Leeds may not be the most obvious choice when it comes to a weekend getaway from London but as I happen to have a rather brilliant friend and her fantastic family live near there I have grown a real soft spot for the place over a few visits. Leeds indeed has a lot more to offer when it comes to eating, drinking and shopping than one might think.
In fact in the 9 months or so since my last visit the city has really transformed with several new and super stylish shopping arcades popping up, housing the likes of & other Stories as well some swanky rooftop bars not to dissimilar to once we queue for ours for in London (minus the crowds and also cheaper). I of course was lucky enough to have a fantastic guide in the shape of my friend Maddie who made sure we only hit the best and newest spots. These turned out to be fantastic across the board and more than met my very high London standards which is why I can't wait to share them with you. I for one can only wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Leeds and the surrounding Yorkshire area, you may just be surprise by how varied and fun it is ( plus the people up there are pretty decent too ;) )
TOP NOTCH COFFEE & BRUNCH @ LAYNES ESPRESSO
I am a true connoisseur, or just very picky depending on how you see it, when it comes to coffee and Layne's Espresso, a great cafe in the centre of Leeds, definitely is up to scratch, able to produce a flawlessly creamy cappuccino of the kind you never want to see the end of. It also has a pleasing and antipodean inspired menu with the likes of corn fritters with halloumi and shakshuka making an appearance.
Feeling slightly worse for wear from the night before we went for simple and comforting with a generous portion of creamy scrambled eggs served on sourdough and side of fragrant grilled tomatoes. Though not the most ground breaking of dishes, the eggs were cooked to perfection and presentation was totally on point, the cooks after all with little space to hide in their prep, with an open kitchen being the centre point of the upstairs dining room. Portions are super generous and I for sure will be back to try their more complex dishes next time in town and in need of a good brunch
FANTASTIC TAPAS @ AMBIENTE
I am a sucker for good tapas, in my eyes food can't get much better than when it's served as an array of flavourful small dishes best enjoyed shared, but have sadly so far struggled to find decently priced Spanish dining options in London.
Ambiente, a cosy little spot by the canal and a few minutes walk away from Leeds city centre, came highly recommended by Maddie, who I trust blindly when it comes to all things food related, so after a short deliberation whilst sipping on some delicious Aldi Champagne (why oh why is there no Aldi near me in London), we booked a table here to start our Friday night in style. Ordering drinks proved easy with Aperol Spritz's only a fiver and a glass of refreshing Cava coming in at the four pound mark. The menu was equally appealing with a great selection of none meat options and we had seriously restrain ourselves from ordering too much, enticed by the sound of so many of the dishes.
Stand out dishes included the patatas bravas- a Spanish classic that is very hard to get right, too often drowned in clangy aioli or lacking oomph in the tomato sauce, but was cooked to utter perfection here, the roast cauliflower and their outstanding deep fried calamari with aioli. I usually hate squid but here the texture lacked the usual rubber like consistency, making it a delight to eat. With service as good as the food and prices more than decent I can only sing Ambiente's praises and if a good dinner is what you are after in Leeds, I'd highly recommend you snag a table there and enjoy some first class tapas!
BEST ESPRESSO MARTINIS IN TOWN @ ROLAND'S
Another one of Maddie's favourite, this cosy little bar with a laid back and slightly older vibe, knows how to mix up a damn good cocktail. On this occasion we only stayed for one drink on our bar tour, sampling their outstanding espresso martini made with Mr Black cold press coffee liquor (the proper good stuff) but I could have easily stayed for one (or five) more expertly mixed drinks. The place in Leeds for cocktails that won't break the bank. My tip- make an espresso martini the first thing you order for that alcoholic caffeine rush, you won't regret it.
LIVE JAZZ & A SPEAKEASY ATMOSPHER @ THE DOMINO CLUB
I was a little perplexed by The Domino Club. Why you may ask? Well firstly you get ID'd outside a shut but by the looks of things fully functioning barber shop through which you then walk to find a secret door that leads you down some stairs to the Domino club. This is of course not the first "hidden" bar I've come across but in my Londoner ignorance I just didn't really expect to find such a cool concept to outside New York or London.
I am of course very happy to be proven wrong and it wasn't just the unusual way of entering the place that surprised me at the Domino club. No, downstairs what we were met with was an utterly fantastic speakeasy style club and bar, made even more brilliant by a live jazz band performing - I may as well have been at the hippest spot on the upper east side not in the city centre of Leeds. This place that sort of infectious atmosphere I hadn't experience in a long time, London's clubs slowly but surely blending into one generic clubbing experience, and am so glad that I didn't let my silly preconceptions stop me from going to this truly great spot. Leeds locals I suggest you go and see it for yourself asap. There is no place I'd rather spent the late hours of a Friday night in Leeds.
HIDDEN BREAKFAST GEM @ HOUSE OF KOKO
House of Koko may be in a slightly odd location, in the midst of a Leeds suburb, but that doesn't stop this super cute cafe from serving great coffee and quirky brunch options. My order of pancakes with creme fraiche and plums didn't only look good but tasted proper homemade while I couldn't help but feel serious food envy looking at the figs with goats cheese and honey on sourdough that Maddie and her mum ordered. Worth seeking out if you want a chilled and super cheap brunch or breakfast in Leeds.
And last but not least... nothing beats a bit of home cooking with two fellow amazingly talented foodies in the shape of Maddie and her mum Sara! We cooked up quite the feast, with way too much (good) and enjoyed in their incredible outdoor space! If this was mine I'd basically live in that area for the entirety of summer!