We could prattle on for hours about the red-hot roasties and yummy Yorkshire puds that can be found throughout Leeds, but sometimes we need a little deviation for tradition at Christmas. And in a city as culinarily diverse as Leeds, every taste can be catered for, with burgers, pizza, curry and even sushi on the menu.
1) Box Pizza – Christmas Pizza
Holy pizzaioli! There’s a multitude of reasons why Box Pizza’s legendary festive offering has made the top of our list: a humble bread-based student staple is magically transformed for the season with delicious and inspired ingredients, and charitable motivation. The city’s trendiest takeaway pulls it out of the bag, combining braised turkey, homemade stuffing, pigs-in-blankets, cranberry compote, and a scattering of crushed walnuts and fresh rosemary. If that wasn’t enough to have you dialling, 50p from each £9.95 pizza sold will be donated to the Leeds-based Simon on the Streets, which works to help rough sleepers.
2) Chilli White – Turkey Curry
Leeds’ countless dedicated curry houses may be missing a trick by not catering to the irrepressible British inclination for festive leftovers. Then again, considering turkey curry’s reputation for doing dodgy things to your insides it’s perhaps not surprising that restaurants haven’t leapt on to the trend. Chilli White has, though, and the venue better known for its glitzy clientele and cocktails is featuring the dish (with a veggie variation also available) alongside bacon rice, pork baguettes and mince pies on its Christmas menu for large groups.
3) Gourmet Burger Kitchen – Blitzen Burger
Gourmet Burger Kitchens can be found in most large cities, but when an eatery decides to go all-out in the spirit of Christmas, it’s worth giving them a mention in our guide. Cue the ‘Blitzen’ burger: a juicy, oozy and deliciously festive behemoth of crispy bacon, deep-fried camembert, ‘Mrs Claus’ burger sauce, baby spinach and spiced cranberry ketchup combine with a beef or chicken burger to create a burger worth buying in bulk and taking home in a doggie-bag.
4) Friends of Ham – Charcuterie
Friends of Ham has barely been open for two years and already food critic Jay Rayner has declared that he’d rather eat at the trendy bar and eatery instead of some of the city’s more 'bona fide' restaurants. Christmas at Ham coincides with the venue having expanded to offer more seating and full table service, yet with the same unbuttoned atmosphere that is perfect for dressed-down seasonal socialising. Set sharing boards (from £12.50) combine cheese and charcuterie, while a DIY option offers endless possibilities for lazy Sunday or post-work Yuletide nibbling.
5) The Pit – Wild Boar Burger
Yuletide banqueting tables of old traditionally groaned under the weight of a roasted wild boar, and The Pit is seemingly looking to replicate that sense of decadence and festive feasting with its own take on the classic crimbo hog. It may not be a Christmas-only offering, but the wild boar burger pays tribute to the rich and lean meat of feasts and offers an indulgent yet laid-back way of celebrating Christmas with friends in the city. A hand-shaped burger patty is sandwiched between a brioche bun with black pudding, crispy streaky bacon, mayonnaise, and apple sauce: hipster Henry VII, eat your heart out!
6) Wasabi Teppan-Yaki – ‘Christmas at Sea’ menu
For a truly alternative Christmas meal this year, head to Wasabi Teppan-Yaki for some of the best Japanese food in the city. The busy eatery has rolled out a special festive menu for lovers of oriental cuisine, with dishes to suit all tastes and dietary needs. The restaurant’s Christmas at Sea menu (£39 per person) is the most eye-catching, offering a choice of tiger prawns, crabstick and roe California rolls and soya bean soup for starters, followed by swordfish, king prawns and jumbo scallop for mains – served with rice and vegetables. The dessert selection ramps up the festivities, with Christmas pud, chocolate fudge cake, and green tea panna cotta to sate your sweet tooth.
7) Blackhouse – Sirloin Steak
Sure, there are other choices on Blackhouse’s Christmas menu but when a steakhouse does its signature dish so well, it’s difficult to order anything else as an alternative to the classic turkey. For lunch (£25.95) or dinner (£30.95), the classy New York-style eatery has got sophisticated seasonal dining covered. Its famously juicy sirloin slab is served with roasted shallots, mushrooms, bacon and Madeira jus, and there’s plum frangipane pudding and spiced pear and mincemeat crumble for dessert. Fancy doesn’t cover it.
8) Cattle Grid – Hog Roast Sandwich
Yuletide may be synonymous with belt-loosening overindulgence, and while some seasonal roasts can feel more like an episode of Man Vs Food, city-centre steakhouse Cattle Grid has cracked the starter-sized plate that still feels special enough for a relaxed Christmas lunch. The restaurant’s hog roast sandwich (£9.95), served with chips and rib sauce, firmly continues the restaurant’s reputation as a meat-lover’s paradise and while it’s not a purely festive feature on the menu, manages to tick all the right boxes for a no-fuss festive treat.
9) Art’s Café – Festive Salad
There’s no reason to gain a stone over Christmas, especially when there are some equally delicious healthier options to be found on menus across the city. Art’s Café have created a tempting salad for their set Christmas menu, which includes butternut squash, feta and sage filo cigars, chestnut puree, cranberries, and rocket leaves. Though your healthy intentions may not last long when you spy the decadent dessert options of blood orange panna cotta, Christmas pud with brandy sauce, and chocolate and hazelnut delice!
10) Liquid lunch?
For when you’re not quite ready for food, and fancy a Christmassy tipple, it’s a great time to be ‘of the legal age’ in Leeds, where countless bars serve themed booze designed specifically with Yule in mind. The Adelphi has rolled out warming mulled wine and spiced cider; newcomer MeatLiquor has designed a cocktail of bourbon, spiced syrup and a clove-studded orange garnish; Rare is giving its cocktails a festive finish with Blackdown’s treesap-infused gin; Tapped has stocked its fridge with chintzy crimbo bottles, and there’s plenty more to be discovered.
Words: Lauren James