The man behind a defunct Leeds restaurant has claimed health and safety officers “insisting” he pre-cook his signature dish was the last straw that led him to close the venue.
Having run the popular basement eatery La Grillade in Wellington Street for 33 years, Guy Martin-Laval hit out at Leeds City Council officials who, he claims, tipped him over the edge in deciding to shut up shop.
The 65-year-old, who failed to reopen the French restaurant after the New Year, claimed he was planning on investing in the troubled venue before he was given guidance around the preparation of steak tartare – traditionally prepared with raw meat.
Leeds City Council has said it has “no problem” with the sale of steak tartare but simply advised Mr Martin-Laval to have safe food handling controls in place so to not put customers at risk.
Mr Martin-Laval was quoted as saying: “There have been constant problems with the drains over the last four years and the fish and chip shop next door didn’t help me. The final straw was the city council food and health team insisting that we pre-cook the steak tartare before chopping it and also saying that we couldn’t serve a raw egg in an egg shell with it.”
He added that the recession and the opening of Trinity Leeds had an effect on the business, which had also prompted him to unsuccessfully renegotiate rent.
A council spokesman said: “This advice is not new and is in line with issued guidance provided by the Food Standards Agency.
“We worked closely with the owner of La Grillade to give advice about techniques to effectively kill bacteria and prevent cross-contamination, resulting in a much safer way to produce steak tartare.
“Ultimately the food business is responsible for ensuring food safety, which they need to demonstrate to us.”
La Grillade was a much-loved institution of the Leeds dining circuit, with playwright Alan Bennett amongst its regular patrons.
Mr Martin-Laval himself came to Britain in the 1970s after studying agriculture in France. After working as a travelling champagne salesman, he settled in Leeds and opened La Grillade 33 years ago – during which time it won numerous awards.
However the basement site has now been vacated, with the locks having also been changed. It is understood that people who had made bookings have been informed of the closure in recent days.