Leeds on a plate with Luke Denning
Published 08 April 2018

From expertly made coffee to cocktails in one of the city’s under-the-radar new bars, Luke Downing of Vice & Virtue picks his favourite places in Leeds to eat and drink

Best breakfast

I like to keep it local for breakfast. Living near Chapel Allerton presents a few options, and my preference is Opposite Cafe. As well as offering great coffee in small, unpretentious surroundings, it also offers wholesome breakfasts – from porridge with honey and bananas to smashed avocado on toast. The bread is from Leeds Bread Co-op, and I love their sourdough.

Best coffee

Although Opposite Cafe is my coffee local, when I’m working in the centre of Leeds I like to stroll over to La Bottega Milanese in The Light. They have some really professional barristas and an excellent selection of blended beans.

Best brunch

Brunch is a speciality of my partner Laura, who is also an executive chef at one of our other restaurants in Leeds, Aperitivo in West Park. She makes some incredible brunch dishes at home, so when we eat out we have high standards and expectations. There are also some great flatbreads coming out of The Greedy Pig, just down the road from Vice and Virtue, and my staff have been over a few times for a staff brunch.

Best lunch

It’s usually more of a quick bite for lunch, but there’s a super street food Thai restaurant called Zaap on Merrion Street. It is great value and has some really flavoursome dishes. You can be in and out quick enough for it to be an express experience.

Best place for food shopping

Leeds Market is an absolute must when food shopping in Leeds. We get a fair amount of our produce for Vice & Virtue from Leeds Kirkgate Market, and food shopping for home is no different. Tarbett’s fishmongers has exceptional produce – fresh fish, caught from the East Coast and displayed beautifully. The oysters are some of the best I’ve had. Neil’s the greengrocer has some great quality fruit and vegetables, and there are some great butchers hidden away in the market.

Best place for a pint

For a pint, head to the Brunswick on North Street, a proper local, independent bar/pub run by people who love what they do. For wine, I’d head to Ham and Friends bottle shop, and get some nibbles upstairs. If getting wine for home, there’s no better place than Latitude Wine Merchant, behind the Corn Exchange. The staff have great knowledge and will have you going home with some exceptional bottles.

Best place with the family

I don’t have any kids, but if I was taking the family out in Leeds, with plenty of nieces and nephews, I'd head to Kith and Kin in Chapel Allerton. Laid back during the day, it’s totally kid friendly and has a nice little outdoor area.

Best for Sunday lunch

For Sunday lunch, I'd definitely head over to another one of my places, Nineteen at Leeds Golf Centre in Wike, near Shadwell. We change our meats regularly, and it's amazing to see how many places aren’t doing the traditional Sunday lunch thing properly. Real gravy, homemade Yorkshire puddings, properly cooked meat and some decent seasonal veg. The chefs up there are great at producing traditional British food and the portions are rather large to say the least.

Pre-dinner cocktails

My first port of call any time I go out is Vice’s Cocktail lounge. We have one of the best bar teams in Leeds, and the back bar is phenomenal and ever growing and changing. From there, my usual route would take me to Smokestack at the bottom of Briggate – great tunes, knowledgable staff and well mixed cocktails means we end up that way more often than not.

Best place for dinner

Amici on Harrogate Road is like my second home and we go most Sunday evenings. It's great fresh Italian food, cooked properly, without any pretentiousness and superb customer service. Not only that, the wine list is brilliant, with a great Barolo and superb Amarone Classico. I’ve not had anything other than great food and service, each time I’ve been.

Where to go for a post-pub snack

Pinche Pinche in Chapel Allerton is a food institution. Laura and I order at least twice a week and I am addicted to the beef burritos and nachos.

If I could eat only one thing in Leeds, it would have to be this…

There are so many big chains in Leeds, I’d say if there’s only one thing you could do when in Leeds, it has to be visiting one of the city’s independents or, even better, more than one. It’s nice to see the millions being spent on some of the new projects in Leeds, but the heart and soul of the city lies with its independents.

Best-kept secret in Leeds

The saturation of social media means there aren’t so many hidden gems, but the few I would mention to visit would be the cocktail bars Below Stairs and Epicurus: Death & Taxes, and Aperitivo and The Swine That Dines for local independent food that showcases our city’s talents.

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