Where to stay
The Bells Boasting statement art, huge leather sofas, high-spec
bathrooms and hot tubs, these serviced apartments in a former Victorian
clergy house are located near Leeds Minster (and a very nice pub). It’s more discreet than a hotel, which is why pop stars and footballers
often bid a retreat here. Two-bedroom apartments from £250. 6 Church Row, LS2 7HD, 0113 344 9525, thebellsleeds.com
DoubleTree by Hilton The location by the water on Granary Wharf is
matched only by the views from the rooftop Sky Lounge. Besides being
ideal for late-night drinks, the hotel features contemporary rooms with
walk-in showers and vast windows. Doubles from £164. Granary Wharf,
2 Wharf Approach, LS1 4BR, 0113 241 1000, doubletree3.hilton.com
Malmaison Leeds In the heart of the city, just a quick walk from the train
station, this West Yorkshire outpost of the boutique hotel won’t disappoint.
Expect famously friendly staff, eclectic interiors, huge rooms and top
cocktails. 1 Swinegate, LS1 4AG, 0113 426 0047, malmaison.com
Quebecs Independently owned and housed in a red-brick, Grade II-listed former Liberal Club, the 44-room, 4-star Quebecs has well-appointed rooms and suites. Climb the winding oak staircase for afternoon tea in The Gallery, amid heraldic stained-glass windows. Doubles from £110. 9 Quebec Street, LS1 2HA, 0113 244 8989, quebecshotel.co.uk
Leeds lies on the banks of the River Aire in West Yorkshire close to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Travel time from London, by train, is around 2 hours and 10 minutes. In May the average high temperature is 16C and the average low is 7C.
London North Eastern Railway runs regular, daily train services from London King’s Cross to Leeds. lner.co.uk
Welcome to Yorkshire is the official tourist board and its website is packed with information to help you plan your trip. yorkshire.com
Secret Leeds by John Edwards, David Marsh and Christopher Allen (Amberley Publishing, £14.99) charts the history of Leeds from wool trade to urban expansion, unearthing along the way the gems of a city rich that is rich in both ambition and achievement.
Where to eat
Prices are per person for three courses with half a bottle of wine or beer,
unless otherwise stated
Bundobust Informal spot offering excellent Indian veggie sharing plates with a decent roster of craft beers from Leeds and beyond. From £21. 6 Mill Hill, LS1 5DQ, 0113 243 1248, bundobust.com
Eat your Greens A bright and friendly flexitarian restaurant with a strong sustainable and local eating ethos. From £30. 42 New York Street, LS2 7DY, 0113 244 6896, eatyourgreensleeds.co.uk
Home Two renowned chefs deliver deliciously down to earth – while
still being exciting – tasting menus, served in a cosy and inviting dining
room. 10-course tasting menu from £65, excluding wine. 16-17
Kirkgate, LS1 6BY, 0113 430 0161, homeleeds.co.uk
Ox Club Set in a former city-centre textile mill, this low-lit champion of Yorkshire produce cooked over a solid-fuel grill has some tantalising tricks up its sleeve. Pigeon tacos are just for starters. From £32. 19A The Headrow, LS1 6PU, 07470 359 961, oxclub.co.uk
The Oxford Place Tucked away beside the imposing Leeds Town Hall, this award-winning, family-owned, 100 per cent gluten-free restaurant serves excellent dishes and indulgent puddings. From £35. 2 Oxford Place, LS1 3AX, 0113 234 1294, 2oxfordplace.co.uk
The Swine that Dines A beacon of the indie food scene with an intimate feel, well-executed plates and imaginative flavour pairings. From £28. 58 North Street, LS2 7PN, 0113 244 0387, swinethatdines.co.uk
Sukhothai A haven of authentic Thai cooking, with touches of Yorkshire
produce – think local lamb shank in massaman curry sauce. From £35.
15 South Parade, LS1 5QS, 0113 242 2795, sukhothai.co.uk
Yorkshire Gourmet (Fire & Dine) Four courses of off-grid local fare hosted by a passionate outdoorsman. From £100. Swillington Organic Farm, Garden Cottage, Coach Road, LS26 8QA, yorkshiregourmet.com
Food and Travel Review
Dusk is settling over Swillington Organic Farm, with just enough light left to dodge scurrying chickens and pick out a path that winds gently upwards into dense, green woodland. Nighttime in a forest clearing where ivy swaddles the trunks of 280-year-old beech trees feels a little eerie – so it’s reassuring that Paul Robinson, aka the ‘Yorkshire Gourmet’, has tamed the flames of a smoking outdoor oven.
We’re on the outskirts of Leeds, where post-industrial urban mills and factories have given way to prime Yorkshire farmland, and not only are we anticipating a supper of rare-breed meat but everything we’ll eat and drink tonight has been sourced from within a five-mile radius. Run by Robinson and his friend Paul Jewison, both obsessed by local produce, these ‘Fire & Dine’ nights offer a mystery four-course fireside dinner for up to 12 guests – served up on a long, convivial communal table.
Robinson’s shoulders are as broad as his accent and he sports a trademark flat cap. Every bit the Yorkshireman, he pours us a frothy pint of Midnight Bell ale, fresh from the tap, before blowing on the burning embers and stirring a suspended ox-cheek stew bubbling brilliantly away. An owl hoots from the boughs amid the darkness and we start to swap stories like long-lost friends.
Opportunity is a buzzword in Leeds right now – in a city with a newfound appetite. Affordable rents and a supportive local community have enabled enterprising chefs, brewers and roasters to create one of Britain’s most vibrant culinary destinations.
Barista coffee is the engine grease of 21st-century Leeds. And a generous portion can be traced back to a 15kg Giesen roaster at Leeds Dock. It’s here that university graduates Holly and Alex ‘Krag’ Kragiopoulos founded North Star Coffee Roasters, and now produce 20 batches a day, four days a week. In a back room surrounded by tasting wheels and graphs, I’m briefly bamboozled by coffee science. But I soon come around with the whiff of a banana and walnut ‘fluffin’ – a trademark cake from in-house micro-bakery Noisette.
Back in town (arriving by a free river taxi, no less), we stroll into Laynes Espresso on New Station Street – in a former dive of a neighbourhood near the railway station. Owners Dave and James Olejnik opened in 2011 to make ‘quality available to everyone’. On first impressions, it’s a close-knit band of commuters and hipsters, brought together over nutty flat whites and Middle Eastern brunches dispatched from the open kitchen. But the ethos runs deeper than this. The duo offer consultancy and training to new coffee entrepreneurs, and source their halloumi from Syrian refugee startup Yorkshire Dama Cheese. Collaborations with neighbours like Bundobust have proved a real hit, too.
When Marko Husak met Mayur Patel, it was that most perfect of partnerships – British beer and Indian food. Before founding street-food-style Bundobust, the two friends had been working at a craft beer pub and vegetarian Gujarati restaurant. After a series of pop-ups and residencies, they finally found bricks and mortar on central Mill Hill to show off their unfussy veggie sharing plates and brace of local brews. A second, in Manchester, soon followed.
‘Five to ten sites would be the dream,’ says Marko, ‘but it was pure collaboration from day one and not simply a business idea.’ As we talk, dishes arrive, and soon the table is peppered with masala dosa, okra fries, paneer tikka and bundo chaat – each one as savoury and deeply satisfying as the next.
Another food duo bucking the flat caps and whippets image of Yorkshire is Manjit’s Kitchen, which went from grandma’s recipes to a travelling yellow horsebox, then a market café and, finally, a restaurant. Entering the wrought-iron warren of Leeds Kirkgate Market, we pass by butchers, fishmongers and a working tribute to the first ever Marks & Spencer stall before following the spice aroma to the stoves. ‘Everyone likes the theatre and drama of our food,’ says Manjit, smiling and looking across to her partner, Michael, who’s also an actor. Both agree that it’s the support of the local community that has enabled them to flourish – not to mention social media. And we join the throng tucking into thalis of cumin rice, pickles, chutney, temple dal and chana masala.
Just a few yards away, Eat Your Greens is a flexitarian restaurant with popular vegan nights. Daylight streams through large windows adorned with hanging plants and falls onto crates of veg stacked up beneath jars of kimchi fermenting on the shelf. Owners Jim Hirst and Dan Palmer are upbeat, young and savvy. Before getting their own gig underway, the pair’s ventures included knocking out rounds of sandwiches at the DJ bar and vinyl shop next door. Jim also made his own sauces and chutneys. Their DIY ethic comes across in fresh dishes such as a salad of courgette ribbons and curds made from leftover latte milk foam. Everything is seasonal – home-grown or foraged in the woods. It’s deliciously clever cooking and sustainable, too.
It’s this same kind of startup culture that has pervaded the drinking scene in Leeds. Take pioneer of the beer boom North Brewing Co, which opened North Bar in 1997. From post-football pints in tap rooms under railway arches to an annual Leeds Beer Week, this is a place in which you’ll never go thirsty.
In a former flax mill off the Aire & Calder Navigation – the canalised section of the Rivers Aire and Calder – abutting an old foundry and temples of red brick housing a nexus of media creatives, we visit Northern Monk brewery and refectory, which is singing with the clatter of taps and pipes, tall metal vats and shifting sacks of grain. Where the navvies who dug the canal might once have been rewarded with a warm bitter, today’s crowd settles for nothing less than a selection of 16 keg and two cask lines, and a fridge stocked with a well-curated offering of designer cans.
It’s a different story at The Swine that Dines, which encourage guests to bring their own booze – they provide the glasses. Owners Jo and Stu Myers went from greasy spoon caff near the ring road to a tentative monthly gourmet pop-up for three years, then the whole hog and a rebrand. Today the restaurant is a haven of creative, casual dining with a short, seasonal menu made for sharing. They celebrate beautiful pastry (Jo loves the Rosewood hotel’s Pie Room), unusual ice cream combinations (including tobacco and tonka bean) and apps like Foodchain, through which chefs are now picking up their Dales lamb or oxtail from small, independent producers. ‘It’s about people working with you, not just supplying, that opens up what we can do,’ says Jo. The Swine is still pretty low-key but the dishes punch well above their weight.
Fired up with a whole ’nother level of ambition are Elizabeth Cottam and Mark Owens at restaurant Home, near Kirkgate Market. They agree to meet us amid a wine tasting (post-trip to Burgundy) and spot of redecorating, as Cottam’s bulldog, Wellington, waddles between our legs. A former business and marketing high flyer, Cottam put in a highly commendable effort on the 2016 series of MasterChef – but with her steely persona she’d also be well suited to The Apprentice. After exiting the show in the semi-finals, she rolled up her shirt sleeves for pop-ups, supper clubs and a local hotel residency, then buddied up with Owens, former head chef of Ilkley’s then Michelin-starred Box Tree restaurant.
‘Our customers come because they feel relaxed, they love and are familiar with the flavours, and are challenged in little ways. But not in a Celler de Can Roca sort of way,’ says Cottam. Owens adds, ‘When you come out to eat, it means nourishment and not going away hungry. And that’s definitely a Yorkshire thing, too.’
Their 14-course tasting menu is exquisite and exciting – think beef with black garlic purée, and roasted and pickled wild mushrooms; wild bass and deep-friend oyster with an oyster leaf mayonnaise; and slow-cooked duck with burnt leeks and red onion marmalade in a splendid pork and Cheddar broth.
The next step on the horizon for the pair is to establish another new restaurant for Leeds with a higher price point – they have already started looking into suitable sites where they can open an English take on Spain’s Mugaritz or DiverXo.
But for now at least, Home really is where the heart is. ‘We won’t ever change the genes of Home,’ says Cottam.
It doesn’t matter where you are in Leeds – the food follows you. Back around the campfire at Swillington, the Yorkshire Gourmet is plating up like a pro. A golden orb of creamy mash, then a ladle of ox cheek, marinated in Midnight Bell for 24 hours and cooked for eight. He scatters over wild garlic flower buds pickled in elderflower and hawthorn vinegar. Jewison removes hay-baked potatoes from a Dutch oven, and prises onions from the ash, blackening his fingertips as he peels back the clean, juicy layers. They’re served with bacon and chive crème fraîche and slivers of Grandma Singleton’s Whey Cream Butter.
‘I love the feeling of
says Robinson, as we tuck in. The man
who often hikes into
the wild armed with
only an axe and a set
of pans is not your
typical chef. Mouth
full, I can only nod and
smile, as the glow of
the fire and warmth of the
food nourishes us all – in
a way only Leeds can.
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