Thursday 23 August 2018

My Best of Leeds

OH I have grown very attached to this city. I walk around feeling at home, and maybe more than most students as I stayed through each summer, truly accepting the place I studied to be the place I lived. Being the bougie foodie that I am, my mission from the September of first year was to seek out all the best hangouts and eatouts and eatins and drink-coffee-and-work-for-hours-eries. Three years on, and 21,000 steps later (this Tuesday), here is the mother list, broken up into appropriate titles so we don't get overwhelmed.

This post is written with students in mind, specifically LAU, Leeds and Beckket which share the same-ish proximity. However I'm not directing anyone into the rowdiest dwellings of the city, come on, it's me. Really, this could have been several blog posts but I wanted to create a proper resource to keep in your bookmarks and check back to instead. 

Walking around the city centre after running errands, I was always stuck trying to figure out where to go work. Understandably, I never found many spots that had the right ambiance, plug socket to chair distance and staff understanding that you yes you require a table for one, no menu and a latte. My favourite places may be a little out the way, but if that's a problem there's no lack of Prets, Starbucks and Caffe Neros. 

Union Coffee House   LS1 3BB
On Great George Street, this is a relatively short walk from the main uni campus and city centre. I've escaped to write many an evaluation here. With a calm vibe, great menu and very comfy seating I find it easy to concentrate. Their homemade chunky soups are heavenly in the colder months, too.

Fettle LS1 3BR
Scandi as fuck. A very I'm-getting-important-work-done spot. Their menu also looks incredible, so you can congratulate yourself on every new paragraph.

An absolute favourite of mine to work in, just down the road from uni and on the way home for many students in Hyde Park/Headingley. Loads of seating, ample plug sockets and a very tasty and Instagramable menu. Love it. It has a sociable vibe but that sort of creates the illusion you're hanging out with people while typing an essay in the corner.

The Bowery LS6 2AL
If you live in Headingley, this is your local spot. A range of comfy & scenic window seating, adequate plug sockets and wifi. Buy a coffee and a small plate of food and you can work for hours. If you need a break from staring at your screen you can walk around and browse the bits they have for sale from indie makers, or visit the gallery upstairs.

Belgrave LS2 8JP
Belgrave should be an integral location for any remotely Cool student who values a pint, neon lighting and slice of pizza. Their resident Dough Boys serve up a range of pizzas which you can buy by the slice, and if you get out of uni before 7pm (Sun-Thurs) they're half price. Downstairs is comfy seating for couples and big groups, then upstairs (and more stairs) is the rooftop bar which is GLORIOUS in the summer and which Leeds flocks to at the first sight of sunlight. They also host the 'Belgrave Feast' every second Saturday which is SO GOOD. A buzzing atmosphere and great food is just what you need to vibe with new people.

Dry Dock LS2 3AX
En route from the main campus into town, and the final stop on the Otley run, is Dry Dock. It's a pub in a ship, beached on the side of the road with grass to one side for the summer and rooftop (or deck) seating. Downstairs they have pool and other pubby qualities, and also host pub quizes! I didn't manage to get a picture, but think Boat and pints.

Opposite Cafe LS2 9HD
This place has the tastiest coffee in Leeds and I don't care what you say!! There, it's on record! I must have filled about eight loyalty cards at this place, and that's when I remembered to get it out for a stamp. An extra hot vanilla latte to go please, and maybe the daily soup or stew if it's cold out. This is literally Opposite the main uni campus, and a minute down the road from LAU. Although I prefer food from other cafes on the road, I always got my coffee from here.

Pickards Tea Room LS2 9HB
If you're partial to a baguette or exotic with your tealeaves, Pickards is a lovely lunchtime regular. They have a huge range of sandwiches daily, and every single one tastes good. In three years I managed to branch out from English breakfast all the way to Vanilla black tea and Darjeeling. That's sarcasm btw. Still very good and sometimes you need something more fancy than the stock of Yorkshire tea bags you carry in a plastic bag in your backpack because you're a student. They also have a rotation of dreamy mini quiches and squares of cake, the thought of which completely distracted me from work and had me wondering off for another 'break' many times.

Little Tokyo LS1 6DE
I have taken literally everyone I care about to dinner at Little Tokyo. As a Japanese food fiend, my world was made when I was recommended this place, and so, I pass that honour onto you too. With fantastic veggie & vegan options, my favourite dish, even as a meat eater, is the Vegan Chicken Teriyaki bento box. This is closely followed by the sushi sets and giant pork gyoza. The interior is beautiful, with low down seating, wonky wooden tables and fairy lights it's the perfect date night to share new food.

Almost Famous LS1 3AL
During my first visit back home, three months into uni, my mum remarked that she couldn't tell whether I'd put on chubby cheek weight or if I was smiling more. It's arguable that both could lead back to Almost famous. Food like this turns 'cheat days' into treat days. Oh god they're wonderful. Please, try the Bacon Bacon fries - an introduction to baconnaise. As for the burgers, follow your heart. I like them sloppy and full of BBQ pulled pork. At £2.50 there is no reason why you shouldn't sit down to share a portion of their amazing (and generous) fries over a pint once in a while. Pigging out in front of your date is a dealbreaker worth testing.

Teppanyaki LS2 3DD
It's your second or third date together and you thought you'd go somewhere a bit nice this evening to keep things spicy. Staring at a roaring fire and a chef dancing around, interacting with customers and throwing chopped onion in the air should fend off any awkward silences. It's an impressive suggestion, you'll score many points. You sit around a table with a hot plate and chef in the middle. Amazing for groups & birthdays too!

Bulgoli Grill LS2 8BT
Along the same lines is the Bulgoli Grill, a Korean dining experience where you get to cook your own meat and fish on the hot plate in front of you (no veggie option at all I'm afraid) and pair it with bottomless side salads & pickles! If you're up to the spice, this is a lovely date night as you essentially cook for each other without pressure or dishes to wash.

Fazenda LS1 4GL
True points to be gained here if your date loves meat, as this concept is essentially a buffet of still sizzling cuts of steak, sausages, chicken wings & more all marinaded and cooked to your liking. Waiters walk around with different options so you never have to wait long for something new to land on your plate, and the salad buffet is endless.

Be At One LS2 3AD
Leeds is the first location I had seen a Be At One, and now I'm very partial whenever I spot one in another city. It's my favourite cocktail bar to take friends who visit, and I even met my boyfriend on our first Tinder date inside. Admittedly Friday was the wrong night to hold an intimate conversation, but any weekday and you have an area to yourself, and fast cocktails made by the talented, chatty bar staff. On the weekends they even dance on the bar. I cannot fail to mention the cocktail that kept me coming back, the extraordinary, the delicious, Blueberry Muffin (photoed below). Think Christmas, but in a little drink. They're two for one at the right time, and please just go have one for me.

Laynes Espresso LS1 DL
A minute's walk from the train station, Laynes is the perfect spot to meet visiting friends. Here I've had two business meetings, brunch with friends, a morning after date and worked on my own in the window seat. The menu is wonderful, and leans heavily on the veggie side. The welsh rarebit is almost irresistible, and like every trendy little cafe in Leeds they have a great range of cakes. Popular as hell, it had to expand next door and I'm so happy they did. It's really given them room to show many more people how great they are. Even so, it still gets busy so I wouldn't recommend it as a reliable workspace.

Friends Of Ham LS1 DL
Friends of Ham, meaning they love to eat it, not vegan. This absolute gem is right up my street with its ploughman's board style menu filled with cheeses and cured meats to eat alongside your beer, wine or coffee. Really good times. As well as restaurant style seating they have squishy sofas and cosy wooden nooks to settle down in for a chat.

Lost + Found  LS1 6JL
If you're in town with the girls and feeling like a daytime cocktail, Lost and Found is a beautiful spot. If your grandmother was a millionaire this might resemble her lounge, and I say that as a compliment. Very vintage chic, the cocktails are tasty and sometimes come with a little flower on top. 

Stew And Oyster LS2 7EW
If you find yourself down near the canal, the Stew and Oyster is a wonderful little pub with great views, comfy indoor seating and a really great stew. Perfect for a meandering weekend lunch.

Mrs Athas LS1 6DE
A very popular cafe that you've probably already been recommended. Any place that provides a choice of four different hot chocolates is a place I will happily flock to. Their menu seems to change quite a lot, I've had both a basic (rustic) sausage sandwich and a very arty stack of pancakes, all served on little vintage plates. A sweet quirk of the place are the elaborate little teaspoons in the sugar pots of each table - I always hope for a cool one. Unfortunately it's one of the locations that prioritises moody ambience over a well lit Instagram photo. I get it, but pls.

Arcadia LS6 2UE
Back to the wonderful streets of Headingley, Arcadia holds the top spot as my favourite pub in the suburb. Politely declining involvement in the Otley run and as a result mainly populated by local men with big dogs, this pub is more about good old beer, conversation and peanuts. Under the stairs are a range of boardgames, and that's always a nice sign.

Colours May Vary LS9 9AG
Calling all arty students, the next two are for you! Colours May Vary is a beautifully curated shop, bursting with well made creative goods, design and culture focused magazines, books and now some plants too. They often have installations in the back room, as does their neighbour, Cafe 164, where you can pop for coffee after a long browse.

Fred Aldous LS2 7DR
The best art shop in town, Fred Aldous is obviously an essential for any art student in Leeds. It's also a must see for visitors, as the top floor is a bustling sea of colourful stationery, giftware and craft supplies! Need some gold alphabet balloons for your housemate's surprise party like RIGHT NOW? Fred Aldous. New notebook? Definitely the place. Minimalist toothbrush from HAY? Yep.

The Tetley LS10 1JQ
Well worth the little walk from town is The Tetley, a contemporary art gallery with a downstairs restaurant and bar. Somehow I had never been before this trip, but I know it's great for a walk around and lunch date. I would happily have spent hours working in the restaurant, too! It has the cosy cafe vibes you need.

I Am Doner LS6 3AA
Right. I had never entertained the idea of a doner kebab before I stepped into I Am Doner. Something about the very good rustic interior vibes lured me in. It works. Now I say this with great honesty and earnestly. These kebabs are *fucking wonderful. With their fresh doughy wraps, tasty relishes, pink cabbage and tangy sauces, it's a totally different experience. As they say, their customers are generally the sober (and the sad, queue a montage of my numerous deliveros...). However, if you're halfway through the Otley run and not in a good state, stuffing your face into one of these is luxurious. If you bare the 30 minute wait after about 8PM that is, when they get busy. 10/10 would recommend the halloumi wrap, while my boyfriend gets nothing but the Special. I see a seitan option now too!!

Retro Boutique LS6 2AS
A favourite post-uni pass time, walking around this Aladin's Cave of vintage homeware, kitchenware and clothing. Sometimes bare, sometimes bursting, this place really is worth a visit. I can now boast a vintage denim jacket, gold trolly and multiple enamel dishes, all of which I adore and use constantly. Yes, even the trolly. This place is well worth a look on your way into or from Headingley, and with LS6 is next door, it's always worth popping in with whoever you've taken out to lunch.

And that concludes my mammoth Best Of Leeds! Again, I could have drawn this out into multiple blog posts, but I really wanted a good resource for new students and Leeds occupants as surprisingly there are so many of you who have gotten in touch asking for recommendations! I really hope this post can introduce lots of people to the places I adored for three years and want to support, so do share it around. Happy lunching!


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