The unabashedly bohemian Arts Café, in the heart of the party district on Call Lane, serves top-quality food in homely, art-inspired surroundings. The cheery café-bar is open for lunch and serves plates of mezze, meat and cheese boards, salads, pies and sandwiches for no more than £9. It’s during the evenings, however, that Arts Café becomes super popular – booking is essential at the weekend – with a menu similar in scope and price to oft-exalted The Reliance.
The ‘a la carte’ menu is largely seasonal and regularly updated, though it does leave a lot to be desired for those who don’t eat meat. Those who do are spoilt for choice with twice-cooked bellies of pork with black pudding; pigeon and cauliflower salads; venison steaks; and pan-fried sea breams fillet with fennel – all priced between £10 and £15. The meats are perfectly cooked, the sauces deeply flavoursome, and the combinations well thought out. The dessert menu is irresistible thanks to a guilt-inducing collection of sweets and treats, including sticky toffee pudding with Horlicks butterscotch sauce, a chocolate and stout sponge, and an Eton mess with seasonal fruits.
The wine cellar is thoughtfully-stocked and the well informed staff are happy to suggest which might best match a meal or celebration. Due to its small size, the restaurant can be booked for intimate birthday meals, but a limited dining area also means it can feel crushed during the inevitable weekend rush. This cosy diner isn't the cheapest mealtime option in Leeds, but with such a strong menu and lovely atmosphere it’s definitely worth the extra.