It’s their job to know every nook and cranny of the city, so we caught up with the Leeds Welcome Ambassadors to uncover their favourite hidden gems…
You’ve probably seen the Leeds Welcome Ambassadors wandering around town in their distinctive bowler hats. They’re your personal city guide, so whether you’re after directions or inspiration, they can show you a side of the city you’ve never seen before. And with that in mind, we asked them to name their favourite hidden treasures, here’s what they came up with…
1. Blue Rinse
Leeds Welcome Ambassador Yvonne Kennedy kicked off proceedings with one of the city’s finest vintage stores. “I like Blue Rinse.” She told us. “It’s on Call Lane, so you’d think everyone would know about it, but most people visit at night, so you could have passed it a hundred times and never realised it was there.”
A Leeds original, Blue Rinse started life in our beloved Kirkgate Market in 1997, but their pre-loved finds were so popular that they soon moved to bigger premises. Now they have their own vintage empire, with a store on Call Lane that’s packed with vintage and recycled clothing and another in Manchester.
Blue Rinse, 9-11 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7DH.
2. Cafe Moor
“Cafe Moor do really good chicken shawarma, they’re in the market, and their mint tea is really nice as well.” Leeds Welcome Ambassador, Kirsty Hardingham told us, “They’re always really happy there as well – I want whatever they’re having.”
It’s actually really easy to find, just enter the market where Vicar Lane meets George Street and it’s right in front of you. You can get all manner of delights here – the shawarma sandwiches sell like hot cakes, and with fillings like Lebanese chicken and falafel wrapped up in arabic bread, it’s no wonder. But don’t overlook the other options on the menu – they also do boureks, tagine and baklava.
Cafe Moor, Kirkgate Market, 34 George Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7HY.
3. The Chilli Shop
For something totally different, hunt out The Chilli Shop. “It’s kind of interactive and unique.” Yvonne told us, while fellow Leeds Welcome Ambassador, Suzanne Frain, added, “All the school kids have been going in and tasting the chillies, seeing who can eat the hottest one – and obviously the owner is lovely, he lets them do it, doesn’t he? He’s great.”
That’s one of the best things about The Chilli Shop – they always have something for you to try. You can test your tolerance against their Museum of Pain, which includes some of the rarest sauces and most unusual chilli concoctions in the UK, or just do a bit of shopping. They’ve got everything from sweets to chutney, cheese and even ice cream, so it’s perfect for presents and even better for adding a kick to your cooking.
The Chilli Shop, The Merrion Centre, Merrion Way, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8NG.
Another favourite, and one that many of you will surely agree on, is Whitelock’s. “It’s a really nice, old school pub.” Suzanne told us, “It’s got loads of character, with the bronze topped bar and the stained glass windows – even the stairs to the toilet. You have to be careful, because it’s really old and small and steep.”
It’s said to be one of the oldest pubs in the city centre, and it’s been beautifully maintained, but the building’s history isn’t the only reason to visit – in fact, Whitelock’s boasts an impressive array of ale, with a host of hand-pulled local brews for you to delve into alongside a menu of pub classics done well.
Whitelock’s Ale House, 4 Turk’s Head Yard, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6HB.
5. ID Aromatics
Peter Allinson, another of our twelve-strong Welcome Ambassador team, had a very different experience up his sleeve, and one that you might not have discovered for yourself. “ID Aromatics is great. My wife is a herbalist and she goes there a lot. When you walk in, it just hits you – not one herb, but all of them. It’s every single thing there is, all melded into one.”
You’ll find ID Aromatics nestled between Element and Friends of Ham on New Station Street. The Leeds independent first opened back in 1983 and is manned by people who are genuinely passionate about aromatherapy, so whether you’re looking for something hard to find or after advice on choosing the best oils to help you sleep, they’ll be happy to help.
ID Aromatics, 12 New Station Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 5DL.
6. Colours May Vary & Cafe 164
Fellow Leeds Welcome Ambassador, Kirsty, added another shop to the list – one that’s off the beaten track but very much worth the walk. “Colours May Vary is really good for prints, art and handmade cards.” She told us, “And next door, there’s Cafe 164, if you wanted to grab a bite or a cuppa, they do really good sandwiches.”
The former is a treasure trove of loveliness, a bookshop by trade, it’s full of tomes worthy of your coffee table, covering everything from art and design to typography and illustration, while the latter is a fabulous little independent cafe that serves up expertly made coffees, a wondrous selection of tea and handmade cakes that will make your mouth water.
Colours May Vary & Cafe 164, Munro House, Duke Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8AG.
7. Kendells Bistro
Finally, Suzanne finished the list with one of the most romantic restaurants in Leeds. “Kendells Bistro is such a unique restaurant.” She told us, “The menu changes every day, so they put it up on the blackboard, and they give you binoculars, like in the theatre, so you can see it.”
Kendells is a French bistro through and through, right down the murals on the walls and the extravagant, wax-strewn wine bottles that hold the candles. The ever-changing menu makes the most of fresh, seasonal ingredients to give you the likes of Queue de Bœuf Bourguignon, Choucroute Formidable and Porc Boulangere.
Kendells Bistro, 3 St Peter’s Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8AH.
All Leeds Welcome Ambassador images copyright Jessie Leong.