First Look: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds
Published 28 February 2024

Table in the window (Credit: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds)

When The Reliance closed in Leeds, it left a gap in the form of a solid, neighbourhood, everyone-welcome restaurant equalled by excellent cooking. It’s early days yet, but Bavette, a French bistro from Sandy Jarvis and Clément Cousin in the suburb of Horsforth, looks like it will comfortably fill the brief.

Jarvis comes from the nearby market town of Wetherby while Cousin hails from the Anjou region of the Loire Valley. The couple crossed paths working at London wine bar and restaurant Terroirs and have clocked up time at Racine, The Culpeper (Jarvis), Brawn, Naughty Piglets, The Dairy and Fera at Claridges (Cousin). This migration of finely-tuned experience back to Jarvis’ home turf is good news indeed for Leeds and its residents.

First look: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds
Sandy Jarvis and Clément Cousin (Credit: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds)

A Sunday visit on opening week showed a united team galloping gracefully towards their first milestone. Just a few hours before curtain up on Wednesday 21st February, the restaurant was like a building site, Cousin reports - but aside from a few missing coat hooks, you’d hardly know there’s more to do.

A large plate glass window and smart blue trim fronts the bistro. Inside, a standing bar awaits walk-ins or waiting guests, and a mix of banquette seating and round tables accommodate up to 40 covers, some of them with a view into the semi-open kitchen at the back. If it feels a little plain at first, it’s the type of room ready to take on the patina of happily fed and watered guests over time.

First look: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds
Bavette a l'Echalote, Frites, Bearnaise Sauce, Endives Salad (Credit: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds)

The Sunday menu merges the à la carte with three roasts options: bavette, a deep flavoured braised lamb pithivier, and a vegetarian filo parcel stuffed with starchy-sweet squash and Cavolo Nero. All sit around the £20 mark and include generous portions of roast potatoes, charred hispi cabbage, celeriac purée, leek gratin and hefty Yorkshire puddings.

The biggest delights of our meal came from the à la carte menu: buttered toast with Cantabrian anchovies and shallots, a model take on a popular classic; an intense shellfish bisque and orange-scented rouille showcasing the depths of the kitchen’s talents; and a heaven-sent dish of rillons (chunks of pork belly cooked in its own fat) with frisée salad and a pin-sharp ravigot sauce for balance. At dessert, thick-set creme brûlée was brightened with rhubarb, while an oozing, powerful chocolate sabayon tart was cunningly paired with wildly refreshing fromage blanc sorbet that deserves be sold by the pint.

First look: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds
Crème Brûlée, Yorkshire Rhubarb (Credit: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds)

Cousin leads service with a natural ease and warmth which is reflected in the rest of the small team. Already a hotspot among fellow hospitality staff, there was a member of the Hern team in during our visit, while a little later, staff from Eat Your Greens - where Cousin worked for a spell to get to know the Leeds scene - piled in for a belated Christmas party.

Wines are a mix of French and European selections and feature bottles from Cousin’s family vineyard in the Loire. Alongside the bottle list there’s a good curation of 125ml, 250ml and 500ml pours, opening at £6 a glass. Service charge is not included on the bill but left to the diner’s discretion at point of payment.

First look: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds
Caramelised Onion Tartlette, Radicchio & Otley Pecorino (Credit: Bavette, Horsforth, Leeds)

WHERE 4-6 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds LS18 4RJ
WHEN Opened Wednesday 21st February 2024
OPEN Wednesday - Saturday dinner, Friday - Sunday lunch
FOLLOW @bavettebistro
BOOK bavettebistro.com

The Good Food Guide allows three to six months before anonymously inspecting a new restaurant. Look out for a full review coming soon.