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New to Leeds: Vice & Virtue

· Joseph Sheerin · Food and Drink

Vice & Virtue is bringing fine dining to Leeds city centre, as the existing bar is joined by a new restaurant.

Yellow beetroot at Vice and Virtue

The bar has been open since 2015, but Vice & Virtue is now set to open up its new restaurant.

Vice & Virtue has been a fixture of Leeds’ nightlife since late 2015. The first floor New Briggate bar is renowned for its inventive cocktail menus, which change on a monthly basis. However, the bar is just the beginning, because they’ve spent the last nine months converting the second floor into fine dining restaurant.

The restaurant is a dream come true for owner and award-winning chef Luke Downing. He’s the man behind Dough Bistro in West Park and Nineteen in Wike, both of which have earned praise for their creativity and quality. However, he’s always had a long held desire to open up a venue in Leeds city centre, and that’s why Downing is so excited about his new restaurant.

Trout at Vice and Virtue

“I always wanted to establish a place in the centre of Leeds. I’d been looking at sites for years, and the intention was always to focus on exceptional cocktails and exceptional food,” Downing told us, “Dough is very much an independent, and its location and style formed the charm I didn’t want to replicate anywhere else. Vice is more refined and more niche. Finding inspiration from my own love and passion of fine dining and cocktails. I wanted to create a venue that served an absolute fine dining product, but that offers food at a more affordable price.”

Having taken a behind the scenes role at Dough and Nineteen in recent years, only a real labour of love could have tempted him back out the chef’s whites for another stint behind the pass – and that’s what Vice & Virtue is.

Like Dough Bistro, it will focus purely on tasting menus. They’ll change on a regular basis, and offer a choice of five, eight or ten course meals. That’s not all they’ll be serving up though. You can also enjoy a pre-theatre menu, perfect for a night at Leeds Grand Theatre, which is just a few doors down, or head over for Saturday brunch and Sunday dinners – although they will be introduced in stages over the coming months.

Sticky toffee pudding at Vice and Virtue

“I have always had the same approach when developing menus. They’re almost clichés these days, but local, organic, seasonal and ethically sourced, when considering the individual products. The ideas can be all over the shop. I love to innovate, and I like to experiment. The best chefs I know leave their personality on the plate,” Downing enthused. “It’s not an easy thing to do, when most people consider themselves critics, but that’s what I do. I’m creating menus that I would want to eat, that I think are balanced and composed and offer outstanding value. It will be niche. But tasting menus should be about experimenting and enjoying. I’m not trying to please everybody. Just those who understand this type of food.”

The menus are still being finalised and amended by Downing, so we can’t reveal the specifics yet, but they’re already working with Swillington Farm, and rumour has it their hogged (a young sheep) may pop up on the menus. That will be joined by fish, seafood and even gin in the coming weeks.

To go alongside the food, they’ll be tapping their already significant mixology know-how with an extensive cocktail list, as well as drink matching packages designed to give you the perfect tipple with your dinner.

Vice and Virtue, Leeds

The drinks aspect is something Luke, as a trained bartender, is thinking a lot about, “This is the fun part. Experimenting and research! The restaurant bar will stock Eaux de Vie spirits, meaning we’ll have an exceptional premium array of gins, whiskeys and cognacs, wine from small vineyards not readily available in this country and ales from the local region.”

It’s not just drinks for drinks sake at Vice & Virtue, as Luke wants to make the most of all the different flavours and components to make visiting the restaurant an experience. “The drinks are a vital aspect when balancing the menu. I think about the texture and structure of food, its composition and how best to complement and utilise that for the overall experience,” He told us. “As the public become more and more educated about food, the right drink is becoming more and more important. I’m trying to divert people away from the Pinot Grigios and alike, and want to introduce Sherries, cocktails, infusions into the ‘drinks flight’ experience.”

It’s not just the food and drink combo that will impress though. The art deco styling at Vice & Virtue is carries on into the restaurant, taking inspiration from the 1920s to 1940s, but with what Luke describes as “more glitz and glam than the first floor.” It’s brighter, with more open spaces and a completely open kitchen, with a separate bar – you can even have your dinner up on the pass, seeing what goes on behind the scenes as you eat.

Vice & Virtue

And what you’ll be watching is fine dining in action, something that Leeds, despite its vast number of amazing eateries, doesn’t have a lot of. Vice & Virtue brings together two different, but equally exciting concepts, allunder one roof, and if Luke’s track record is anything to go by, it will go down a storm with Leeds’ ravenous foodies.

Vice & Virtue, 68 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.

Cocktail image copyright Daria Wszolek.