I eat out a lot. To the point where I’m almost ashamed. The other day I was outed on Instagram, tagged to do the #widn tag with the comment “@whipuntilfluffy who is prob out having an awesome looking lunch again” … What can I say? Guilty.
So with this (excessive, if anything) experience, I thought I’d put together a little guide to eating in this city. Whether it’s a 3 course meal or a quick snack, here are what I consider to be the best bites in town at the moment.
Shears Yard A firm dinner favourite since its opening in August last year, Shears Yard is my go-to for a special occasion. Brought to us by the team behind the Arts Cafe on Call Lane, Shears Yard serve seasonal, British cuisine with a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. Each plate throbs with tastes and textures, every element seems painstakingly created so that it all sings together on the plate. Not even the bread is boring (whipped truffle butter, anyone?). The dishes are complex, elegant, but they’re not pretentious. You might struggle to choose just one dish, so coordinate with a partner and go halvsies. Visit on a Thursday night, it can get noisy on the weekends. Dishes pictured include Duck liver parfait & homemade duck “ham”, black pudding brioche, white onion chutney & blackberry gel and Local corn fed chicken breast & leg, crab & lobster fritter, sweetcorn & chorizo salsa & lobster mayonnaise. Starters from £4.50, mains from £10.95.
Zucco This is the neighbourhood restaurant that dreams are made of. Draped in a candlelight blanket, Zucco serves Italian small plates, classic cocktails and really good house wine. It’s dark, atmospheric and there’s a clatter from the open kitchen just loud enough to feel exciting. The menu changes every day depending on the produce available but some favourites are there day in, day out. I’m talking fritto misto, served simply with the lightest, crispest of batters. There’s aubergine parmigiana, deep fried zucchini and mint and, what I believe to be the best plate of pasta this side of Rome, braised beef pappardelle. Zucco has become a regular in my friday night routine, the perfect place to rock up to after a couple of post-work pints, feeling a little tipsy and positively buzzing at the thought of the weekend. Treat yourself to a Negroni (it comes with a stripy paper straw!), order enough food to cover the table top and return the next day to nurse your hangover, sitting at the bar with a pizzette and a carafe of wine, ready to flick through the newspaper. Plates from £2.50 to £8.50. Book early in the week to secure a table on Friday or Saturday nights, but don’t panic if you didn’t plan ahead, time it right and there’ll be room at the bar.
Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen While it may not be the obvious choice for dinner in the city centre, this music venue and bar holds some serious culinary gems. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you might not get past the door without a lumberjack beard and full sleeve of tattoos, but never mind that, just bust on in there and get yourself some pizza. Belgrave currently offers three food options: Dough Boys Pizza, Patty Smiths & Fu Schnickens. Each offering is outstanding in its field, but the Guo Bao by Fu Schnickens are really something to behold. Little steamed buns made on site and filled with pork belly, hoisin, cashew nuts, sesame, palm sugar, pickled carrot & mooli, they originate all the way from Taiwan and I would go so far as to say they are the best single bite available in Leeds right now. The crispy panko chicken version is pretty tasty too. Here’s my advice: arrive at Belgrave, buy a pint of Symonds cider from the bar or a flat white from the Laynes pop-up, get yourself a guo bao, wait a bit (optional), get yourself some pizza, wait a bit (optional), get yourself a Patty Smith’s Dirty Burger, repeat. Grab a half price slice (£1-£1.40) everyday until 7pm, get two Guo Bao for £6.
The Reliance What I consider to be one of Leeds’ unsung heroes, The Reliance is that perfect, solid option to keep in your back pocket and play as your trump card. Sure, it’s pub grub, but it’s more refined than rustic. The dishes are seasonal, they’re simple but in the most glorious sense of the word. No foam, no espuma, no soil, but flavours that bowl you over. It’s good, honest food and I never leave one morsel on my plate. Not one. Whether you’re soaking up last night’s gin with a fish finger sandwich, or getting rosy cheeked over candlelight and featherblade, The Reliance is that old friend who’s just easy to be around. With good beer and relaxed, friendly service, you’ll leave with a smile on your face. I wish I lived next door. Oh, and they cure their own charcuterie too. Starters from £4.25, mains from £9.95.
Trinity Kitchen I thought and rethought Trinity Kitchen’s inclusion in my top five, and while it feels wrong to tarnish the indie attitude of this list so far, it is true that some of the best things I’ve eaten over the past six months have been part of the shopping centre’s street food line-up. Trinity plays an important role in bringing exciting and diverse street food to the people of Leeds, and without the capitalist big-guns I wouldn’t have discovered this month’s favourite, Dorshi, or even (heavens, just imagine!) my beloved OFM. I can’t endorse any of the main-stays in the Trinity Kitchen set up, I’ve tried all of them and been thoroughly unimpressed, but the street food rotation is always interesting and provides somewhere different to go on an otherwise monotonous lunch break. I look forward to seeing what’s new every month and I like that it brings London traders up here to Yorkshire, somewhere they probably didn’t give two hoots about before. Highlights have been the Bacon Blue Burger (@OFMLondon), crispy chicken with fried “rice” (@eatDorshi) and just about everything from Cafe Moor (@CafeMoorLeeds). Street food meals starting from around £4.50.