After spending two weeks eating my way across western Canada and the USA, I’ve been in somewhat of a post-holiday food slump. But a trip to Charlie Bretts at the Allerton has rejuvenated my faith in the great British menu. Traditional fish and chips are given a modern spin, with a menu that features Italian-inspired dishes and seafood galore. Though it’s not nose-in-the-air ‘fine dining’, the Alwoodley branch has more of an upmarket restaurant feel, compared to the student-oriented Headingley location. The result is a perfect balance of quality food, comfortable atmosphere, and incredible value for money. The atmosphere: Relax, and prepare to be spoilt As soon as you walk through the front door, there’s a sense of laid-back luxury. The wooden features and porthole windows pay homage to the seaside theme, while a colourful mural and Scandi-chic lighting give the layout a modern twist. Beyond the welcoming atmosphere, the excellent service made us feel right at home. We received the warmest of welcomes and were instantly seated and greeted with drinks and a breadboard starter. To drink, I opted for a bottle of Birrificio Angelo Poretti, which was smooth and light, the perfect choice for a sunny July day. As we indulged in fresh bread from Gianlucca’s (a local family bakery), served with olive oil, butter, and kalamata olives, we knew we were in for something good. The food: Dig in, and prepare to be satisfied We stopped by on a Sunday afternoon to take advantage of the 3 courses for £15 blackboard special. While our host lamented that the options aren’t as vast as the main Monday-Saturday feature, I still experienced my worst nightmare: menu paralysis. Luckily I had a generous companion, with me, who is always willing to share his food (and let me make gentle suggestions about what he should order). At first, too many delicious phrases sprung out at me: buffalo mozzarella or toasted sourdough? Free-range chicken or haddock and chips? And then I saw it, twice: ‘truffled’. To start… Anyone who has read my food ramblings knows about my ‘buzz words’ – things on a menu (like ‘halloumi’ and ‘beer-battered’) that catch my eye, regardless of how they’re served, and which I inevitably end up ordering. ‘Truffle’ is one of them. To start, I opted for smoked salmon with truffled marscapone. Charlie Bretts makes a point of using local ingredients across the entire menu, and my salmon was sourced from Bleiker’s smokehouse in North Yorkshire. The whipped texture of the cheese meant it was both flavorful and airy, an ideal pairing for the thick, meaty fish. My companion chose the Yorkshire farm ham hock terrine, which I’m told was light and not-too-rich. Thin, toasted sourdough crackers were an ideal platform for the combination of the tender ham and sharp piccalilli. I stole a few slices to host my own starter, which added a satisfying crunch. The main… Again, I was seduced by buzz words – ‘truffle oil’ and ‘risotto’ – and I was treated to a rich, delicious bowl of creamy perfection. As someone who has taken to the stove to try to perfect this ricey dish, I now feel thoroughly educated in the texture and flavour of a perfect risotto. The rice was sticky but not sloppy, and the generous scattering of mushrooms meant there was a bit of a crunch in every bite. Indulgent chunks of parmesan melted into the rice slowly, tying the whole dish together. Charlie Bretts doesn’t skimp on portion size, and even for a North American it was no easy feat! I had been torn between choosing risotto or fish, so luckily my companion ordered the famous haddock and chips. From the local pub to the seaside promenade, it’s one of his go-to menu items whenever we eat out, and so he has a library of Britain’s favourite dish stored in his memory, awaiting comparison… One bite in and he was smitten, singing praises for the batter, which was ‘light and yet super crunchy’ and the fish, which ‘just melts in your mouth’. I stole my obligatory bite and can confirm this was the case. House-made tartar sauce and mushy peas made it extra special. For dessert… It was a miracle we managed to find space for dessert. But somehow, when our dishes appeared, we suddenly mustered up the ability to clean our plates. I opted for English butter toffee and salted caramel Yorvale ice cream, souced from York’s specialist dairy farm, which was a refreshing way to end my trio of creamy courses. The chocolate mousse that my companion ordered – a buoyant blend of white, milk, and dark chocolate – was undeniably rich and yet incredibly light. Just when I thought I’d reached my limit, a plate of chocolate salted caramel brownie pieces appeared, to accompany my companion’s coffee – the perfect, fudgy way to end a perfect meal. The verdict From start to finish, our experience of Charlie Bretts was nothing short of brilliant. As we left, there was a bittersweet atmosphere in the car – sweet because it had been such an enjoyable afternoon, and bitter because we wished we could un-eat everything and do it all over again! It just goes to show that you don’t have to travel across the Atlantic and go to the top of Seattle’s Space Needle to find an outstanding meal – you can just go to Alwoodley.