I’m not really someone who does trendy very well. Since I was a kid I’ve always been slightly behind the curve when it comes to anything fashionable, whether it’s clothes, nightclubs or TV programmes I should be binge-watching. Either that, or I used to try to keep up with the times but it never sat quite right. Trendy just didn’t suit this chick.
Thankfully, I gave up being trendy a long while ago, sticking to the clothes and clubs I know suit me and I feel comfortable in. Having said that, the older you get, the less you tend to care about this stuff. So on a recent visit to Leeds, when my uni pals suggested we check out one of the newest, trendiest places in town for dinner, I didn’t balk but found myself rather excited about stepping out of my comfort zone.
Tattu is in a part of the city that we didn’t tend to frequent that much when we were at uni. It was far too expensive and more suited to bankers and businessmen than a bunch of skint students. However, now we’re all grown-up the world’s our oyster and since we don’t see each other that often, we’ll take any chance to push the boat out (am I right girls, or am I right?), hence our trip to Tattu.
Guys, this place just oozes ‘trendy’. From the understated black exterior to the equally dark and moody interior (which, as we all know, is never great for blog photos but it’s totes cool) dominated by epic cherry blossom trees that crawl up the walls and across the ceilings and cascade down above your head. We went on a Wednesday and it was packed. I thought at first that might be because it only opened in June but having tried the food, I’m wondering if it’s just because it’s pretty darn good.
I’d love to say that now I’m no longer a teenager I can breeze into the coolest of places without a care in the world, but I still found the scary maitre d’ at the entrance slightly intimidating. However, once we were ensconced in our round table in the corner I soon chilled out. It took a tiny bit of time for us to get someone to take our drinks order but once we got past that, I’m happy to say the service was bang on point – friendly, efficient and the right balance of familiar and polite.
The cuisine is ‘contemporary Chinese’ – some great classic flavours but all presented beautifully with a real element of theatre. There are a few twists in the menu too and I was pleased to see a bit of a salute to its Yorkshire location within some of the dishes.
I started with sticky beef short rib with soy, chilli and crispy shallots. What a triumph. Generous chunks of beef that fell apart once you attacked them, coated in a glistening, sticky, unctuous sauce packed with all the saltiness and umami that this kind of food should be. Add the crispy shallots and red chilli for a bit of crunch and colour and there you have it – one of the greatest starters I’ve had this year and the envy of my dining pals.
Between us we tried a few other starters that covered the fairly wide-ranging menu, from some of the dim sum (apparently very good) to this Salt and Pepper Aubergine, a jenga-style stack of aubergine coated in light, crispy batter and served with a cherry hoisin sauce. Simple, but tasty. Far more enjoyable than I predicted, in fact, but still not a patch on my beef.
By this point, I would have happily returned to Tattu just for more starters, as there’s plenty more on the menu I am gagging to try. Like beef and foie gras gyoza, wagyu dumplings or even their decadant lobster and prawn toast. Next time……
For main course there was plenty to cater for all of us. By this, I don’t mean the exhaustive list you’d expect in your local Chinese takeaway, but there’s a good range of dishes from classics like Cantonese chicken or Black Pepper and Honey Ribs, to some slightly more unusual choices like Teriyaki Pork Ribeye or Honey Roasted Chilean Sea Bass.
I went for Thai Style Crispy Monkfish, a generous portion of fish cooked just right and piled on top of tenderstem with a sweet, thick sauce drizzled on top. Just enough to add the Asian flavours you’re looking for, without overshadowing the main event on the plate.
Between us we sampled a good selection of the mains, though nobody could quite stretch to the £70 Chef’s Cut Wagyu Beef or £50 Salt and Pepper Lobster – one for a special occasion perhaps. If you’re wondering if every dish carried quite such a hefty price tag, then the answer’s no. Most of the mains range from £14 up to £30 and I have to say, for the quality and portion size of my monkfish in the venue and city centre location we were in, I didn’t think £20.50 was all that bad.
One of my pals tried the vegetarian chicken and black bean with asparagus and beansprouts – a hearty bowl of food that yes, really did taste like chicken. Another chose one of the Yorkshire-inspired dishes – the Teriyaki pork ribeye mixing Yorkshire pork with pickled vegetables and apple teriyaki. Another dish that was as tasty as it was pretty on the plate, though still didn’t quite beat my monkfish.
We’d agreed not to bother with dessert – until we saw an impressive dry-ice fuelled spectacular going on at the table next to us. A quick query to our wonderful waitress and we soon learned it was the simply named ‘Cherry Blossom’ – an intricate dessert made up of a classic combination, chocolate and cherry, but served with exquisite panache and theatre. Everything about it was impressive – from the chocolate soil to the 3D chocolate cherry tree trunk to the flower decorations and the clever addition of candy floss on top to forming the ‘blossom’.
It appeared with the flourish of dry ice that never fails to make me want to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ like a five-year-old at the fireworks but fear not, there was no issue of style over substance here. As well as looking pretty darn good, this dessert did the business when it came to taste. Bitter, good quality chocolate, a mixture of textures, the sweetness of cherry and a refreshing scoop of sorbet on the side just to round everything off. If I wasn’t already going back to Tattu for the starters, I’d be coming here for this.
Having been so blown away by the closing moment of our meal, we found ourselves wanting to eek the evening out just a little bit more and opted for a cocktail. Since mine and Mr M’s trip to the Gallivant at Camber Sands, I’ve struggled to find an espresso martini quite as good. And then I found Tattu’s Nutella Espresso Martini and think it might be nearly there…
No, cocktail experts, it’s not a philistinic comedy cocktail that someone’s chucked a pile of chocolate spread into, but instead a playful twist on what has become a staple in so many cocktail bars. It’s described on the menu as vodka, hazelnut and espresso but what appeared seemed far more impressive. Great quality coffee mixed just right with the vodka – but any hint of hazelnut came from a pile dehydrated Nutella served with the drink that could then be sprinkled on top. That description may not have convinced you but know this – it works.
Before we knew it, the cocktails were drunk, the restaurant had emptied out and it was time for five old pals to head home to bed. I left rather blown away by Tattu and excited to hear that not only have they got another restaurant in Manchester, but apparently they’ve got plans to come to Birmingham too!
For someone who shies away from trendy places, I think this night may just have changed that. While the first ten minutes or so seemed a little bit ropey, the evening proved to be a wonderful experience where quality food and a trendy vibe didn’t negate good service that made us feel comfortable to enjoy a raucous catch-up over a great meal.
The food not only looks good, but tasted good too and while it’s not a cheap bite to eat, I don’t particularly think it’s overpriced for the standard or, indeed, the setting. If I lived in Leeds I know I’d have returned already and will probably be campaigning to go back next time I visit – although by then my pals and I will probably have found ourselves the next young, hip trendy place to eat. Because hey, you’re never too uncool to enjoy great food.
We paid in full for our meal at Tattu. They didn’t know I was a blogger.