IT takes a strong-willed and daring person to open a restaurant now. So meet Eric Paxman who has done just that.
The experienced chef who has worked with the likes of Marco Pierre White and Bill Grainger was front of house at Bradley’s for several years but always yearned to have his own restaurant.
An ideal location popped up in the middle of Lindley when the Live Lounge suddenly closed down in the summer.
Eric has made it his own.
And the start he’s had since opening on November 5 has, to say the least, been promising. It was buzzing when we went on a Thursday night – and some days over Christmas are already fully booked.
But why such seemingly instant success? One meal and the clues come thick and fast.
Eric promised the finest ingredients locally-based wherever possible and he’s delivered on that pledge. It’s quality food at a reasonable price. Four of us ate three courses A La Carte along with coffee, a bottle of wine and a big bottle of sparkling water – and the bill just dribbled over £120.
Eric’s winter menu offers for starters pumpkin soup, curried crème fraiche and crispy sage; sesame seed crottin goats cheese, sticky red onion marmalade and dressed pea shoots; grilled smoke haddock, bubble and squeak, soft quails egg and hollandaise; pan fried breast of partridge, Yorkshire blue cheese and pear tart fine, hazelnut dressing and red wine jus. OK, that’s some but you’ll see a picture starting to emerge. Eric clearly suffers from the affliction of perfectionism. Everything is precise and has to be just right.
And it is.
The grilled smoked haddock was exquisitely light with its nest of bubble and squeak giving an opposite texture but here the opposites were certainly attracting. Partridge is a solid meat yet this was unbelievably tender and placing it on a pear tart – well, was that Eric’s little pre-Christmas joke with a partridge on a pear tart? If it was, it worked very well.
The mains have been similarly lovingly crafted, turning them into culinary works of art. The strangest was the roast rump of lamb with goat’s cheese risotto, curly kale and Romesco sauce. Lamb and cheese risotto did not appear natural bedfellows. We moved on and went for butter roasted chicken breast, fricasse of wild mushrooms and tarragon, butternut squash puree and parmesan gnocchi with the second mains honey glazed fillet of pork, air-dried ham, crushed new potato cake and grain mustard sauce.
A theme quickly developed. Eric is a master at cooking meat. The pork was quite chunky yet done to the precise second with just the right hint of pink, yet velvet tender. Chicken can so often be dismissed as a bland alternative. Eric has turned this dish into a mainstay. Everything else on both plates was designed to bring out the meat’s full flavour – so much so that we started to think lamb and cheese risotto? Eric must know what he’s doing.
A side dish of sweet potato wedges served in a quaint little fryer style dish set us off down the road of ‘we’re going to have to do these at home.’
Other mains include pan seared fillet of Yorkshire beef weighing in at a pricey £19.50, fillet of sea bream, haunch of venison and spiced aubergine curry. The dishes come with three vegetables and, while finely cooked, lacked the imagination that’s plain to see on the rest of the plate.
For puddings the baked ginger parkin with butterscotch sauce and clotted cream was far lighter than it sounded.
But Eric’s pièce de résistance are cheeses supplied by the Birkby Cheese Company. Bally Blue is a mild, creamy Irish cheese with streaks of blue running through it to give it just a hint of a kick. The Tuxford and Tebbutt blue stilton is more robust yet still retains a naturally mellow flavour while Livarot is one of the most ancient cheeses from Normandy and is thought to have been invented by monks. Judging by its full, pungent flavour they spend a lot of time cheese-making.
Eric’s retains many of the features of the original building – timbers and exposed walls – and has surreal art on the walls. Don’t look at the price tags if you happen to have your bank manager with you. It’ll ruin his appetite.
There is an early bird menu (5.30pm to 7pm Monday to Saturday) for £19.95 for three courses. Another great touch is that Eric is keen for feedback and on that we’d say it needs space for a pre-meal drink downstairs.
All in all, it looks like Eric’s bravery is paying off.