Fancy a trip to the UK? Thinking of heading somewhere else other than London? Perhaps it’s time to take a trip up north to Leeds.
The third largest city in the UK (after London and Birmingham), Leeds is located in the northern English county of Yorkshire, a short 2.5 hour train ride from King’s Cross station. While the city is brimming with heritage and historical moments worth visiting, one shouldn’t discount the other aspects of the city as well.
According to Sommer’s Head Chef Lewis Barker, “It’s a cool, young, vibrant city. There’s always something quite unique going on, with an abundance of bars and restaurants and you’ll always have a good night out (at Leeds). It’s also an under-the-radar type of big city, but you can get to most places on foot. The town centre is big but you won’t have to get a taxi after taxi to the next location.”
If you’re thinking of taking a trip out of London and into this city, there’s really no better person to ask for recommendations than chef Lewis. The UK-native was born and raised in Leeds, before he ventured abroad to further his culinary career when he turned 19.
After gaining experience under the tutelage of celebrated chefs like Shannon Bennett, Peter Gilmore, and Vianney Massot, he found himself in a new chapter of his life — the 28-year-old is now the Head Chef of Sommer, a modern European fine-dining concept that opened at the upscale Marina Boulevard earlier this year. Better yet, the restaurant, which was just six months old at that point, earned recognition from the Michelin Guide and attained its first Michelin star.
But what makes Leeds different from somewhere like London?
In a nutshell, Chef Lewis believes that Leeds has got the “Northern culture”. For the uninitiated, the North-South divide, while not actually divided by a physical boundary, typecasts northerners as being more open, talkative and sociable, whereas southerners are believed to be more withdrawn and polite.
Friendly folks and delicious food? Consider us sold.
Here’s are the best spots to eat and drink in Leeds, according to Sommer’s chef Lewis Barker.
(Hero and featured image credit: Sommer)
“Let’s start with my favourite coffee shop. It’s led by Dave Olejnik — he started Laynes as a small coffee shop with really great coffee and the’ve since expanded. They bought the unit next door, knocked it through and then started doing a brunch service. I always go there for my coffee fix.”
Laynes Espresso’s all-day menu serves a hearty range of dishes, which includes vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options that’s suitable for most diets. Besides plates for peckish diners such as the Laynes breakfast, croissants and donuts are available too. Whichever you pick, make sure to finish off your meal with some vanilla soft serve — a vegan ice cream from Northern Bloc that’s topped with some of Laynes Espresso’s coffee caramel syrup.
(Image credit: @tom_martin_photo via Instagram)
“By the same guy behind Laynes, there’s Sarto. It has quite good pasta, and it actually opened recently on my last visit. It has a cool, hip vibe: Good place, food, and atmosphere.”
Pasta lovers, you’ve found your people. Freshly-made pasta is merely the foundation of this establishment, complete with sides, and a neat selection of wine, beer, and spritz to wash it all down with. The lunch options are a lot more modest than its evening menu, so we think a trip at sundown would make for a much better experience.
(Image credit: @sartopasta via Instagram)
“You can’t forget about Sunday roast. The Brunswick is like a bar/pub with a good selection of craft beers, and they do a really good Sunday roast so I always check in there to get my fix.”
Even if you’re not here for Sunday roast (which seems almost blasphemous considering how stunning that Yorkshire pudding looks), The Brunswick is the perfect spot for a boozy time in Leeds. We’re talking nine keg lines, six cask lines, and over 50 beers in the fridge. Could there be a better way of spending a lazy Sunday afternoon?
(Image credit: @brunswickleeds via Instagram)
“If you like a relaxed approach to fine dining, there’s a place called Home. It’s led by a really great team and it’s called Home because you feel like you’ve stepped into your living room.”
Expect only the finest ingredients of the season served to you here at Home. Open only from Wednesdays to Sundays, the multi-course (eight to 10) tasting menus are had in a relaxed, informal atmosphere, so you can dine comfortably with a peace of mind.
(Image credit: @home_leeds via Instagram)
“Harewood Estate is run by a good friend of mine who’s the Executive Chef there. They keep their own beer, they’ve got a cafe going on there too. Oh, they shoot on the estate so after that they age their meat on site and use it when it’s ready. He also runs private dining events where you move from location to location and you can dine in the forest too. They keep their own garden, so they pick and use all the herbs, fruits, and vegetables there.
The dining experiences at Harewood Estate range from a stunning afternoon tea experience overlooking the Capability Brown landscape at the Terrace Tearoom, to a meal of hot and cold dishes with consistently changing specials at the Courtyard.
(Image credit: @harewoodfoodanddrink via Instagram)