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.
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.
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!
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!
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?