Monday, 11 February 2013

How to Spend a Weekend in Leeds

As I was born in Sheffield, but brought up close to Leeds, I have a soft spot for the capital of West Yorkshire and I like to spend time there when I can. So when I arranged a trip to meet up with Gary, or The Food Nut, and his girlfriend Clair for lunch, this trip quickly grew into a break away as I spotted a decent hotel deal and booked Gav and I in for the night. As we've visited a few times we already have a few favourite haunts and we could have spent the weekend reminiscing times gone by in a few of these. But I wanted to try some new places out, so we left it for Gary to decide and he led the way.

Now, this isn't going to be a detailed post. We were there with friends and many, many drinks were consumed so I wasn't bothering to take notes! There aren't that many pictures either as we ate in a few pubs which are generally darker than restaurants. All you need to know is that we had a fabulous time and, if you're planning a trip to Leeds soon, you wouldn't go far wrong following this little itinerary!

Our train pulled into the station just after 11 and our first stop was Mrs Atha's, an independent coffee shop just off Briggate. It's a quirky little place with lots of vintage touches in everything from the furniture to the crockery. Wanting a relaxing start to the day I went against the grain (bean?) and had an earl grey rather than coffee. Fresh leaves, a big tea pot and milk on request meant that my tea was all it needed to be.

With plans of lunch at Pinche Pinche in Chapel Allerton our trip to Mrs Atha's was a very short one and we were soon on our way to CA in a cab. I've spent a bit of time in CA before as my brother lives here and if I lived in Leeds, I would live here. There are plenty of restaurants, pubs and bars; even enough to keep me occupied and the area has a nice bustling feel to it. 

Pinche Pinche is a small Mexican restaurant serving burritos and the like alongside some more substantial main dishes. Lime and coriander cheese crust Salmon fillet sounded fresh and tasty whilst Mexican style Duck and raspberry sounded very intriguing. With a promise to myself that I could break the diet this weekend, neither were going to land on my plate and I went for one of the specials. I forget what it was called but it was essentially quesadillas filled with refried beans and cheese. I also shared some chips (which had a moreish spicy coating) and Mexican coleslaw (which had a lovely kick to it) with the husband.

The food was spot on and everyone enjoyed their choices. With a decent selection of Mexican beers and a separate, more varied menu, for evening meals, I could quite happily spend an evening here. Service was good too; friendly and welcoming.

Dessert was taken care of at Sunshine Bakery who specialise in cupcakes. The tiny cafe was packed to the rafters and with belly pork sausage rolls and sandwiches on the menu I can understand why it's a popular lunch spot. I think they'll have to expand soon as diners were sat amongst the queue of hungry customers ordering takeaway items which can't have been particularly pleasant for them. As you know, I don't have a sweet tooth so I skipped this course but I did try a little of Gav's. I was pleasantly surprised; the sponge was light and the topping was made with fresh cream rather than buttercream. It was probably the best cupcake I have tasted as it wasn't as sweet as others I have tried, but to be fair, I'd still rather have a pie...

Our next port of call, North Bar's little sister, Further North, was totally dead so we made a trip over to Meanwood for a visit to Alfred, 'another little north bar'. As part of the North Bar family, the focus is largely on the beer which suited me and my new found love of beer (lower alcohol content and prices mean that I won't go bankrupt or die of liver failure quite as soon as I'd feared). There was a nice feel to the place; big comfy sofas, retro style coffee tables and chairs and a million lampshades hanging from the ceiling. With a decent array of beers on offer and big floor to ceiling windows I could have sat there people watching for most of the afternoon.

But East of Arcadia across the road was calling... Located in the ground floor of a modern block of flats it didn't particularly appeal to me... until I walked inside. With traditional pub decor and an inviting bar, I soon settled in and on finding out that tasting boards were available, I had to give one a go. You can choose your selection of three thirds or the bar staff will help you choose and it's a really good way to try a few beers and learn more about your taste buds. On this occasion I learnt that I quite like Thornbridge's Feallan. 

As we hadn't yet checked into our hotel (and we were still carrying a rucksack of clothes with us) we were quite keen to get back into town. We stayed at the Marriott on Boar Lane. It's somewhere we've stayed before as it's perfectly located for us and a quite a smart hotel with all the amenities we need.

With plans for dinner at 7, we had a couple of hours to kill so we headed back out for drinks at The Adelphi. Situated in a big old corner building, this is a traditional pub through and through. We didn't stay long and our next port of call was Epernay for a spot of champagne, sauvignon blanc and cocktails. It was a far cry from the other places we'd frequented that day; both in terms of the look and feel of the place and the clientèle. It's smart and trendy with a good range of fizz, wine and cocktails, so if you're after real ale, I really wouldn't bother coming here.

We were booked in for dinner at Cross Keys; another part of the North Bar family. We decided to walk there and as it's located at the other side of town, this walk gave our appetites a bit of a boost. Another traditional pub, the Cross Keys has a solid menu with the likes of venison, beef and pork belly making appearances. I'd already perused the menu on-line, before we even got to Leeds, so it didn't take long for me to choose what I wanted. Potted pig was a delicious pate served in a kilner jar with a few chunks of bread. 

Main of oxtail and bone marrow hotpot with dumplings was an absolute delight for the meat lover in me. Tender and juicy chunks of meat were almost sticky thanks to the thickness of the sauce. It was a large portion too and although I loved every single bite the sheer amount of meat, and the dumplings, defeated me and I had to pass it over to Gav three quarters of the way through. 

Gav and I shared one of our favourite reds; Nero D'Avola (which also happened to be the cheapest option) and with both my red and white wine cravings now fixed, I was quite happy to get back on the beer with a trip to near by Midnight Bell where I enjoyed a pint of the pub's own brew. 

Moving back towards the location of our hotel we went to Pin Bar. It's quite a modern place with lots of wood and bare walls and I really liked the laid back feel to the bar. I enjoyed a Thorny Goat (another Thornbridge) which was on tap, but at this point we all realised (bar Clair) that we were shattered and we left after the one.

I awoke the next day hangover free; a novelty for me after a day of drinking! Thanks to a check out time of 12 noon we got ready at a leisurely pace before heading off to Laynes Espresso for a quick pick me up before meeting Gary and Clair at The Adelphi for an early lunch. Great minds obviously think alike and we bumped into the pair as we queued up for our coffee. A flat white and croissant went down a treat and Laynes is one that I will definitely return to for lunch one day.
As we arrived at The Adelphi a couple of minutes shy of its opening time of 12, we didn't want to waste time hanging around waiting for it to open so we headed back to Pin bar, which is conveniently just around the corner. Here I had an Einstock Toasted Porter which was lovely, and with an ABV of 6%, it was a good start to a day on the beer! 

Pre-dinner drinks drunk we were ready for food and, by this time, The Adlephi was ready for us. Heading straight for the Sunday dinner options I chose the beef dinner. I'll admit that the £11.50 price tag shocked a little (I generally pay around £8 in Sheffield), but this was Gary's favourite place for a roast so I went with it. Thankfully he was proved right and I was more than happy with my plate of rare in the middle slices of beef, large Yorkshire pudding, veg and roasties. A few pale ales went down nicely and a free shot of Bloody Mary was a welcome touch, despite the lack of a hangover.

I'd skipped starters and desserts on the basis that I could then partake in some cheese and ham scoffing at Friends of Ham. Gary and Clair tell me that FoH is always rammed on a Saturday, but they liked the chilled out atmosphere to it on a Sunday. I have to agree. We ordered our beer and made our way to the large seating area downstairs. With an eclectic feel to the decor, comfy furniture and a few table top games, this was the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon. We had a few beers including a Kernel London Sour and a Sierra Nevada Harvest and, of course, we had some cheese and ham. A selection of two cheeses (Monte Enebro and Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar) and hams (Carne Salata Malenca and Finocchiona) was, considering the quality of the produce, a very reasonable £13.50. We also ordered a half portion of the expensive Iberico ham and, in all fairness, we had over ordered. Everything came on large wooden boards with bread, crackers, chutney (and chilli jam), olives and mini gherkins so there was more than enough... not that we had a struggle clearing everything up!

By the time we'd finished it was coming up to 5 o'clock and time for us to head to the train station... and so our weekend in Leeds was over... Until next time!


  1. Like this post. I was supposed to have been headed to Leeds this Saturday, may have bummped into you had it not been for a mix up over arrangements. I must say you chose a mean list of pubs to go to, and finished in my current fave, Friends of Ham - good choice!

    Extra Points for the Adelphi and Midnight bell which I missed last time, and many stars for drinking Einstock. May even try further north and the Meanwood gaffe next week. WB.

  2. Oh! Shame our paths didn't cross. Glad you approved of the choices - I really do have Gary and Clair to thank for each of them!

  3. Great blog, you managed to get all of my favourite places in Leeds done in one weekend...hats off to you! I did not know about Mrs Atha's though so will definitely be paying a visit.

  4. Thanks jalizrich! It was certainly a great weekend and I wish I could have taken some of the places back home with me (esp Friends of Ham).