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Wednesday 25 April 2012

A Pandora's Box Guide to Leeds

WARNING: Everything in this is so ridiculously tempting that you will be scrabbling at thetrainline's website crying "Please defile my bank account with your overpriced ticket charges, only take me to Leeds immediately." Be careful opening it with your eyes.

Having stood on Yorkshire soil precisely twice in my life (staring at it from trains to and from university doesn't count, I am told) I sought out the wisdom of a girl who has lived in Leeds for years: Kathryn Hanke, of the tremendous comedy sketch group The Dog-Eared Collective.

Rather than give me a couple of places to check out, Kathryn sent me the most marvellous selection of her favourite places in Leeds so I have compiled a guide of the ones that tempted me most (essentially, all of them) with one or two extra and some comments from Kathryn. "They may not be undiscovered, but they are lovely," she says. Sounds pretty good to me.

Arts Cafe
"This does lovely foody lunches and has a nice tucked away vibe," says Kathryn. "If I was taking out someone artsy - this would be stop no.1!" The website alone looks lovely; delicious sample menus which remind me that I still don't have the slightest clue what a remoulade is. There's a recipe for chilled beetroot & apple soup with goats cheese on the homepage which makes me want to curl up with a book of poetry and feel wholesome. And then get leathered on wine and bark out Voltaire.
Dock Street Market. You can buy that sofa, y'know
Dock Street Market
I spent much of Tuesday staring forlornly at my computer and scratching it in the hope that a home-baked sourdough sandwich would fall out of the speaker: as well as food from their own on-site bakery DSM offers teapot cocktails (the Corpse Bride's take on a classic Zombie sounds wonderful); Bottega Milanese coffee, delicious-sounding food and furniture so lovely that you can literally buy it and take it away with you. They also have a sizeable collection of board games. Homenahomena.

Can we have lunchtime again? -  Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo
Kathryn sent me this before lunch and I had to stop reading it because it was making me foam at the mouth with greed. Enjoy:
"This has been my favourite restaurant for years! It has a massive veggie menu (including everything from tofu steaks to vegetarian duck and mango!) but also extensive meats, and it's a little Japanese den. Probably the most popular things they do are bento boxes (dressed salad, tempura, rice and whatever meat you've chosen) and THESE HAVE ACTUALLY GOT BIGGER SINCE I FIRST STARTED GOING. Truly incredible.

"The restaurant is magical. They have decking over a koi carp pond which you can sit on and watch the fish as you eat, twinkly lights, and staff who wear full Japanese regalia. Finally, they do two of the best puddings ever - really light crispy spring roll parcels filled with warm marshmallows - and profiteroles with ice cream inside and seaweed sauce. It's a revelation."
I have since had lunch, and am foaming at the mouth still.

For drinks, A Nation of Shopkeepers (which rivals York's The House of Trembling Madness for cracking bar name, IMO) and North Bar are both well-stocked with artisan beers and spirits - North Bar has around 50 whiskies which is just about enough to keep the Sluttière crew occupied on a Sunday evening. I'm also jonesing to try The Maven, a speakeasy bar that serves a £25 gin punch bowl cocktail called Mother's Ruin, as well as drinks in teacups on wine stems. Nice.

Beautiful goodies at Birds Yard (picture by Click-Track Heart
And then there's shopping. I am desperately trying to reconcile my lack of funds with my entire lack of summer clothes so have tried to gloss over shops in Leeds, but then Kathryn threw in something which put all my good plans to nought. Birds Yard had me clutching at my desk in a sort of desperate fit: three floors of vintage shops, boutiques, upcycled and recycled and handmade goodies for the home and the wardrobe.

*reconciles self to fact will have to buy extortionate train ticket to Leeds immediately*

The Dog-Eared Collective's show You're Amazing, Now Look at Me is touring, and then 2-26 August at the Underbelly for the Edinburgh Fringe. Find them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


  1. Brilliant post, thank you! Often visit Leeds so will come in handy! LOVE Little Tokyo too.... here's my last post on it.....

    1. What a lovely post - your pictures are particularly gorgeous, and reading about Little Tokyo made me hungry all over again. Thank you for more recommendations of lovely places to try, Emily!

  2. Ooooooo, now you've let the cat out of the bag about Art's Café. It'll be even more difficult to get a table there before going to the WYPH. It's truly good.

    But Leeds is good -- shopping of course, and restaurants, and bars, but also: West Yorkshire Play House, Hyde Park films, Brotherton Library, City Art Gallery (and exquisite Grimshaws) and the wonderful tea room, the Calls, the Market ... oh dear, that's my personal itinerary for time in Leeds.

    I feel sorry for Londoners, really. Crowded, high prices, when in the North we have everything without the stress.

  3. Ah Nation of Shopkeepers! Love it for the fact that if you order chips they give you a pot Reggae Reggae sauce AS STANDARD. Pies aren't as good as those in House of Trembling Madness though!

  4. Amazing double fried fried at nation of shop keepers and the burgers are heaven in a bun. Also the fact they do endless free giga/faits I saw the milk for free and I'm of to a comic book fair this sat too!


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