I began writing this post in January with the aim of it going on the blog when I was about to head down south, as that’s virtually happened here it is! The other day some friends asked if I’d eaten everywhere in Leeds and of course I haven’t, however I think I’ve tried many of the best and some of the worst in the city and can give some sort of judgement for what it’s worth. In the early days our regular haunts were places like The Reliance, Arts Cafe, Lucky Dragon (sadly no more), Salvos and Viva Cuba and fast forward fourteen years and the landscape has changed so much already, I can imagine on my visits back how it’s going to alter even further!!
With all this choice, choosing where to get a feed can be an arduous task, so to give you a helping hand in the decision making I’ve come up with my list of where to eat in the city. I’ve categorised them as best as I can, I’m sure there’s probably a better way of doing it, but I’ve tried my best.
I see this list as a flexible one, one that’ll change with new additions and possibly deletions if needed. Apologies to any more than worthy establishments left off, this list could go on and on all down to the fact the depth of quality available now is so good, but it has to stop somewhere!
NB: places with an asterisk * are probably my absolute faves, I’ve included establishments which I’ve heard great things about on my ‘wish list’ and ones I’ve enjoyed that need revisiting.
Coffee / breakfast / brunch
Go for the best coffee, snappily dressed baristas and gorgeous baked goods from local baking legends Noisette Bakehouse, That Old Chestnut and Dumouchel! Prefer something savoury? The avocado on sourdough is a must even though it looks too beautiful to eat, or maybe one of their tasty sandwiches. Currently with two locations; the original on New Station Street, the second at Belgrave Music Hall, a third is soon to be revealed from a collaboration with Duke Studios resulting in the Sheaf St Cafeteria!
Visit for its beautiful space with a bohemian vibe, great locally roasted Maude coffee and pretty vintage cups and spoons not just to gaze at, but also to use. Great for brunch – their pancakes win every time!
One of Leeds’ coffee indie originals and still up there with the best, its VQ hub is great for a pick me up whilst on the run, if your lucky to be near Chapel Allerton, head to the shop for a sit down, great Square Mile coffee and a slice of a little something from superstar vegan bakers That Old Chestnut.
La Bottega Milanese
Their coffee’s served with Italian passion and partnered with pastries, antipasti and homemade pasta. With two venues to choose from; one in The Light and a second outpost in the city’s financial district on Bond Court.
*The Greedy Pig
Visit for food cooked with love, the best full English and veggie breakfast in town at a bargain price too. What the place lacks in square footage it makes up for with great food and service from genuinely lovely people. If you spot their homemade scotch eggs on the counter, make sure you grab one before their all gone!
*Grub and Grog Shop
Found in the relaxed surroundings of Northern Monk Refectory, their breakfast/brunch menu’s a real treat for anyone! There’s no half measures taken here and you’ll thank yourself for going – think homemade crumpets, breakfast baps, buckwheat blinis, kedgeree…the list goes on. Beverage wise there’s locally roasted North Star for a coffee fix and also Sheffield’s Birdhouse Tea Company for your drinking pleasure.
Belgrave Music Hall – Laynes Brunch
Usually held monthly (apart from summer months) Laynes Espresso currently serve Sunday brunch at Belgrave Music Hall and it’s a real Sunday treat. The regularly changing menu always has something a bit special for both lovers of the savoury or the sweet. Previous dishes have included sourdough french toast, sweetcorn fritters, salt beef hash all with extra trimmings!
On the wish list – Sociable Folk on Wellington Place and Kapow on The Calls.
My current fave amongst an ever-growing number of Thai spots in the city, with top quality food that’s dead cheap! It’s not the biggest spot which adds to the charm of the place, so booking ahead could be the way to go, if you are unlucky takeout is always good option saving you even more of your hard earned cash!
Thai Aroy Dee
This very popular restaurant finally reopened a few doors from their original site after much anticipation……a few glitches on my first visit back, but I’ve been hearing good things since. Great to see their bargainous lunch offer is still available too – £6.95 for two courses!
Leeds doesn’t have many Vietnamese spots to my knowledge, but this is definitely a handy one to know. Found on Great George Street and run by a lovely couple passionate about the food from their homeland. Their menu maybe short, but everything is made really well, in particular their Banh Mi’s baguettes which are damn good! Opening hours are limited, however they are perfect for lunch and kind to the pocket!!
This place may feel like a cafe, but the food it cooks up are restaurant quality! Mostly Chinese with a few Malaysian additions, you’ll see dishes ranging from tasty, filling wonton soup to roasted belly pork and rice, even suckling pig if your organised. Great food, quick friendly service and value for money.
The idea of Bulgogi Grill is to cook your own dinner, think marinated meats and seafood, wrapped in lettuce with pickled veg, rice and lettuce! It’s not the cheapest on paper, but diners get lots for their money – you won’t leave hungry! Friendly and attentive without being in your face. On the up side it’s interactive and a bit of fun, on the downside it’s hard not to end up smelling of grilled food!
Fuji’s been around for years and is still a popular choice for many, with its no frills canteen style feel and sizeable noodle and rice dishes. My go to dishes are edamame beans, ebi or spicy beef gyoza, then yaki soba or cha han. The two course set meals is the way to go here.
There aren’t many decent sushi places in the city, but this is one of them. At times the service can be a little sketchy, but they’ve definitely improved since opening. If sushi isn’t your thing, they also have an extensive menu covering all things like noodles, rice and Bento boxes!
Another notable favourite – BangWok and their glorious pad thai, currently open weekday lunchtimes!!!
On the wish list – Line Thai Oriental on Great George Street I hear is doing some good things. Also May’s Thai Cafe in Hyde Park – loved her food when she traded at Kirkgate Market, but am yet to visit the cafe.
Tharavadu have won an army of fans and awards aplenty with their warm, friendly staff and stunning Keralan food. Always seems busy, lunch (bargain lunch deal on offer) or dinner.
One to revisit- The Corner Cafe on Burley Road.
Prashad and Bundobust fit into this category as well!!
Vegetarian / vegan
Go to Prashad for superb Gujarati cooking where even the most stubborn carnivore has been known not to miss meat! Definitely worth a little trip to Drighlington!
This popular bar is just as well loved in its alternative guise as a street food venue, the two go hand in hand with their well crafted drinks menu and equally well thought food offerings. I ALWAYS find it really difficult not ordering a table full of food here, it’s a great spot any time of day, however week day lunch times they currently have a deal on – 2 dishes for £7.
Found in the beautiful surroundings of the Corn Exchange, hummus and falafel are their thing and you won’t go wrong with their the falafel pitta or humpit classic! Run by really lovely people, great value for money and filling! Great spot for lunch in town.
Central & South American
The younger sibling of Neon Cactus found in Trinity. Think sharing boards, tostadas, burritos and enchiladas paired with cleansing juices and great cocktails.
This suburban gem has served the folk of Chapel Allerton for years and has done so with tasty Mexican food. Great for catering to groups of varying sizes, their small plates are ideal for sharing, whilst their burritos, enchiladas or sharing platters can satisfy those with bigger appetites and larger groups!
One to revisit – Neon Cactus, older sister restaurant of Cielo Blanco. For me, it has to be their feast menu (to share obviously) washed down with a caipirinha or two…!!!
On the wish list – Casa Colombiana in the Grand Arcade. Tried the coffee but not the food, even though they’ve been on the list for a year!!
BBQ and Burgers
Arguably serve up the best burgers in Leeds, for me it’s a toss up between their ultra messy Dirty Burger (beef) or the spiced up Colonel Patty (chicken), on the fries side the double portion session fries are pretty awesome with smokey mayo and pancetta!! Find them at their home in Belgrave Music Hall or at festivals around the country.
On my ‘wish list’ – Boss Burgers on Brudenell Grove, I’ve heard from many as probably being the best takeaway burger joint in Leeds. Another one I’ve failed to visit and I can’t put my finger on why is Meat Liquor!!
Cracking Italian in suburban Meanwood, serving up plates to die for; including a mouth watering beef pappardelle and those deep fried zucchini which have semi-legendary status around these parts. Dead friendly staff and lip smackingly good cocktails too.
This city centre bar/restaurant has a great selection Italian wines, friendly, knowledgeable staff and a small but great selection of Italian classics on the menu. My go to dishes are their humble lasagne and the porchetta accompanied by the odd Aperol Spritz!
At lunch and dinner they have a great tapas menu, while on Saturday’s their bar is fully laden with Basque-inspired pintxos, reminding me of time spent in San Sebastian. There are some very reasonable menu deals and you’ll be treated to dead friendly service.
Pintura Basque Kitchen & Bar
Go here for a modern take on Basque cuisine, inspired by the tastes of northern Spain and their downstairs gin bar. Having visited a couple of times I enjoyed the food and liked the gin bar, but thought the service could be improved a lot. One for a treat, as always with tapas it’s easy to order a table full of food and end up with a hefty bill because it’s not the cheapest.
One to revisit – El Bareto, not been for years, but I hear it still delivers the goods!
On the wish list – La Rambla on East Parade.
North African / Mediterranean
This fantastic stall at Kirkgate Market is a firm favourite with Leeds folk! It’s hard to hold yourself back and not to be tempted by a plethora of dips and salads whilst your order is prepared. Only open during market hours though and the popular chicken shawarma has been known to sell out way before closing time. A great spot to bag a bargain for lunch or takeaway tea.
Cafe Moor’s second spot, to the side of the Corn Exchange, with seating upstairs and late opening hours, you get more of that authentic North African food and ambience.
This Rodley outpost brings the food of Turkey to Leeds with classics like Iskender kebab, kofte and Pide (Turkish version of pizza). Great food – it would be very easy to get full on the mezze options alone.
On my wish list – Darvish on Roundhay Road and Safran on Kirkgate.
This Headingley spot has a large menu, so I stick to the classics made by their Neapolitan pizza makers Pizzaiolo, using ingredients imported from Italy. Go for the classic Margherita Ecco – you won’t regret it, but if you prefer something more extravagant no doubt you’ll find it here!
A slice of Dough Boys is hard to resist when you step into the Belgrave Music Hall, especially when it’s half price a slice!!! The Sausage Fest and Baa No More are my personal faves, but every now and again one of their themed pizzas catches my eye.
This subterranean bar has served up great pizzas for years, there’s a short menu but everything is quality. Great vibe in there, especially on Wednesday reggae night.
Posh / special occasion
The Man Behind The Curtain
Food/art, art/food – Michael O’Hare’s pushing the boundaries and doing it in Leeds which can only be an amazing thing. A tasting menu that not only looks stunning but pushes and prods the senses to the max. Perfect for a special occasion. If the multi-course degustation menu is a little out of your price bracket, they also serve a more pocket friendly lunch Friday/Saturdays.
Award-winning rustic French cooking from a Yorkshireman, has been a popular choice for many years. Booking is normally essential to nab yourself a table here and the food doesn’t disappoint. My only gripe is that even though the staff are really lovely and friendly, service can be slow – possibly a consequence of its popularity.
A long time favourite of mine – The Reliance is friendly, relaxed, understated and serves great food using seasonal ingredients treated simply all day long. With a thoughtful wine list and beers to match, it’s only got better over the years!
*Grub & Grog Shop
Sublime heartwarming food produced from locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, carefully prepared and beautifully cooked is what you’ll get here. Think charring, pickling, braising and a whole other manner of techniques used to create damn tasty plates!
Supper clubs / pop-ups
The Noise of Strangers
A collaboration between a number of folk from Leeds’ food and drink scene, including chef Joe Hepworth of Hepworths Deli fame. If you’re lucky to get a ticket to one of their events you’ll be treated to an innovative menu served in an unusual dining space.
*The Swine That Dines
The Greedy Pig’s alter ego where thoughtful dishes are produced often using ingredients which are less commonly used. They may be better known for their love of pleasing the carnivores amongst us, however their vegetarian dishes are prepared and cooked with the equal aplomb. Their BYOB menu is perfect for sharing, all plates are £5 each so two/three people could treat themselves to the whole menu!!!
Dinner at the Manor
Run by two food lovers who base their BYOB supper club events on well known cook books, it all takes place in a secret location which happens to be one of the homes of these two amateur cooks. You’ll be treated to a glorious multi-course experience and the chance to chat to fellow food lovers. Ticket prices can range depending on the event, but it’s always value for money in my opinion!!
On the wish list – Trestle. The idea – 12 people sat around one table in an unusual location somewhere in Leeds. Gutted to have never made it to one of their events…. one day maybe….!
Afsaneh’s Persian Kitchen Supper Club for a Persian feast and Mario Olianas’s (from Gusto italiano) Cena Sarda Dining Club for suckling pig!!!
*Friends of Ham
Another award winner, but rightfully so with thoughtfully selected meat, cheese, wine and craft ales and ciders in beautifully designed surroundings……there’s not much else to say really! Lovely, knowledgable staff who guide even the most clueless (meaning me) person in the art of cheese etc!! You’ll find me sat at the Ham Bar probably with a glass of wine and a board of meat!!!
Found in the suburbs of Moortown, this Jewish deli/cafe is a very popular spot. Famed for its sandwiches, including their awesome chicken schnitzel with potato latkes and the Grobber, their version of salt beef on rye reminiscent of what you get in NYC’s Katz’s Deli!!
One to revisit (over and over) – Belgrave Feast – go for brilliant street food from a whole range of different cuisines, all under one roof in the Belgrave Music Hall, oh I mustn’t forget Sarah’s Noisette Bakehouse with her next level baking creations and Layne’s coffee!!!
I’ll be interested to see how new additions turn out over the next year, such as Turtle Bay, Smokehouse (I wasn’t too impressed by their Sheffield restaurant), The Brunswick and WIno Bar and Merchants!!
Any recommendations for the list of where to try on my visits back would be great!!!