When everyone kept insisting that I visit the Cut and Craft, Leeds’s new restaurant, I began to wonder if all the glowing reports were true. I had an inkling they might be as I had visited their other restaurant in York before the pandemic – though the clientele were a mix of locals and tourists the food was of a high standard.
The Leeds restaurant opened last October, taking up residence in a former women’s clothes shop, though as I was later to discover the history of the building goes back way further – plus there is a personal connection.
Trying to book a table on a weekend evening requires a little patience as they get booked up very quickly so we decided to dine on a Monday night.
Hip vibes and reverence for the past
First impressions were good – the doorman ushered us in and offered to hang our coats in the cloakroom and the unmistakeably warm and welcoming atmosphere certainly didn’t abate as we proceeded into the fine dining area. If you have been to the York restaurant be prepared to be surprised – the Leeds restaurant is very different in style and atmosphere.
In many respects the first impression was that it felt like we were in a demographically younger version of the neighbouring Ivy restaurant which offers a similarly high level of personal service, attention to detail, tasteful decor and good food. The difference is the age group that Cut and Craft appears to appeal to – at The Ivy you would be hard-pressed to find anyone under the age of 30, whereas at the Cut and Craft the majority of our fellow diners were much younger travellers.
That’s not to say the Cut and Craft in Leeds will not appeal to an older clientele – it will and deserves every discerning diners attention no matter what their age. Fortunately, the deep club music that drifts unobtrusively in the background complements the warm ambiance.
When I was a child my grandmother used to treat me to afternoon tea at Collinson’s Coffee House in Bradford – they had a string quartet which made it all seem rather genteel though I recall my request for them to play a Beatles song was met with disdain!
Upstairs at the Cut and Craft there is a framed photograph of a certain musical director which details the history of the building. I was amazed to discover that, in a former life, it housed the Leeds branch of Collinson’s Coffee House – a pleasantly nostalgic surprise – but then things would take an even more personal turn.
Wallace Hartley – local hero immortalised in film and legend
I have always been fascinated with Wallace Hartley, the Lancashire-born, Yorkshire-raised musical director of the orchestra on the Titanic.
Hartley was born in Colne and learnt to play the violin from a fellow congregation member at the town’s Methodist day school. His family moved to Huddersfield where he joined the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra, going on to join the municipal orchestra in Bridlington.
It seems that prior to his posting as the bandmaster on the ill-fated Titanic, Hartley played violin in the string quartet at what is now the Cut and Craft – what a revelation!
When the Titanic began to sink after hitting an iceberg Wallace and his fellow band members started to play music to keep the passengers calm, the story of the band playing on to the end became the stuff of legends.
His body was found two weeks after the sinking of the ship and he was fully dressed with his music case strapped to his body. In his pocket was a silver matchbox etched with “From the staff at Collinsons Leeds”.
At his funeral in Colne 40,000 people lined the route of the procession. Wallace is buried in the town’s cemetery with a ten-foot high headstone which has a carved violin at the bottom.
The proprietors at the Cut and Craft have reverently dedicated the restaurant to Hartley because of his love of music. A fitting gesture indeed.
‘Paradise in Yorkshire’
Hartley was teetotal so he would not have been partaking in the wide range of cocktails that Cut and Craft offer! I am sure though he might have been persuaded to try one of their mocktails.
With a cocktail that comes with a name like ‘Paradise in Yorkshire’ you just have to try it. It’s no wonder this is one of their bestselling drinks: £9.75 buys a delicious mix of Absolut mango vodka, Passoã, cranberry, apple and passion fruit. A refreshing temptation that brought a taste of summer to a cold winter’s night.
For a starter I can recommend the handmade meatballs (£8.95) whilst my partner described her crispy pork belly (£8.50) as excellent.
My passion for French cheese was almost met when I saw on the menu the beef burger and camembert (£17.75). The two beef patties were meaty and tasty though I think the camembert must have gotten lost coming across the Channel as the colour, taste and texture of the cheese seemed more like an English Red Leicester or a Double Gloucester.
My partner had better luck with the 10oz flat iron steak (£12.00) which is prepared daily by their in-house butcher. Served medium rare, the steak was said to be perfect. Chips are extra starting at £4.50.
Leave some room for the delicious homemade black sheep sticky toffee pudding (£7.95) or the delicious mango and passionfruit cheesecake (£8.25) a ‘know you really shouldn’t have but somehow couldn’t resist’ delight.
The Cut and Craft is a thoroughly excellent new addition to the Leeds dining scene. This local and independent restaurant, although not cheap, is worth visiting for a special treat. Combined with an alluring admixture of historical interest and great dining we would both visit again in a heartbeat.
The Cut and Craft, 21–23 King Edward Street, Leeds LS1 6AX