Harvey Nichol’s Café, Leeds, West Yorkshire

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Twenty pounds. Two courses and a glass of Prosecco. And good bread, small amuse and a view of the rooftops. There are many places to eat in Leeds pre-theatre, but this has a certain style – a cut above the ever delightful Carluccio’s etc in the new Trinity Centre – in the same league as the sadly-missed restaurant above Flannels, latterly part of the Anthony’s empire [now re-opened and as yet untried]. It provides a better value, more attractive and livelier version of Anthony’s restaurants. All four in Anthony’s empire is gone. Overstretched himself, we imagine. Anthony Flinn trained at El Bulli and opened the restaurant of choice with his father on Boar Street in 2004. Now there was no denying that the food was good – great even – but the atmosphere was pretty dire. Don’t people realise that the atmosphere is just as important as the food – that there’s a delicate, ever shifting balance between the two. All white [nowt wrong with that] but simply bare and soulless. We went once to Boar Street. Anyway, they all disappeared overnight in 2013.

So Harvey Nick’s. Good food – OK £20 isn’t cheap for two courses but it is good – well-cooked, well sourced food. Chicken great, moist, good gravy, nicely served, simple accompaniments. That’s not an easy dish with nowhere to hide. The pre-theatre choice, until we try [1] Flannels “The Man behind the Curtain” – though not available pre-theatre, and [2] Kendell’s Bistro near the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Which is why we’re there – Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at the Playhouse. Probably the most moving, disturbing play we’ve seen. A dark and moving story about the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts with parallels, as Miller intended, of the McArthur era of 1950s America. Interestingly, the rehabilitation of the supposed “witches” for the benefit of their families [we’re talking 1692 here] was not complete until all were finally proclaimed innocent in 2001. The cast was very good – particularly Martin Marquez as John Proctor and Kate Phillips as Abigail Williams. You’ll see more of Kate, just fresh from Drama School, as Jane Seymour in the forthcoming BBC version of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Worth waiting for, although it will have to be extra special to beat the RSC’s version.

The WYP has had a resurgence with a new artistic director, James Brining. It went into a bit of a black hole following the departure of Jude Kelly for London, but now back on track.

Restaurant at Harvey Nichols Leeds

…and the West Yorkshire Playhouse

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