Love Leeds…

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to return to one of my favourite cities in the UK; Leeds. I adore Leeds, I spent three years there as a student before I moved to the smoke for work but deep down, I know if I was going to live anywhere else in the U.K., I would love it to be Leeds. Some of it, I’m sure, it nostalgia- student life in Leeds is simply incredible, it’s a city built around students and it looked after me well. But I still love going to Leeds now and sadly, I’m now a long way off from being a student.

While it’s definitely true that most of the people you’ll meet in Leeds are friendly and more likely to say hello than us grumpy Londoners, that’s not the main reason. For me, I think it’s because it’s a really accessible city- nearly everywhere you’ll want to go is within walking distance and nothing ever seems too far away. There’s a huge selection of places to go and you’ll never be short of choice- add to that cheap prices and it definitely makes for one of my favourite places to visit, so I thought I’d pass on  a few of my top tips if you ever get the opportunity to visit.

1. Art’s Cafe, Call Lane

Art’s Cafe is genuinely one of my favourite places to eat, not just in Leeds but anywhere. Don’t go expecting pretentious ‘fine-dining’ or fuss but if you’re looking for a great meal with well thought-out and adventurous flavour combinations, served at a really affordably price, in the buzzy setting of a cafe/bistro, then this is the place to go. I genuinely believe you wouldn’t get food this good anywhere in London for the price you will in Art’s Cafe.  When I went this time round, I enjoyed a delicious pork belly, fennel and seafood stew- not flavours I’d usually put together but it was fantastic. Art’s Cafe was also the first place I ever drank a glass of my favourite red wine, Argentinian Malbec, so it seems simply wrong for me to go now without getting a bottle for the table.

2. Smokestack, Lower Briggate

Smokestack is a prohibition style cocktail bar that’s been around since long before they were ‘in.’  They specialise in delicious cocktails made by the expert bar staff and funk and soul music- on a Friday or Saturday night, they tend to stick to the classic hits that we all know, which means there’s usually lots of silly dancing and singing along.  The atmosphere is fun and lively but chilled at the same time, I’ve never been there when the atmosphere hasn’t been brilliant…and trust me, I’ve been there once or twice!

3. Selabar, New Briggate

Sela Bar is, as the name suggests, in the basement and it’s a cosy hideaway. They have a great selection of beers, including lots of flavoured Belgian beers if that’s your thing. They’ll often have acoustic or jazz sessions on the go in the evenings, some livelier than others and you’ll find it’s the kind of place to while away an evening with friends- once the night is underway, don’t expect to grab a table easily as it’s a really popular and cosy spot, so get there relatively early and grab one of their delicious pizzas while you’re at it!

4. The Reliance, North Street

The Reliance is the most tucked away of my choices, it seems like you’re about to end up on the ring road when you’re walking to it but don’t be disheartened, it’s worth going slightly out of the way for. (And, by out of the way, I still mean a 5/10 minute walk from Briggate.)  The Reliance is a great pub which also serves good food- I tend to enjoy going there for Sunday brunch with a big cup of coffee and the papers but it’s just as much fun in the evening, with a really well stocked bar and a comfy mix of tables to eat at and big sofas to sink down into.   Sometimes you can’t really describe why a pub is good, it just is. And The Reliance just is.

There are so many more I could have mentioned but these four are my must-do’s every time I make it into West Yorkshire. That said, there’s always time to try some more and I’m sure lots has changed since I moved away in 2009…have I missed any of your favourite Leeds spots off?

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The Heart of the Home…

Like many young Londoners, I’ve spent the last four years bouncing from rented flat to rented flat, never settling in more than one place for longer than a year. Last weekend, I moved into my latest home, to a flat tucked away in the top of an old science college, as part of a live-in guardian scheme. When my flatmates moved in, they were essentially given a shell; a series of classrooms with little in the way of home comforts and it’s been down to them to turn the shell into a home- I have to say, coming in at this stage, they’ve done an incredible job.

One of the things I like most about my new home is the kitchen. It’s nothing special, really, no bells and whistles. In fact, we don’t even have a fitted cooker, just a little countertop electric one. It wouldn’t exactly make the front page of Ideal Home magazine but it gets the job done.  But what makes this kitchen so refreshing for me is that it’s a heart of the flat and it’s lived in by people who value the importance of sitting down to a nice meal or even just a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.  You don’t need to throw money at something to make it right for it’s purpose and having a place that feels like a kitchen means I’ve cooked more in this kitchen in 3 nights than I did in weeks in my previous flat, where we had an open-plan kitchen, which was essentially the bare minimum space for cooking tacked onto the edge of the living room, with no space to do anything other than heat and serve and no table to eat at. Having a proper space dedicated to food just makes me want to get cooking again!

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We have a perfectly spacious table, which can fit all of us around to share a meal. We have enough pots and pans to keep even the messiest chef happy , hung on a fantastic improvised ‘pan holder’ made out of just a pallet and a chain. We also have enough herbs and spices to make sure the things coming out of the kitchen are things we want to eat. And to add to this, two of my flatmates have recently taken an interest in growing their own herbs and vegetables, which seem to be flourishing nicely.

Of course, I’d love one day to have  a nice, big, eclectic kitchen like these…

The kitchens I love are the ones with soul and character- give me a higgledy piggledy, lived-in kitchen with the personal touch over a stainless steel, premium kitchen any day. But that’s a long way off for me yet…

In the mantime, hopefully there will be plenty of recipes coming out of my new kitchen that I can share with you  here.  My first home cooked meal in my new flat? Some delicious smoky pork tacos, served with avocado salad and a tasty glass Malbec, perfect for a relaxed Saturday night in.

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You can find the recipe here:

I highly recommend it, though I suggest adding a good handful of fresh red chilli into the mix along with the onions for a kick!

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