The thing with snow is that it can be a right annoying bastard.
There’s us, being all Leedsy (coffee without milk, etc) when a mayday message came through from the homeland advising that “it’s snowing and it’s sticking”.
A couple of mum jokes later, plans were rejigged and an earlier-than-ideal table sought for dindins, figuring that if you’re going to be freezing, knacked off and stranded, you might as well be freezing, knacked off and stranded on a full stomach. And pissed.
And so to Ox Club – within Headrow House – where, drooling like Tiny Tims at the door, pity was forthcoming and an early table granted. The diamonds.
Anywhere doling out bread and chicken dripping to sustain us through the gruelling ‘looking at a menu’ phase is rapidly looked upon as ‘bezzo chum’ potential in my mind. We got this stuff applied to the arteries post-haste.
It’s a simple and unfussy room; themes that are reflected throughout a menu of appetizingly straightforward scran elevated by bits of oomph dotted hither and thither.
So a plate of steak and chips – gamey hangar cooked on the money, crozzled spuds as grand as those you chase your Patty Smith’s burger with – is spruced up with a silky bearnaise and – star turn – a spritzy salsa verde, full of mint and other things of a perky verdant persuasion. (£10)
Creamy, yielding burratina and a pungent, smoked mozzarella get zestily yin-yanged with fennel, lemon and black pepper. A simple dish in which good produce is left to do its thing, with just a few knowing moves added to elevate and compliment. (£6)
We order a thick, flaky wedge of pearly cod that lands with a Scandi smattering of ‘ymerdrys’, which is posh for “fancy breadcrumbs” and, with some earthy and liberally seasoned chanterelle mushrooms, adds an extra dimension to a fish that can be a bit monochrome. (£9)
Nuggets of dark and fibrous ox cheek, or more likely the resinous and treacly bacon jam they’re cooked with, were a touch too sweet for me but that’s a taste (or lack of) thing rather than any slight on the kitchen which had got the ‘low and slow’ part very right. (£9)
Humble green beans get a punchy finish with capers, parsley and anchovy; the latter melting into a buttery coating and being a cracking example of, as our Jamie would say, ‘earning flavour’. (£3)
Parts of the menu can be ordered and scoffed in the bar over the hallway, and even at this early hour the kitchen was busy firing out steak and chips (and watercress, for the laugh) to clued-up boozers.
There’s a plethora of laudable eaty-drinky places in Leeds, but I’m hard pressed (though open to suggestions) to think of somewhere other than the Reliance (still not been, like a div) doing this kind-of-neighbourhood-bistro thing, centrally, and doing it this well, where you can eat Good Things without it costing a bomb, and without having to don your best Pierre Cardin shirt.