Tapas at Ambiente, Leeds

6 Leeds Restaurants I Always Go Back To

When you live somewhere for a while, even a big city with countless culinary options, you find yourself wandering back to the same places for your dinners, your morning coffees and your after-work drinks. Sometimes I feel guilty for doing it, like I’m being incredibly dull and unimaginative returning to the same restaurants when there are currently new places popping up in Leeds almost every week. Surely I should be trying to get reservations for that launch night, or clamouring to be the first person in the new bar everyone’s talking about?

But there are some places that deserve repeat custom. When you’re in a rush, stressed from a long day or nervously heading out for a promising date, there’s something undeniably comforting about sitting down and knowing that, whatever else happens, you’re going to get a great meal. Here are the restaurants in Leeds I go back to again and again.

My Thai

My Thai is my go-to place for a lunch or casual dinner – it’s quick, basic and amazingly cheap. £2.50 for a starter? Yes please. Even since its refurbishment the decor is no-frills with a distinctly communal feel – there are several large tables for groups and the two-person tables are crammed in close enough for you to share conversation with your neighbours. Service is fast and you’ll often find your mains appearing less than 5 minutes after your starters, but this just adds to its authentic charm. The steamed dumplings are some of the best I’ve ever had, and the pad thai will change your life.

Food at My Thai, Leeds

Shears Yard

Shears Yard is one of my favourite date night places (just in case anyone’s offering). For a start it’s beautiful; the exposed brick walls and hanging bulbs are just to my taste, even if it means horrible lighting for photos. Armed only with my humble iPhone 5S I’ve never managed to take a decent food picture here in my life, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that the food looks and tastes divine. Their focus is on using local, seasonal ingredients so the menu is constantly being updated with new and imaginative dishes. I think that’s why I keep coming back – because I know I’ll never be bored.

Zaap Thai

Do I need to seek help for my Thai addiction? Maybe. But at least the number of good Thai options in Leeds means I will never have to go cold turkey. If pushed I would probably have to go for MyThai as my absolute favourite, but sometimes I’m more in the mood for Zaap’s in your face, ‘straight outta Bangkok’ vibe and the food is equally good. Like MyThai it offers a no-frills experience – plastic plates and you will be asked to vacate your table if you’re lingering over your last sip of wine while there’s a queue at the door – but on value for money and atmosphere it cannot be beaten.

Zaap Thai, Leeds

Ox Club

Ox Club is quite simply the most perfect restaurant in the city. I’ve been a couple of times for dinner and more times than I can count for brunch and every aspect is consistently flawless – the food, the service, the atmosphere…everything. I’m not the most highbrow foodie so I don’t always recognise all the ingredients on the menu, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve realised that I like everything they put in front of me. Whenever a friend visits from outside Leeds, Ox Club is one of the first food options I suggest because they’re so reliably fantastic – I know they’re not going to embarrass me.

Brunch at Ox Club, Leeds

Bundobust

Do you want food, or just a few drinks? Starving hungry, or just want something to pick at? At Bundobust it doesn’t matter; their excellent range of beers and menu of street food-style vegetarian Indian caters for all moods. The atmosphere is fantastic – I don’t think I’ve ever seen it not full – and every dish is incredible. As an ashamed non-beer drinker I also appreciate the presence of a few delicious flavoured beers, namely Mongozo mango or coconut. The only way this place will go down badly is if you’re with a stubborn meat-eater, and even they may eat their words (as well as all the food).

Street food at Bundobust, Leeds

Ambiente

For all the tapas restaurants in Leeds, I find many of them a bit middle of the road. My eternal favourite, Viva Cuba, is a bit too out of the way in Kirkstall for a casual drop-in, and if there is an amazing option in city centre then I apologise; it hasn’t had a look in since I found Ambiente. The menu is described as Spanish tapas with a twist, and among the usual suspects are more interesting dishes like Yorkshire sausage and black pudding encased in quail egg and Moorish lamb kebab. The Leeds branch is beautiful, tucked away on the Calls beside the river, and the wine menu is excellent.

Tapas at Ambiente, Leeds

What are your fail-safe Leeds restaurants? Am I boring for going back to the same places? Let me know in the comments!

Convent of St Francis of Assisi in Trinidad, Cuba

Two Weeks in Cuba: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

Way back in April, I jetted off to Cuba for a two-week adventure around a country that has been on my bucket list for years. With no solid plans in place beyond three nights of accommodation in Havana, one of my best travel buddies and I improvised our way around Cuba with no internet for a whole fortnight, staying in casa particulares arranged by our host in Havana and car sharing between towns in ancient collectivos (if you don’t know what either of those terms mean, check out my know-before-you-go guide to Cuba). Once we’d subtracted flying time we had thirteen full days to see as much as we could – this is how we chose to spend out time.

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Leeds Diary Dates: June 2017

Right now I’m sat in bed with a mug of tea and my book, enjoying a relaxed bank holiday Monday. It’s been a quiet but beneficial bank holiday, spending time with friends in the sun and catching up on some much needed sleep, and though I’m not looking forward to going back to work I at least feel equipped to deal with it.

So what’s on the cards for June? Well, I’m trying to organise myself a little solo getaway for summer, even if it’s just a few days off for a city break, and I’ve got an exciting but terrifying work project to tackle at work. In my free time I’ve got some great events to distract my brain with – here’s where I plan to be this month…

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Street in Havana, Cuba

The Know-Before-You-Go Guide to Cuba

When I was planning my trip to Cuba, I found that there was an infuriating lack of information available online. While I’m used to being able to find basic information about transport, visas and things to do on official websites, Cuba is annoyingly lacking in these and I ended up piecing together most of what I wanted to know from various blogs that often contradicted each other or were quite obviously out of date.

So I’ve put together my own ‘know before you go’ guide to let you know what I learned while planning my trip, and while living it! Cuba is chaotic and unpredictable and full of surprises, but we found that it was quite easy to get by once you’ve picked up a few key facts. Here are the important things you need to know…

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View from hilltop, El Nicho Waterfalls, Cuba

Where Have I Been?

I’ve been a little absent from my blog recently, and I thought it was time for a catch up. I’ve been tweeting and Instagramming, checking my notifications, occasionally scribbling in one of my notebooks, but every time I go to click that big blue ‘Write’ button on my blog dashboard I shrink away from the command and turn to something less daunting. This post is more personal than I would usually get on my blog, but it’s been brewing in my head for weeks and maybe it’s the thing I need to write to get my mojo back…so here goes.

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Leeds Diary Dates: May 2017

After a busy and, to be honest, pretty rough time in April, I am so ready to say hello to a new month. There was so much going on in Leeds but due to spending the middle two weeks on holiday in Cuba, all the excitement of Leeds International Festival and the Digital Festival pretty much passed me by. Not that I’m complaining – two weeks offline in Cuba was just what I needed and I came back just in time to go to my first Live at Leeds with my best friend by my side.

May will see me heading to Tenerife for a 3-night hen party (and I assume far more drinking than I’m now used to), and spending the rest of the month doing post-holiday catch up with friends and checking out some Leeds Indie Food events. Let’s see what’s on the agenda in May…

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Leeds Diary Dates: April 2017

Spring is finally here, and even though we lost an hour of sleep I’m so glad to finally see the daylight sticking around until after 7pm. I’ve been looking forward to April for a long time, because on the 9th I’m jetting off to Cuba for 2 weeks! Cuba has been on my bucket list for a few years now, and I can’t wait to put my out of office on, grab my backpack and enjoy a couple of weeks exploring with one of my best friends.

Of course this means I’m not going to be in Leeds a lot, but luckily for me a lot of the best upcoming stuff isn’t happening until the end of the month. Take a look at my event picks for April.

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