What I love about Leeds is that for such a small city, it’s constantly innovating. There’s always something to do, and it’s a magnet for bands, producers and DJs. Not to mention it’s now been crowned ‘most livable city’ in the UK. Cheaper than London, nearly as much to do as Manchester, and everything within a half hour’s reach. YAAAAS, it’s so good to be back!
Before I begin, I know that featured photo is of Melbourne, not Leeds. But I realised, as I’ll discuss in this post, I took Leeds for granted before I left to go travelling. I never explored much and rarely took photos asides from blurry ones in bar and clubs. So resolution number 3 for 2016, after going gluten and wheat free, and learning to drive, is to take more photos!
I left my normal life and old habits in Leeds in February 2014 when I flew away to India, so needless to say, the face of the city has changed considerably now that I’m back after almost two years of travelling. And, maybe, I’ve changed too. Gone is my old routine of Friday nights drinking, Sarturday nights into Sunday mornings clubbing and… well, little else.
I’ll still of course do those things, but I also want to make a new years resolution to dig around the city a little deeper in 2016: I want to explore the blossoming food and craft beer scene, shop in the array of antiques markets that are popping up, catch an event at the stunning, grade II listed Left Bank church, attend a secret supper club. All in all, I just want to be a bit more cultivated and grown up.
Then of course there’s the fact that come summer, I’ll much prefer to welcome in the weekend with a lovely sunny Saturday brunch, rather than the old ‘roll off of Call Lane at 5am’ then die of a hangover act which always used to be the case. And with Leeds’ growing cafe and coffee culture, led by independents such as Friends of Ham, Laynes, Sheaf Street and The Greedy Pig, it shouldn’t be too hard to indulge.
So, I’ve listed a few things I’m keen to try now that I’m back. Naturally, nearly all of them involve eating.
I was reserving the new independent restaurant Shears Yard for a occasion such as an anniversary dinner, since it looked so special. Red brick? Check. Exposed beams? Check. Dangling lightbulbs? Check. Tasty British meals made from local produce? Check.
But miraculously, we found out that Shear’s Yard were offering a January sale throughout the whole month, with half-price everything, meaning I’ve already visited. First tick on the 2016 bucket list! Despite the service (laid back, hipster) not really matching up to the quality of food and price of it, the steak and beer herb dumplings were a dream.
I mentioned in my review of Top Paddock in Melbourne that a good brunch is often so much more special than a fancy evening meal. Especially when it’s boozy. I’ve also probably mentioned several times recently that Leeds is in dire need of more decent brunch spots: especially since The Greedy Pig, arguably the only good one, is closed on Sundays – what’s that all about!?
Enter Electro Brunch at Gaucho, which has already taken off in London and Manchester’s branches of the Argentinian restaurant, and has just launched in Leeds this February. Every Saturday between 11am and 3pm, diners are invited to try their hands at an all you can eat brunch menu, made up of tantalising looking eggs florentine dishes, Argentinian steak and eggs plates, picante cheese, chorizo, sausage, avocado etc. etc. and soundtracked by DJs spinning house, electro and indie.
At £45 per ticket, it may seem steep to some, but when you consider that it also includes all you can drink cocktails and sparkling wine, it starts to make perfect sense. I know for certain that Matt and I will be keeping the anniversary tradition alive and heading there for brunch this April to celebrate four years together!
Ecco’s in Headingly, despite looking like a nondescript takeaway joint from the outside, and not even being in possession of an alcohol license, allegedly serve up the best (and the best looking) pizza in the North of England. The mozzarella is the creamiest you could imagine, the tomato base is the freshest and sweetest, and the dough…? I’ve never experienced anything like it. My margarita from Ecco’s a few weeks ago was only a delivered one and it was still that good, so I’m still keen to check the joint out for a sit-down meal, so I can see what the pizza is like when it’s straight out of the authentic wood fire oven.
The former Tetley Brewery has now been transformed into a lofty, contemporary arts space which looks cool as hell from the outside. I’m keen to head down there one sunny weekend this year whilst exploring the entire area it sits in, to sample a fry up, a pie and of course a pint.
A grade 1 listed industrial building in the heart of Holbeck, Temple Works has been reclaimed by a collective of artists who run frequent exhibitions, and open the space up for occasional events. I’m a sucker for anything remotely ‘Berlin’ and the Holbeck and Hunslet areas of Leeds, filled with abandoned and regenerated mills, factories and large industrial spaces fascinates me. Over the coming years, we’re bound to see more of these spaces turn into interesting projects, much in the same way as Liverpool’s docks are becoming a hub of culture and hive for hedonsim.
Temple Works has also been host to electronic music events ran by promoters such as Flux and Shhh_ift – so I’m keeping a firm ear to the ground to see what events will happen in 2016! I can almost smell the old, cold concrete and the grot!
Brandon Street Night Market
I’m no stranger to the multifunctional events space Canal Mills: I spent many a weekend night and new years day there in the post-uni haze stomping through sets played by some of Europe’s best house and techno producers, and watched a memorable live show by Bonobo under its warehouse roof.
But now that monthly party Mono_cult has vacated the premises in favour of permanent move to the big smoke (sob), and now that I’m a straight-laced 25-year old who prefers her Sunday mornings (mostly) hangover free, I’m excited to try out the street food and craft ale market that visits Canal Mills one Friday a month. Yes, I know I may seem late on the bandwagon, but the first night market was held a few weeks after I fled the UK in 2014!
Another interesting and slightly insane-sounding weekly event planned for Canal Mills in 2016 is Bongo’s Bingo, which I’m desperate to get a group of mates together for. Basically, it’s bingo, only… more boozy and decadent. What with it being in an old mill, targeted towards Leeds’s huge student population and soundtracked by loud music during intervals!
I already ticked Meatliqour off of the bucket list in late 2015 as a form of procrastination during some last minute Christmas shopping, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, if I hadn’t been introduced by my boyfriend, I’d probably have never visited, and the joint wouldn’t have made it onto this post in the first place.
Despite Leeds suffering at the hands of a major smokey, Southern-fried BBQ identity crisis, where a new burger joint seemingly opens ever week (Byron, Almost Famous, Reds, The Pit… c’monnnn, have some imagination!) I’ll happily admit I was pleased with the lunch deal Meatliqour offers; at normal prices, I’d say it’s still too steep.
The Noise of Strangers
I’m gutted that I missed secret supperclub The Noise of Strangers’ pop up inside Temple Works in January – I could have ticked two activities off of my 2016 bucket list in one. But alas! My poor post-travel, post-Christmas wallet couldn’t quite handle the idea of a fancy six course dinner, so I’ll have to wait until the spring series of their pop-ups now instead and hope they choose another suitably dilapidated but charming warehouse setting.
Another establishment I’ve actually already crossed off (twice), but couldn’t leave out of this post since I plan on returning frequently forever more! Tiny My Thai, located underneath the Merrion Centre and a stones throw away from The Belgrave and Brunswick, offers the most authentic and reasonably priced Thai food I’ve come across in the UK. Yes, it even beats the old faithful Thai Aroy Dee. Why? Because they have Chiang Mai Khao Soi on the menu. And if you can find me anyone who has ever been to Thailand, who has tasted Khao Soi but doesn’t call it their favourite Thai dish, I will eat my shoe.
Admittedly, the above photo is from White Night, Melbourne’s mind-bogging all-night-long offering of illuminations, installations and arts exhibitions which take place allover the city every summer. It was one of the most unforgettable nights I’ve ever had! The newer Leeds offering will be welcoming in the festive period this Autumn, and although I don’t think it’ll be quite as beautiful (or as warm!) as White Night, it’ll definitely be a good excuse to crack out my new bobble hat and fill a flask full of mulled wine. Especially if, like last year, there’s installations in the maze of chambers underneath Town Hall.
Is there anything else going on in Leeds I’ve missed out of this list? Probably plenty.