Leeds food guide

Leeds food guide

by Nancy Anne Harbord 8 January 2016

Leeds is cool; an eclectic mix of influences from all over the world means its citizens love to eat out. Nancy Anne Harbord discovers the best places to eat, drink and be merry in the northern metropolis.

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Specialising in vegetarian food, Nancy has cooked her way around Europe and now writes full time for publications and her blog, Delicious from Scratch.

Specialising in high quality vegetarian food, Nancy has worked in Vanilla Black in London, as well as other kitchens scattered around Europe. Most recently, Nancy trained under Gabriele Bonci in Rome, learning to make his famous take on pizza al taglio, before taking the knowledge back to Stockholm to help open and run The Artisan pizzeria. She also writes vegetarian and vegan food blog, Delicious from Scratch, and is now a full time food writer.

Pride in Yorkshire’s fantastic range of regional ingredients forms the backbone of Leeds’ culinary offerings, with locally produced meats, seafood, vegetables, cheeses, baked goods and other crafted foods celebrated throughout the city’s eateries. Local producers offer their own veg box schemes, there are regular farmers’ markets held throughout the city and Leeds’ central market continues to thrive.

The price of a round of drinks is another serious upside. Real ales and craft beers, made in abundance in the region, are enormously popular and available in a huge number of gently boisterous pubs and bars. Great gin selections and fantastic happy hour cocktails are also a feature.

Although Leeds has recently gained an elusive Michelin star, relaxed, informal dining is most popular in the city, with big flavours, reasonable prices, hearty portions and friendly service its defining qualities. Recent years have seen a huge surge in independent cafés, bars and restaurants popping up all over the city and the choice and variety has never been better. While chains are represented in the city, it’s the extensive number of passionate individuals, crafting food they truly love, that makes the city such a great place to eat, drink and live in.

Casual eats

Bundobust, Mill Hill – One of my favourite restaurants in Britain, it seems to me that they have the perfect formula. The Guajarati-Yorkshire street food is absolutely packed with flavour, and their range of mouth-watering fritters, tangy savoury chutneys and daily changing specials are matched with an extensive craft beer selection.

The Greedy Pig, North Street – The décor belies the serious cooking that happens at The Greedy Pig. By day it sustains the workers of Leeds, offering the best of full English breakfasts – both meat and vegetarian. By night their ever-changing small plate menu offers highly imaginative, unfussy, gorgeously flavoured dishes – the best of modern British cuisine.

Ecco Pizzeria, Otley RoadAuthentic Neapolitan pizza with creative toppings served in Leeds’ student suburb of Headingly. Leave room for their other speciality – traditional, homemade gelato.

The Reliance, Old Street House-cured charcuterie, local ingredients, ever changing specials and a cracking Sunday roast, all washed down with rotating craft beers and ciders from the region’s independent brewers.

The Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, Belgrave Street – Pizza slices, award-winning burgers and changing street food residencies keep you sustained during the venue’s programme of music, art, film and other cultural activities.

Crafthouse serves traditional British food at its best
Kendells Bistro
Kendells Bistro is the place to go for good French food

Dining destinations

The Man Behind the Curtain, Vicar Lane – Newly anointed with a Michelin star, star of Great British Menu Michael O’Hare brings acclaimed concept tasting menus to Leeds city centre.

Crafthouse, Trinity Shopping Centre – Carefully sourced meat and seafood grilled over natural charcoal and wood, a seasonal à la carte menu and cosy Sunday lunch are the mainstays of this traditional British restaurant. The sister venue above, Angelica, offers panoramic city views and moreish cocktails.

Kendells Bistro, St Peter’s Square – High quality French food and wine are very much the focus of this relaxed, intimate bistro, with a regularly changing menu and large prix fixe for early diners.

The Box Tree, Ilkley – Not quite in Leeds, but a short train ride away in Ilkley, this legendary restaurant – open since the early 1960s – has seen many of Britain’s top chefs pass through its Michelin-starred kitchen. Modern French cuisine and an extensive wine cellar.

Betty’s Café Tea Rooms, various locations – This Swiss-inspired bakery and patisserie has been serving elegant afternoon teas and other sweet treats for nearly a hundred years, with six venues in the market towns surrounding Leeds.

Watering holes

Head to North Bar for a wide selection of ales

North Bar, New Briggate – Opened in 1997 (with claims to be the first craft beer bar in England), they have a huge, constantly changing selection of very well kept beers, in bottle and tap. Its rare tipples, tap takeovers, tastings and brewer visits are best enjoyed outside peak times in this extremely popular bar. Their sister bar, Further North, is located in the Leeds suburb of Chapel Allerton.

Laynes Espresso, New Station St – The best coffee in Leeds can be found just a few steps outside the main railway station, as well as at various outposts across Leeds. Rotating coffee menus, breakfast options and a range of baked goods complete the offering.

The Alchemist, Trinity Shopping Centre – A huge range of crafted cocktails sets this elegant bar apart, with fantastic views of Leeds city centre from their heated wrap-around terrace.

Northern Monk Brewery Company, Marshalls Mill – The tap room of this Leeds craft brewery features twenty draft beers, showcasing their own offerings as well as the best from the north of England and beyond. Brewery tours, tastings and open brew days are also available.

The Stew and Oyster, Roundhay Road – When the summer sun is shining, their riverside terrace is the best place to be in Leeds. Craft beers, an excellent gin selection and fresh oysters are also a big draw.

Friends of Ham
Friends of Ham is a firm favourite with the locals
Kirkgate Market
Head to Kirkgate Market for the largest range of food or drink

Stocking up

Briggate Farmers’ Market, Briggate – Running the first and third Sunday of every month, Briggate Farmers’ Market brings homegrown fruit, vegetables and fungi, truly free-range eggs, local honey, unpasteurised cheeses, huge slabs of moist cake and Leeds Bread Co-Op bread to the central shopping district.

Abu Bakar, Queen’s Road – Every ingredient the international cook could want is stocked at Abu Bakar, just outside the city centre in a nearby suburb. There are grains, pulses, spices, pastes, fresh produce and a takeaway food counter selling all kinds of delicious Asian fritters.

Friends of Ham, New Station Street – Neal’s Yard cheeses and European charcuterie can be bought from their delicatessen or eaten in their restaurant, with venues in both Leeds city centre and the nearby town of Ilkley.

Kirkgate Market, Vicar Lane – Leeds city centre’s sprawling main market caters for every budget, with all kinds of fresh food, international ingredients and independent eateries.

Tall Boys Beer Market, Thorntons Arcade – Located in one of Leeds’ charming Victorian shopping arcades, this hipster beer shop and café connected to Northern Monk Brewery sells a huge range of speciality ales and craft beers. They also sell the best bread in Leeds, made by the nearby Leeds Bread Co-Op, as well as handmade crumpets, sandwiches and speciality coffee.

Don't miss...

Briggate Farmers' Market
Briggate Farmers' Market is where you'll find artisan producers
Try the Yorkshire curd tart, tea loaf, fat rascals, fruitcake with Wensleydale and parkin, to name but a few.

Nancy Anne Harbord

Yorkshire bakery specialities – Leeds and Yorkshire have plenty of speciality cakes and pastries that you won’t find anywhere else. Try the Yorkshire curd tart, tea loaf, fat rascals, fruitcake with Wensleydale and parkin, to name but a few.

Leeds International Beer Festival, Leeds Town Hall – Usually held over a weekend in early September, this raucous gathering in the city’s beautiful town hall showcases a huge number of brewers with snacks from the best local restaurants to help line the stomach.

Whitelocks Ale House, Turks Head Yard – The oldest pub in Leeds, founded in 1715 with gorgeous décor dating from the late 1800s. Serves real ale and cider, handmade bar snacks and an imaginative, locally sourced menu.

Yorkshire’s Rhubarb Triangle – Forced rhubarb, which thrives in the cold, wet winters of the region, has been grown in the area between Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield for the past hundred years. Farm visits are available between January and March, and Wakefield holds a dedicated festival every February with cooking demonstrations, a market and tours of key producers.

Leeds Indie Food Festival Scattered across Leeds’ many foodie venues, this festival has talks, demonstrations, special dinners, markets, pop-ups, kids’ events and films throughout the month of May.