I was in Leeds last month co-running the Leeds Fun Weekend (which went really well!) and of course also seeking out delicious food. Spoiler: I found some.
Tharavadu, 7–8 Mill Hill, LS1 5DQ (website)
Veg express lunch (photo) was well-priced at £7, and nicely varied, with rice, dosa, beetroot curry, mashed veg, chickpeas, sambar, and two chutneys. It was all competent, but the spicing was a little indistinct and nothing really stood out. The chickpeas were perhaps the best of the lot; nicely softened, and enlivened with a topping of chopped fresh tomato and onion. The dosa was crisp around the edges and soft in the centre, but a little greasier than ideal.
Accessibility: A step to get in. Toilets not checked.
The Reliance, 76–78 North Street, LS2 7PN (website)
Anchovies with lemon and smoked paprika were very nicely smoky. Squash and garlic dip had a great flavour and texture — smooth and thick — and I really liked the crunch of pumpkin seeds on top. I wished they hadn’t poured a pool of olive oil on top, since I felt it took away from the dip itself. Rosemary foccacia was fine, with well-judged use of rosemary and salt, if again a bit too oily for my taste (photo of anchovies/dip/bread).
Grilled cauliflower with tomatoes, pomegranate, and almonds was disappointing — the cauliflower was burnt-in-a-bad-way and simultaneously a touch undercooked, and the cherry tomato I tried was comically underripe. (I left almost all of this dish but the staff didn’t ask what was wrong with it and I didn’t have the energy to start a conversation about it.) Meatballs with polenta were good overall — the polenta was lumpy, but the tomato sauce was fine and the meatballs were great, firm-textured, chewy-in-a-good way, perfectly seasoned, and with a deeply meaty flavour (photo of meatballs/cauliflower).
They also have a decent selection of real ales — I particularly liked the Kirkstall Dexter tonka/vanilla milk stout, which was sweet but not overly so, and subtly flavoured with vanilla and what I imagine must be the tonka bean (something I have never previously knowingly consumed).
Accessibility: No steps to get in, but the toilets are down a flight of stairs with sturdy handrail on both sides.
Out Of The Woods, Waterman’s Place, Granary Wharf, LS1 4GL (website)
This small independent coffee shop is a pleasant and convenient place for breakfast or a sandwich lunch near the southern exit from Leeds station, with chill-out music and friendly service. Sandwiches are made ahead of time and stored on a self-service fridge, but if you’re sitting in then they’ll unwrap them and put them on a plate for you.
All sandwiches are on doorstep granary bread, which is not my favourite, but the good-quality fillings in the Yorkshire roast ham and cheese sandwich made up for it. I wasn’t quite sure whether the tomato chutney and the wholegrain mustard complimented or competed with each other. Tea was by Teapigs, in a moderate-sized teapot.
Accessibility: No steps to get in. All the interior seating is on low backless stools. No customer toilet.
Red Chilli, 6 Great George Street, LS1 3DW (website)
It’s unclear whether this normally operates on the ground floor as well as
the basement level (I did ask, but I don’t think they understood me). On
my visit, only the basement was open.
涼拌粉皮 (unappetisingly translated as “mung bean pastry salad”) was pretty good (photo), with a nice balance of vinegar and sesame oil and just the right amount of garlic. The cucumber underneath was peeled, seeded, and neatly julienned. Some of the noodles could perhaps have been a little softer, but this is a minor quibble.
乾煸四季豆 (“stir fried French bean with chilli & minced pork”) was less good (photo). The beans were nicely wilted, and chilli and Sichuan peppercorns were present and correct for plenty of má là, but it was far too salty — I had to ration my rice, and even so I ran out of rice when there was still half the dish left.
Accessibility: Three steps with no handrail to get into the building, then a flight of steps with handrail on both sides into the basement. The room is quite dimly lit overall, but there are directed spotlights over most (possibly all) of the tables, giving plenty of light for menu-reading.
The Owl, Fish & Game Row, Kirkgate Market, LS2 7DT (website)
Omelette Arnold Bennett with crab (photo) had a lovely mustardy flavour, not too much cheese, and a reasonable amount of crab. Toast on the side was fine, though perhaps a little more of it would have been good. My companion had dippy egg and soldiers, which we felt was really quite a stingy serving in comparison to mine, for around the same price — she only got one egg, and a comparable amount of toast to me. Hers did come with an anchovy dip, which I ate some of, and found it smooth and rich without being too cloying or salty.
Accessibility: No step to get in, but the toilets are up a flight of stairs with no handrail.
Le Chalet, 31–32 Park Row, LS1 5JD (website)
Breakfasts are the big thing here, including a wide selection of galettes (the buckwheat crêpe type, not the pastry type). They also have an excellent and well-priced tea menu (and generously-sized pots — I’d been hoping to get to try two teas but it was just too much liquid given that we were about to go on an explore).
My companion chose the sausage galette (photo), while I went the “design your own” route (photo). My red onion chutney was overly sweet, but the spinach was well handled — not at all soggy — and the garlic pork sausage had a great flavour and texture. The galette itself seemed a bit undercooked; thick and pale and without any crispy bits.
Accessibility: Three or four steps to get in, with no handrail. There is a doorbell with a wheelchair symbol, but I don’t know if this actually does anything. Once you’re in there’s no steps to the toilet (a single unisex accessible cubicle).
Market Kitchen, Kirkgate Market, LS2 7HY (website)
This is a collection of street food stalls in its own separate area of the historic Leeds Kirkgate Market. I did very much like the juxtaposition of this modern, slightly hipster-ish food court with the traditional butcher, wet fish, furnishing fabrics, and haberdashery stalls of the rest of the market — it seems Leeds Council have successfully added new options without forcing out the existing traders (something many other local councils could learn from).
I had the black bean arepas (photo) from Kanassa “Colombian-inspired street food”. A few of the beans were undercooked, and the flavour was nothing special. The mango sauce was too sweet for my taste. I liked the arepas though; small ovoids with a crisp exterior and melted cheese in the centre.
I must also report on the Yorkshire pudding wrap (photo) chosen by another of our party. She said it didn’t really work as a wrap — she ended up eating it with a fork — but she seemed pleased with it otherwise.
I also ate at a few other places where I was paying more attention to the conversation than to taking detailed notes, so can only give a brief opinion on each.
The Indian Tiffin Room was fine, but as a West Croydoner I can get this food better and cheaper locally. I’d say it’s a good option if you’re not in the same situation as me, though. Accessibility: Three steps to get in, with no handrail. Some of the seating is up more steps. Accessible toilet on the level, other toilets in the basement.
The Kitty Cafe is not somewhere you come specifically for food (and if you do order food, you may have to fend off cats while you eat it), but my guacamole panini (photo) was actually pretty good. Accessibility: No steps to get in, and there’s plenty of seating on the level. Toilets are also on the level.
Ibérica was a lot better than I’d been expecting from a chain, and the building it’s in is really lovely. Most of the food was pretty good, but the stand-out was the octopus & confit pork (photo), which was so good we ordered seconds. Accessibility: Four steps to get in, with no handrail, and toilets are down more stairs in the basement.
Fuji Hiro appeared somewhat basic at first, and I wasn’t massively excited by the merely-OK hot food (photos), but the sushi (photo) was well above average, with generous portions of good quality fish and well-handled rice. I have actually refused to eat bog-standard delivery sushi since coming back from Leeds, because the memory of this is too good. Worth noting that one of our party had to wait an absolute age for their sushi, since there being ten of us overwhelmed them somewhat and they ran out of rice. Accessibility: No steps to get in, but toilets are down a steep flights of stairs in the basement.
Oriental City Restaurant is a proper old-school dim sum place with tripe, cheung fun, and congee. We ordered a huge pile of food (photos; see also tweets following) and it was all up to par. Would definitely come again. Accessibility: Normally there’s step-free access via a lift, but this was out of order on our visit, meaning all access was via a flight of stairs.
Bundobust (not linking to their website because at the time of writing it crashes Firefox), like the Indian Tiffin Room, does food that I can get better and cheaper in West Croydon. If I had to choose between the two, I’d go for the Tiffin Room, partly because the food quality was a notch higher. Also, Bundobust is not a comfortable space (I felt squashed, rushed, and not at all relaxed), you have to order everything at the bar, and all the food comes in disposable packaging (photos). I did like the okra fries though. Accessibility: Steps to most of the seating, the bar, and the toilets.