The Best Restaurants in Leeds
42 the Calls’ Guide to the Top Five Places to Eat in Leeds
British food was once considered Europe’s culinary weak link: unoriginal in its origins and deficient in its deliverance. But we’ve come a long way since the days of going out for dinner and only being able to order a steak, chicken tikka masala or fish ‘n’ chips - not that we still wouldn’t order these staples of British gastronomy (especially Michael O’Hare’s famous take on a fish supper), there just now happens to be a lot more choice! Step forward Leeds and its thriving foodie resurgence, spearheaded by these five fabulous restaurants.
Wharf Street (1 Minute Walk from 42)
If any restaurant captures the cocksure change in the fortunes of British cuisine, it’s Shears Yard. Housed within a former canvas and ropeworks on The Calls’ buzzing restaurant row, the eatery makes no effort to buck local trends of echoing the building’s industrial past - sound familiar?
In fact, they positively play on the exposed brickwork and lofty ceilings to create a well-lit space - bestowed by oodles of natural light in the day and low-hanging lightbulbs in the evening - flaunting stripped-back décor and a trendy bar to boot, which only elevates the outlandishness of the wining and dining on display.
In a nut (or a subtly seasoned soft-crab) shell, this is modern British food done properly. Creative, off-the-cuff, unpretentious and delicious; using only the best in local, seasonal produce - which also extends to the drinks menu!
Saint Peter's Square (8 Minute Walk from 42)
Picture the scene. It’s a mild late-August evening and as you stroll down a quaint, cobbled side-street, the aromas of garlic and freshly-baked baguettes beckon you into a busy Parisian bistro. Upon entering, the flavours only intensify as you are instantly entranced by the warm-wooden interiors and muted conversations that ensue in a space lit only by candlelight. Then a friendly-looking waiter approaches, smiling as he says “Table f’two, lad?” and you swiftly remember that you are indeed in Leeds. Not Paris.
Okay, so this is a gross exaggeration, but the point remains: this is an authentic Parisian bistro, in Leeds! But there’s nothing laboured about owner and chef, Steve Kendell’s approach to this take on a French institution. Everything about Kendells Bistro hits the spot - from the inviting interiors, through to the ever-changing menu of hearty and flavoursome French cuisine - making this an undoubted tour de force in Leeds’ gastronomic lineup.
Albion Street (10 Minute Walk from 42)
It would be fair to say that dinner is best enjoyed with a view. And few restaurants in Leeds rival that of Crafthouse: overlooking Boar Lane rooftops and the Grade I listed Holy Trinity Church, which soars to new-heights in summer as you dine upon an exquisite wrap-around terrace.
But Crafthouse is on hand to serve up a treat whatever the weather, and turning your attention inside will acquaint you with industrial-inspired interiors - formed of oak, marble, dark leather, black ceramics and patinated zinc - supplemented by specially commissioned artwork.
Then comes the food, courtesy of Lee Murdoch, which can be deemed artlike in itself: utilising avant-garde techniques and a Josper Charcoal Oven to conceive creations that are befitting of their uber-chic environment. After dinner, pop upstairs to the 6th floor of Trinity Leeds for a cheeky, chic-y cocktail at sister bar, Angelica.
Mill Hill (9 Minute Walk from 42)
Roughly translated, tharavadu refers to family and keeping traditions alive; and while we can’t speak for the traditions of Kerala - a slender coastal strip of south-western India - we’re glad their cuisine made it to Leeds.
And so is the rest of the United Kingdom, it would seem, with Tharavadu consistently voted among the top curry houses in the country! But if you’re in the market for your typical British take on this beloved import, you’re in the wrong place: there’s no jalfrezi or bhuna here. Just the sapidly-spiced, street-food-like, seafood, poultry and vegetarian (with a few red meat) dishes of south-western India, lovingly made by authentic Kerala chefs and served, always with a smile.
N.B. The dosas are to die for.
The Man Behind The Curtain
Vicar Lane (7 Minute Walk from 42)
As the name may elude to, The Man Behind The Curtain is something of an enigma - perched above a clothes shop like some kind of Dorothy Perkins speakeasy. But once you’ve stumbled across the entrance and stepped inside the Abstract Expressionist centres - Jackson Pollock would undoubtedly feel at home tucking into these surreal and colourful creations - there’s nothing Dorothy Perkins about the food (no offence, Dotty).
This is, after all, the home of the city’s only Michelin Star, attained by the cerebral, risk-taking and virtuoso man behind the curtain, Michael O’Hare, whose elaborate tasting menus are constantly changing, deliberately challenging, downright whacky; but never disappointing.
In fact, the only conceivable disappointment about The Man Behind The Curtain is its waiting list - at one time the longest in Europe! Although, view this as you will, as it clearly means they’re doing something right. Just make sure you book (well) in advance.