Our essential guides to Leeds, Sheffield and York
Monday 10 May 2021
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Serving up the best craft beers from all over the world for over 20 years, North Bar is the place to go in Leeds. And for a huge selection of around 30 draft beers and a couple hundred bottles and cans to choose from, Tapped is another must-visit.
Craft Asylum, run by the same people behind Salt Beer Factory, is A no-brainer for a beer or two (there’s two of these excellent beery hangouts in the city centre), and Leeds Post Office is the ideal spot for a pint pre/post train travel. You should also visit Friends of Ham if you are a friend of ham (and cheese and charcuterie), but also want to sample a very well-curated selection of craft brews.
Locals recommend the very cosy Brew Society for a coffee during the day or a beer in the evening, and Below Stairs should be your go-to for an evening of scrumptious cocktails.
Leeds craft beer powerhouse Northern Monk has been firmly at the centre of the craft beer revolution since it began in 2013. Its core range, such as hazy pale Faith, and its more experimental brews such as its Patrons Project series (always accompanied by stunning can artwork) has elevated Northern Monk to god-like status in the eyes of craft beer drinkers in the UK and beyond.
Across the River Aire, Nomadic Beers is best known for its delicious cask ales, but also for being run by Katie and Mike who are two of the loveliest, friendliest people in the beer industry. Keep an eye out for its bitter Strider, and its green hop beer GeeGee which is brewed with Leeds-grown hops (see page 58).
Plus, there’s Wilde Child and Ridgeside - which have both been making a mix of classic and boldly experimental brews in a variety of styles for over a decade - and Kirkstall which honours the original Kirkstall Brewery’s historic 19th century brewing heritage through both its gorgeous branding and through some of its recipes. All three breweries have excellent taprooms which should be part of any beer-drinker’s itinerary when visiting the city.
Where to eat
Do yourself a favour and go to Bundobust for amazing veggie and vegan Indian street food - take your mates, order one of everything, and wash it all down with some tasty craft beers.
Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza is purportedly the best pizza joint in Leeds, offering classics like tomato, mozz and basil, or more extravagant toppings like wild boar salami and chillies.
Thai street food spot Zaap is an experience in and of itself - both the food and the decor are colourful and vibrant. There’s even market stalls and tuk-tuks indoors… even just looking at photos of Zaap online makes my heart happy.
For a fancy evening out, book a table at HOME for an exquisite fine dining tasting menu based on classic British cuisine, or choose fettle for beautifully-presented organic and seasonal Scandi-inspired dishes.
Things to do
Nation of Shopkeepers is your one-stop-shop for entertainment - this delightfully eclectic venue has regular art exhibitions, live music, a weekly pub quiz, great beer and cocktails, a drool-worthy menu with plenty of vegan options, and a lovely courtyard to soak up the rays while you lounge with your pals.
Press Start is one of Leeds’ best kept secrets - located upstairs from famed American diner MEATliquor, Press Start is a retro gaming zone with almost 20 classic gaming systems and a wealth of games to choose from. If you’re looking for something fun to do of an evening with friends or family, this should be top of your list.
The owl is the unofficial animal of Leeds, so obviously there is the Leeds Owl Trail. There are over 25 cute owl statues dotted around the city, and there’s a map/guide you can download on the trail’s website (or buy from the Leeds visitor centre) which tells you all about the city’s rich history and provides an alternative way to tour Leeds on foot.
Sheffield is replete with great pubs and bars for all kinds of moods. If you’re after a few tasty brews with your mates, locals recommend Jabbarwocky for beers and Polish vodka, and Beer Engine for pints in the beer garden. There’s also Beer House and Itchy Pig, both cosy micropubs with exceptional local ales on tap.
For the more discerning craft beer crowd, Two Thirds should be on your list for expertly selected beers from all over the world. There’s also Hop Hideout and the Industry Tap, both specialist craft beer bars, and the Sheffield Tap which is in an old Grecian railway station and brews its own beers.
If you want a bit of spook with your pint of local cask ale, the Old Queen’s Head is supposedly very haunted. It’s also a stunning medieval building, and the oldest domestic building in Sheffield, apparently.
Perhaps Sheffield’s best-known brewery, Abbeydale has been making classic, traditional beers for over 25 years. Plus, over the last few years, it’s been brewing up some more experimental, mixed-fermentation beers through its Funk Dungeon project. It’s safe to say that Abbeydale has a beer for every taste.
Brewery of Saint Mars of the Desert is one of my absolute favourite breweries right now, so before I wax lyrical about all the perfect SMoD beers I have had over the last couple of years, I will just say that if you’re a fan of beers that push the boundaries a bit and will consistently impress, give these guys a go.
Right in the heart of the city centre, Triple Point Brewery and Bar is a father-son operation that’s been making waves in the local craft beer scene for two and a half years now. From classic Vienna lager to smooth and rich coconut oatmeal stout, Triple Point’s range is both innovative and accessible.
Well-loved Derbyshire brewery Heist Brew Co is officially moving to Sheffield this year and opening up an incredible taproom, so for your fix of juicy, delicious, fresh as fck craft brews, beer tastings, street food, and all-round good times, keep your eyes on Heist’s social media profiles.
Where to eat
For one of the most memorable fine dining experiences of your life, head to Jöro - this restaurant prides itself on decadent, seasonal, modern tasting menus in a zero-waste environment (Jöro is actually located within an old shipping container).
If you’re looking for something a bit different, Otto’s is the place to go. Alongside some of the finest North African cuisine, there’s usually some fun live entertainment going on, such as belly dancing or magicians.
For a spot of antiques shopping followed by a spot of afternoon tea, go to The Vintage Pantry - the most moreish baked goods and teas are served up on mismatched vintage crockery for that retro vibe.
And if you’re a fan of street food, Sheffield has several establishments - among them is Street Food Chef for relaxed grazing on tacos and Mexican bites, or Mowgli Street Food for authentic Indian fare (and a gorgeous interior covered with fairy lights and with swing seating).
Things to do
If you’re looking to explore Sheffield on foot, there’s loads of cool street art around the city, and there are various walking guides available online that take you through all the different neighbourhoods.
Do you like chairs? Do you like wacky art? If you said yes to either, it would be worth your while to visit Wincobank, about four miles north of Sheffield city centre, where there is a collection of weird and wonderful ‘enchanted’ chair sculptures that tell an interesting story.
For those who like to get out in nature, the Sheffield botanic gardens are beautiful, and there’s also the Winter Garden urban glasshouse. Weston Park is also worth exploring, and slightly further away from the city centre is Stanage Edge which is great for those looking for more of a hike and rock-climbing adventure.
For modern craft beers, locals recommend Hop O’Clock to sink a few schooners and pet the resident cat Max, and The Market Cat and Pivni (both run by specialist beer importer Pivovar, and the former being a partnership with Thornbridge) which both pride themselves on serving a stellar selection of world beers and great British ales.
For a relaxed vibe in cool surroundings, head to House of The Trembling Madness (there’s two of them now; one is a Medieval-style dining hall, and the other is a ‘craft beer mansion’ in a Georgian townhouse), Rook and Gaskill for a chill evening with friends and plenty of great beers, and the awesome Valhalla for a horn of ale or mead and a viking feast-worthy sharing platter.
And for something a bit different from beer - Evil Eye does the best cocktails, the Stone Roses bar is the go-to spot for fun gigs and entertainment on a night out, and Pairings wine bar does (you guessed it) wine or spirit pairings in the form of tasting flights, or accompanied by food platters from the in-house deli.
Brew York is possibly the city’s best-known brewery - and it’s also one of the top places to go for food and beers in York thanks to its massive beer hall. It specialises in both classic beers and experimental craft brews (all with puntastic names), with the likes of its Rhubarbra Streisand rhubarb and custard pale ale and its American pale ale Calmer Chameleon helping to elevate the brewery to god-like status in the UK’s craft beer scene.
Local legend Hop Studio in Elvington, a short ‘hop, skip and jump’ from the city centre (see what I did there) is well-known for brewing up exciting permanent and seasonal beers in cask, keg and bottle. With a simple yet varied roster of beers, there’s something delicious for everyone.
Slightly south of York city centre, Ainsty Ales has been making classic craft ales using traditional brewing methods since 2014. It has a huge focus on sustainability and using the best ingredients, and even grows its own hops on-site! Head along on weekends for live music and food, as well as a few tasty pints, of course.
Where to eat
York is replete with great foodie spots: Cave du Cochon is famed locally for its wine menu and Parisian-style sharing platters; The Block purportedly does the best pizza in York; and Partisan is a quirky cafe and art space where all the antique furnishings are for sale and the lunch options are to die for.
There’s also Yakamoz for a delightful Turkish/Mediterranean feast, Ambiente for tapas and sherry, Rattle Owl for local and seasonal modern British cuisine, Skosh for vibrant fancy small plates, Melton’s for the most perfect intimate fine dining experience, Source for low n slow pulled meats or veggie alternatives, and Orchid for entirely vegan Asian-fusion fare.
Things to do
No visit to York is complete without a visit to Betty’s Tea Room. This northern institution is famous the world over for its afternoon tea and fancy patisserie in the most beautiful surroundings - the ornate art-deco interior is just as much of a draw as the food.
You’ll smell York’s Chocolate Story before you see it - located on King’s Square, it’s a chocolate museum and cafe dedicated to the city’s extensive history in chocolate-making and confectionery (Rowntree’s, Terry’s and Craven’s all have their beginnings in York).
York is an excellent place to investigate on foot, whether on your own self-guided tour, or on a guided tour. The Invisible City tour offers a walking tour like no other, led by residents who have been affected by homelessness, so as well as gaining a local’s knowledge of the city, you’re helping those in need. And the Cat Trail is a self-guided walk (map provided on the York Lucky Cats website) where your quest is to find all the cat statues in the city.
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