Our lunchtime visit to Shears Yard was prompted by Marina O’Laughlin, the Guardian food critic, asking for Leeds recs on Twitter just before our latest visit. Top shout out was for Shears, from the people behind the perennially popular Arts Café, and so it was booked in the diary for our traditional post-Easter blow out. One last carb-fuelled hoorah before crawling back down the M1 for a diet of green vegetables (and the odd chocolate bunny).
We were also lucky enough to have the company of my Aunt and Uncle, who treated us for the Ewing’s birthday and took us for a customary whirl around the butcher's of Kirkgate Market, one of my favourite spots in town, before our meal.
The interior is fab; the entrance leading down into a cosy bar with comfy banquettes that runs into a bright, open, dining room, lit up thanks to the glass panels in the roof and ropes of lights that hang like sparkling spiders webs across the rafters. The exposed red bricks and blonde wood give a stripped back Scandi effect that is stylish but not austere.
The lunch menu has the usual burgers, sharing boards and ciabatta sandwiches, alongside a good value set, £14.50 for two courses, £17.50 for three. There's also a nicely put together wine list, decent beer selection with hand pulls, draught lagers and bottles, and a choice of cocktails including the rather potent sounding Dram-a in Guyana; a large measure of El Dorado aged rum with Tawny Port reduction, homemade cherry liqueur with cinnamon bark syrup and Creole Bitters stirred down and added to an Ardbeg 10 washed goblet.
Sadly the drive home meant I stuck with a half of Mary Jane from the Ilkley Brewery, a pale ale packed with Amarillo and Cascade hops, but weighing in at a perfectly quaffable 3.5%.
To start we shared a meat board with home cured duck ‘ham’, salted pork popcorn, ham hock & grain mustard terrine, sticky honey & lemon chicken wings, house chutney & granary bloomer. The terrine was particularly good, a sticky, porky number with the zing of wholegrain mustard. And while the wings were a little wan and not very sticky, they were still demolished in double quick time.
For our mains the Ewing and I both choses the Lobster, crayfish & mackerel burger with gem lettuce, heirloom tomato, lobster mayo & dill pickle. This was less ‘bouncy’ than I anticipated, imagining in my head something akin to a Thai fishcake, and the lobster and crayfish were rather out muscled by the oily fish, but overall it was nicely spiced and pleasingly punchy. A side of chips were decent enough, although the aioli alongside missed a garlicky bite.
My aunt’s barley risotto with leeks, parsley, goat’s cheese and roasted radishes was, to borrow a cliché, spring on a plate. It glowed a bright grassy green, punctuated with little pink and white blobs of cheese and radish, when bought to the table, and tasted equally as bright and fresh.
My Uncle chose the chicken with chorizo salsa and corn, also from the set menu. This, with its well cooked poultry, vermilion spiced sausage and glossy gravy, was an equally handsome plate that managed to turn a bog standard chicken breast into something I wanted to reach across the table and gobble up. Luckily I restrained myself enough to be content with a forkful.
Puddings were all sorted, the chocolate mousse for my Uncle and the Ewing and the roasted pineapple with banana and coriander sorbet for me (to share with the Ewing) but just as they were about to whip our menus away, I spotted it…
The mango and white chocolate bavarois, sherbet and chocolate lollipop, served with a Crème Egg Sorbet, the Ewing’s very favourite thing distilled into desert form. Of course, I had to order it and this, rather exciting, looking plate was soon in front of me. While the egg sorbet was nice, if unremarkable, and the parfait both rather cute and tasty, the sherbet was disastrously sweet, like straight icing sugar, while eating it left me feeling like Tony Montana in Scarface.
Malted chocolate mousse with salted popcorn brittle and a dark ale anglaise was another mixed bag. The mousse was dense and claggy but the ale custard was awesome; nutty, creamy and light. The shards of sweet and salty popcorn shrapnel were also rather good.
Shears Yard is a little gem in a rather drab Leeds dining scene; interesting menu, competent cooking, good service and a great venue, and proving that with some good grub, a lunchtime pint and the right company, it's anything but grim up North. I'm already looking forward to our next schlep up to Yorkshire.