An entire restaurant and cafe devoted to chocolate sounds like a dream come true, something that has to be seen to be believed. Well situated at the bottom of Boar Lane in Leeds, is just the place.
Roast + Conch is the restaurant creation of Hotel Chocolat. Many will be familiar with Hotel Chocolat and the endless delights they produce, personally I was already a huge fan of the shop itself prior to visiting the restaurant. Now, I love chocolate almost to the point of obsession, but I am aware that you can have too much of a good thing. Dessert – fantastic – but for a main course too, could it be just that little bit too much?
To enter the restaurant, you have to walk through the chocolate shop itself – it would almost be too easy to miss the stairs leading up to this chocolate haven, if you weren’t looking for it. Once seated, our waiter came right over and offered us some water, I had a feeling we were going to need it, so I gladly accepted. Waiting for us at the table were a small pot of cocoa beans each, our waiter explained these to us and demonstrated the best way to taste them. I was amazed that I didn’t get the that sweet hit you would expect; but instead, a deep and intriguing flavour. I think our waiter sensed that we were surprised and went on to explain to us exactly how the chocolate we all know and love, is actually made. Fascinating stuff.
Once we had finished our tasting and mini Q&A session, we began ordering drinks. I chose a Pink Lady Bellini, my friend opted for one of the iced chocolate beverages, and we also decided to sample a classic drinking chocolate topped with cocoa whipped cream to share. (Well it’s not every day you visit a chocolate restaurant!) Whilst our drinks were being made this gave us the opportunity to browse the menu, quite an extensive menu too – I didn’t realise quite how many dishes could be chocolate related.
Our drinks came within reasonable time and my Bellini was the prettiest cocktail I have ever seen, complete with a beautiful floating flower; and the hot chocolate looked to die for, I could not wait to indulge and almost didn’t want to share. My friends iced chocolate drink was surprisingly rather refreshing – it wasn’t as sweet as we were expecting, but this wasn’t a bad thing as it would have perhaps been overkill on the meal, if it were.
As this was a new experience for us, we wanted to sample a bit of everything… so we decided to order a selection of dishes and share them between the two of us. In retrospect, we potentially went a little overboard; however, we didn’t regret a thing. Our rather considerable order consisted of; white chocolate mash; sweet potato ribbons; yorkshire pudding filled with rare-seared parkin-spiced beef, more white chocolate mash and cacao red wine gravy; not so scotch egg; broccoli with toasted almonds; muscles with a side of cocoa infused bread; three cacao dips (chocolate balsamic, cacao pesto, nib butter) and sourdough; roast pear, nib infused soft goat’s cheese; and last but not least a portion of broccoli served with toasted almonds. Now, not every dish contains cocoa, but the ones that did were quite the experience. The white chocolate mash was incredible and the yorkshire pudding was also pretty marvellous too – the cacao red wine gravy providing a mysterious, smoky flavour that simply has to be tried. We managed to sample a bit of everything, and had absolutely no complaints over any of the food – it was perfection. But the main highlight of the meal had to be the “not so scotch egg” – a hen’s egg inside softened pearl barley and penny bun mushrooms, cacao crust, roast garlic and pumpkin puree. This was served warm and was that good that after one bite, we requested another one as we couldn’t bear to share – it was unbelievable.
Now you may be thinking that after all this food, dessert was out of the equation. But no, I was determined that I was having a dessert from this place, and so I managed to leave some room (albeit, it did require a 20 minute rest between that and my main course, until I felt quite ready). You’ll be relieved to know however, we thought it may be best if we just shared the one dessert. A chocolate dipping offering that was absolutely stunning, and perfectly accompanied with a selection of fruits and shortbreads.
Finally, our waiter brought over the “Tray of Temptation” and offered us a chocolate of our choice. What a lovely way to finish off our experience, and an experience really is what this place provides. I never once got fed up of the chocolate, Roast + Conch manage to balance the taste out perfectly. In-fact, we enjoyed it that much, we returned a week later to enjoy the delights of the cafe downstairs. A must when in Leeds.