients were destined for one another!

Trio of Chocolate for National Chocolate Week at Firelake in Radisson Blu, Leeds

Last, and by no means least, it was time for dessert. I thought by this point that I would have been well and truly sick of the chocolate, but that wasn't the case. Because the chocolate jus in the previous dishes had been darker and therefore more bitter, it actually set me right up for wanting something sweet! I wasn't disappointed with this dessert; the Trio of Chocolate, consisting of chocolate ice cream, brownie and mousse, was everything I could have asked for. It was an exploration of textures and sensations if there ever was one; the biting cold of the ice cream compared to the velvety soft texture of the mousse was pretty unusual. However, I would be hard pushed to tell you my favourite part of this dish, as it was all excellent! The brownie definitely had the most intense chocolate flavour out of the trio, with a slightly crunchy outer and gooey centre - just the way I like it. It was only a small portion, but it was definitely enough. The mousse wobbled dangerously on the plate, but it stood firm and was superbly creamy throughout. I did have a bit of trouble with chasing the ice cream around the plate (maybe it would have been easier in a separate, small bowl?), as it started to melt pretty fast - but was spot on with the flavour. It sure was an indulgent dessert, but it didn't take long for me to polish off the plate!

Table decoration at Firelake in Radisson Blu, Leeds
Table set at Firelake in Radisson Blu, Leeds

I love being invited to restaurants such as this, as they're always full of surprises. I would never have chosen FireLake as somewhere to eat in Leeds city centre, but in the future it's definitely one I'll consider. For a restaurant that is part of a hotel, they could have played it safe and offered up a range of dishes that everyone will love. That isn't to say that they don't do that - on the regular menu, they serve your usual dishes such as burgers and fish and chips - but they also serve some more unusual dishes too. Special menus like this are always a bonus to any restaurant, but I'm pleased to see that this hotel restaurant are branching out and trying something new, to compliment their existing menu. Sadly this chocolate-themed menu is no longer available, but they have started to showcase their festive menu - and I have to say that it looks pretty good! I had a wonderful evening at the FireLake restaurant at Radisson Blu, and hope to visit again in the future. Be sure to check out their website for more information about the restaurant, and view their current menus!

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

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  1. I've had a rather grand afternoon tea here before but not tried any of the 'proper food', which all looks stunning!

    1. Ooh, I'd love to try their afternoon tea! Bet it's fab.