Rarely a week goes by when we’re not announcing a new bar or restaurant in the city, but it’s not just the latest additions that deserve your attention…
Yes, there are lots of lovely new openings in Leeds, but don’t let those sparkly new facades distract you from the awesome restaurants that are sitting right under your nose (and have been for years). These five are absolutely awesome, and yet they’re often overlooked in favour of their newer neighbours – make the most of it and snap up one of those tables.
It isn’t the most famous sushi restaurant in Leeds, nor is it the most popular, but Sushi Waka has been serving up consistently good food for years, so look past the karaoke bar next door and head inside for a delicious feed.
They’ve stolen their chef, Rui Wang, from the Big Smoke, where he worked for the highly renowned SushiSamba. Now he serves up a surprisingly diverse menu of sushi, with everything from scallop sashimi to salmon hosomaki and tuna nigiri. You can even try oyster, octopus and clam, with a medley of unusual seafood options that you won’t find elsewhere. Want something warm? Tuck into curries, bento boxes and more.
Sushi Waka, 28 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
Viva Italian Restaurant
Nestled on the bridge over the River Aire, Viva is easily missed, but this long-standing Italian restaurant is worth seeking out. It’s just about as traditional as they come, so you’ll feel like you’ve stepped off the streets of Leeds and into the heart of Italy.
Now, you’ll find you’re tempted by their pizzas. They’re good, you should be, and they’re cheap too – they all come in under a tenner. Try the Calzone, which comes loaded with chicken, garlic, spinach and mozzarella. But don’t let them distract you from the mains – you can get standout dishes like chicken breast with cream, brandy and mushroom or sirloin steak on a bed of spinach, wild mushrooms and pecorino cheese.
Viva Italian Restaurant, 9-11 Bridge End, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7HG.
Hansa’s is out of the way, at the top edge of the city centre, but it shouldn’t be out of mind. It’s a long-time Leeds institution that introduced the city to traditional Vegetarian Gujarati cuisine. That was 30 years ago and it’s still going strong today.
It’s the life’s work of chef and founder Hansa Dabhi, whose keen eye for exciting flavours will take you right across the West Indian coast, with dishes like Channa Dal, Bhel Puri and Bhaji Paneer. You can even get their famous Thali, a combo of two curries, complete with rice, farsan, rotli or puri bread and lassi.
Hansa’s, 72-74 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.
The Crepe Hut
It’s hidden in the maze that is Kirkgate Market, but The Crepe Hut is definitely worth seeking out. It’s a simple, understated cafe where you can indulge in traditional crepes just the way you like them.
They have sweet and savoury covered here. You can get your pancakes loaded with apple and ginger, topped with Nutella, banana and strawberries or whipped up into a mass of peanut butter and galaxy chocolate. We like ours with mushrooms, spinach, mozzarella and just a touch of garlic, but you might be more partial to beef, brie and roasted red peppers or smoked bacon with eggs and mushrooms.
The Crepe Hut, Market Hall, Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7HH.
Tucked away in a basement just a few doors up from Belgrave Music Hall, Teppanyaki is easy to miss but impossible to forget. It’s been around for years and with good reason. It’s a top Japanese restaurant where you can get everything from sushi to Chicken Karaage, Salmon Fishcakes and Katsu Curry.
But it’s not the food that makes Teppanyaki a must-visit. This is experiential dining at its very best. You can watch in awe as your personal chef cooks up a storm on their Teppan hot plates built into the table. It gets better, you’ll be part of the show as they challenge you to play egg shell golf or catch sushi in your mouth.
Teppanyaki, Belgrave Hall, Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8DD.Header image copyright Bevan Cockerill.