Hi guys. Firstly a belated happy birthday to Mr Rosbif for yesterday, love you loads.
So, where to go to celebrate given that we are ruined for choice at the moment. Leeds is booming and new restaurants are opening in rapid succession, I cant keep up (and neither can my girdle…)
When I booked Issho a few weeks ago, pretty much as it opened, it was during the recent hot weather so the roof terrace won the booking away from Tattu, the other contender. (We’ll try you too don’t worry).
On arrival, a few floors up from the relatively nondescript entrance on the side of Victoria Gate, first impressions were uncertain. There were dj decks playing smooth smooth jazz. The much coveted roof terrace was already full, and despite me keeping a beady eye on it for the 45 minutes or so before our reservation no-one moved dammit. I conceded defeat and concentrated on actually taking everything in. The bar area is quite beautiful, interesting textures, natural wood and stone. The bar itself was stone, smooth as glass on top yet the edges were roughly hewn like pixies had hand-crafted it with tiny toffee-hammers. I silently plotted how I could steal it and fashion it into a kitchen island. There’s a tremendous selection of Japanese single malts and sake. I went for a Sakura which was a Japanese take on a classic Bellini, followed by an Issho twinkle, prosecco, elderflower and cucumber. Oh we liked that!
I was concerned that the clientele may be a little “no carbs before Marbs” and there was an element of that in places. I knew that this was going to be the place to be seen in Leeds for a little while, so as someone that couldn’t give a monkeys about that and just wants great, interesting, clever food, wasn’t sure it would live up to the hype. After I nipped to the ladies and was surrounded by what looked like Miss World’s kettlebell class reunion I was cheered by the fact that they’d all just be having a salad and a diet water. Ha! Thin does not equal happy!
We were shown through to our table and the restaurant was packed. I smugly high-fived myself for booking weeks ago. That said, the tables were well spaced so the atmosphere was really good but the lighting and layout still made it feel quite intimate. The large open plan kitchen runs the length of the dining room and it’s great to watch them work. The premise is a number of small plates essentially, so a bit like tapas. There are options for larger meat and fish courses but we wanted to try as much as possible so opted for sharing I think 8-9 dishes between us.
The dining room is quite dark and the ambient Ibiza chill out tunes are actually quite loud. Ordinarily the sort of thing that would wind me up but it just somehow suits the vibe really. You could still maintain a conversation and it just sank into the ether so it didn’t actually intrude.
Now, the service throughout was exquisite. We asked for a sake recommendation and the yuzu sake was just delicious, citrusy and floral but light. Like an easy drinking marmaladey limoncello would be my best comparison. We were asked to choose our own sake bowls from a selection which was a lovely touch and just added to the sense of occasion. The sake came in a beautiful ceramic bottle nestled in another beautiful bowl full of ice. I was loving this. I also had a yuzu blonde beer which was delicious too.
We got the customary raised eyebrow when I ordered all the food. Oh dear, they’re going to have to push 2 tables together again…. not so! The food just appears, usually as you have just finished the last morsel on the plate before it. Like a little running buffet of deliciousness.
Now we get to the main event, what was the food actually like? No wait, a 7ft tall Gwyneth Paltrow type has just wafted past to her table. Sorry, the food.
Epic. The end. Thanks for reading.
Seriously, it was that good. I don’t care if there are people in this room that can manage a fishtail braid. This is in the top 5 best meals I’ve ever eaten. Everything was new, exciting, interesting but above all tasted amazing. The sort of amazing that makes you pull the face after the first bite. You know which face, the one where you shut your eyes and cock your head to the side. That face.
I won’t pretend this was cheap, but for a special occasion this is just top drawer. I’ll also apologise for the forehead mark on the bathroom mirror due to sake induced depth perception issues when trying to remove bbq’d sweet corn from my teeth. I also might have slightly made a “we’re not worthy” motion to the head chef after already saluting him, prior to exit. We may never be allowed back…..