By Jade Scott-Worthington
As my time at university in Leeds is coming to an end, I thought back to all the memories this city has given me. Unsurprisingly for a person whose waking moments revolve around what I can eat next, one true source of joy I’ve found in Leeds is through food. From cooking weekly for friends amongst third year stress, the celebratory Indian takeaway ordered at any opportunity, and the drunken cheesy chips and curry sauce from Crispy after a night out, food has always connected my greatest memories. My love for food has taken me across the city at any given opportunity to try as many restaurants as possible, and I have discovered so many amazing places to eat, relax and experience food in all its glory in Leeds. Here are some of my favourites for you to try, a mix of spots that are all great independents, vegetarian/vegan friendly and affordable as a student treat.
Many students sadly don’t take much time to wander through and discover the gems Kirkgate Market has to offer. From film developing, houseplants galore to cheap, great quality fruit and veg, this is a treasure chest we as students should take greater advantage of. The food stalls are no exception to this. Manjit’s kitchen is an essential experience for any lover of Indian cuisine. For incredible value for money you can experience authentic Indian thali, silver trays and all. Served with a smile and full of joy this yellow stall of magic is a must have experience. It’s my mission to try the other vendors at Kirkgate market this summer, and I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.
Grub and grog
If you love cafes, hopping over the river to Grub and Grog at Sheaf Street is a necessary journey. You might know Sheaf Street for its club nights, but their day time offerings are no less a delight. With a healthy helping of board games (the best brunch/lunch accompaniment you can find) the food here is delicious for a lazy weekend treat. This is a café you will feel welcome to sit in for hours, something I have done myself, and is a spot of joy away from the bustling inner-city cafes.
Poco Sicilian Street Food
This isn’t a restaurant, but a tiny Sicilian street food shop on Cardigan road. Anyone who visits me in Leeds has been dragged to accompany me on my Aldi shop; one to help carry my bags, but two so I can let them experience Poco. Their pizza slices are a Sicilian delight and the arancini is genuinely to die for. Most things are under £5, so you can splash all the money you’ve saved in Aldi on the best thing you will EVER eat. You’re welcome.
Now Bundobust is not a hidden gem, but a Leeds holy grail. Yet it felt wrong to not include it on my list of the greatest food Leeds has to offer due to how much I love this place. After visiting India a couple of years ago, my obsession with the country’s flavours has only continued to grow, and the street food offerings at Bundobust fix these cravings completely. They create vegetarian food as it should be, elegantly flavoured and beautifully spiced so that you won’t miss a chicken tikka in the slightest. Always bustling, relaxed and welcoming it’s a joyful place to be, make sure you choose the combo deal to have the perfect introduction to Indian street food.
I am truly a diner that loves sharing. Experiencing eight plates of food instead of two is always a better option in my eyes, and Spanish tapas reigns supreme as the master of sharing plates. Ambiente serve some of the best small plates I have every tried, particularly as a pescatarian, each vegetable dish not being an afterthought but packed with vibrancy and flavour. Order a few plates from the josper oven section to have the best experience, the smoky flavour it leaves on your food being like no other.
The Swine that Dines
A beautiful, tiny restaurant that stole my heart this year. It’s incredibly small, tables clustered and the chefs being in touching distance, yet produces magic on every plate. Perfect for a date or an evening out with a few friends, it’s BYOB and you get to devour a seven course sharing menu for £50, how could you refuse? The tiny plates of delicious morsels are perfect for those who truly want an experience and are a foodie’s heaven. This is truly a Leeds gem, and allows for the student budget to access gastronomic joy. They do a ‘roots to shoots’ menu the first weekend of every month if you want a full vegetarian experience, or on any other weekend you can tailor your plates to suit your needs.
The Ox Club
Everyone’s heard of Headrow house, but not many of my friends have ventured into the downstairs restaurant, the Ox Club. It’s a small, intimate restaurant with incredibly attentive staff and a beautiful menu that changes seasonally. It’s a bit of a fancier affair compared to most of the restaurants on this list, but great for a celebration if you’re a real lover of all things food. They do a fixed price menu 5pm-6pm Tuesday through till Saturday if you want to enjoy the food for less, the perfect time to take advantage of a student timetable.
Nothing beats a good old English roast, and the Brunswick is a great spot in the city to have a weekend feast. Most pubs back in my home town don’t offer a vegetarian roast, so I was so excited to have one of my nostalgic food favourites at this spot. They have a great selection of craft beers, a relaxed atmosphere and serve you a roast and all the trimmings. It’s the perfect place to go if you have family visiting, and guaranteed to please everyone.
Image credits: Found on each restaurant's Facebook page