LeedsWords Georgia Levy
Photography Matt Munro
What springs to mind when you think about Leeds? Is it the football club, the university, the bars, the galleries, the shopping? The answer should be all of the above.
Leeds has become comfortable with its many identities: it’s as happy being an all-night party city for thirsty students as it is being a destination for sculpture enthusiasts. As a consequence, its food has adapted to the diverse tastes of its residents and visitors. There are smart restaurants serving molecular-style cuisine, gastropubs serving comfort food, ethnic cafés, lively bars and a booming farmers’ market scene. And don’t forget to look up – the Victorian and Edwardian architecture is simply breathtaking.
One of the best and most popular places to wake up is the boutique hotel 42 The Calls, a converted corn mill with exposed beams, rustic charm and views of the River Aire. No day should be started without a few shots of caffeine and a few doors down from the hotel is the Italian espresso bar La Bottega Milanese. The young, Milan-born owner, Alex Galantino, makes the perfect cup, with a selection of the freshest focaccia panini, cakes and Italian aperitivi, all served with charming banter and a captivating Yorkshire-Italian accent.
Leeds is ideal strolling territory and the main attractions are just a 10-minute walk from each other. The city is characterised by a triumverate of shopping landmarks: the Corn Exchange, a light-filled dome housing small fashion boutiques and cafés; the Victoria Quarter, a glamorous parade of shops referred to as the ‘Knightsbridge of the North’ and Kirkgate Market, a Grade I-listed building that happens to be the largest covered market in Europe and the original location of Marks & Spencer.
A full range of foodstuffs is available at Kirkgate Market, but it’s the fishmongers that are most impressive. The fish glisten on piles of ice, the variety is enormous and the prices are modest, even for the lobsters. On the other side of the market, shoppers will find a vibrant Indian stall, Spice Corner, owned by Sarida Koheeallee. Arriving from the Punjab 40 years ago, Sarida was one of the first Indian traders in Leeds.
“There was only one Indian restaurant when I arrived, and certainly no Indian shops. I was easily the first of my kind,” she says. For authentic Indian cuisine, Sarida recommends the Kashmiri restaurant Aagrah, the northern chain Akbar’s and the Gujarati vegetarian restaurant Hansa’s.
The Leeds food scene is dominated by Anthony Flinn, a creative young chef who cut his teeth at El Bulli in Spain. His signature-style – clever contemporary – is best sampled at his flagship restaurant, Anthony’s, on Trevelyan Square, just off Boar Lane. If you’re looking for something less formal, he has another restaurant, Piazza, at the Corn Exchange, as well as a café in the clothes shop Flannels and a patisserie in the Victoria Quarter.
For lunch, the much-talked-about new café-bar Nation of Shopkeepers is an entertaining place to pass the time. Unassuming from the outside, the inside is a shabbily charming mish-mash of styles, full of kitsch trinkets and eclectic art. Live bands bring the place alive in the evenings, while during the day there’s soft reggae and perfectly executed comfort food – burgers, pies, sandwiches – served with the crispest of fries.
For dinner, it’s worth heading off to Headingley to Moorish, run by Algerian-born Kada Bendaha, who Jamie Magazine met at the Womad music festival last summer. At dusk, his small café is already full of relaxed-looking customers, people talking quietly over enchanting Arabic music and drinking mint tea poured from old Moroccan teapots. Kada’s food features ingredients and cooking techniques that are French, Arabic, Spanish, Mediterranean and North African. “The Moors were traders and travellers,” he explains. “Likewise, I don’t allow myself to be tied down to one area or culture when I cook. I like to encompass them all.”
Kada is a regular at the farmers’ markets in and around Leeds, where he goes to source produce. It was at one of these that he met Georgina Bragg, who now bakes cakes for his restaurant, inspired by his menu and the kinds of ingredients he uses. Georgina is among a handful of Leeds locals who’ve set up stalls selling their home-cooking at the farmers’ markets as a sideline. When she’s not making her cakes, this sparkling 25-year-old is in charge of piercing at a tattoo parlour.
Stay-at-home dad Mike Tattersall started working from home while looking after his three-year-old daughter, Maya. Having introduced Mike to the rich wonders of kulfi (Indian-style ice cream), his father-in-law then taught him how to make it. Mike has since built his business, Indie Ices, making current affairs-themed kulfi – during the World Cup he sold the aptly named Rocky Road kulfi – to sell at markets and festivals.
So to the part of the day when Leeds really comes into its own. The bars here are legendary for their cocktails and rock music that echoes in the streets at night. The lively Jake’s Bar, in Call Lane, serves impeccably made cocktails and southern US comfort-style snacks, but for something more restrained, Epernay, a candlelit champagne bar, hidden away in a quiet courtyard, is a great retreat that serves 90 different types of champagne. There are so many bars to choose from and, much to the city’s credit, you may not be able to decide where you feel more at home. Best then to split your time between Jake’s and Epernay. That’s what we did. Dilemma solved, until next time around.
COFFEE & CAKES
La Bottega Milanese 32 The Calls; 07779 258004. Espresso bar serving fine Italian coffee, snacks and sandwiches.
Opposite Café Victoria Quarter, Queen Victoria Street; 07818 433082. Small stand serving excellent coffee, cakes and biscuits.
Harvey Nichols 4th Floor 107–111 Briggate; 0113 204 8000. Serves food all day and is great for breakfast and tea.
The Engine House Café 2 Foundry Square, Holbeck; 0113 391 2980. Located in a peaceful area just outside the city, breakfasts here are popular.
Shaky Jakes 2 Gateway House, 15 North Lane, Headingley; 0113 217 9156. Fifties-style milkshake parlour with 200-plus flavours of shakes.
Nation of Shopkeepers 27–37 Cookridge Street. Eccentric bar-café serving pub classics. Famous for live music.
Anthony’s Patisserie Victoria Quarter, Queen Victoria Street; 0113 244 4222. Elegant café serving coffee and pastries.
Leeds City Museum Tiled Hall Café Millennium Square; 0113 263 7915. Chill out in this beautiful and quiet café.
Anthony’s Restaurant 19 Boar Lane; 0113 245 5922, anthonysrestaurant.co.uk. A special-occasion destination, serving innovative modern cuisine.
Piazza by Anthony Corn Exchange, Call Lane; 0113 247 0995. Open all day, serving simple and serious dishes.
Anthony’s at Flannels 3rd Floor, 68 Vicar Lane; 0113 242 8732. More brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
The Foundry 1 Saw Mill Yard, Holbeck; 0116 103 5210. Classic dishes and an impressive wine list.
Red Chilli 6 Great George Street; 0113 242 9688. Chinese restaurant with extensive menu and great dim sum.
Hansa’s 72–74 North Street; 0113 244 4408. Superb Gujarati vegetarian food.
Akbar’s The Grand Minerva House, 16 Greek Street; 0113 242 5426. Much-loved Indian restaurant, recommended by local spice traders.
Aagrah Saint Peter’s Square; 0113 245 5667. Authentic Kashmiri cuisine that’s a hit with the locals.
Moorish 225 Hyde Park Road; 0113 225 3862. Inspired cooking and the warmest of hosts in Kada Bendaha.
Brett’s Fish Restaurant 12–14 North Lane, Headingley; 0113 232 3344. This has a reputation as the finest fish and chips in Leeds.
The Calls Landing 36–38 Call Lane; 0113 242 5299. Popular for its oysters, stews and inviting outside area.
Jamie’s Italian 35 Park Row; 0113 322 5400. The first Northern branch of this popular chain. Italian dishes, Jamie’s way, at low prices.
Brasserie Blanc Victoria Mill, Sovereign Street; 0113 220 6060. Classic French cooking served in an old Victorian building with river views.
Gaucho 21–22 Park Row; 0113 246 1777. Famous Argentine steak restaurant with slick interiors and efficient, informed staff.
BARS & PUBS
North Bar 24 New Briggate; 0113 242 4540. Stocks beers from across the world. Bar snacks include hunk of bread with chunk of cheese or ham.
Epernay 12 Great George Street; 0113 242 9977. Champagne and charm in abundance.
Mojo 18 Merrion Street; 0113 244 6387. Old rock ‘n’ roll music and many delicious cocktails.
Norman Bar 36 Call Lane; 0113 234 3988. Funky interior and music that changes with the crowd.
Jake’s Bar 27 Call Lane; 0113 243 1110. Famous for its indie music and variety of original and classic cocktails.
Whitelock’s First City Luncheon Bar 6–8 Turks Head Yard; 0113 245 3950. ‘Old man’s pub’, with many of its 1715 features. Hailed by poet John Betjeman as “the very heart of Leeds”.
Haley & Clifford 43 Street Lane; 0113 237 0334. Much-loved deli with local and homemade produce.
Millie’s 109 Vicar Lane; 0113 242 9217. Health foods, natural cosmetics and their own café.
Wing Lee Hong 117 Vicar Lane; 0113 243 3331. Everything for Asian cooking, fresh and dried.
Swillington Organic Farm Garden Cottage, Coach Road, Swillington; 0113 286 9129. Family farmshop that sells its own vegetables, eggs, and meat.
Salt’s Deli 14 Swinegate; 0113 243 2323. Well-sourced produce from across Europe, some equivalent to that at London’s swanky Borough Market.
Indie Ices Oakwood and Headingley farmers’ markets; 0113 288 8127. Homemade kulfi that can be delivered free locally.
Peter Maturi 84–86 Vicar Lane; 0113 245 3887. Fab for kitchenware junkies.
Headingly Farmers’ Market North Lane. Second Saturday of the month.
Oakwood Farmers’ Market Junction between Roundhay Road and Princes Avenue. Third Saturday of the month.
Leeds Farmers’ Market Kirkgate open market, George Street. First and third Sundays of the month.
ACCOMMODATION & INFO
42 The Calls 0113 244 0099. Charming riverside hotel, with a great breakfast.
Log on to visitleeds.co.uk for more information about Leeds.