Where to Celebrate Galentine’s Day In Leeds

What’s Galentine’s Day, I hear you ask? 

“Oh it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” – Leslie Knope, Parks & Recreation 

Invented by my idol, Leslie Knope, Galentine’s Day is celebrated on 13th February and traditionally consists of brunch, all your best lady friends and the sharing of compliments. Here’s where you can kick it, breakfast style, with your ladies in Leeds. 

Ox Club

The food at Ox Club is seriously, seriously good. For somewhere that’s listed in the Good Food Guide and the Michelin Guide, the atmosphere (and the prices) are unassuming – letting the food do all of the talking. I would highly recommend their ricotta pancakes with blueberries and honeycomb, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to their Korean Chicken or Coconut French Toast, either. Basically, get all your besties together and order everything on the menu. The only problem is that you won’t be able to do that much catching up because the food will render you silent in appreciation. It’s worth it, I swear. 

Angelica

If you want a fancy lady brunch, then Angelica is the place to head. Whisk your way up in the private lift, take in the views over Leeds and enjoy their extensive range of cocktails whilst you brunch and revel in your mutual affection and awesomeness. In tribute to Ms Knope, you must have the waffles, and in tribute to me, you must have an Aperol Spritz. Get it, girls. 

Laynes Espresso 

For something a bit more low key, the newly revamped Laynes Espresso is definitely the place to head. Not only do they have a reputation for the best coffee in Leeds, their brunch menu contains such delights as Sweetcorn Fritters with halloumi and chimichurri, Toasted Banana Bread with orange mascarpone, and my favourite, Shakshuka. Not only that, but they stock cakes from the inimitable Noisette Bakehouse, so it’s going to be a party in your mouth by the time the brunch is done. Guaranteed. 

Cafe 164 

Cafe 164 is new to the brunch game, but I am ogling their small but perfectly formed breakfast menu every time I pop in for a morning hot chocolate. Basically, I need the Nectarines & Cream Toast in my face, stat. There’s plenty of choice for your vegan and vegetarian pals, and their cake selection is pretty epic, too. Plus, since Galentine’s Day is all about supporting kick ass ladies, you’ll be putting your brunch pennies into the pockets of some of the most kick ass ladies I know on the Leeds food scene. Can’t say fairer than that, can you? 

Shears Yard 

Am I saving the best until last? Only if you like your brunches with a side of unlimited alcohol (so, yes, yes I am). The bottomless brunch at Shears Yard features their signature brunch dishes, like Smoked salmon & dill risotto, Garlic & truffle creamed mushrooms on toasted brioche and Merguez sausage & spiced mixed bean cassoulet (so not your standard brunch fare – and all the better for it, I’d say) but also the opportunity to drink as much as you like from a range of brunch-friendly cocktails. Most bottomless brunches that I’ve seen stick to Prosecco or Bloody Marys, but there are some fancier options on the menu like, my favourite, Aperol Spritzes, and a delicious sounding English 75. It’s only available on Saturdays, though, so you’ll have to celebrate Galentine’s Day early if you’re heading here. 

Altogether now, Ovaries before Brovaries

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Champagne Thursdays at Norse, Harrogate

Norse Harrogate Menu

A little bit of decadence never did anyone any harm, right? Especially when that decadence involves champagne tasting, Nordic cuisine and a bill of only £40 per person. You would be a fool to turn such an evening down, would you not? 

The Champagne Concept Harrogate

I am certainly no fool, so I happily took myself off to Harrogate last Thursday for a magical evening at The Champagne Concept and Norse – two next door neighbours who have combined forces to make your February that little bit more sparkly for just £36 per person. Now, if you’ve been around these parts a while, you might have heard of Norse. By day, a Scandinavian-inspired coffee shop called Baltzersen’s, which is very pleasant indeed. But by night? They transform into a bijou restaurant serving seasonal, experimental Nordic food that will blow your mind. Truly one of Yorkshire’s greatest foodie assets, and one you absolutely must try. The Champagne Concept are newbies on the block, a little tasting bar and shop serving up champagne made by small producers. It’s a match made in heaven, let me assure you. 

The Champagne Concept Harrogate

We stopped at The Champagne Concept first to try their signature flight of champagne (what else?). Since Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, they were all pink champagnes, which was a lovely little touch (and would make a sweet little Valentine’s outing if you’re Harrogate-based). They were expertly described to us, and then we were left to our own devices to try them out at our leisure. The first was a Chardonnay, light and clean as you’d expect, the second, a Pinot Noir with wonderful berry flavours, and the third a rich Pinot Meunier. The Pinot Noir was surprisingly my favourite – I usually prefer a dry wine, but the strawberry notes were just delicious. The champagne tasting on its own would be a wonderful treat, and with the signature flight only £12, I have no doubt that I’ll be back for more! 

Norse Harrogate

However, that wasn’t all we had in store for the evening. We quickly nipped next door and took our table at Norse, immediately drooling over the menu. It really is like nowhere else, and I can assure you that everything on the menu is wonderful. It was almost impossible to pick out of the options, so we ordered two between us for each course and swapped half way through each dish. It was a wrench to do so, as each plate was impossibly perfect, but it was worth it to experience as much as possible of the menu. We started with two delicious shots of schnapps – one was beetroot (surprisingly good for something so savoury) and an apple (which was like drinking an American apple pie!). 

Norse Harrogate

It feels a waste to describe each dish to you here; because the menu is seasonal, you may discover something if you are to visit. However, I have never had anything there that I didn’t love. Each one is a riot of flavours, textures and colours (in the best way) with inventive, surprising touches that make the whole thing incredibly special. My favourite dishes this time around where the pig’s head terrine with crayfish and crispy lentils, and the gin-poached rhubarb with toasted coconut sorbet and cardamom meringue, but every time I go, I look forward to something new. It’s mind-blowing food in a setting so simple and friendly, I have no doubt that you’ll fall in love. 

Norse Harrogate

And all for just £36 (not including the extra drinks we had at Norse). The offer is on Thursdays during February, but I really hope that it’s something that they extend because I’d absolutely love to go back and I really want you to have the chance to experience it, too. 

Norse Harrogate

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Brunch at Ox Club, Leeds

Ox Club at Headrow House, Leeds

It takes quite a lot for me to be excited about a new restaurant opening. I’m always happy to check out new places and try something new, but it’s quite rare for me to be desperate to go somewhere that’s just opened. Which is exactly how I felt about Ox Club. As soon as they opened their doors, everyone I know in Leeds who loves food was raving about them and I had to get a piece of it. Emma and I had dinner there about a week later, and it was everything I dreamed of and more. You can read all about it on her blog, in which she also says some very lovely things about me (blush). All I’ll say is, get the cauliflower. It will change your life. Which is no mean feat for a vegetable that I have mostly avoided when it’s not covered in a thick, cheese sauce. 

As a basic white girl, and therefore a dedicated bruncher, I was also counting down the days until I got to try out their brunch menu. It’s only available at weekends, and the thought of going into town during the Christmas shopping crush was too much for me, even with the promise of pancakes, so we waited until January and headed over to brunch to our heart’s delights. 

Ox Club at Headrow House, Leeds

Ox Club is exactly the kind of restaurant where I like to spend my time and money; it’s small enough to be intimate, it’s not fancy with its decor, save for a few copper touches and some plants scattered about, and they let the food do the talking. The smell of the grill is the first thing that hits you when you arrive, and it is wonderful – smoky and delicious. The menu changes regularly depending on market availability of produce, and features a small array of dishes that are carefully considered and cooked to perfection. There’s a reason everyone’s been raving about this place. 

Ox Club at Headrow House, Leeds

For brunch, we settled on Hanger Steak & Cheddar Eggs and their Ricotta Pancakes, which are served with honeycomb and blueberries. Our greed lead us to order a side of bacon and extra home fries, but there was really no need – I couldn’t even finish my pancakes because the portions were so generous. They were as light and fluffy as a cloud, and the blueberry and honeycomb accompaniment was surely a stroke of genius. We all need more honeycomb in our lives. Paul’s steak was perfectly cooked and tender and came with a heaping pile of silky eggs and a gorgeous smoked tomato jam. All in all, an absolutely fantastic way to start the day and one I’ll definitely be back for many times, I’m sure. 

Ox Club at Headrow House, Leeds

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Brunch at Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton

seven arts

We really got into the brunch game when we were in the States. They are on another level over there, I promise. I can only hope for brunches so decadent in Leeds in the near future. That said, brunch options in Leeds have definitely gotten better over the last year or so, as more and more people get on board with this glorious meal. It was with great interest that I learnt that Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton, a mere five minute stroll from my house, have started up a brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays which runs until 3pm. That is the best time for brunch – it’s far more socially acceptable to get lightly buzzed after midday, and the best brunches have an alcohol accompaniment. 

brunch at seven arts

Seven is one of my favourite bars in Chapel Allerton (and in Leeds). It’s just got a really friendly vibe and, since it’s a non-profit that’s putting on some great arts events in the area, you can feel very smug after a couple of pints there. As a non-profit, their food and drink is very reasonably priced and the brunch is no exception – a plate of huevos rancheros with chorizo will set you back just £7, whilst a bacon sandwich is just £4. Everything is cooked fresh and the quality of the food is excellent, especially for the price. Although my huevos rancheros didn’t include all the traditional trappings of the dish, it had a great blend of flavours and a guacamole that even this avocado-avoider was shovelling onto her fork. Plus, perfectly dippy eggs. Is there anything better? 

hot chocolate

Of course, with the wind and rain lashing at the windows, a hot chocolate was definitely in order, too – just look at those mini marshmallows! It was the perfect Saturday morning activity (despite what I said about brunch being best in the early afternoon, we had a busy day ahead!) and we’ll definitely be back! 

 

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My Current Favourite Places in Leeds

I have written about a lot of places on this blog, and tweeted about even more. Although my list of restaurants and bars to try in Leeds never goes down, I’ve made my way through a lot of them. Some I love immediately. Others I grow to love. Some I love for a while and then abandon when something shiny and new comes along. But there are some that are recurring favourites, revisited time and again – whether that’s for convenience (the fact that some are very close to my house is not a coincidence…) or simply because they’re just too good to ignore (Pinche Pinche satisfies both of these criteria). That’s not to say that I don’t love and wouldn’t recommend those places which haven’t made this list, but these are the ones I find myself going back to time and time again. 

1. Café 164

This cafe is located very conveniently right underneath my office and I am ever glad that it is! Everyone who works there is absolutely lovely, and they do a very good sandwich if you’ve forgotten your packed lunch. Plus, you can pick up an art print in the attached gallery, which is just a fun bonus. 

pinche pinche 2

2. Pinche Pinche 

My forever favourite restaurant in Leeds. Get the fish tacos. And the maragaritas. And the ceviche. And the lamb quesadilla. And the sweet potato fries. And the churros. And the tequila. And basically everything on the menu because it is JUST SO GOOD. 

3. The Pit, Chapel Allerton 

For quick after work drinks and hungover recovery. It’s a staple of our social life, and one of my favourite places for burgers in Leeds. Except I never get the burgers – I always have the Philly Fries because those things are like crack. 

Bunting at The Mustard Pot

4. The Mustard Pot 

The best beer garden in the city, and the perfect place to spend basically the entire summer. Pimms, bunting and every other English summer cliche, all in a very gorgeous pub that does a decent Sunday dinner and a good pub quiz. So happy to live around the corner from this beauty. 

5. Pintura

This tapas restaurant only opened a couple of months ago, but I’ve already been more times than old-standing favourites. It’s just addictive. Beautiful interiors, an extensive gin menu and delicious & surprising tapas. Not the cheapest, but definitely a good shout for girl’s night or a nice date. 

cielo blanco 2

6. Cielo Blanco 

Can you tell that I like Mexican food? This is a great option for a mid-week dinner – get the ‘street food’ option and order a whole bunch of dishes between you so you can try as much as possible. I love the fish tacos and the sweet potato fries. The caiprinha are pretty tasty, too. 

7. Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen

Going for a drink in town? This is always the first place I think of. It’s achingly cool, you can grab a slice of Dough Boys pizza with your drink, and the roof terrace is the perfect place to hang out. There’s usually something fun going on there at the weekend, too, so we find ourselves returning all the time. 

wine at seven arts

8. Seven Arts 

Another local bar, and a non-profit one at that. Seven is super relaxed and a lovely place to grab lunch if you’re hanging out in Chapel Allerton. In the summer they open up the windows so it becomes an inside-outside sort of space, which is lush. 

9. The Hungry Bear

A new one for me, but one I’ve been back to a couple of times recently – if only for their short ribs, which are totally more-ish. They serve hearty meals and beers they brew on site. This restaurant definitely deserves more recognition! 

10. Wasabi 

Not a cool hipster independent, but somewhere I eat at least once a week. Their sushi is good, and perfect for a lunch time treat. I could eat sushi every day, and I’m very glad that Wasabi has made it to Leeds! 

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Pieminister Comes To Leeds

pieminister leeds 1

Sometimes restaurants just hit the nail on the head, giving the people exactly what they want. In Leeds, Reds True BBQ capitalised on a desire for barbecue which first arose a few years ago, and there were queues around the block. Trinity Kitchen fulfilled our love of street food and sitting indoors, and has been busy ever since. And now we have Pieminister, proving that all Yorkshire people really want is a good pie, some decent mash and plenty of gravy and they’ll be happy as Larry. It’s been heaving since opening a couple of weeks ago; partly due, no doubt, to the excellent opening deal they’ve been running, but also because the arrival of a pie restaurant was bound to cause a stir in the land of proper grub. 

pieminister leeds 2

Pieminister have built up quite the reputation, taking their pies to farmers markets, festivals and pubs across the land. And now they’ve brought their flagship restaurant to Leeds, rejuvenating a tired corner of the city centre with a fresh idea. Burger restaurants have become ten a penny, but this really is something new. 

pieminister leeds 3

The restaurant has that slight industrial feel that’s so in right now, with light-up signs, old school chairs and plenty of dark wood. It’s becoming a cliche, for sure, but if it works, it works, right? My only comment would be that some of the tables were a little close together – we were a little too near to the couple enjoying their pies next to us, which feels a bit awkward. It was rammed to the rafters though, what with the new opening and it being a Friday night, so that might not always be such a problem. 

pieminister leeds 5

For a restaurant that is all about the pies, the menu is actually pretty extensive. You can view it online, so I won’t list everything out here, but there are so many options to customise your pie dinner that it’s a little mind-boggling. We had to send the over-eager waiter away a couple of times because we still hadn’t chosen! Suffice to say, the fact that all pies come with gravy included is a definitely welcome addition – and the gravy itself was plenty for one pie. There’s nothing worse than a stingy portion of gravy. 

pieminister leeds 6

The pies themselves were exactly what you’d expect – delicious pastry, generous fillings and so filling you’ll need a nap afterwards. My choice of chicken, ham, leek and thyme was very tasty, whilst Paul was extra impressed with his beef and Brewdog beer number. I opted out of mash and went for a slightly avant-garde choice of mac’n’cheese on the side of my pie. The extra carbs definitely weren’t needed, but it had an interesting garlicky taste alongside the cheesiness, which I enjoyed. 

pieminister leeds 4

You could certainly stuff yourself silly here, and at a very reasonable price. The pies themselves hit around the five pound mark, and even if you pile on the sides you’re looking at a feast for less than £15. I would skip the cocktails (there are far better places to have them in Leeds, and they felt a bit like an afterthought) and go for one of the many different beers instead, and get stuck into a hearty meal fit for a Yorkshireman (or woman!). Everyone I’ve told about Pieminister since our visit has been dead jealous – and I can tell this is going to be a welcome addition to the Leeds scene! 

Disclaimer: We received a discount off our meal from the lovely people at Pieminister, but a review on my blog wasn’t stipulated in exchange – I just wanted to tell you all about these pies! Just be warned: wear stretchy trousers! 

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Get Baked Presents: The Joint

Drinks Menu at The Joint Leeds

At this stage, the opening of a new burger restaurant in Leeds is hardly news; we’ve been inundated over the last couple of years and a new kid on the burger block just doesn’t stir up the same excitement as it once did. That is, until The Joint, a new venture from the guys behind ‘Get Baked’, a takeaway serving up decadent desserts and juicy burgers from the back streets of Meanwood. Whilst they present themselves as chilled-out stoners, I’m pretty sure some business masterminds are working their magic behind the scenes; their launch has had some serious buzz and their new home has been decked out with no expense spared – and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t happy by accident. Maybe it’s just that their burgers are *that* good – their takeaway is always busy and everyone raves about the food (although the delivery time is less than ideal at over an hour…). Either way, something’s working for them. 

Burger at The Joint Leeds

Burger at The Joint Leeds

We skipped opening weekend, pretty sure that it would be rammed full of students and headed for a leisurely Sunday lunch the week after instead. Whilst there’s no doubt that this is student central – it’s right next to the Uni, so you can’t expect less – it was surprisingly quiet and our large group was very kindly accommodated as we rearranged the furniture so we could sit together. The decor has that dirty, grungy vibe with neon signs, industrial fittings and ostentatious chandeliers littering the place. It’s achingly cool, that’s for sure, with peeks of the original church building coming through next to the pop culture references and in-jokes. I’m showing my age when I say that it made me yearn for my student days, now sadly behind me, when you could spend all afternoon in the pub under the guise of ‘studying’ – this is the perfect place for it. 

Chicken Wings at The Joint Leeds

The menu is suitably dirty – burgers with lashings of hot sauce and covered in crisps and cheese, chicken wings covered in maple syrup, chips with all the trimmings you can imagine. It’s tough to choose – it’s all so tempting. This isn’t a place to go the week before your wedding dress fitting; unless you’re me and you have no impulse control. I went for the Cactus Jack – fried chicken, fried onions, hot sauce, crispy lettuce and cheese – but I think between us we tried almost everything on the menu. True to form, behind the gimmicks and the jokes, the burgers were beautiful: juicy, tasty and totally satisfying, in that greasy, I-shouldn’t-eat-for-a-week way. The fries were triple-fried, and are best shared if you’re both going all out burger-wise. 

Dessert Menu at The Joint Leeds

Sundae at The Joint Leeds

Of course, as if that wasn’t enough, we had to have a go at the desserts as well. Not for the faint-hearted, two of us struggled to get to the bottom of one of their sundaes, and whilst Paul managed his, he was in a food coma for the rest of the day (a very happy food coma, I might add). A slice of apple pie, caramel sauce, ice cream, whipped cream and toasted marshmallows all in one massive bowl. It’s so wrong, but so right. 

In fact, that’s pretty much the whole vibe of the place – so wrong, but so right. I have no doubt that I’ll be back; those burgers really are just too good. 

Sundae at The Joint Leeds

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Where to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Leeds

valentines meal

[Photo: New Old Stock]

Confession Time: I have never been on a proper Valentine’s Day date. Paul and I are not overly romantic people, and have never made a fuss about it. This year we’ll be celebrating a friend’s 30th birthday with drinks, and will probably exchange reasonably-witty cards. That said, I’m not too cool to get excited about Valentine’s Day and I love the idea of getting dressed up and wining & dining. It’s basically my favourite thing to do on any night of the year, and this seems like as good an idea as any. 

If you fancy the traditional meal this Valentine’s Day, you’re spoilt for choice in Leeds. Here are my top picks for romantic restaurants in the city, so hopefully you’ll get an idea if you’re stumped on where to take your sweetheart. Just remember Dan Savage’s Valentine’s Day advice

Kendells Bistro 

Consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in Leeds, Kendells Bistro is top of my wishlist of places to go for a romantic evening. French food is definitely the most seductive cuisine – it’s probably all the wine and butter – and at Kendells you’ll have the very best French food served up in a gorgeous restaurant with plenty of candlelight. Whilst it doesn’t come cheap (the set menu is £62.90), but your date will definitely be impressed if you manage to book a table at this gorgeous bistro. 

RARE 

One for lovers who also love meat, RARE is where we would go if we hadn’t got prior plans. Steak is the classic Valentine’s Day dinner and they do it so well at RARE, but it’s really the cocktails you should go for, which are both delicious and unusual – you won’t find their equals elsewhere in the city. Decadent food and drink served up in an intimate setting (complete with Sue, the stuffed cow for company) – it doesn’t really get better than that. 

Roast + Conch

We dined at Roast + Conch – Hotel Chocolat’s flagship restaurant in Leeds – last week for my birthday, and it absolutely blew us away. The service was fantastic, some of the best I’ve ever experienced, and the food was divine. The menu is a mixture of British and Caribbean style, with everything from Beef & Yorkshire Pudding (which is served with an insane white chocolate mash) to Coconut Curry. Oh, and everything has cocoa in it in some form or another. Definitely highly recommended, and perfect as a spin on the usual box of Valentine’s chocolates. Get the Gin Martini, it’s beautiful. 

Ambiente Tapas 

Sharing food with the one you love is one of the best things in the world, and what better way to do that than with tapas – which is made for sharing! Situated on the Aire in a gorgeous building full of exposed brick & beams, Ambiente Tapas is the perfect place for a romantic meal for two. The food is very good – I’ve been a few times and left very happy every time – and since sherry is their speciality you should definitely give it a go when you’re there! 

 Where are you planning to take your Valentine’s date?

P.S. If you’re celebrating Galentine’s Day instead, try Mrs Atha’s for brunch, The Botanist for a boozy lunch (get the blooming onion) and Manahatta for dinner & cocktails! 

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The Swine That Dines – Leeds Supper Club

Mock Scotch Broth at The Swine That Dines Supper Club in Leeds

If you’re a Leeds local, you may know The Greedy Pig; it’s a charming cafe on the North side of town that’s renowned for brilliant breakfasts and lovely lunches – and is well worth checking out if you’re feeling peckish. If you looked at the outside, you might be forgiven for assuming that this is just another regular café, but their humble exterior hides a passion for excellent food that you’d be sorry to miss. 

Word has started to get out about this place, and Jo & Stu who run The Greedy Pig have amassed quite the dedicated following – and rightly so. They are as lovely as they are passionate about food, and they invited me down to try out one of their Supper Clubs – charmingly named The Swine That Dines. They’re branching out from fantastic fry-ups and satisfying sandwiches and opening their doors on weekend evenings for intimate dinners of their excellent cooking, with a themed evening once a month. With names like ‘Nose to Tail’ and ‘Pig and Squid’, you can be assured that this is no ordinary dining, and you won’t find anything like it elsewhere in the city. 

Pigs Trotters at The Swine That Dines Supper Club in Leeds

On this particular evening, we sampled a dish from each of the upcoming themes, taking a journey on a culinary adventure that took us from pig’s head right down to trotters. Fussy eaters need not apply! We started with a mock scotch broth with seaweed dumplings and pearl barley, which was both tasty and a welcome start to the feast. Whilst I’m sure The Swine That Dines will be charming at any time of year, there was definitely something particularly wonderful about dining whilst it was dark and cold outside, with the few passers-by peering jealously in at the light-up window at the feast that was happening inside. 

Roots to Shoots at The Swine That Dines in Leeds

From that warm hug-hug-in-a-mug we jumped straight into pig’s trotters – a first for me. Whilst the texture was a little off-putting, the meat was absolutely delicious, served on a bed of lentils and salsa verde which was the perfect accompaniment. Whilst I can’t say that I will be jumping into cooking them myself, they are definitely worth trying at least once in your life! 

We moved onto a Moroccan-style dish of butternut squash, aubergine, roasted peppers, and pomegranate from their ‘Roots to Shoots’ vegetarian night, which was gorgeous. I need to cook more of this style of food for myself – there’s something about the tartness of pomegranate against lightly spiced vegetables that is just irresistible. 

Crispy Pigs Head and Black Pudding at The Swine That Dines in Leeds

It was a toss up between the next two dishes for my favourite of the night; the first was crispy pig’s head, which was beautiful, served with apple sauce, black pudding and samphire, and the second was belly pork with razor clams, chorizo and chick peas. Both dishes I would never have ordered myself, but both of which were stunning – perfect marriages of flavours and textures. I would never have though to pair clams with pork but it really works. I would go back for these dishes specifically – and urge you to do the same! 

Pork Belly and Razor Clams at The Swine That Dines in Leeds

By this point, as you can imagine, I felt as if I couldn’t eat another bite – but there is always a separate stomach for pudding and this one was worth finding space for. Deep fried porridge with ice cream and raspberry sauce. It sounds odd, but it definitely worked; it was a lot like a soft flapjack, the stodginess of which was cut through by the cold ice cream and tart raspberry. Just proving that sometimes experiments can turn out better than expected! 

Deep Fried Porridge at The Swine That Dines in Leeds

All in all it was a wonderful night, and if you live in Leeds it is worth keeping an eye on their Twitter page for announcements so you can try this for yourself. There are just a handful of tickets for each night so be quick when you see them come up for sale – you won’t regret it! 

Candles at The Swine That Dines in Leeds

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Bilbao Bar, Leeds

Bilbao Bar Leeds

There’s something about tapas which demands sunny days, tables outside and leisurely lunches enjoyed with pitchers of Sangria. Something about these little dishes, so familiar and yet so foreign, conjures up that feeling of relaxation, of being slightly drunk in the middle of the afternoon, of that feeling your skin gets when you spend more time outdoors than normal – slightly windswept, slightly sunkissed (or sunburnt…). I was surprised, therefore, to find that tapas was the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day in Leeds. Walk into Bilbao Bar in Granary Wharf and you instantly forget the snow and piercing wind that you battled to get there – all those summer holiday feelings come flooding back. 

Bilbao Bar Leeds

A small little restaurant tucked away inside the arches, the soft lighting, the blackboard drinks menu and the smells of tapas cooking transport you straight to Spain and in winter that is exactly what you need. The staff are relaxed and very friendly, noticing that you need a drinks top-up before you do – which impressed Paul no end! The food menu is small but perfectly formed – with the traditional dishes that you expect mingling with some more unusual and exciting ones. A word of warning, however – don’t let your hunger get away with you when ordering, these were the biggest portions of tapas I’ve ever seen. Five between the two of us was more than sufficient. Drinks-wise, the gin lovers amongst you will be impressed by their selection – with the usual culprits being joined by some Spanish gins. The cocktail list was small but perfectly formed – and I can recommend the Yorkshire Margarita for starters. 

Bilbao Bar Leeds

My one criticism would be, however, that rather than the traditional way of serving tapas – with all of your dishes crowding for room on the table so you can pick and share and mix to your heart’s content, each dish was bought out separately, one at a time. If you’re sharing dishes this might not be a problem, but Paul and I have very different tastes which meant that only one of us was really eating at any one time, which felt a little odd. 

Bilbao Bar Leeds

The food, however, was delicious and, as I mentioned, very generously served. I wish we’d been able to try more dishes, as there were so many that I was tempted by – so we’ll definitely have to go back to give those a go. This time around, I opted for Patatas Bravas (obviously) and ‘Tartar de aguacate, langostinos y salmón ahumado’ (or avocado, prawn and smoked salmon tartar to you and me), and we shared a board of Iberico Ham, which was carved right in front of us and served with catalan style bread. The ham was perfectly salty, meaty and more-ish, the perfect starter. The tartar was very fresh and tasty, but I think the standout dish for me was the Patatas Bravas – usually an after-thought, Bilbao Bar’s had a delicious smoky sauce, unlike any Patatas Bravas I’ve come across before, and the potatoes were sliced rather than cubed which gave them a good crispy-skin-to-fluffy-inside ratio. I stole a little of Paul’s Chorizo cooked in Cider, which was succulent and flavoursome but gone before I could knick more than one piece! 

Bilbao Bar Leeds

So if you fancy a little escapism this winter – paired with some tasty tapas and a potent cocktail or two – then you know where to head. I’ve got my fingers crossed for another good summer, however, so I can enjoy Bilbao Bar in the sunshine – exactly how tapas should be. 

Bilbao Bar Leeds

Disclaimer: We dined for free at Bilbao Bar in exchange for this review, but I am always honest with you. Maybe it’s the Yorkshire Margarita talking, but those genuinely were the best Patatas Bravas I’ve ever had. I’m cooking a roast as I write this but I still feel like sacking it off and going back for more. 

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