My boyfriend (we’ll call him R from now on) and I love going out for dinner, and are the ultimate foodies with an opinion on everything restaurant-related from the decor to the atmosphere and of course the food and drinks. I was excited to be invited to review Banyan in Harrogate and as I live in Leeds, even though I often visit beautiful Harrogate, I don’t often get to stick around in the evenings so thought this would make a nice change to Leeds City Centre.
I love reviewing places I go to so that others can learn from my experience, and either enjoy something great or avoid something awful!
Disclaimer: I’m going to put the disclaimer at the beginning because I think this is important. While the food and drinks were complimentary, I was in no way obligated to provide a positive review and will always be 100% honest in any reviews on this blog.
Banyan Bar & Kitchen is a brand of Arc Inspirations, a multi-brand bar and restaurant operator. Banyan in Harrogate originally opened in 2006, so for it’s tenth anniversary, Arc Inspirations decided to invest £400,000 in a renovation to bring this particular bar ‘up to date with current UK market trends’. This is an exciting time for the Banyan brand as the company has also announced that it’s fourth bar will be opening in Leeds in March 2016, with the other restaurants currently in York and Manchester.
After the relaunch in late January, I thought it would be interesting to see how it’s holding up, past the launch party night. R and I booked for 7.30pm on a Saturday so that we’d see the place fully in action.
Firstly, how lovely is the outside of the bar? It’s really fresh and now without being try-hard. With Banyan being a fig, the tree and plant decor played well with this.
When we walked in, the bar was full, but we were seated near a window in the restaurant area. The bar and restaurant were not separate rooms, but had separate areas. It was quite loud, but that’s what happens in bars on Saturday evenings!
I managed to get a quick snap of the restaurant side when the table behind us cleared, but it wasn’t empty for long!
The first thing I noticed was the branding. It was everywhere, but I liked that. It showed a restaurant that is proud of its name and added a luxurious touch. The tables had the logo engraved and even the sauce caddy!
We were served our drinks, which to be honest took a while, but again, we had just walked in on a busy night.
I don’t drive, so luckily got to be the one to sample the cocktails. There were so many drinks to choose from! From cocktails to gin to wine to beer, there was a massive selection for everyone’s tastes.
As if that’s not enough, they also do smoothies, a large variety of hot drinks and after dinner Irish coffees!
I really wanted something fruity so I went for the Passion Punch cocktail and was not disappointed!
We then ordered our starters. Again, there is a great selection and the menu really does seem to cater for all. I wanted something a bit different – I always order Calamari! – so went for the Teriyaki Belly Pork. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it as I’m a bit fussy with sauces and dressing. R went for the King Prawns and Pak Choi.
I have to be honest here: when I go to a chain restaurant, I lower my expectations of the food as often find it to be a bit rushed.
When the dishes arrived, we were really impressed with the presentation, but after trying them, we were even more so with the taste! I feel like I could eat the belly pork over and over and the prawns with pak choi were really good.
The starters were so good that I couldn’t wait for the main course. I chose Chicken Skewers while R went for the Crispy Cajun Chicken Burger. In all honesty, I wish I’d chosen something a little more accomplished, but the food was cooked well, with mine tasting perfectly chargrilled. I believe it was cooked actually on the skewer as it was hot, which seems obvious, but you’d be surprised with some places!
The chicken was perfectly cooked and seasoned, as were the vegetables. I chose sweet potato fries as a side, which tasted great and went really well with the meal. The skewers come with a sauce of choice so I decided to go for the teriyaki again as I liked it so much before. You also get a flatbread to fill up with.
Now, I don’t know if it’s just me, but as nice as it all tasted, I found it quite an awkward meal to eat. At first, I was going to wrap the meat and vegetables in the bread. But the flatbread was huge and it was just difficult so I gave up! I didn’t eat much of the bread as I’m not a big fan and found it the most generic part of the meal, but it’s a nice filler.
The skewer was really big! Just look at that thing!
The menu has something for everyone, and I was really impressed with the thought that went into it. There is even a Crossfit Burger on there, which is a bunless burger with avocado and vegetables so it’s great if you’re trying to look after yourself, but don’t want to miss the joys of eating out.
I ordered another drink, which again seemed to take a while. I think it’s probably because the bar was really busy, but didn’t expect to be sitting without a drink for so long.
This time I decided to try something from the gin menu. I went for the Brockmans gin which comes with raspberries and oranges in a glass full of ice. I didn’t really take notice of the Fever Tree mixer, which I now know is tonic – something I always avoid and hate! So while the gin was lovely, I ruined it for myself by pouring in the tonic. I think for people like me who don’t know one tonic from another, it might have been useful to state this on the menu. The glass was really nice (little touches) and huge!
I was pretty full after the first 2 courses, but just had to try the dessert! I can’t review a place without trying the dessert, surely?
I ordered the Warm Triple Chocolate Brownie with Honeycomb Ice Cream. It was as good as it sounds! I love honeycomb ice cream, and while I don’t think it was, this easily could have been homemade.
The presentation was great, the brownie was really good and I was surprised at how the triple chocolate was actually pieces of chocolate within the brownie.
The only problem I had was the smeared peanut butter. It makes it look a bit special although I always find smeared food an odd detail, but I really hate peanuts. Looking over the menu now, I can see that I just wasn’t observant and it did warn about nuts. I think it also had crushed peanut around the sides of the plate. However, I am not allergic and was able to easily avoid it.
Due to a dairy free diet, R was unable to have dessert, which was a shame, so opted for a coffee instead. I am sure if we’d asked ahead, this would have been catered for though. Unfortunately, this is a common problem in restaurants, easily solved by adding some sorbet to the menu! (hint!)
The coffee was very welcome at the end of the meal, served with a little biscuit that I couldn’t even manage as I was so full!
Overall, I’d definitely recommend the bar and restaurant.
The atmosphere was friendly and there were people of all ages, couples, groups of friends and even families had been there (I think it would be a great family treat earlier in the evening). We could tell from walking in that this was already the place to be, and will definitely be going back for some drinks at some point.
I really liked the decor, inside and out. It had a really fresh feel, without completely neglecting a traditional restaurant style. The small details, such as the light fixtures were a nice feature.
I do think it was a bit loud: music and people. I prefer a bit more of a mellow place early in the evening. I felt I had to shout at the waitresses, and they had trouble hearing our orders, which can get a bit awkward after the first few tries. I’d definitely go again, but would make it an earlier time I think. However, for reviewing purposes, it was great to see the place with a buzzing atmosphere.
The cocktails were great and there was plenty of choice, something I find lacking in some bars (I just want fruity cocktails!). The gin options were fab and unusual, while the wine and beer menus were also extensive. It really does have something for everyone and I imagine this would be a great place for a group of friends or work drinks. At the same time, we didn’t feel uncomfortable being there as a twosome and it’s a great place for dining with a friend or for a romantic evening.
The food was brilliant, but we both wished we’d gone for a different main, purely because the meals we chose were a bit basic. However, it was basic done well. I expected pub meals, and while the menu suggest it is, it goes far beyond this.
The service was mostly great, but at times a little lacking and we did feel we were waiting around a while. If it’s new staff too then this is understandable. I don’t think it was understaffed from the restaurant side though.
There was one particular waitress that really stood out, and it would be great if everyone seemed that enthusiastic. I wish I’d got her name, but she seemed slightly older than the others so was perhaps more experienced.
The prices were much better than expected. The meal came to almost £70 altogether, which considering we had 2 courses each, a dessert, coffee, 4 drinks (3 of those being cocktails) is actually really great value.
I’m really impressed with Banyan, so if you’re looking for a place to eat, I would definitely recommend a visit. I would happily take a trip to Harrogate again to go there. However, now that one is coming to Leeds, it looks like we’ll be able to go a little closer to home, and R will be able to drink too!
You can book a table online: http://arcinspirations.com/banyan-harrogate/bookings
They also do Cocktail Masterclasses and tasting evenings which could be a really great night if you fancy doing something a little different.