MasterChef runner-up Matt Healy has opened his new restaurant in Holbeck and it’s surprisingly relaxed…
‘Unconventionally British’ – that’s how Matt Healy is describing his new restaurant and it’s a fair assessment. This is fine dining, served in the spirit of the informal dining movement. It’s unpretentious, comfortable and surprisingly accessible, with dishes that are both familiar and new.
Matt Healy is something of a household name these days, but it wasn’t always that way. His cooking career started in the most modest way – he was a dishwasher at Fat Franko’s, which was where Banyan is now. That’s right, he’s a Leeds boy. From there, he moved to Stuart’s Wine Bar (now Bar 166) and El Gato Negro in Manchester, where Simon Shaw kicked him into shape with three years of high expectations and one-to-one mentoring.
London stole him away after that, but it was his stint on MasterChef: The Professionals in 2016 that sent him hurtling into the public spotlight. He breezed into the final three and came out of the back of it as runner-up. In the years since, he’s done a medley of pop-up events, as well as working as a development chef for a local company back here in Yorkshire, but one afternoon in the pub, his friends convinced him to go it alone.
They were originally looking for a venue in North Leeds, but the rents were too high – and then The Foundry went up for sale. “The building is absolutely stunning and in wicked surroundings. With the development of the South Bank, the new South entrance to the train station, and the buzz in this area of the city, I think we’ve grabbed it at the perfect time,” Matt explained. “We’re a bit off the beaten track really, but people come down this way specifically for a good pint at The Cross Keys or The Midnight Bell, or a decent sandwich at Taste, and hopefully they’ll come to The Foundry too.”
They’ve completely transformed the venue, stripping it back to the original features. Gone is the wooden panelling and the imposing bar – now you’ll walk into a bright, airy space with exposed brickwork, delicately lit arched ceilings and a polished concrete floor. They’ve opened up the kitchen so you can see Matt at work and brightened up the walls with neon lights and a handpainted mural by Nicolas Dixon.
This is a venue that toes the line. The decor is classic, yet modern. The food is experimental, but familiar. And the service is impeccable, but surprisingly informal. You can pop in for a glass of wine after work, maybe enjoy a charcuterie platter or a couple of small plates, or you can do the whole fine dining thing.
It may be unconventionally British, but Matt has taken inspiration from all over the world, so you’ll find beef tartare and belly pork rubbing shoulders with hanger steak and crème brûlée doughnuts. Simplicity is key here, it’s not over-the-top or scarily unusual – you can certainly try something different, like monkfish cheeks, but you could also have something achingly familiar, like the baby chicken Kiev with wild garlic and duck fat potato.
The menu will change every six weeks, but right now you can try Healy’s poached mackerel fillet with beetroot, apple and radishes. It’s one of his favourites, and you can see why, “It’s a really stunning dish, you get the earthiness of the beetroot, the tartness of the apple and then the smokiness of the mackerel, which is an absolute winner for us.”
That’s just one example though. They’re also serving cecina smoked and cured with truffle oil – this aged, smoked Galician beef is cut wafer thin and served as a twist on carpaccio. Or you could try the hake with confit fennel and charred clementine puree. They’ll have six to eight small plates if you want to eat tapas style or you can have a traditional three-course meal, with desserts like sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream (trust us, you want to try that one).
Alongside the food, there’s a dreamy wine menu. Healy’s partner, Iain Silver, has taken charge of the bar. His background is in cocktails, and he has over 18 years experience, but they wanted to stay true to the building’s past with a complex wine menu that will change and evolve as time goes on.
It’s quality stuff, with a little something for everyone, but of course, they do cocktails too and they’re trying something different with their beer. They’ve filled the fridges with 15 handpicked craft beers, and they’re going to treat them in the same way they would wine, helping you to find the perfect pairing for each dish.
It’s these little things that make Matt Healy at The Foundry stand out, and it is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting additions of the year. This is high-end food, served in a relaxed setting, and while the prices are naturally higher than your average restaurant, they’re not totally outside the realms of possibility. You’re looking at about £8 for a small plate and £20 for a main.
Matt Healy at The Foundry, 1 Saw Mill Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5WH.