Leeds is such a great city. I went to university there (what seems like way back when!) and every time I go back, there’s always a web of awesome new places to visit, from craft coffee bars, to unique eateries, great stores, and nightlife hangouts. When I talk to people in London, the only people who really rave about Leeds are the ones who went to uni there (though luckily there’s a lot of those people!). Alumni of Leeds literally gush about the city, whilst others tend to question, ‘Well, why it’s so good?’. As a proud northerner I get sick of questions like these, and have a lot of time for cities above the Watford Gap. Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds are just the cities I’ve happened to spent a lot of time in so far, and they’re all awesome. They’re so dynamic and ever-changing, and are like big melting pots of creativity, whereby it’s less about neighbourhoods and their trendy statuses, but instead about great spots being peppered right across the city, interlaced with the old men pubs, Primarks, and Poundshops. Up there, it’s more of a needle in a haystack situation and I like that. There are also a lot less tourists, cheaper pints, and northern accents, again, all of which I like.
I went up last weekend to see my brother (who’s still at university there), and my friends, and had such a great time exploring both fresh, new places and favourite, old haunts. Below, some of the highlights…
I got straight on a train after work on Friday and got to Leeds late and hungry. I’d planned to meet 2 friends for dinner at Pintura, a new(ish) tapas bar, right in the centre of town on the edge of the Trinity centre. I got there first and went downstairs for a cocktail— a great cocktail. La Marianito was what the bartender described as a “twisted negroni”, with Lacuesta Vermouth, Portobello Road gin, herbal spray and bitters, served in a wine glass with an olive, dried orange and rosemary. It was so bloody delicious, I could have drank a lot more than one… When the others arrived we went upstairs (it was quiet by comparison to the bar, though it was 10pm and almost last orders) and were seated in a comfy booth, where we went hell-fire on the menu! Both Becky and Matt eat meat, and I love seafood, so we did a good job at broadly covering the menu. Highlights from our evening for me included the eel croquettes from the Specials board (surprisingly delicious, I’d never had eel before) and the ‘Moriscos con Arroz’ – seafood paella which had a healthy amount of seafood in it, and for them, I know the Onglet steak went down very well as did the creamy Orzo dish with peas and pancetta. I thought the Calamares Fritos (calamari) was a little disappointing; though the portion was generous, the pieces were so tiny it was mainly batter. We obviously ordered Patatas Bravas too (tapas essential) which were moreish, and balanced out the saltiness of some the dishes.
Despite the waiter warning us, we didn’t leave room for dessert! Nor, more sadly for me, dessert wine! Next time I’m in Leeds, I’m keen to try more dishes off the Specials board, and will leave room for the Milhojas — a Spanish-style mille feuille with almond custard…YUM.
Layne’s isn’t new but it is awesome. Matt and I would often frequent it (as a luxury!) in our uni days, and every time I’m in Leeds, I always make a trip back, taking parents/ brother/ Ed/ anyone to enjoy it too. The coffee is great, the space is intimate, its peanut butter blondies are insane, I like the simple decor, and as I learnt on this trip, its avocado on toast (with sumac and chilli oil) is prime.
My first time here and it’s ace. Bundobust is a craft beer and Indian street food spot down in the dodgy part of town near the station. Squeezed in between smokey pubs and betting shops, it’s totally different to its neighbours, and is a great spot for a causal dinner and drinks. It’s all vegetarian, dishes are about a fiver, and you order a couple each or to share. The food is so good. We all got different things, and having tried everything (it’s not often I can try everything on the table, being vegetarian!) I’d say the best dishes were the Egg Bhurji (Indian scrambled eggs) (£6), the black lentil dahl (£6), the Veg Dry Fry Rice (£4), and the Onion Gobi Bhaji Bhaji (£4). The beer menu is massive, full of Mikkeller, Brewdog, Brooklyn Brewery and Beavertown. I got a beer flight with Beavertown 8 Ball, a Mikkeller brown ale, and a 7.4% honey IPA.
New from the guys behind Belgrave Music Hall, Headrow House is simply ace, and worth a pilgrimage…even from London. What was formerly Big Lil’s Saloon Bar that closed over a decade ago, is now Leeds’ latest hipster hangout, comprised of a steak restaurant, a cocktail bar, a live music space, roof terraces and beer hall, all spread over 3 floors. Again, the beer menu is on point, and copper tanks of Pilsner Urquell are not only functional but part of the furnishings. The ground floor is very raw and simple, with wooden picnic benches, and a simple DJ booth in the corner, whilst upstairs is more of a slick cocktail lounge setting, with coffee tables, stools, and bold, colourful Escher-esque wallpaper. We went on Saturday night for a few drinks and it was buzzing with a good crowd, but I went back on Sunday afternoon alone to get some work done, and it felt just as nice but totally different, a lot quieter with non-student couples chilling on the sofas sharing bottles of wine. To be honest, it feels a lot like Shoreditch House, with all the good bits (bar the pool), but without pretentious members and London prices!
One of the best things about Leeds is being able to get out into the countryside so easily (unlike London where it takes you 40 minutes to get past Tottenham…). For that reason, country walks have always and will always be incorporated into a visit. This time, we went to Temple Newsam, a historical property with land, and the perfect spot for walking, talking, and blowing away the cobwebs. Here’s the gang…