DINE AND STAY
Gone are the days when hotel restaurant with their bland food and unappetising menus and an atmosphere as starchy as their table cloths were places to be avoided.
But recently quiet revolution has taken place in these formidable places. Suddenly hotels have exercised imagination and rebranded, refurbished and brought the décor and menus into the 21st century.
Residents no longer stray to nearby eateries in fear of what the hotel had to offer and they have become the favourite haunt of those who want to dine and stay overnight to get the maximum enjoyment from that special night out.
The Leeds Novotel has recently launched The Soap Factory, a design-led eatery and cocktail bar on Whitehall Quay. It gets its name from Joseph Watson’s Soap Factory, known locally as Soapy Joe’s, which employed thousands of locals, and was located nearby. And the inspiration doesn’t stop there the chic interior design, glowing fires, stone coloured walls plus oversized soap bubbles in the windows consolidate all this as does the menu which relates to the factory’s history.
The Soap Factory Cocktail Lounge and Kitchen is spacious and comfortable and has a wonderful friendly and warm ambience, mood lighting and some of the friendliest, polite and knowledgeable staff you could ever wish to meet. Their forte is that they make everyone feel extra special – a great boon to travellers dining alone after an intense day in a strange city.
The Soap Kitchen Cocktail Lounge is a must for pre-dinner drinks or for a catch-up with friends after work. Those handcrafted innovative cocktails savoured on the sinkable sofas by the fire are like no other. My partner opted for the Golden Acre which consisted of Jack Daniels and golden syrup and had some crème-de-menthe in the bottom. It’s presentation was amazing it came in a brass tankard with dried fruits and a splash of cinnamon. It certainly got the thumbs up as my partner declared you “could really taste the Jack Daniels”.
My Soaper Duper was a fruity and floral offering with gin, citrus and raspberry jam. An original cocktail creation by the Bar Manager who had got the idea for this cocktail from a wedding in Portugal. It came with a spoon and one stirred in the jam and drank the cocktail through a straw – this was a first for me – I just loved it.
Park of the enjoyment at The Soap Factory is the passion the staff have for their food and drink and the way they lovingly tell you about what you are eating or drinking which is a marvellous touch.
The Soap Factory Kitchen menu can be what you want it to be. We selected our starter from Soap Spoilers, which also make great sharing dishes if you just there for cocktails.
My Tempura Prawns were large, succulent and juicy. The batter was light and crispy and the chipotle mayo the perfect companion. My partner was more adventurous, choosing the Pulled Ham Bonbons. The bonbons were large coated balls filled with pulled ham. The coating was simply delicious made with egg bread and blended with honey.
The main I chose came from the Soap Box part of the menu. Steak Bomb was a grilled steak with caramelised onions served on a rustic ciabatta. To accompany it I decided on Salad Bien Etre. What a veritable feast that was with mixed salad leaves, roasted squash, sweet potato, beetroot, quinoa and toasted almonds, served in a large bowl it is great for sharing.
My partner decided on Joe’s Classic from the Factory Burgers menu but was persuaded by the restaurant manager to opt for the Soapy Joe Burger . This is definitely for big appetites with two beef burgers with smoked bacon, Swaledale mature Yorkshire cheddar, friend onions, egg, and lots of other bits and pieces. The burgers were cooked to perfection and seasoned in a very tasty and original way.
We were served our main courses on a large wooden board which was a really lovely touch as we could mix, match and share each others dishes.
After our main course there was just room for a sweet – after a short walk outside I must admit. My heaven on a plate came in the shape of a Banoffee Ice-Cream Sundae and this lived up to my expectations being an ice-cream sundae junkie! My partners strawberries and cream were sweet and tasty and just finished the ideal meal.
The Soap Factory can be exactly what you want it to be and we loved its quirky but tasty take on good locally sourced products – but most of all we loved the attention to detail and the enthusiasm and talents of its staff.
Situated inside The Leeds Novotel it’s the perfect venue for that special occasion when you want to dine and stay. Only a few minutes walk from the railway station and five minutes to the hub of Leeds’s retail therapy area, the hotel has its own underground car park.
The Leeds Novotel is a modern and bright hotel. Walk into the reception and there’s a great feeling of modernity and space. The foyer décor of chic and contemporary and has an infectious laid-back atmosphere yet its check-in and reception staff are energetic and knowledgeable.
Although it’s in the city centre it is amazingly quiet inside the hotel – especially in the rooms and suites. One wouldn’t know you were in the hub of Leeds. The rooms are spacious and the beds just so comfortable. There’s no shortage of comfortable seats and sofas in the rooms, big screen T.V. and every gadget for the discerning traveller, whilst the slate bathrooms with bath and power shower are great to perk you up or to take a relaxing soak in.
The hotel has its own fitness centre with a sauna and steam room, if you feel guilty after testing out the Soap Factory Kitchen. And after a good night’s sleep there’s the hotel’s breakfast to look forward to with a tempting buffet of treats from five different kinds of bread, pastries, cheeses, meats, cereals, fruit and so much more for those who prefer a light breakfast to a vast array of cooked dishes for the more traditional breakfaster.
The Soap Factory, 4 Whitehall Quay, Leeds LS1 4HR. Open 8.00 – 23.45. Tel: 0113 242 6446
Novotel bookings and enquiries: 0113 396 9001