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10 of the best places to eat in Leeds

Tony Naylor

Eat Your Greens

Part provisions store and bottle shop majoring in natural wine and good beer, this bar and diner (which shares space with gender neutral clothing retailer Tomorrow) is also one of Leeds’ most exciting kitchens. Some meat is served but Eat Your Greens stands out for its creative treatment of organic, seasonal vegetables in, for instance, brunchy plates of eggs with carrot fritters, Isle of Wight tomatoes and spiced hollandaise or garlic-roasted cauliflower in a potato-and -oat cream sauce with slow-roasted courgettes. Service is some of the friendliest in the city. Look out for Wednesday’s pop-up food events, due to restart this month.
Outdoor seating available, dinner plates from £6 (small) and £12 (large)

Chow Down
Chow Down food

Photograph: Tom Martin

Between railway lines and building sites in Holbeck, a 10-minute walk from the centre, the Chow Down outdoor space (thankfully, covered and heated) has been a breakout star of the Covid era. Its mix of weekly changing streetfood traders, cred DJs, cocktails and craft beer attracting about 1,300 people on sunny Saturdays. The lineup of predominantly northern food talent is strong (for example, Sri Lankan kitchen Archchi’s, Malaysian specialities at Nasi Lemak, Torito Taco, and Middle Eastern food at MorMor), as is the music policy. Where else could you listen to leftfield Glaswegian legends Optimo while scarfing a burger from the Patty Freaks? Elsewhere in Leeds, streetfood fans should also check the indoor hubs, Assembly Underground and Trinity Kitchen, as well as the permanent Vicar Lane home of one-time truckers Pizza Fella, purveyors of outstanding wood-fired pizza.
Thurs-Sun, card payment only, outdoor seating, QR-code ordering, meals from £6

Laynes yellow exterior

Photograph: Tom Martin

Now in its tenth year, Laynes, once a diminutive coffee shop has over the past decade evolved – walls knocked through, menus expanded – into the city’s pre-eminent brunch cafe. From rib-sticking plates of black pudding hash with fried egg and spiced mayo to modish salads of roasted and pickled beetroot with whipped goat’s cheese, Laynes nails the lot. Naturally, its coffee is fantastic, too. In the shadow of Leeds’ train station, Laynes is a life-saver if you need to fortify yourself before the journey home.
Dishes from £5

Little Bao Boy @ Leeds City Tap
little bao boy

North Brewing’s city-centre tap-room, a rather unlovely glass box containing a gorgeous selection of beer, is also home to the Little Bao Boy, James Ooi’s stellar street food operation. Ooi’s beef bao, the beef braised in a long list of aromatics then topped with cucumber, deep-fried onions and sweet chilli sauce, is a must. Those swerving meat are well-served, too. The Sputnik bao is loaded with deep-fried cauliflower marinated in North’s flagship pale ale. Ooi also serves his bao at North’s Springwell brewery, alongside burgers from his new shipping container creation, Kerbside Kids.
Outdoor seating available, card only, from £4

Home restaurant in Leeds

Photograph: Chris Leah/The Guardian

The best restaurants are self-contained worlds, which for a few hours at least render irrelevant what is happening outside. Few achieve that as completely as Home. Through its doors, you pass from the shopping precinct below into a glamorous cocoon of a dining room. Chef-owner Liz Cottam’s sharp, luxurious dishes – for example, sea bass with oyster leaf emulsion and deep-fried oyster – reverberate with winning flavours. Often inspired by lockdown walks, these dishes have recently taken a more conceptual turn. Dessert Malham Cove, for instance, is designed to conjure the cove’s rock formations.
Card only, menus from £60

Swine That Dines
salt beef and cream cheese bun in takeaway box

Here Comes The Bun, from the Swine That Dines

Hopefully, the age of the pandemic-era restaurant pivot is behind us, but it has produced some delicious improvisation. As it gradually eases back into regular evening and brunch services, the tiny Swine That Dines will continue to serve its Here Comes The Bun creations for takeaway Thurs-Sat. Over lockdown, chef Stuart Myers perfected a glossy bun which, stuffed with hot, homemade salt beef, black pepper cream cheese and his sparkling pickles, is a fat mitt of big flavours. Elsewhere, the menu runs to a cheddar crunch sandwich (with deep-fried dauphinoise, roasted tomatoes and pickled kale), cheddar-and-bacon-loaded roast potatoes and towering meringue pies. Often overlooked by visitors, this stretch of North Street is also home to fantastic bar and dining room the Reliance, and Chinese restaurant Wen’s, whose dumplings are a firm favourite with many Leeds foodies andObserver restaurant critic Jay Rayner.
Card only, buns £8.50

Couple eating outside OWT

Having graduated from a largely takeaway kiosk in Kirkgate Market to a colourful bistro space in the Corn Exchange, OWT has expanded its range. It now opens Thursday nights for dinner and, by day, serves well-executed, affordable dishes ranging from fried chicken or a hash brown bun with cheddar, egg and roasted tomatoes to seasonal tarts, panzanella or rump steak with salsa verde and triple-cooked chips. French co-owner Esther Miglio is encouraging Leeds to take a more leisurely approach to its lunch hour, not least by coaxing folk into a glass of her dad’s engagingly complex biodynamic Chateau Gasqui wines. Meanwhile, the takeaway continues. You order at OWT but, to avoid crowds gathering at the door, meals are lowered from the kitchen window on to the street outside. Yes, really.
Dishes from £5

Gnocchi with aubergine at Sarto

Gnocchi with aubergine at Sarto

Canteen-like Sarto pays homage to two things Italy excels at: sleek minimalist design and fresh, handmade pasta. Slow-cooked ragùs of lamb shoulder or pork and ’nduja speak for themselves, as do classics like fettucine with wild mushrooms and marsala sauce. The meat-free options (say, campanelle with roast garlic, lemon and caper butter) are object lessons in letting a few bold flavours shines. Portions are smaller than a full main course – you might share three between two – but filling enough at lunch. To drink, there is an extensive spritz menu and, as well as Italian house wines, interesting natural bottles from Chapel Allerton specialist Wayward Wines.
Pasta dishes from £8.50

House of Fu
house of fu exterior benches

From Dough Boys’ innovative pizza at Belgrave Music Hall to the wood-fired grill restaurant Ox Club, the team behind House of Fu have played a pivotal role in Leeds’s emergence as one of Britain’s most exciting food destinations. The new Fu, a crisply designed eyecatcher in baby pink and neon, adds a tasty layer of gyoza, fried chicken and sunny rice bowls to their repertoire. Head chef Ben Iley cooked in Japan for 10 years, developing his love of ramen, and the kitchen serves a notably good katsu curry with proper polished, stubby Japanese rice and excellent house pickles.
Card-only, mains from £10

thali at Tharavadu, Leeds

Is Mill Hill home to the best Indian food in West Yorkshire? Bradfordians may take issue with that claim but between the Gujarati snacks at Bundobust(see our Manchester guide) and the Keralan cooking at Tharavadu, this short Leeds street boasts a remarkable density of next-level South Asian food. From ethereally light, crisp stuffed dosas to fragrant fish curries, Tharavadu’s dishes are vivid, elegantly spiced and deliver serious depth of flavour. Try the express lunch thalis first, if you like (from £6.95) but rest assured, you will be back.

Mains from £9

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