Whether you're looking for fine dining, trendy supper clubs or cosy cafés, Leeds has it all. Try all kinds of cuisine in this thriving culinary hotspot
The Man Behind the Curtain
Channelling the avant-garde spirit of Spanish nueva cocina, chef-owner Michael O’Hare has turned this restaurant into a highly regarded, Michelin-starred destination you must book months in advance. O’Hare’s tasting menus deliver ornate creations often served on outlandish crockery. Try the mini raspberry foie gras doughnuts, and spoonfuls of ‘hand-massaged’ octopus, or the coconut-roasted langoustine with Thai sauce. Tasting menu £75.
After creating the food outlets at Belgrave Music Hall, chef Ben Davy significantly upped the ante at Ox Club, his cool, friendly restaurant situated in Headrow House. The kitchen utilises an imported US hardwood grill. Among dishes such as the duck with Brussels sprout kimchi, or pork neck with barbecued potatoes, do not miss the charred caulis with romanesco, or the flat-iron steak with on-point Béarnaise. Larger plates from £12.
Casual dining, cheap eat, kid friendly
Every modern city deserves a fastidious joint serving wood-fired, Neapolitan-style pizza. In Leeds city centre, that means Pizza Fella. These street-food graduates, now based in a raw, fashionably stripped-back space on Vicar Lane, serve magnificent pizzas layered with vibrant San Marzano sauce and meats from British charcuterie champions Cannon & Cannon. The fresh, elastic bases are beautifully and authentically spotted with char, a technique known as ‘leoparding’. From £6.00.
The Swine that Dines
By day, as the Greedy Pig, this simple café serves brunch dishes: homemade Merguez sausages with duck eggs & harissa; or mushrooms, pickled walnuts & ricotta on Leeds Bread Co-op sourdough. Thursday to Saturday evenings, however, it morphs into The Swine That Dines: a 16-cover BYO restaurant where chef-owner Stuart Myers gets creative across a seven-course sharing menu of, say, ox tongue arancini or mackerel escabeche, blood orange & fennel. Their menu changes every week so expect new delicious dishes. Menu £45 for two.
Casual dining, cheap eat
For Brits used to heavy, oily, high-street curries, the light, sensitively spiced food of southern India can be revelatory (all coconut, mustard seeds, fish and vegetables). This simple, handsome space of rustic dark wood and huge digital prints of coastal Kerala is a great place to start that adventure. For cooking of this calibre, try its lunch thalis: three curries, rice, plus ineffably light, crisp dosa and chutneys. It’s a steal. Mains £7.50.
Belgrave Music Hall
Casual dining, cheap eat
This hip, late-night bar and music venue, complete with quirky rooftop terrace, is no slouch on the food front. Its NY-style slice kitchen, Dough Boys, serves terrific pizza (half-price until 5pm). Try the meat-free Paul & Linda pizza with artichokes, smoked mozzarella, caper berries & salsa verde) while Patty Smith’s dispenses some of Britain’s best burgers: cloche-steamed and brioche-clad. Belgrave also hosts Feast, a street-food monthly meet that runs every second Saturday. Dough Boys from £2.40, Patty Smith’s from £5.95.
Casual dining, cheap eat, kid friendly
The city’s premier third-wave coffee shop (all your flat white and single-origin, pour-over needs covered) is, after its expansion this year, arguably one of the best brunch spots in Leeds. A colourful menu runs the gamut of global flavours, from shakshuka or sweetcorn fritters with halloumi, pickled chilli, chimichurri & eggs, to a rarebit with Henderson’s Relish – Yorkshire’s answer to Worcestershire sauce. Dishes between £4-£8.50.
Well into its second decade, this boho café-bar and dining room remains enthusiastic and agile. Its selection of craft beers and natural wines is exemplary. In the kitchen, chef Tom Hunter is an inspirational adherent to seasonality and artisan skills. Follow a sharing board of his homemade charcuterie with small plates of sea trout gravadlax, ox heart, horseradish & capers, or heartier mains of lentils & Toulouse sausage. Mains from £11.75.
Cheap eat, casual dining
If you’re looking for a venue that encapsulates the city’s contemporary dining scene, Bundobust has a street- food vibe, DIY decor and craft beer. A collaboration between Marko Husak (of Bradford beer bar The Sparrow) and chef Mayur Patel (whose family run West Yorkshire’s Gujarati restaurant, Prashad), Bundobust originally sold itself, modestly, as a bar that happened to serve vegetarian Indian small plates. It remains steadfastly no frills – you order at the bar and food is served in little waxy tubs – but Bundobust’s bhel puri, massala dosa, tarka dhal and bhajis are all exceptional in their freshness, depth and adept spicing. It also carries beers from global scene-leaders such as Mikkeller, Two Roads and Burning Sky. Plates £3.50-£6.
Brasserie Forty 4
Special occasion, casual dining
An early pioneer in the regeneration of the wharfs and historic warehouses that line the River Aire, this waterside restaurant is 26 years-old. Like elements of the menu (sun-blushed tomatoes, Madeira cream sauce), its post-industrial look feels a little dated, but chef David Robson’s broadly French cooking has a timeless rigour and finesse. Dishes such as confit duck leg with pearl barley, Savoy cabbage and Morteau sausage, sing with true flavours. Mains from £13.75.
Friends of Ham
No prizes for guessing what this buzzy city-centre bar/diner specialises in, but there is a lot more going on here than sharing boards of Ibérico and finocchiona (fennel seed salami). The cheese selection is impressive, as is FoH’s choice of craft beers, small producer wines and sherries, while its hot plates include Bath chaps and griddled morcilla with paprika potatoes and a fried egg. A new sister food hub, Ham & Friends, opened in March. Small plates from £5.50.
Just Grand! Vintage Tearoom
Cheap eat, kid friendly
There are swankier afternoon tea options in central Leeds, such as Harvey Nichols (from £20pp), but if it is homespun indie character you're after, then this Grand Arcade tea room is perfect. Every surface is dotted with quirky bric-a-brac, while loose leaf teas or prosecco accompany good quality, freshly-baked scones and sound homemade cakes, including matured fruit cake with Wensleydale cheese. Just Grand! also does a gentleman’s tea with pork pie and local ales. Afternoon tea from £11.
Located within a vast street food hall at Kirkgate Market, this is the first fixed outlet for one of Leeds’ most popular mobile kitchens. Tasty, complete thali plates of home cooked veggie curries (for example, chana masala and spinach, smoked aubergine), are served alongside chilli paneer or pakora wraps, dosa and bhajis. There is seating if you wish to linger, now that Manjit’s serves local Ilkley and Saltaire brewery beers, and wine with its curries. Meals from £4.95.
Casual dining, kid friendly
Should you find yourself up in the happening suburb of Headingley, there are a few notable local dining options (eg. Zucco and the Neapolitan, wood-fired Ecco Pizzeria). But, particularly if you are dining as a big family or group, this cut-above, family-owned Italian has real cross-generational appeal. For more hardcore foodie thrills, Salvo’s neighbouring Salumeria is a deli-café which, on Saturday nights (£35pp), explores the specific characteristics of a chosen Italian region’s cooking. Mains from £8.50.
The Cross Keys
Casual dining, kid friendly
Like most northern cities, Leeds is curiously lacking in pubs that serve good food. A short walk from the city centre on Water Lane, this comfortable, polished gastropub is one notable exception. Expect plates of sausage ‘n’ mash, pork belly with red cabbage, black pudding, monkfish cheeks, broccoli and cider gravy, plus great Sunday roasts including sharing legs of lamb. Its Yorkshire-focussed ales invariably include beers from Leeds’ North Brewing. Excellent suntrap beer garden, too. Mains from £10.95.
The Grub & Grog Shop
Casual dining, cheap eat
G&G forged its reputation in Leeds (most notably during its time at Northern Monk Brew Co) as a sustainable, flexitarian, creatively scratch-cooked alternative to the meaty, macho street food then sweeping the city. Today, it serves breakfasts, organic meat hashes, sprout and cauliflower dahls, savoury tarts and salads at its Sheaf Street Cafeteria, and upmarket sandwiches and stews at the Noonshine Café concession within the Tall Boys craft beer bottle shop. Sheaf Street, meals around £5-£8.
Launched in 1986 when real, home-style Indian food was unknown in Leeds, Hansa Dhabi’s vegetarian Gujarati restaurant is, three decades on, still packing in keen diners. It makes for a super-friendly, relaxed night out, with Hansa's keen to welcome all like old friends. Order the bhel puri, five-pulse packed chevti dhal and Hansa’s “spice bomb”, a deep-fried potato sandwich that illustrates how meat-free need not mean worthy. Mains from £6.50.
Beyond the standard beefy, slow-cooked pho noodle soups, this simple restaurant offers plenty of Vietnamese thrills for the adventurous foodie, with its plates of braised Mekong catfish, lemongrass and chilli stir-fried goat, or fried seabass with fish sauce and green mango. And that is before you get to the colourful pots of pickled garlic and preserved chillies sat on each table. The sunny, welcoming staff are fantastic. Mains from £6.00.
Swathed in bright fabrics and North African trinkets, this has to be the prettiest stall on Kirkgate Market. Its Levantine food is equally colourful. Beyond stacks of kibbeh, stuffed vine leaves and bowls of tabbouleh, Café Moor’s repertoire extends to falafel and shawarma sandwiches, various bourek (stuffed filo pastries) and mhadjeb, a kind of Algerian pasty filled with onion, tomato and harissa. And the harira soup and benchmark baba ganoush are musts. Meals £3.50 - £6.
Casual Dining, cheap eat, kid friendly
Located in Thorntons Arcade, one of Leeds’ many glass-covered Victorian shopping precincts, this neat, stylish deli-café does the obvious things – like all-day eggs Benedict and sharing platters at lunch – but very capably. Fine local ingredients underpin the little cheffy flourishes that owner Joe Hepworth brings to his gussied-up sandwiches of, say, fish goujons with homemade tartare sauce or fried chicken with chipotle salsa. He also does a cracking scotch egg, too. Meals £5-£8.
Five foodie places to try
This food court includes a selection of five of the UK’s best street-food traders. There are new vans every six weeks.
Look out for Norre (@norreleeds), Balcombe & Smith (@balcombe_smith), and Afsaneh’s Persian Kitchen (@AfsanehKaviani).
A wine store that prides itself on its global approach to fermented grape juice. It also carries 15 Yorkshire gins.
This health-food store and deli is a fine place to browse Yorkshire produce. It also stocks Leeds-based Roops’ sensational sourdough (@roops_leeds).
One of the UK’s first dedicated craft beer bars. At weekends, you can visit the North Brewing brewery-tap.
Read our other city guides...
Have we missed anywhere? Let us know in the comments below...
All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of the 01 September 2017 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.