Leeds locals are lucky, as whenever we don't have a whole heap of money on the hip, we can still eat out at some really very good restaurants. And we have great choice, including classic Italian, tatsy vegetarian and much more.
From the street food vibe of places like Dough Boys and NOM, to the corking Indian food at Aagrah, the Japanese delights at Fuji Hiro and the superb vegetarian food at Roots and Fruits, there's a lot of variety on offer, too. We've picked our favourites from quite an impressive selection, so try some out and eat well for a lot less lolly.
An all-day menu – from 8am – encompasses everything from organic oat porridge, bacon (albeit Lishman’s of Ilkley bacon) butties to slow roasted belly pork with cumin salt and Atlantic prawns with Cornish crab. There’s also an extensive range of beers and cocktails and, if you get happy feet, a disco till 12am, 1am at weekends.
A welcome addition to what was until recently a row of very unlovely empty shop units on Duncan Street, Pieminister’s culinary heritage goes back to 1867, when the current owner’s great-great granddad made sauces and pickles in London. Today, the company, which as eight other branches around the country, uses 100 per cent British meat and the best locally sourced produce it can find. No chance of catching mad cow disease here then.
With its bright yellow visage, strip lighting and cheesy pop music playing in the background, this Malaysian eatery, in the increasingly smart environs of the Merrion Centre, looks more like a take away than a restaurant. But don’t be fooled, the food here is the real deal. The menu is divided into noodle soups, roasted meats, rice and meat combos and stir fried noodles. There’s even a roast suckling pig but as it comes in at around £120, you might want to reserve that for special occasions. There's no alcohol licence.
Serving authentic and tasty Vietnamese street food, Nom is a safe bet for those who are on the hunt for a more exciting lunch than the usual soup or sandwich. The banh mi sandwiches (starting at £3.95) are very good, and feature a locally made baguette that’s crisp on the outside yet soft inside, packed with a choice of delicious fillings – either chicken, grilled fish, barbecue pork, hoisin duck or tofu and mushroom. The menu also features summer rolls, pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and noodle salads, all of which are freshly made, and vegetarians or those with gluten intolerances will also find themselves well catered to.
The inviting space pays tribute to the building’s rich manufacturing heritage, while ensuring that the food and selection of alcoholic drinks on offer are sufficiently à la mode to entice trendy young professionals. Meals are served on homely earthenware; the couscous salad is warm and full of flavour – something the haddock and egg salad unfortunately lacks. Portions are a little ungenerous, but can be padded with snacks from the bar menu, which includes the likes of salted pretzels. Lunchtime prices are in line with most similar cafés: sandwiches start from £5.50, salads from £6.95 and larger plates from £9.95.
The family-run business is a mammoth operation nowadays, but it started from humble roots in the late 70s at a time of culinary suspicion in the UK, and has since earned a fond place in Yorkshire hearts. All the usual curry house staples are available, but the signature house dish is the Hyderabadi – a mild-to-medium curry with a rich blend of spices and cream that could easily rival any korma or tikka masala. The range of ever-changing specials includes spicy lamb kebabs that hit the table still sizzling, and fresh fish cooked to perfection in a blend of aromatic spices.
The North may have a reputed affection for everything meat and pastry, but Leeds is lucky enough to boast some of the very finest vegetarian eateries in the country. Roots and Fruits proudly takes its place on this list, providing one of the most memorable dining experiences the city can offer. The small kitchen plays it safe with a solid selection of favourites, such as burritos, falafel, jacket potatoes and lasagne, with prices starting from just under £4. The halloumi salad is the star of the menu, featuring pulses, olives and a big, bouncy bed of leaves that slays hunger for a lot longer than the more substantial-sounding mains.
Arguably some of the best pizza in the city, Dough Boys’ creations feature a mega thin base, sauce that strikes the right balance between sweet and tangy, and is made from juicy San Marzano tomatoes, an obligatory pile of cheese, and a whole range of toppings. The owners take pride in the provenance of their ingredients, the origins of which are proudly displayed and are locally sourced where possible. Slices won’t break the bank either – if you visit at the right time (before 5pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and before 7pm the rest of the week), you can pick up a piece for half price.
Friends of Ham is a favourite among food lovers in Leeds. Since opening a couple of years ago it's become a go-to destination for great food and drink, serving quality charcuterie and cheese alongside equally good beverages, including a wide range of craft ales and wine. Located a short walk from both Leeds train station and Boar Lane, it’s a convenient spot to duck into. The menu has a section dedicated to small dishes, such as jabugo bruschetta or ploughman’s, that start from as little as £5; order them alongside meats, cheeses and bread if you’re in the mood for a more substantial feast. Or try one of the platters if you’re in the mood for sharing.
This longstanding city centre restaurant has served up Japanese staples for many years. The menu consists of small dishes, such as gyoza, fried noodle dishes, including yaki soba and fuji beef men, as well as chicken katsu curry, chahan (fried rice) and steaming bowls of ramen. The interior is simple, bordering on stark, but the decor is not the reason to visit Fuji Hiro, rather its quality, good value meals (a set meal, which includes a side dish, main and beer starts at £15.95) are what attract its customers. Portions are generous, in particular the chahan and yaki soba, which are served in mountainous proportions.
‘Good food done well’ is this small restaurant’s business mantra, and it certainly delivers with a creative and well-planned menu for any time of day. The kitchen is happy to cater to any dietary needs, but with a wide choice of dishes there’s something to suit everyone, whether it’s a warming, slow-cooked aubergine curry, pan-roasted salmon, coq au vin, or just a simple yet mouth-watering bangers and mash. Lunch mains start from £5 for the soup of the day, while evening plates average £10. Those just popping in during a busy day or for a coffee catch-up are met with an extensive selection of cakes, traybakes and tarts served in generous wedges.
Arch offers a welcome, pocket-friendly and peaceful break from similarly sized chain eateries due to its slightly concealed location and solid ethical business model. The countertop is laden with huge homemade layer cakes which pair perfectly with tea or coffee, but more substantial lunches can consist of freshly made flans and tarts, a toasted ciabatta, a warming portion of Welsh rarebit or a crunchy green salad – all prepared in the small kitchen and priced at an average of £5. Cream tea will set you back a mere £3.50 (or £6.50 for two), and a full-blown afternoon tea costs a very reasonable £8.95 (£16.95 for two).
Located at the heart of the rough ‘n’ ready Kirkgate Markets, Café Moor is not exactly embedded in glamorous surroundings. However, with its exotic eastern and North African cooking, amazingly cheap snacks and meals, and the freshness of everything served, it’s the sort of place where you’ll impress your dining companion with your knowledge of off-the-beaten-track and pocket-friendly cuisine. A chicken, lamb or vegetable tagine in a pot is the most authentic eastern dish found this far from the equator, but there’s a huge selection of other lunch mains, including jam-packed shawarma sandwiches, ‘bourek’ stuffed filo parcels, soup served with bread and mhadje
If you’ve ever taken a journey down the Otley Road through the student confines of Hyde Park, you probably will have noticed the curious, Middle-Eastern-looking Oranaise Café on the corner of Woodhouse Moor. Channelling the diverse flavours of Morocco, Algeria and Old Andalucía, this pretty eatery offers a sit-in and takeout menu filled with flavour and North African warmth. It's cheap, too - the generous, superb tagines are the most expensive items on the menu, at a very reasonable £11.
La Cafetiere is a magnet for snuggling student couples thanks to its sultry purple décor, fairy lights, waxy wine bottle candles and sexy-sounding Mediterranean food for cheaps. By modern standards the food isn’t fancy, but it is sufficiently exotic sounding and smelling to make it a shrewd go-to date night option - and it's one you’ll find yourself returning to again and again. Keenly priced starters include delicious kubah and dolmas, while most mains - ranging from pastas and pizza breads to falafel, kofta, salads and lamb meatballs with couscous - are priced between £5 and £9.