Restaurant reviews

The Food Academy: Sublime standards from the students at LCC

Leeds City College’s Printworks Campus is home to a very special foodie location that you might not know about, even if you’re one to keep a close eye on the food and drink scene in the city.

The Food Academy is only a short hop from the city centre but in many ways it’s a hidden world of foodie excitement. The training restaurant provides commercial experience for students enrolled on catering and hospitality courses at Leeds City College, with highly qualified professionals guiding the talented young students as they turn out exceptional, seriously tasty food for public consumption.

This week, the Food Academy hosted a bloggers’ event, which we were honoured to be invited to. In all honesty, we didn’t really know what to expect from the evening. We have quite clearly been living in ignorance for the last 10 years, not knowing about the existence of the Food Academy and in the process very much missing out on a very special foodie haunt, which offers amazing value for money and an experience different in so many ways to that found at more established restaurants led by experienced chefs in the city.

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Our evening started with a welcome drink in the bar area. We were served by a very friendly young student, who set the bar for the general standard of the evening ahead. It wasn’t long before we were taken into the restaurant (modern, airy, and very smart). We had our little girl with us and the waiting team were quick to make sure her high chair was suitable and were very helpful in bringing her an extra special bread roll.

On the topic of bread rolls, the onion roll was probably the nicest bread I’ve eaten in many months, and I’m a very regular, enthusiastic consumer of bread!

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The starter was an interesting combination: a veal and goat’s cheese nugget, served with cucumber and pickled beetroot. We’re not huge fans of goat’s cheese, but thankfully the flavour here was subtle, which allowed the delicate flavour of the tender veal to shine through. The goat’s cheese was mixed with pesto and the whole thing wrapped in a crispy, light casing. Overall, it was a great success.

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The only slight chink in the armour of this sensational starter was the fact that halfway through eating the nugget, Kyle was brought an alternative starter (he’s allergic to pine nuts and, after warning the team in advance, they had made him a version without pesto but had forgotten to bring the right dish to our table). This was all very much erring on the side of caution as he had no reaction at all to the dish, but a slightly worrying moment nonetheless!

This slight misunderstanding did not detract at all from the enjoyment of our evening, which continued with a vengeance when the palate cleanser arrived. A single, plump, beautiful scallop bathed in a stunning green broth and studded with roe and wasabi peas, this was a refreshing and light dish that set us up nicely for the main.

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The main dish revolved around a focus on pork. There was pork belly, pork fillet served with a black pudding and chilli crust, and pomme puree. The dish was a real success. I don’t normally like black pudding, but the salty, deep flavour of the crust on the pork fillet really brought the whole plate to life. Black pudding and chilli is a combination I will certainly look out for in future. The pork belly was tender and cooked to perfection, and the crackling had that real depth in flavour that you get from genuinely good quality pork.

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Our only slight complaint was that we’d have liked a little more gravy with it all, but that’s really us, as gravy fans, being fussy! We were so impressed by the meat on display, in fact, that we’re going to go back to the Friday butcher counter to see if we can snap up any cuts of meat butchered by the talented young team.

The meal was rounded off in style by a chocolate and coconut tart, topped with blackberry sorbet and coconut shavings alongside some torched meringue. The tart was indulgent, gooey, and just a really sublime way to round off an amazing meal. The coconut shavings were so thin you could almost see through them, and added a contrasting texture to the soft tart.

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As we were finishing off our puddings, the students came out of the kitchen so we could all give them a round of applause, which was richly deserved after such a professional display.

It was so nice to be invited to such a unique event in the city. Leeds has a lot to be proud of in terms of its culinary reputation, and from the looks of things, it has a very bright future ahead if this crop of chefs enter the scene.

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