Looking for bare bricks, parquet flooring, dangly filament light bulbs, Scandi chairs, clipboard menus, natural wine, staff in trainers, chefs in flatcaps… you get the point.
Here we’ve collected together some of the coolest places to eat in Leeds, from a hipster grill to ‘sequential’ food and a low-key sushi bar.
Book Now Leeds British
Sumptuous, grill-based cooked from the Belgrave gang. After years of neglect, former textile mill Headrow House has been transformed into a mixed-use arts and events space incorporating three bars, one beer hall, a live room, two roof terraces and a cocktail bar. The Ox Club is the restaurant on the ground floor where the successful team behind Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, together with chef-proprietor Ben Davy have created a contemporary grill house and kitchen. Meat (and more) is cooked on the solid-fuel grill and brunch is another strength. Options could include flat iron steak with cheddar eggs and smoked tomato jam, Korean fried chicken or French toast with BBQ pineapple and rum butter. The Ox Club has caught the eye of the Michelin and Good Food Guides thanks to a passion for fresh British herbs (evident in dishes like venison tartare with ramsons, pear and smoked fat or grilled asparagus with lemon balm and fermented peas), and fashionable ingredients or cuts. A good example is ‘pluma’, a very tender cut from the Iberian pig, or an aged lamb leg steak with dandelions, nettles and homemade black garlic ketchup. Puddings are things that everyone wants to eat: burnt Basque cheesecake, for example, and an upmarket jaffa cake crafted from homemade ice cream, blood orange and chocolate. The wine list is just the right size too; choice bottles include a Cypriot Limassol and a biodynamic Australian Barossa alongside a number of beers by North Brewing Company on draught.
Book Now Leeds Modern British
At Vice & Virtue, cocktails are a savvy delight, the tasting menus are a sprightly revelation – and it would be a sin not to appreciate both. While the location is hardly heavenly – squeezed into an odd wedge of a building overlooking the A64 with a colossal new student-housing tower on its way to blotting out the sun – this unexpected venue is home to the finest service in Leeds. There’s an excellent standalone bar, full of treats while food by chef/patron Luke Downing and his questing young brigade is fiendishly complex. Seasonal delights could include orange blossom eclair with a Yorkshire Blue cheese sauce, fermented little gem lettuce, rabbit and marjoram dumplings and a ‘not cheese’ course of creamed goat’s cheese and almond foam. For those who appreciate the good things in life.
Leeds Indian subcontinent
Veggie Bollywood blockbuster serving small plates and the best in beer. Bundobust is a huge beer hall serving tens of craft beers from a massive bar in the heart of Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens. It also happpened to win Restaurant of the Year at the 2017 Manchester Food and Drink Festival awards. How? Well, the story starts like this: Bradford buddies Marko Husak of Sparrow Bar and Mayur Patel of vegetarian Indian restaurant, Prashad, teamed up to open the first Bundobust in Leeds in 2014. The second opened in Manchester in 2016, with Bundobust Liverpool set to join the gang in 2018. Beer is Husak’s sphere of expertise but the small plate interpretations of veggie dishes from Prashad are a blast. Everything arrives in coolly branded little tubs costing anywhere from £4 to £7 (£80 will buy you the entire menu). Start with okra fries, Bundo chaat, before dipping into Mumbai-style veggie burgers (Vada Pav) made from spicy mash coated in besan flour and deep-fried, and served with chutneys and hot chillies. There’s a vegan Masala Dosa too, as well as perfect, fluffy rice cushions (idli) atop a thick soup (sambhar) of lentils and aubergine. Seasonal bhaji could include broccoli or brussell sprout while the simple chole saag (chickpea and spinach curry) is heaven sent. Beers could include Bombay Dazzler, a floral wheat beer tailor-made by Leeds’ Northern Monk brewers, Chorlton Brewing Co’s Mosaic Citra Double Sour, or the excellent Juicy Bhaghra, made by Danish outfit, Dry & Bitter.
12 Book Now Leeds Modern British
Inspired British cooking from Masterchef graduates. Home is the brainchild of Masterchef finalist Liz Cottam, and business partner Mark Owens, formerly head chef at Ilkley’s veteran Michelin star, The Box Tree (also in our Top 100). While Home has only been Home, so to speak, since 2017, this compact British restaurant is already a favourite of national food critics. Follow a trail of tea lights up several floors into a moody room, filled with simple creature comforts. Crisp white table clothes set the scene for five lunchtime or ten evening courses. Dishes could include room-temperature uncooked scallops with hand-made mayo, celeriac carbonara, or a festive take on venison with a tiny, spring roll pasty filled with fruit and nuts on the side. Local cheeses are a thrill, while desserts could include apple sponge with apple crisps and firmly whipped cream. Wines are well priced and imaginative with some particularly strong Spanish and Italian options. A genuine Northern light.
Book Now Leeds Modern British
Adventurous, nose-to-tail (or veggie, or themed) cooking at one of Leeds most promising restaurants. The Swine That Dines is fast become one of the toughest places to get a table in the city. Driven by a passion for extremely high welfare meat – and eating all of the animal – the seven dishes on the set menu (there’s no a la carte) are designed for two people to share, and clock in at around £50 between two. Seeing as it’s BYO too (for now), that’s an excellent deal for all involved. Head Chef is Stuart Myers, a man without borders who combines a background in brasserie cooking with inspiration from kitchens and bookshelves around the world. Ingredients are listed on the menu as collections of ingredients (a la Rogan…. Or any restaurant with Michelin aspirations) and arrive as cohesive combinations, a showreel if you will of processes and techniques boasting the chef’s versatility; cold and warm salads; classic French boudin and gratin; pates and rillettes and croquettes and falafels; pan-fried heart and liver and unpopular fish. Bring a wine with a pedigree as solid as The Swine That Dines – and you could be in for the night of your life.
Book Now Leeds British
Modern British dishes and homemade charcuterie in a relaxed dining room and pub, with craft beers. The seasonal menu is split into smaller and bigger plates.
The aforementioned specials push the envelope a little more, emphasising the ‘modern’ in modern British cooking. Ingredients have far reaching global influences with dishes such as pigeon breast, beetroot, Szechuan pepper and plum sauce sitting quite happily next to smoked salmon, Vollkornbrot, crème fraiche, cucumber and radish.
They claim to be an informal pub at heart, where customers are welcome to pop in for a pint, a coffee or a read of the paper, and the flexible space accommodates most requirements from lunch, through to pre-theatre dinner. There is even a Little Reliance Cinema for regular screenings.
Book Now Leeds Japanese
Small Japanese restaurant serving authentic sushi, bento and other Japanese delicacies, to create a fine dining experience. Hanamatsuri first launched in 2013 as a delivery service but due to its popularity, opened a full restaurant in August 2016.
Ingredients are sourced from Japan, including yellowtail, wagyu beef, and Japanese vegetables prepared strictly according to traditional Japanese methods to ensure quality and authenticity. Omakase (loosely translated as Chef’s Selection) is a Japanese fine dining tradition where the customer entrusts the construction of their meal to the chef.
As owner Chef Kaoru Nakamura begins the planning of his dishes early in the day, reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance. For those who prefer to choose, there is also an a la carte menu with a range of nigiri, hosomaki rolls, sashimi, kaisen-don and traditional small plates of pickles, vegetable and egg dishes.
3 Book Now Leeds Modern British
New look, same, wild styling from the Michelin-starred, glam rock loving superstar. In 2018, chef-patron Michael O’Hare upped sticks from the Flannels department store attic where he made his name with Man Behind the Curtain and moved into the basement of the same building. His inaugural restaurant enjoyed a £1.1million bespoke fit-out along the way. Think custom designed kitchen, lavish natural materials and robot toilets. Just as the restaurant’s namesake The Wizard of Oz ordered, the interior fittings conspire to create a disorientating atmosphere. The tasting menu could include a miniature bun in a nuclear launch button shade of red, filled with XO-sauced veal pancreas or a lava-ish langoustine tartare, glowing with green parsley oil. Vinegar-packed Iberico pork, garlic and almond enjoys Pollock-esque presentation, while Emancipation – O’Hare’s Great British Menu winning fish dish – is a beacon of white cod surrounded by black. Black crockery, black dashi, and a summit of black vinegar powder. Wines are thrilling – yet the question remains: how do you continue subverting expectations when being subversive is your whole schtick? The new room might take you out of your comfort zone, but O’Hare remains within his, which will continue to please fans and newcomers alike.
Leeds South American
Unapologetic late night bar food. This place treads the line between pop-up, supper club, and mobile kitchen. All the tableware is disposable.
Tacos hang over the edge of paper plates, three at a time. They’re filled with frills of shaved skirt steak and crispy potato, tequila-laced pork shoulder, or handfuls of crunchy whitebait. They’re wrapped in waxy tortillas that have a toasty corn sweetness, which adds to the flavour, rather than just being a raft for the fillings. Each comes with a tailored hot sauce, made in-house and mercifully left to apply to your own tastes/at your own peril.
Vegan and vegetarian options are given fair consideration rather than treated like an inconvenient stepchild; there’s jackfruit ones, where the slow-cooked fruit – zingy with spiced pear – resembles something between pulled pork and chicken shawarma, as well as the deep-fried avocado tacos.
Book Now Leeds European
Local chef Matt Healy had his work cut out taking on this Leeds stalwart– but he’s pulled it off spectacularly. Having excelled on Masterchef The Professionals in 2016, The Foundry his first solo venture and it’s a crowd pleaser of the best kind. Options could include classic steak tartare, baby chicken ‘Kiev’, hake loin with confit fennel and charred clementine puree and crème brulee éclair. Having trained at the likes of London’s Terroirs and with Simon Shaw at the original El Gato Negro in Ripponden, Healy knows the classics and cooks with flair. In terms of décor, a warm grey paint now coats the bar, and soft furnishings add a pop of colour. Xpletives, a mural by local artist Nicolas Dixon adorns a wall by the entrance, alongside modern neon signs. The result is a reliably excellent expereince, paired with lovingly curated wines and beers.