Recently, we’ve got into a bit of a rut going out in Leeds.
It’s not something my friends and I do all the time, being in our 30s and having responsibilities like bills and babies. But it just so happened that I had plans to go out in the city for two Saturdays on the trot.
On our last few visits – drawn in by the bright lights, fancy cocktails and swanky décor – we’ve tended to spend a lot of time eating and drinking at Trinity Leeds. But on the first Saturday of the two, my love affair with the new shopping centre well and truly began to wane.
We started at The Botanist, which was crammed. We took the lift to the top of the centre and Angelica, full of people seeing and being seen, where I waited a good 10 or 15 minutes to get served then handed over £24 for three mojitos so overflowing with ice and mint they were difficult to drink without first making a mess of the floor. After that it was The Alchemist, where we queued outside and then queued inside for good measure. We left without even getting a drink, the prospect of which seemed distant with two barmen serving some of the most complicated cocktails available in Yorkshire, and anyway the A3-sized drinks menu overwhelmed me.
So the second Saturday I went out I wanted something different. Feeling fed up with Trinity, and having done all the Call Lane bars to death, we started at Friends of Ham, which is in a convenient spot just as you leave Leeds train station. It fulfilled perfectly my need for something less corporate and more cosy. If you’re a vegetarian you might not appreciate all the meat on show but the name of the place should have given you fair warning.
It looks a bit like a narrow deli from the street but it’s cavernous downstairs, and the atmosphere is warm and down to earth.
We toyed with the idea of eating there but I had my heart set on Shears Yard and I’m glad I stuck to my guns. Having read many great reports, it’s somewhere I’ll definitely go back to.
Inside, the skylights flood the tall room with light, over exposed beams, minimalist beech furniture, bare brick walls and industrial-style filament bulbs hanging from long cords. It’s relaxed, not showy, it has what it needs and not much more. And the food is really, really good.
We started with bread and whipped truffle butter, then I had a main of roasted sea bass fillet, smoked haddock and potato chowder, chive oil and pickled scallions (£14.50). My friend chose local corn fed chicken breast and wing, with a crab and lobster fritter, sweetcorn and chorizo salsa and lobster mayonnaise (£14.95). I’m afraid I didn’t take note of exactly what was in the dessert we shared, but it was divine. Its base was a Malteser mousse and the popcorn crackers were delicious (though probably frowned upon by dentists).
It was fairly empty when we arrived in the early evening but by the time we finished our two courses it had filled up a lot. We finished our wine over a long chat in the bar area and before we knew it, it was getting late. We had a quick drink across the road at Calls Landing before jumping on the train. We ran out of time but we’d planned on spending an hour or two around Granary Wharf, another place I like but don’t go enough.
So, Leeds redeemed itself. Where are your favourite places to go?