The Big Leeds Bucket List – 25 Dishes, Drinks, Sights and Gifts ONLY Found in Leeds
5th October 2021
The Big Leeds Bucket List – 25 Dishes, Drinks, Sights and Gifts ONLY Found in Leeds
We might be biased, but what makes our city a great place to live – and visit – is its status as a true original. A unique place to eat and drink, shop and experience. We do things a little differently, and we do it by design. So whether you’re looking for exceptional restaurants, the best bars, or just attractions in Leeds you won’t find anywhere else, this is the list for you.
Introducing… the Big Leeds Bucket List. 25 one-of-a-kind things worth ticking off your tourist bucket list, or just checking out for a weekend’s staycation!
1. Nibble on wood ants at Vice and Virtue
The ‘Vice’ element is a nod to this celebrated fine dining restaurant’s location – you’d have been more likely to find poles and high heels under the building’s previous guise – but the food absolutely lives up to the ‘Virtuous’.
Gobsmacking modern British fine dining, featuring quirky ingredients like… yes… wood ants! A delicacy that tastes of citrus. Chef Proprietor Jono was a Masterchef: The Professionals finalist, so expect amazing things.
2. Slurp authentic Japanese ramen at House of Fu
It’s been a long time coming, but the team at House of Fu are finally open and serving lucky Leeds residents bowls of jaw dropping ramen and tasty gyoza. The restaurant is an instant Instagrammable classic too, filled with neon lights and decor that transports you to a bustling Tokyo bar.
Our pick is the Original Fu Ramen – the results of Chef Ben Iley’s decade behind the pass in Japan. He left with a passion for all things Japanese, and a talent for coaxing some amazing flavours from broth and noodles.
3. Dine on North Yorkshire deer at The Owl, Kirkgate Market
Hidden away in Kirkgate Market – one of the largest in Europe – is a Michelin Guide recommended eatery with renowned chef and Masterchef contestant Liz Cottam at the helm.
The Owl serves up a menu that majors on the awesome British produce available from the Market’s traders, and beyond. A visit might find you digging into roasted North Yorkshire red deer, or Whitby crab… basically it’s a taste of God’s Own County.
4. Veg out on vegan kebab fries at Knaves Kitchen
If you’ve been for a big night out in Leeds, you may well have come across Oporto already – it’s a cocktail lover’s favourite, and a welcome stop amongst the fun of Call Lane. But not everyone knows their kitchen also serves up some of the nation’s best vegan junkfood.
Knaves Kitchen, a street food pop-up, has a wicked way with vegan ingredients. How about the kebab fries, which swaps out the doner for meat free seitan – then stacks on the lettuce, pickled onions, confit garlic, herb mayo and sweet chilli? Delicious.
5. Catch a traditional Keralan lunch at Tharavadu
In a city where curries are taken pretty seriously, it takes a little originality to stand out from the (high quality) crowd. But Michelin Guide recommended Tharavadu do just that, with a menu of South Indian cooking that brings fresh flavours right from the homeland. It also just so happens to be a favourite of the Indian cricket team whenever they’re in town.
If you’re tired of the normal roast and yorkshires, you could book in for a traditional Keralan lunch. Guaranteed not to be found in your regular high street balti house!
6. Brunch on a Hash Brown Bun at OWT
Squirrelled away in Victorian architectural gem Leeds Corn Exchange, OWT is a french-inspired cafe bistro brunch spot beloved by the city’s foodie community. Produce comes from Kirkgate Market, just a few metres away, as well as some of Yorkshire’s best suppliers and farms.
If you’re looking for a mid-morning treat, the Hash Brown Bun can’t be bettered. Beautifully crisp potato cakes, and a parsley sauce which must have some kind of secret, addictive ingredient.
7. A tipple from Leventhorpe, Leeds’ very own vineyard
Whilst most supermarket shelves and pub fridges are stocked with wines from sunnier continents and climes, it’s a well-kept secret that Yorkshire – and Leeds in particular – has some of the finests terroir for winemaking in the world.
Only some styles suit our soil and sunshine, but Leventhorpe have been making award winning wines here since 1985. Pour a glass of West Riding Red, made from Yorkshire varietals of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Triomphe grapes.
8. Pour a pint of Sputnik at North Brewing Co.
Craft beer is everywhere now, but there was a time when only a very few bars and breweries were dedicated to the stuff. Local favourite North Bar can viably claim to be the country’s first craft beer bar, though – recently celebrating two decades behind the taps.
Their brewing arm, North Brewing Co., now supplies the best drinking spots across the world with award winning beers. Sputnik might just be the best loved, too. It’s a 5% pale ale, with an iconic red label worth looking out for.
9. Order a Bellevue cocktail at The Hedonist
In a city famed for award winning bars and cocktail culture, there’s plenty to choose from. But no bucket list would be complete without The Hedonist. This iconic Lower Briggate bar has taken many guises over the years, from alpine ski shack to urban dive bar.
It’s now found its feet with a ‘friends and family’ menu serving up exquisite drinks inspired by the vibrant community who flock to the bar. Pick of the bunch? The Bellevue, featuring Tanqueray and Sloe Gin, Strawberry and egg whites.
10. Sip a Hibiscus Swizzle at prohibition-style The Maven
Found high above Call Lane, with a hidden entrance way that only those in the know frequent, The Maven is a prohibition-era speakeasy where some of the city’s finest cocktails are served to a discerning crowd.
Our vision of cocktail heaven is the Hibiscus Swizzle, which mixes Monkey 47 Gin with Hibiscus syrup, blackberries and fruit juices.
11. Learn how to achieve G&T perfection at Hotham’s Gin School
There’s definitely an art to a tasty gin and tonic. Who wants a lukewarm, weak tipple on a summer afternoon? Or a winter one, at that. Luckily, Leeds boasts its own Gin School, where expert professionals can teach you how to achieve G&T perfection.
Book yourself in for a class, or create your own botanical recipe using the kind of herbs, spices and ingredients distillers use to flavour their creations. Or just pop in for a drink in the Distillery Bar, and let those professionals do it all for you.
12. Drink a Leeds beer lovers’ favourite, Virtuous by Kirkstall Brewery
There’s no verifiable evidence that a pint of Virtuous is Leeds best loved beer, but it’s absolutely a winner amongst those who spend their time seeking out the best brews and bottles. The brewery is based on Kirkstall Road, with an on-site taproom where you can taste it straight from the source.
You’ll also find the fresh, citrusy pale on cask, keg or in cans in pubs right across the city, so make a note to seek it out when you’re feeling thirsty.
13. Become pals with Pingu at Harewood House
Alright, it might not be the real life Pingu. But you can get close enough at stunning stately home Harewood House, just a short distance north of the city. The Grade I listed house itself is a sight to behold, packed with treasures and trinkets from the globetrotting Lascelles family.
But the landscaped grounds and gardens provide just as big an attraction, including a flock of curious Humboldt penguins. You can even book tickets to a Penguin Feeding Experience!
14. Shop like a local at Leeds Kirkgate Market
Our famous covered market is one of the largest in Europe, providing a shopper’s paradise with stalls selling everything from meat and fish to hardware and haberdashery. In fact, Kirkgate is such a central part of city life that it’s a great place to see what makes Leeds tick!
So grab some award-winning street food from the food hall and get to people watching. Then pick up a new houseplant, some Moroccan mint tea, a Leeds United scarf or a very reasonably priced washing machine.
15. Be dazzled by the UK’s largest annual arts and light festival, Light Night
It’s been an annual Leeds institution for nearly two decades, so it’s no surprise that Light Night is not to be missed. For two nights every October, some of Leeds’ most recognisable buildings, attractions and landmarks are taken over by spectacular illuminated artworks of all shapes and sizes.
From large scale projections to quirky installations, there are works to be explored right across the city, plus music, dance, food and drink to go along with it.
16. Come across colour and creativity on the Street Art Trail
This isn’t one item to tick off the bucket list, but dozens! Right across Leeds, there are artworks of all sorts to be found on buildings, bridges, walls and walkways. Athena Rising towers above the train station, and on the River Aire there’s even a floating street art masterpiece – a canal boat mural.
It all comes together as part of the Street Art Trail, with stops around the city centre for snapping selfies and marvelling at the mastery of spray paint.
17. Check out the world’s largest suit of animal armour at the Royal Armouries
Over on Leeds Dock, the Royal Armouries packs in centuries of arms and armour, with exhibits charting everything from medieval knights to WWII regiments. Amongst their many and varied treasures is the world’s largest suit of animal armour – well worth the water taxi ride over from the station.
In the 17th century it would have belonged to an elephant, and it’s the only surviving example in the world. A fearsome sight indeed!
18. Savour the Victorian splendour of Leeds’ famous shopping arcades
It’s no surprise that a city famous for its Victorian architecture should boast some pretty stunning shopping destinations – the period marked the birth of British retail as we know it, from department stores to boutiques.
The big name is the magnificent Victoria Quarter, home to big brands and indie favourites, but don’t miss Queens Arcade, Thornton’s Arcade or Grand Arcade, each with their own unique features.
19. Lose yourself in world famous countryside, within minutes
Tourists flock from across the world to experience the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, whether they’re here for hiking, climbing or mountain biking, or just after a pint and a ploughmans with a view.
We’re eternally lucky to have it all on our doorstep, within a short drive or bus ride. Miles and miles of hills and valleys, all worth exploring.
20. Source bespoke, handmade jewellery at Dion Smith
Leeds Corn Exchange is a haven for independent shopping, with a little something for everyone – from plants and vinyl, to coffee and clothing. But if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind gift, then head to Dion Smith for exquisite handmade jewellery.
For over a decade, the studio has been creating custom pieces to customers’ exacting specifications, so if you have an idea for a special someone then this is the place.
21. Load up on specialty wine at Latitude Wine & Liquor Merchant
Independent wine merchant Latitude has been supplying the discerning drinkers of Leeds with libations since 2008, and they’ve got an enviable network of suppliers and producers in Yorkshire and beyond to fill the shelves with.
Their vino-based knowledge can’t be surpassed, but it’s also the place to go for small batch spirits and alcoholic curiosities – a fantastic option for gifting.
22. Subscribe to award winning craft beer with the Northern Monk subscription
Subscription boxes – especially beer ones – now come in all shapes and sizes. But award winning craft brewers Northern Monk offer one of the best on the market. Beer fans can choose from all sorts of options, including the original Brethren Box, for an introduction to the range, or the Alumni Box, a compendium of special releases and brews from invitation-only events.
The boxes are a firm favourite, though, so you might need to watch that online shop for the next round of releases.
23. Bag award winning handmade creations at Our Handmade Collective
The best gifts are the things that only represent the city you’re visiting – and Leeds is a city filled with that kind of uniqueness. One of the best examples is Our Handmade Collective, which stocks thousands of products from local creators for all tastes and budgets.
There’s new stuff hitting the shelves all the time too, which is why you’ll find locals returning month after month to grab gifts, cards, homeware and art pieces you won’t find anywhere else.
24. Take home a taste of independence with the Leeds Indie Hamper
Independent food festival Leeds Indie Food is famous for celebrating the city’s unique food and drink culture. But it’s not just pop-ups and events. You can also pick up a taste of Leeds with an Indie Hamper, made bespoke based on your personal preferences.
You might find local wine and spirits, coffee roasted within a few miles or crafty postcards from local artists. But whatever you end up with, it’ll be like no-one else’s!
25. Let loose your creative side at Colours May Vary
Another resident of independent retail hub Leeds Corn Exchange, Colours May Vary stock a carefully curated range of magazines, books, prints, stationery and gifts – as well as a regularly revolving exhibition space where artists can find space for their work.
It really is a one stop shop, where you can pick up a card, wrapping paper and the main event all in one place. Then pop downstairs for a coffee and a cake.