July 24th, 2006


Simply Heathcotes

Location: Canal Wharf, Water Lane, Leeds. UK. Across the canal from the railway station, but that won't help you much in getting there.

Paul Heathcote started out with his self-titled restaurant in Preston and has been gradually expanding variants of his more informal venue across northern England. The Leeds instance, my first, is one of four Simply Heathcotes, a comfortable modern space, which feels like a stylish gastropub, but acts more like a straightforward restaurant. Clean lines infuse an older space, worn woodwork framing the inside of stone windows. The room reminds me of Square in Toronto with its leather banquettes, white paint, and deliberate counterpoint between verticality and long, lower-ceilinged spaces. And in that Sunday evening's case, the columns and tables were interspersed with large flat-screen t.v.s showing the World Cup final.

The seasonal menu is standardized across the foursome of Simply Heathcotes, augmented with specials. The focus is on British classics, especially those from Lancashire, with an emphasis on pub fare. As the sun slowly set behind the canal boats and bridge beyond, I began with a Bramble Royale, a blackberry variant on a Kir Royale, a pleasant variant, smoother than the original, finished with a fresh blackberry.

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By this point in the evening, I'd been drawn into the World Cup final along with everyone else left in the room. I'd been disappointed at first on seeing the t.v.s (why go out to eat during the match if I really wanted to watch it?), but in retrospect, they were set up well enough to ignore, the volume wasn't too loud, and anyways, I really am rather glad to have seen its ending. Italy won, and I left in a GPS-dependant taxi with memories of banana bread ice cream on my taste buds.