The New Conservatory: Summer menu unveiled

Sitting along Albion Place opposite Toni and Guy and the Grade II listed building which houses the legendary Leeds Club, The New Conservatory is one of the city’s most enduring watering holes and has been around even longer than me.

Set downstairs in a beautifully old-fashioned mahogany bar, complete with a piano, stage area and library, it had a major refurb in 2013 but has still retained a dash of old-school glamour and charm that you don’t often see in Leeds. In fact, it’s the kind of décor and vibe you get in a traditional London based pub (minus Peggy and the rest of the EastEnders of course – you won’t find any trouble or dodgy stolen goods in here).

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The New Conservatory: enduring Leeds bar keeps up with the times.

I dropped in on a busy Thursday night with a friend to sample their new summer menu and a few pre-weekend drinks. I’ve had several decent meals here in the past and so was confident their head chef would deliver the goods for the new menu.

There was live music and a casino night going on whilst I attended, so the atmosphere was far livelier than I had anticipated. With an evening of food sampling ahead of us, we opted for some cocktails to save some space and went for a couple of Classic Mojitos (5.95) which was superbly mixed by the chatty bar man.

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Winning formula: Casino night.

Heading up into the library, we sat down to enjoy the meal, where the wall of books on offer is as diverse as the food and drink menu. Old-school classics such as The Bible sit side-by-side with modern day masterpieces, such as softcore bondage blockbusting page turner, 50 Shades of Grey.

To kick things off, our waitress delivered the starter sampler, which consisted of three dishes from the new menu. The Panko King Prawns with Chilli Lime Dressing (6.95) were oversized, juicy and complimented with the flavoursome dressing.

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The Duck Spring Rolls (6.45) served with hoi-sin were tasty, but couldn’t quite compete with the King Prawns or the third dish on offer; Homemade Deep Fried Brie (5.25) with a beetroot chutney. The brie was perfectly gooey and despite not being a huge fan of beetroot, it worked so well with the chutney which accompanied this delicious dish.

The mains was yet another trio of delights, beginning with the melt in the mouth Belly Pork with Mash and Jus (12.95) which was easily the best of the three dishes. The key to good belly pork is a nice crisp, well-seasoned skin and The New Conservatory have nailed that here with their version of a much loved dish.

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Belly Pork with Jus, Cajun Chicken Skewer and Mushroom Risotto.

The Cajun Chicken Skewer (11.95) with garlic and herb dip is a dish I’ve had here before and although done well, I’d prefer with a spicy sauce or perhaps some sweet chilli. Thankfully, the waitress was on hand to bring both of these along, making me one happy customer. We ordered a bottle of the La Grupa Malbec (19.75) to enjoy the mains, which is bold, fruity number from Argentina and highly recommended.

The last dish was the Wild Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan Crisp and Basil Dressing; something I’d never order myself as I’m neither here nor there when it comes to risotto and would always want a meat dish. Despite this, it was packed with flavour and was surprisingly moreish. Vegetarians can still feel shunned with uninspiring dishes which are little more than an afterthought; not the case here.

By now, both I and my companion were pretty stuffed, however the tasty looking dessert platter offered looked too good to pass on. Thank god my shirt was relatively loose fitting as I wolfed down the whole plate like a fat pig. The winning pudding was easily the Salted Caramel Cheesecake with Chantilly Cream, again, another dish I’d previously enjoyed here before.

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Eton Mess, Chocolate Box and Salted Caramel Cheesecake.

So the new summer menu is a success in my eyes; a good combination of great British pub grub with a dash of international flair. With an extensive drinks menu that mixes good local ales with global favourites, it’s also an ideal place to drop in for an after work tipple. If the summer sun returns, it’s worth noting that you can enjoy food and drinks al fresco on their sizeable outdoor terrace.

The New Conservatory, The Albions, Albion Place, LS1 6JL – check out their website for some awesome Happy Hour deals and full food and drink menu.

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