Monday, 23 April 2012

Johnny Fontane's, Leeds


On Friday night I headed down to Johnny Fontane's, a new American diner soon to be opening on Great George Street. I was surprised to find they've occupied the large corner unit that was formerly Brio's. It's a very big restaurant, an ambitious place for an independent just starting out, and rather pleasing to see that the site hasn't been taken on by one of the usual chain suspects.

The restaurant has been kitted out in what I've decided to call diner moderne. There are classic diner stylings (red leatherette booths, Coca-Cola trays, the condiments), but with the plastic chairs, picture windows and sleek bar the overall look is more contemporary. Not sure what I'm waffling on about here, interior design is not my thing so I'll shut up before I look foolish. Whatever it is I like it.

Burgers are the order of the day. The freebie offer was any single burger, any side and any drink which will usually set you back a very reasonable £9.99. The invitation said I'd been invited to share a table with other food and drink bloggers which gave the impression of everyone being seated together, getting a bit of a speech from the owner and so forth as is often the case with these things. In practice it was a bit of a free-for-all, I did sit with some other bloggers but only because we turned up at the same time.

It's a semi-self service ordering system. Order food and drinks at the bar, receive a pager, when it bleeps collect your food from the service point. Perfectly fine in theory but things did go a little awry when the server forgot to give me a pager and my order ended up attached to the next one.

Teething problems with the service system aside, was the food any good? Yes it was. The bacon cheeseburger was the equal (probably better actually) of any other I've eaten in Leeds. The patty had a pronounced beefy flavour that wasn't overwhelmed by the other ingredients and was cooked medium as stated on the menu. The meat was definitely good quality, I'd have no qualms about ordering the burger medium rare or rare in future.

Those other ingredients were all as they should be in a classic burger; - just lettuce, tomato, plasticky cheese and crisp, streaky bacon. The only improvement for me would be the addition of pickles as standard, I didn't notice until afterwards that the menu does say these can be added on request. I guess they've decided that more people don't want pickles in their burger than do. No pickles! What's wrong with you people?

The bun was also high quality and held up well, not falling to bits as the burger was eaten. If I had one criticism it's that the bun was a little too substantial for the filling, but I'd easily rectify that in future by ordering a double.

The fries were delicious in a slightly filthy way, being of the sort that manage to combine crusty, crunchy bits with a touch of grease, as opposed to dry, rustlier frites. As with the burger patty, you could tell they've done their homework sourcing ingredients, as they had a great potatoey flavour, tasting of much more than the frying fat alone. I also sampled one of the onion rings, which was even more delicious than the fries, the batter crunchy, herby, salty and very more-ish.

The drinks list is also worth a mention, there are a few good American bottled beers, some British draft options (which hadn't arrived on Friday, but which will include Ilkley Brewery) and some top quality spirits (bourbon in particular) at very reasonable prices. I drank a Brooklyn Brown Ale which tasted to me like a sort of turbo Newcastle Brown, malty and a good match for the fries.

I'll happily return here and pay for food and drinks. As well as my own there were a few grumbles from others on Friday night (cold burgers, cold restaurant, burgers not consistently cooked and so on) but nothing that can't be ironed out through practice and experience. The food and drinks are all excellent quality, especially for the prices they are charging. I hope it's a big success.

For other perspectives (and better photos) from the same table check out what Neil and Ewan have to say.

Unit 1
40 Great George Street


Elly Snare said...

Great review - this place is right near my house so I am totally PSYCHED for the opening to us plebs!


Dave said...

Cheers Elly, according them they should be open properly in about a fortnight.

Sion Battle said...

Thanks for sharing fabulous information. online ordering system It' s my pleasure to read it.i'll follow up for more updates if you keep posting them...

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