Ah, the lunch hour. The one hour of the working day when your boss can’t bother you, and you instead get to venture out into Leeds city centre to be bothered by all the other office workers escaping their bothersome bosses.
Seriously, I feel lucky to have a job that I enjoy, but sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day is not natural, so my lunch hour is sacred to me. Budget constraints mean that I bring lunch from home most of the time, but once or twice a week I like to leave the office and walk for my lunch. So where do I go?
Sesame is one of my go-to ‘no frills’ places; if I originally wanted a simple homemade lunch but didn’t get out of bed in time to actually make it, this is where I go instead. I usually get one of their salad boxes, which feel super healthy and are great value – a £2.80 box allows you to pick 6 salad portions from a choice of bowls that feature fresh vegetables, rice, cous cous, pasta and beans, plus a cooked meat and a dollop of tzatziki or houmous. This box is dubbed ‘small’ but the staff are perfectly happy to stuff the box full to bursting, and it fills me up for the day! The cherry on top? In summer you can go straight over the road and eat it in Park Square.
I’ve never been a big fan of sushi, but I fell in love with bento boxes while travelling around Japan when I was 22. Wasabi, while unfortunately a suited yuppie central during weekday lunchtimes (6 individual pieces of sushi at £1.50 a pop – who are you, Bill Gates?!), actually does pretty decent Japanese food. The hot food counter tends to be both cheaper and more filling; my fave is Chicken Teriyaki for just under £5. I count this as my main meal of the day as I rarely eat dinner after demolishing one of these. In fact the ensuing food coma is a real problem when you’ve still got a whole afternoon of work to do.
Got the giggles at the name out of the way? Good, then let’s begin. Humpit is almost purely vegan, featuring chiefly around (of course) hummus and pitta, with chickpeas, mushrooms, falafel and salsa chipping in to add further flavour. The menu isn’t big but it’s definitely beautiful – after tasting their homemade hummus you’ll never be able to stomach the supermarket stuff ever again, and the still lemonade is delicious. The staff are lovely and they enjoy a great location; the shop itself is small and has limited seating but there are plenty of additional tables ‘outside’ under the beautiful ceiling of the Corn Exchange.
Wolf Street Food
Wolf has opened recently on St Paul’s Street in the financial district, a kind of Italian answer to Subway or Barburrito. Pick your ‘base’ – pasta, salad, wrap or focaccia bread – add meat, toppings and sauce, and you’ve got your meal. The formula is simple but leads to a very varied meal; I ordered a salad and ended up with a generous portion of tender pink steak, roasted peppers and 4 different vegetables on a bed of leaves. Not too shabby. I also feel it’s worth mentioning that they put spaghetti in their wraps – clearly these guys aren’t messing around.
Zaap isn’t an obvious choice for a quick lunch – unlike the other places on my list it’s not a cafe or a to-go place but a restaurant, where you usually have to write off an hour and a half to get through your meal. However Zaap is a restaurant in the loosest sense; it’s casual, cheap, and at lunchtime it’s usually quiet enough that you can order, eat and be back in the office in an hour. On an evening I tend to go for Thai curries, but at lunch it’s super fast to order several starters and have a tapas-style Thai buffet. Obviously this is a bit more pricey than a meal deal from Boots…but actually not as much more as you would expect.
Fellow city centre workers! Where do you go to escape your computer and refuel?