Think you know everything the Leeds food and drink scene has to offer? Think again!
Kyle Green, who runs the Leeds Foodie blog, gives us the low-down on 24 essential foodie secrets to uncover in 2016.
Hidden foodie locations
1. You may never have visited Roxy Ball Room but you’ll almost certainly have walked past it without knowing it’s there. Occupying the second floor of its spot on Boar Lane, its entrance is tucked around the corner on Albion Street and access is gained through an unassuming door. Upstairs there’s a range of top-notch beers on offer, fresh pizzas, table tennis, and beer pong. Take your experience up a notch by booking their VIP room, which features a pool table, self-service bar, and space for around 50 of your nearest and dearest.
2. Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen isn’t exactly a hidden location, but it hides a pretty neat surprise on its rooftop. Walk up the three flights of stairs and you’ll stumble into perhaps the most breathtaking roof terrace space in the city. Filled with interesting decor, warm and cosy lighting and patio heaters, this is the spot to while away summer evenings in Leeds.
3. Speaking of spectacular rooftops in Leeds, the SkyLounge at DoubleTree by Hilton offers stunning views across Leeds and a fine range of (expensive) drinks. It’s worth heading into this city centre hotel just to pop in the lift to the top floor.
4. The Maven is one of the most popular hidden nocturnal spots for music and booze lovers in Leeds. The entrance is so easy to walk past and you need to take a bit of a leap of faith to actually head into this drinking den, but once you do, you’ll find it’s all worth it. The doorway can be found at the top of Call Lane, but really you need to find someone who knows where it is the first time you go.
— Blind Tyger (@BlindTygerLeeds) November 19, 2015
5. On the subject of drinking dens, Blind Tyger is so hard to find it doesn’t even offer potential customers a clear address. Located at 5 ‘and a half’ Cross Belgrave Street, you actually access Blind Tyger via a hidden doorway which takes you up above Sandinista, Blind Tyger’s sister bar.
6. Leeds foodies were thrilled earlier this year to see a city centre venture awarded a Michelin star. Michael O’Hare earns his keep at The Man Behind The Curtain but this isn’t a restaurant you casually stroll past and take a good look in. The location and set-up of the restaurant is as much a part of the dining experience as the food, which isn’t what you might assume when you consider that it’s located on the top floor of Flannels on Vicar Lane.
— distrikt bar (@distrikt_leeds) August 16, 2015
7. If you enjoy tapas, a bit of a boogie, and a decent drink, you need to check out Distrikt. This is, however, easier said than done if you haven’t been before. Distrikt is a hidden underground bar with its entrance down an alley opposite Nandos. After heading down the stairs, you’ll be in a venue fit for spending an entire evening.
8. The Foundry is tucked away in the Round Foundry. It is well worth trying to find, even if it’s just to sample the owners’ encyclopaedic knowledge of food and drink.
Secret Menu Hacks/Seasonal Menus to try
— Taste of Leeds (@tasteofleeds) December 3, 2015
9. Bundobust is fast becoming one of the most-loved foodie haunts in Leeds. Offering fantastic Indian street food, the menu is a true sight to behold. If you fancy something a little different, though, we’ve been told that the friendly staff will, upon request, make you up a Bhaji Burger.
Our new dessert of pineapple upside down cake, served with vanilla ice cream and pink peppercorn sauce. pic.twitter.com/H4RVbSkiQg
— Shears Yard (@ShearsYard) December 29, 2015
10. A firm favourite with Leeds folk, Shears Yard offers a menu that is constantly evolving depending on seasonality and what’s available locally. The kitchen staff are used to producing dishes with interesting flavour combinations, so it’s likely that no two trips to Shears Yard will ever be the same.
11. If you’re easily bored and think variety is the spice of life, then The Hedonist Project is for you. Every three months they completely change their concept, altering the decor, music, food, and drink. The only thing that remains the same is the name! So far, we’ve seen it transformed from a gin haunt, to a rum shack, to a whisky parlour.
12. Cabana in Trinity (next to Trinity Kitchen) offers Brasilian barbecue alongside some tasty puds. If you still have room after their meat bonanza mains, you can make your own Peanut Butter Cup Froyo Sundae by ordering their peanut butter froyo and toppings of pacoquinha (peanut candy that tastes like the inside of a peanut butter cup!), chocolate flake, and chocolate sauce.
Deals – 2 for 1, pre-theatre bargains
13. MEATLiquor is the place to head to if you like a greasy burger and more chips than you can shake a (very large) stick at. Keep an eye on their Twitter feed as they often post money off offers on there for anyone attending arena shows who can present a valid ticket upon arrival.
— Sandinista Leeds (@SandinistaLeeds) September 30, 2015
14. Sandinista may be better known for its booze than its food, which is unfair given how tasty their tapas is, but if you show your theatre ticket when dining, you’ll get 20% off your food bill.
15. Not so much a pre-theatre deal as a cracking early bird offer, Sous Le Nez, perhaps the tastiest French joint in town, offers a three course meal including half a bottle of wine per person, for just £27.95 Monday to Saturday between 5.30pm and 7pm, or between midday and 2pm on a Saturday lunchtime.
16. If you like your meat, and you like all you can eat, Cattle Grid is the place for you. Head down on a Monday night and you can indulge in non-stop ribs and chicken wings for just over £20. Just remember to bring your appetite A-game.
Places where you select your own food
17. Teppanyaki is a popular Japanese restaurant that has been a real hit since opening. All of the main courses are cooked to your preference on the hotplate right in front of you. This is the perfect fusion of food and theatre.
— Fazenda Bar & Grill (@FazendaGroup) December 31, 2015
18. At Fazenda, which occupies a stunning location on the waterfront, you can pick exactly what you want to eat. You could visit and solely eat fillet steak, although that would be a waste when you consider what else is on offer. There’s also a fantastic, if pricey, cocktail menu.
19. Yo! Sushi may be a chain, but the branch in Trinity makes for a cool place to grab a bite to eat before heading to the nearby bars. You can pick exactly what you want here, simply grabbing plates off the conveyor belt as they pass you by.
20. Bulgogi Grill is perfectly suited for anyone heading out to the arena in town. This Korean restaurant brings locally sourced food to your table, where it’s prepared after being marinated in specially selected Korean marinades and spices. Tongs are provided!
Beautiful Roasts on the go until 8pm tonight. Great with Estrella Inedit or quite a few Pink Pepper gins. pic.twitter.com/nA89lJ4LWo
— RARE (@eatdrinkrare) September 13, 2015
21. At RARE on Lower Briggate, you can decide on the exact cut and size of your steak, allowing you to take full control of this decadent dining experience. Choose from Wing Rib, Porterhouse, Rump Cap, or Ribeye.
Street food venues
22. There’s perhaps nowhere else in Leeds where you can sit with your mates, one of you dining on a lobster roll, the other on a bowl of Vietnamese soup, and the other on a chocolate brownie. At Trinity Kitchen, you can do just that. With a number of permanent and pop-up street food venues and communal seating, Trinity Kitchen is a must-visit for any foodies heading to the city centre. The space in Trinity Kitchen also offers live music and entertainment, adding another element to this foodie experience.
— Malay Street Food (@NasiLemak_MCR) December 12, 2015
23. Belgrave has two permanent street food kitchens complementing its bar area, Dough Boys (pizza) and Patty Smiths (burgers). But there’s more to it than that at Belgrave, which hosts the Belgrave Feast every second Saturday of the month. These events offer three floors of street food, art, and entertainment and are extremely popular with students, locals, and serious foodies.
24. You might have tried the delights of Bangwok at various foodie festivals, but they’ve now opened up a permanent offering on Sovereign Place. Their Pad Thai comes particularly highly recommended by street food fans.
Find more from Kyle on his Leeds Foodie blog.
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Main image: MEATliquor Leeds on Twitter