It's been a long time since I've had a meal in The Wardrobe. So long in fact, that I only have a vague recollection of the evening. It was a few weeks after R had been born and a couple of weeks before we could finally take him home from the Neonatal Unit at St James's Hospital. We decided to have our last baby sitter free restaurant meal on our way home from visiting our tiny bundle of joy. We had been to The wardrobe before, never for food, but as it was on the bus route home from Jimmy's we decided to give it a go.
I think that I had duck that night and I have no idea what Z had. I couldn't even tell you what style of food the restaurant served. It could have been some kind of British bistro offer but I'd be guessing. It turns out that I'm not the only person who has struggled to pin down the restaurant in The Wardrobe.
The venue has recently changed hands and the new owners didn't know what to make of the restaurant either. It seems that the eclectic menu had evolved over the previous twelve years without much thought or direction. The perceived need for a restaurant at all in this glorious bar and music destination was the draw of the pre-theatre set, looking for a 2-for-1 before going to the Playhouse or Northern Ballet.
Being on the outskirts of the city, it had always been imagined that people would only eat in The Wardrobe if they were soaking up some culture at the same time, but it doesn't look like that is the case. The Wardrobe's neighbours, both good restaurants, always do good trade so something had to change and change it has.
Soul Kitchen, as the name implies, has its roots in the soul food of the deep south of America, Creole cookery and food from the Caribbean. The new menu sees Shrimp and Grits and Jambalaya sat comfortably next to Jamaican Crab Cakes and Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese. There is also a large grill menu. I say large, there are only six options but they are all on the man verses food scale and can be customised with rubs and marinades before making their way to the table.
I was invited to an evening of tasting the new menu, along with a cohort of some of Leeds' number of food bloggers and foodies. This was an interesting evening because The Wardrobe management were really keen to hear our feedback after the meal. We were served a selection of dishes from the menu, shared them around the table and mused about what was on offer.
It's fair to say that it's not quite the finished article yet, but that is why we were invited. The basic offer is fine and just needs turning up to eleven so that you really know you're in a soul kitchen. I'm really looking forward to going back under my own steam to see if they take the feedback in the spirit that it was intended. Hopefully it will cement St Peters Square as a food destination in Leeds regardless of what you are looking for.
The Soul Kitchen at The Wardrobe, 6 St Peters Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds, LS9 8AH.