I paid my first visit to The Pit about 6 months ago when it first opened – and while I wasn’t much fond of the venue, I deemed it in my head to be “The Best Burger I’ve Ever Had In Leeds!” by which I meant it was better than the burger I’d had at Red’s, which they smother in a strange sage mayo, and so it was the winner by default.
Since then Leeds’ mid-priced food landscape has boomed, and in particular the dirty-burger chrysalis has blossomed into a big fat grease dripping, secret-sauce covered moth. We’ve had – in no particular order – Mr. Nice Guys, Patty Smiths, Boss Burger, Rosie’s Diner, that Chicago rib shack place in the Trinity that does amazing wings and pretty serviceable burgers, Twisted Burger Company, and flying visits from Original Fry-Up Material and Meatwagon. I’ve had more mouthfuls of Burger in the past few months than Carrie Bradshaw did in Season 6 of Sex and the City.*
*If by some anomaly you’re reading this and you’re not familiar with SATC, let me clarify that in Season 6, Carrie was DATING a guy called Burger. Now we’re all on the same page, let’s continue.
So, six months down the line, does The Pit still hold its own against the competition?
The service was really good throughout the meal – that’s one positive aspect that I’d really like to stress – we were seated in a booth and having our drinks order taken within a couple of minutes of arriving. One of the benefits of The Pit not knowing whether it’s primarily a restaurant, city center bar, or – based on the prominence of table tennis – a suburban German youth club, it’s got a pretty decent selection of beers on tap; including their signature beer Pit Canary.
I went for a Brooklyn Lager, which was served in a schooner (a glass roughly 2/3 of a pint). Being an adult, I’m faced with all sorts of important decisions: Which gas and electricity provider to choose; who to vote for in Local/General/European elections; whether to kick my Sunday morning playlist off with All Saints – Pure Shores or Natalie Imbruglia – Torn; The dilemmas are seemingly endless, so I’m grateful The Pit has relieved me the burden of having to choose between a big glass of beer and a small glass of beer. Or at least I was, until I got the bill and saw that their schooner of Brooklyn is the same price as a pint of Brooklyn at most other places. Very cynical.
Our appetisers arrived shortly after ordering – looking very well presented, in a Habitat catalogue sort of way. I can’t help but imagine one of the waiting staff stood out the back with a chisel, chipping bits of enamel off the cast iron serving dishes using a photo from a “Deep South Cook-Out” Pinterest list as a guide.
The Macaroni Cheese (£3.75) had a good, slightly charred crust on top of the pasta, which was equal parts chewy and crunchy. Unfortunately that’s as far as my praise goes for the dish. Everything underneath the top 1cm disappointed – the pasta was soggy and lacking in bite, and the sauce lacking in any flavour at all besides “artificial”. If there was any cheese in it, I wasn’t able to identify it.
Dropping me right back in at the deep end of the decision-pool, I had to choose whether I wanted my Wings “Hot”, or “Not” (£6.5), and being an indecisive coward I asked for half Hot half Not. The bill indicated that our waiter noted this, but the kitchen sent us 6 wings which I think were the Not flavoured ones; an appropriate name, seeing as they were not flavoured. All six of the wings fit comfortably onto the A6 serving dish, and despite being covered in more sauce than there was meat, they didn’t really taste of anything at all. I don’t know where they source their chicken from, but I’ve had better wings from one of the many takeaways round the corner on New Briggate.
Not fancying a burger full of pulled pork, onion rings, chicken, buffalo, fillet steak or fried egg and avocado, I opted for the simplest burger on the menu, The Lighthouse
(£8.25) which I added cheese and bacon to (£10.75). If you caught a glance of it out of the corner of your eye, you’d see the shiny bun, crispy-to-the-point-of-translucent bacon and patches of caramelised beef patty and think it was a good burger. Closer inspection would uncover slices of red onion and a smear of plain mayo on the bottom bun and alarm bells would start ringing, and when you bite into the stale, dense bun and overcooked patty, you’d realise you’ve been fooled.
Look at that, does it look like a £10 burger?
Two of us ate on our visit, and the bill came to an insulting £40 – almost exactly double what you’d pay for a much, much better meal elsewhere.
The Pit is not a restaurant. It’s a student bar with an identity crisis, a lot of financial backing to pay for lame novelty dishware, and the feeling of a perpetual Wetherspoons-style “Root’n Toot’n Wild West Wednesdays!” promotion.