I can be a very judgemental when it comes to anything outside London at the best of times ("What they have Byron and Pret in Leeds?!".."Yes Stella, we don't live in the stone age outside London you know!") but I ended up having yet another truly fantastic weekend surrounded by equally great people and defying a lot of the preconceptions I had of going anywhere outside the M25. Once our very fun and boozy Virgin train ride on the Friday eve was done, I enjoyed two days filled with great food at even greater prices, great company and a whiff of countryside air and greenery. I am already planning a return trip in the summer to see York which we didn't manage to squeeze in this time, cook up some BBQ's and hang out with a family that has very much made me feel at home, something I am eternally grateful for.
Below are my foodie highlights but please let me know if I have missed any must-sees as I will be sure to check them out next time! Also look out for another Yorkshire related foodie post very soon. Three cooking obsessed girls (Maddie, her mum and I) let loose at a farmers market and armed with the best selection of cook books resulted in quite the feast!
COFFEE & CAKES AT MRS ATHA'S - LEEDS
I am a massive coffee snob- heck I have nearly made barristas cry on several occasions when my cappuccino wasn't frothed properly (it is a bit of a running joke in my office how many times I go back to complain about my morning dose of caffeine) and my guide/host/colleague/all round friend Maddie was very aware of that, promising me truly great coffee at this little gem in the centre of Leeds and thankfully she wasn't wrong! With all the characteristics of the independent coffee shops I love so much in London -artisan cakes, bearded barristas etc. it definitely made me feel at home immediately but it wasn't just the looks that impressed. My cappuccino was super smooth, creamy and with not a hint of bitterness. One of the best cups of coffee I've had this year so far and a must try for anyone living in or visiting Leeds!
DRINKS AT HEADROW HOUSE - LEEDS
Headrow Houses is very East London and as much as I hate being a bit cliché, inevitably living, working and partying in this part of the world I can't help but love anything that is on the good side of hip. And this place definitely is just that. Every floor fulfills a different purpose and comes with a slightly different concept- a super cool rooftop bar, which it was a little too cold to enjoy on this occasion, an event space, a restaurant and a tropically inspired cocktail which we settled for on this occasion. Cocktails are well made, cheap- once you sign up for a free Headrow House membership only £8 for two of their speciality gin cocktails during their happy hour, served in amazing goblets and a real joy to drink. It's the sort of place I'd be wasting way too much time and money at were it in my neighbourhood and could as easily be in New York's East Village as it is 2 minute walk from Leeds's town centre with it's young, fresh and vibrant feel.
MACAROONS AT BETTY'S - HARROGATE
Betty's bakery and tearoom is a real British institution and it's Afternoon tea a thing of legends that people happily queue hours for. Yes, the two macaroons I had to takeaway may not have been the best ones I have every had but this place is nonetheless magical and a must visit if you are in the area. It's like time has pretty much stood still here since they first opened their doors in 1919- staff in old school ruffled aprons and uniforms, every baked good carefully presented like a jewel and service wonderfully eccentric and accommodating and like they are serving the Queen not a cynical 24 year old London girl. It's great to see that places like this still thrive despite fickle culinary trends and fades and sitting down for their afternoon tea, with our without a bit of a wait, is without a doubt pretty high on my list of foodie things I still need to try!
THAI FOOD AT ZAAP - LEEDS
Before our train back to London we had just enough time for a quick, tasty (and after our massive home cooked veggie feast the night before) relatively healthy dinner. Maddie immediately suggested Zaap, not far from Leeds's city centre, and was met with immediate doubts from my side. You know when you try a cuisine once somewhere bad and it kind of puts you off it for good? Well I've had some rather lacklustre Thai food in the past and had somehow managed to avoid it altogether for a few years to the point were I would happily put my nose up at the thought of a Pad Thai without ever having tried one. However after a quick instagram stalk, thank the lord for being able to geotag search a restaurant, helping avoid eating out disappointments all round, I decided to give Zaap a go- everything I saw looking incredibly fresh and tasty. The restaurant is super colourful and fun inside (a sort of Thai version of Lebanese chain Comptoir Libanis), prices are ridiculously good with almost all mains under a tenner and the food is just as good as Maddie promised. I went for the classic Pad Thai in the end and it turned out to be a noodle dish bursting full of flavour, topped with crunchy peanut, huge and juicy prawns and finished off with a real chilli kick. Zaap completely changed my perception of Thai food and if they had a London branch, here is hoping for one soon, I would have already returned to sample more of their dishes. I didn't think a Thai restaurant in Leeds out of all places would change my opinion of this cuisine but it sure did!