With the opening of Trinity, it seems like Leeds has exploded with new places to eat and drink. I know not everyone thinks of Trinity as a good thing here in the city, but I am certainly enjoying that aspect of it – far from the usual shopping centre it seems that dining out, whether it’s in the uber-cool Trinity Kitchen or one of the many restaurants that populate the building, is taking centre stage. There’s even rumour of a MeatLiquor coming to Leeds, which I will be first in line for! Since I made my last list of places I want to try, plenty more have popped up so I thought it was time to make another list! I still haven’t made my way through the first – and sadly a couple have now closed down completely – but I’m no stranger to a never-ending to-do list!
Roast & Conch is owned by Hotel Chocolat, and the restaurant itself houses a chocolate ’boutique’, a bar with chocolate-themed cocktails and beers, and an upstairs restaurant focusing on an Anglo-West Indian cuisine where every dish is enriched by cocoa. The chocolate is made on site and if you go to the back corner you can see all sorts of magical things happening as they create delicate chocolates from scratch.
I’ve been here for drinks and the cocktails are both potent and delicious, the decor is moody and stylish and they bring you little chocolate freebies. It’s kind of my favourite bar right now, for obvious reasons. The menu is completely unique, not like anything else that I’ve ever seen, and my curiosity is definitely piqued. This is top of my list, for sure.
A Leeds institution, Salvo’s was opened in 1976 by Salvo Dammone and his family still run the restaurant as well as the nearby deli and cafe in Headingley. Its popularity is well-known; it seems they have nailed that magical mix of fantastic food and atmospheric ambience that you wish all Italian restaurants had. The relaxed atmosphere, informal dining and friendly staff – I’ve been told – make this restaurant family-friendly for those popping out for a pizza with their progeny. Whilst the term family-friendly would usually put me off a restaurant, the menu exposes Salvo’s as just as friendly to the foodies of Leeds. This is not your standard Italian fare, although you can tuck into a Margherita if you must – I think I’ll need to give myself a fair amount of time when we first dine at Salvo’s, as the choice of tempting dishes is vast!
Another impressive tidbit is the disclaimer that I’ve just read at the bottom of the a la carte menu; this is a restaurant that really does source their produce locally – it’s always a good sign when a restaurant is open about their suppliers, and even better when you recognise the names of their farms, such is their reputation!
I am a big fan of tapas; both for the rich, Spanish flavours and the ability to order as many dishes as I want and satisfy my indecisive side. Situated by the river on The Calls, Ambiente Tapas took over the building which once housed Riverplate, making a splash on the Leeds dining scene as soon as they opened. As well as the almost-obligatory brick walls and stripped-back flooring, they play host to a theatre-style kitchen in the middle of the restaurant so you can see the chefs in action, as well as a balcony for those sunnier days (which currently seem so far away!). As with my other choices, the menu is innovative and inventive; as well as the standard tapas dishes (patatas bravas and the like) they offer some unusual dishes that have got my mouth watering already. Grilled prawns with a spiced manchego mojo sauce? Yes please!
Part of the North Bar family, The Cross Keys is an attractive-looking gastro pub with an excellent reputation amongst my fellow Leeds foodies. Situated just behind Granary Wharf, a stone’s throw from The Midnight Bell (which has a similar reputation) and just down the road from the infamous Bridgewater Place, it’s perfectly placed for after work drinks and a little something to eat. They specialise in ‘traditional British food made from locally sourced, ethically produced, seasonal ingredients’. Are you sensing a theme with my choices for this list?! You can guess at the sort of thing that features on the menu – but the simplicity of their offering and their clear commitment to serving up the best pub grub available makes me eager to get stuck in. If that’s not enough, their Sunday Lunch has won awards and their beer garden is renowned as one of the best in the city – rare in a city centre location. Has it got it all? I’ve got to go and find out for myself!
Shears Yard bills itself as an independent kitchen and bar in Leeds, and is the latest venture from the team behind Call Lane favourite Arts Cafe. Having recently dined in the latter, the former has swiftly moved up my list. Looking at the website, Shears Yard is what I imagine the restaurant I own in my dreams to be like; it is like someone peeked inside my brain – from the pared down, Scandi-style decor consisting mostly of bare lightbulbs, to the surprising cocktail menu featuring my favourite Basil Grande and, of course, the exciting, seasonal menu. Everyone I have spoken to about this place has given it the highest of compliments, proclaiming how excellent the whole experience is. The menu suggests unusual flavour combinations created with seasonal produce with intricate details that are deserving of a higher price tag than they carry. I think I might dip my toe in with their reasonably-priced lunch menu but I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before I’m tucking into a three-course meal and making my way through the cocktail menu…
As a foodie, nothing thrills me more than knowing about the secret bolt holes which serve up delicious food in an unassuming environment. As a smug foodie, nothing thrills me more than knowing about them before anyone else. However, I can’t claim such a thing with Thai Aroy Dee because, despite the deceptive exterior, it is renowned for serving up excellent Thai food for a cheap price (and BYOB, to boot) and as such, it is always packed. As with any Thai restaurant, the menu is extensive, offering all sorts of tasty treats as well as a set menu that offers incredible value for money. Every time I walk past to the bus stop, I experience a stab of jealousy at the happy diners seated within. To be honest, I’m not sure why I haven’t made it here yet – I probably spend more on sandwiches and coffee during the workday than I would on a meal here and it’s just around the corner from my office. Having had such a good experience at Jino’s Thai Cafe at Headingley, which has a similar feel, I am expecting big things from Thai Aroy Dee – and from rumours and reputation, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.
I know you shouldn’t play favourites, but I really think that Japanese food may be my favourite. I will never tire of sushi and of the fresh flavours that populate so many Japanese dishes. Wasabi Teppan-yaki is a bright, modern Japanese restaurant in Granary Wharf – perhaps the most picturesque place in the city centre – and although I have eaten in most of the restaurants and drunk in most of the bars in this area, I have yet to make it to Wasabi Teppan-yaki. You are served at traditional Teppan-yaki where your food is cooked in front of you by chefs who pride themselves as much on their acrobatic skills as they do on their cooking skills (or thereabouts). There’s a variety of meat, seafood and vegetable options on the a la carte menu ready to be cooked fresh for you, as well as an extensive sushi and sashimi menu. Just typing the word sashimi has my mouth watering, so it’s safe to say this is firmly on the wish list.
Moving out of the city centre now, Zucco can be found in my old stomping ground of Meanwood – an up-and-coming Leeds suburb that is finally finding its foodie credentials. The website is a little 1998, but the restaurant itself looks pleasingly modern and has had high accolades from both my friends and fellow Leeds food bloggers. The premise for the restaurant is a kind of Italian tapas; freshly-prepared small plates are served up for the whole table to share. As with many of the others on my list, the menu boasts not only the traditional Italian fare of pizzas and pasta (although those do feature) but exciting dishes like balsamic roast duck leg and deep-fried zucchini and mint. As it’s so close to friends’ houses, and some of the bars that we like to drink in on a Friday night, it’s been catching my eye for months – I need to actually book a table!
The opening of The Tetley as an arts venue has been big news in Leeds during the last few months. Hosting a variety of events, exhibitions and speeches, The Tetley has repurposed one of the most famous buildings in Leeds; when my Grandad found out that the original brewery had closed, he was distraught but I think he’d be very pleased with how it’s turned out. Not only have they salvaged the building, much of the furniture is repurposed from the original headquarters.
The food at the Tetley Bar & Kitchen is Yorkshire-inspired: think ploughman’s and pies. But not all of the dishes are as stereotypical as that – you’ll also find quinoa, sea bass and even an afternoon tea menu which features delights such as parkin, Yorkshire curd tart and macaroons. You can, of course, sip a pint of Tetleys with your dinner but there is also an extensive drinks menu with every spirit you could possibly want. Anthony off’ve the recently-closed Anthony’s has been a special advisor for the menu, so I’m excited to try this out!
The reasons why I haven’t visited the other restaurants are varied but there is one clear one why Gaucho hasn’t been top of my dining choices over the last year. And that is the cost; Gaucho is a decadent, luxurious restaurant that must be saved for the most special occasions. I mean, just look at it! An Argentine steakhouse, they claim that the quality of their beef is ‘unparalleled’, which is a bold claim – there is an impressive list of cuts on the menu. This is the kind of place you go to when you want to impress, for birthdays and anniversaries and the like. I’m not sure I even have anything in my wardrobe that is appropriate for this restaurant! But, it’s one I want to try at some point – the cocktail menu is gorgeous and the empanadas alone are enough to persuade me to settle in for the night.