Leeds is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.K. and is the heart of west Yorkshire. Although it’s not a place that you think of when you say you want to visit England, it’s definitely worth the train ride. It’s located northeast of Manchester which is an hour away by train. I’d consider this place “off the beaten path” and well worth the adventure.
While everything was new to this Texas gal, I was told that I visited at a prime time when there were lots of new, urban, trendy dining selections to choose from. Prior to the city’s urban growth and development, the choices were limited. Personally, I’m a bit picky when it comes to food, but I strongly believe that when you’re in a new place, part of the experience is in their food. Therefore, I had to be adventurous in this area.
I spent a lot of time in a suburb of Leeds called Headingley because that’s where my brother was attending uni. [I did retain some slang from my visit!] Most of the restaurants are from that suburb while others are located throughout Leeds.
The Headingley Taps – Bennett Road Car Park, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3HN
I found this place by accident while on my way into City Centre. I was walking into town which was about two miles away and it started to drizzle, so I stopped in while deciding to wait for the rain to let up or call a cab. It’s a pub style atmosphere and provides lots of high quality eats at very low prices. They have a wide variety of beers and serve Texas-sized portions of food. There’s lots of space and lots of televisions. Headingley Carnegie Stadium is about a quarter of a mile away and this pub is a stop on the Otley Run [famous pub crawl] so the place is always busy. They serve a huge variety of all three meals, including the traditional English breakfast, and they even have a buffet. They offer burgers, steaks, ribs, sandwiches, some global flavors, and lots more. The buffet has different tiers starting at £5. The more you pay, the more options you have to choose from. I didn’t see any set hours for the buffet on the menu I was given, but I’m assuming it’s only offered on weekends. [I visited during the week around lunch time.] Their menu states that food is offered until 10pm every night. I ordered their Nachos for One because I was curious what their interpretation of them would be. They were delicious. The tortilla chips came loaded with cheese, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, and jalapenos. It had all the right ingredients, but their salsa was not that great. I’m from Texas, I like some heat with my salsa. But nonetheless, the nachos were delicious. Since I was at a pub, I had to get a pint. I ordered a local brew and while waiting, I saw that they had several local beers and alcohols. It’s a really great place to try; if not for the food, for the atmosphere. Overall, it was a great find, especially because of the casual atmosphere! I spent about £8 for the nachos and the pint.
Mr. £andwich – 83 Otley Rd, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3PS
I did a lot of walking up and down Otley Road so I had a lot of opportunities to try anything I passed by. I was out with my brother this particular day as we were roaming around and we were being cheap so this seemed like a good idea. I thought the place was called “poundwich” due to the spelling, but the pound sign is just supposed to be a fancy “s” because they pronounce it “Mr. Sandwich”. In any case, they offer a small menu of sandwiches that are £1 if ordered their way. If you add any extras, they charge you accordingly. Crisps (what Americans call “chips”) and drinks are also extra. We ordered different sandwiches and I can’t remember the specific names but I know that mine had turkey and all the trimmings while his had chicken, some buffalo sauce, and some trimmings. There’s usually a line at this place around lunch hours but you’re getting a rather large, tasty sandwich for just £1! The shop is small, allowing only for standing room, therefore your order must be for take away. We ordered two sarnies, crips, and drinks and paid a total of around £10.
Nando’s – This is a chain so there are several in town and in Europe. I visited the location at 152-154 Briggate, Leeds LS1 6BR
I can’t really explain why I fell in love with this place, but I did. Little did I know, this is a European favorite! Their website says they are “home of the legendary, Portuguese flame-grilled PERi-PERi chicken”. How it works is that you pick the type of chicken you want: breast, wings, 1/2, whole, leg quarters, chicken thighs, or chicken butterfly (two breasts). You then choose whether you want the chicken on its own or with sides. Next you choose the flavor you want : Plain…(ish), Mango & Lime, Lemon & Herb, Medium, Hot, or Extra Hot. Finally, you choose your sides. You can also order other items like grilled chicken sandwiches, pitas, salads, and more. I say this a lot, but I’m from Texas. We like things extra spicy. While the server was explaining the process to me on my first visit, I immediately knew that I was going to order my chicken Extra Hot. The server and friends I was with looked at me in awe. The server said, “Hardly anyone ever orders Extra Hot! Are you sure you want to order that? Would you prefer to order Medium first?” My response was, “I’m from Texas. Your Extra Hot cannot be equivalent to Texas’ version of Extra Hot!” A popular comparison of flavors would be to Wing Stop’s. Nando’s Extra Hot is equivalent to Wing Stop’s Medium! While I was mildly [no pun intended!] disappointed, the flavor was still really good. I ended up ordering Extra Hot chicken butterfly with garlic bread and creamy mash. It was sooooo delicious! I actually ate there about three times on my 12 day trip. I couldn’t help it, it was addicting. Most of their locations offer spacious dining rooms. I paid somewhere along the lines of £12. Not too bad!
Jino’s Thai Cafe – 46 Otley Rd, Leeds LS6 2AL
I’m not a huge fan of Asian food [or what America calls Asian food] but my brother is and we heard about this place near the campus. We decided to give it a try and were completely blown away! This place is very casual and it is intended to be that way in their attempt to not only differ themselves from other places in town, but also to be as authentic to Thailand as possible. The dining area inside is rather quaint, quite different from American restaurants; however, limited space is the norm in Europe so lots of locals would consider this cafe to be on the larger side. They don’t have a liquor license but luckily my Airbnb host informed me that this was a BYO (bring your own) alcohol joint. Score! Their menu is quite overwhelming because they have so much to choose from. They number the items on their menu going well over 100! I don’t remember the exact dish I ordered, but I do know that it was spicy, had lots of veggies, chicken, and noodles. My brother ordered something similar but with rice instead of noodles. Both dishes were extremely flavorful! The entrees run between £7-£13. Our two dishes plus fizzy drinks together cost us nearly £30. However, the portions are enormous and I was told by the owner that it’s a family owned restaurant who are from Thailand and get most of their ingredients from Thailand as well. It’s fantastic quality for a pretty reasonable price.
Charlie Brett’s Fish Restaurant & Takeaway – 12-14 North Ln, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3HE
This is by far my favorite place in Leeds! Their customer service was beyond what you’d expect and their fish is always fresh. They love new visitors from outside Leeds so they have a guestbook. It was very neat to see how humbled they were by the miles and miles that were traveled to come to Brett’s. My brother and I went for dinner and ordered the standard [and famous] haddock and chips which also came with mushy peas and homemade tartare sauce. The haddock was huge and nearly covered the plate. It set us back nearly £40 but soon discovered that we could get the same amount of food for way less if we ordered takeaway. We ordered takeaway prior to leaving for a quick trip to London and it was the perfect amount. We got the Family Special which included 4 [huge] fillets of haddock, 2 large orders of chips [french fries for the American folk], 2 sides, and 4 drinks. You read it right! We had way too much food but it was worth the price and we had lots left over. I’ve heard that their brand has changed a bit since I was there in 2013 but all for the better. They still use local suppliers and their takeaway prices are still pretty cheap. This is an absolute must when visiting Leeds!
I hope this gave you a reason to visit Leeds – if not for their rich history, definitely for their food. Stay tuned for my Guide to Leeds packed with places to see and how to get around!