Leeds-List: The Best & Most Insightful Guide to Leeds

35 Independent Eateries You Won’t Want to Miss

· Joseph Sheerin · Food and Drink

Which of these Leeds indies have you ticked off your list?

Shears Yard

Next time you’re going out for a feed in Leeds, check out the city’s finest independent restaurants.

Independents are the heart and soul of the city’s food and drink scene. They’re what separates our city from others, filled with passion and ingenuity for great produce, incredible flavours and sterling-silver service. Why? Because it matters more, and that’s evident in everything they do. So whether you’re after proper Yorkshire fare, classic Asian cooking or the very finest of fine dining, Leeds has an indie to suit. Book in and chow down…

Home

HOME

Credit: Chapter 81

Nestled on Brewery Wharf, Home is the place to go for fine dining par excellence in Leeds. No two visits are ever the same as renowned chef Liz Cottam takes inspiration from the seasons for her ever-changing 8 or 10-course tasting menus that put great local produce front and centre. It’s forward-thinking food, whether you’re trying her duck heart stew doughnut with mushroom caramel or the roasted turbot with chervil root. And you can enjoy it all in a stylish restaurant designed in collaboration with Leeds creatives.

Home, 3 Brewery Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1NE.

The Swine That Dines

The Swine That Dines

There’s no doubt The Swine That Dines is one of the best independent restaurants in Leeds. The brainchild of Jo and Stu Myers, this North Street gem may look like a charming, local cafe, but in fact it’s a fine-dining paradise. They like to play it down, but their inventive approach to flavours, ingredients and combinations makes any visit a culinary education. Salt cod with pickled peppers, black olive and potato followed by duck leg, turnip, kale and prune – this is uncomplicated cooking done spectacularly in an unpretentious setting.

The Swine That Dines, 58 North Street, Leeds West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.

The Reliance

The Reliance

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Aimee Stevens

The line between charming bar and rustic restaurant is blurred at The Reliance, but the dual-aspect is something to celebrate, especially here. This cherished Leeds indie gives you the best of both worlds in a welcoming, down-to-earth setting. The food menu elevates familiar British and European dishes – haddock and chips sits next to slow-cooked pigs cheek, cannellini beans and truffle. The hand-picked wine – including many organic choices – and local ales are just as good, pairing perfectly with their charcuterie. Everything they do, they do well.

The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.

Kendells Bistro

Kendells Bistro

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Aimee Stevens

A true touch of Parisian flair in the heart of Leeds, Kendells offers all the rustic finery of French cuisine. You could be mistaken for thinking that you were actually in Paris – the candle-topped wine bottles, vintage posters and mural-covered walls give this bistro an authenticity reflected in their sublime menu. It’s the classics, as French cooking should be, done well. Don’t get sniffy about the garlic-strewn snails, treat your belly to a French onion soup of dreams and indulge in a fine côte du boeuf, before loosening your waistband with creme brûlée.

Kendells Bistro, 3 St Peter’s Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8AH. 

Tharavadu

Tharavadu

There’s no shortage of independent Indian restaurants in Leeds, but Tharavadu is a cut above. This Michelin-recommended favourite shows off the lip-smacking flavours of the Kerala, all made by chefs born, raised and trained in the region. It gives you the chance to explore dishes you wouldn’t otherwise come across. Take the Uzhunna Vada, the perfectly golden, wonderfully crispy, savoury lentil doughnuts, for starters. Then follow it up with their trademark, the Adu Cheera Mappas, a rich lamb curry with fresh spinach and their authentic Keralan sauce.

Tharavadu, 7-8, Mill Hill Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 5DQ.

FINT

Fint Toast

FINT is the name of this incredible Leeds cafe-cum-restaurant, one that has an unending love affair with Scandinavia. Hidden away at the bottom end of Great George Street, hunt it out and you’ll find a very sharply designed dining room, full of typical Nordic elegance and design features. But it’s the ever-changing menus that will keep you coming back. You can start the day with an easygoing brunch of a bacon crumpet Benedict or a vanilla pain perdu, while the evening offers sea bream paired with charred asparagus, watercress and sauce vierge.

FINT, 73 Great George Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 3BR.

The Man Behind The Curtain

The Man Behind the Curtain

Credit: Allen Markey

Boasting the only Michelin star in Leeds, The Man Behind the Curtain is an independent at the very top of its game. Run by chef extraordinaire Michael O’Hare, the restaurant is a sumptuous affair, the very essence of luxury and the food has been very carefully designed to fit the setting. Each dish is as much a work of art as it is food, with challenging titles to match – Black Caesar promises Iberico pork, garlic, egg and anchovy, while Sex Wax combines pineapple, coconut and oyster. Your palate is at the behest of genius.

The Man Behind The Curtain, 68-78 Vicar Lane, Lower Ground Floor, Flannels, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7JH.

Heaney & Mill

Heaney & Mill

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Oliver Dixon Photography

Refined grub in a laid-back setting all day long – there’s a reason why Heaney & Mill has become a real local favourite in the heart of Headingley. Breakfast brings pancakes, sarnies and eggs five different ways to the table, while lunch offers a parade of salads, sandwiches and even pizza. But the real star of the show is their evening menu, which allows you to dine on divine dishes like confit duck leg, pan-fried sea bass and salt-aged lamb rump. They even have a fine dining tasting menu upstairs in The Sitting Rooms – grab a table if you can!

Heaney & Mill, 48 Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 2AL.

Shears Yard

Shears Yard

Credit: Will Stanley Film and Photography

It looks good, but tastes even better – that makes Shears Yard one of the finest independent restaurants in Leeds. Sky-high ceilings, exposed brick walls and twinkling filament lights set the scene for the procession of palate-friendly food to come. Local produce takes centre stage in their innovative combinations which change on the regular, like the roast pork rump with a pork cheek bourguignon, cauliflower, truffle cheese and leeks cooked in cider. Refined tasting menus, bottomless brunch and a killer Sunday lunch make this a must for foodies.

Shears Yard, 11-15 Wharf Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EH.

Thai Aroy Dee

Thai a Roy Dee

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ali Turner

If you’re looking for a cheap, cheerful but chuffing tasty feed, look no further than Thai Aroy Dee. This is a Leeds legend, a cornerstone of the city’s indie scene, offering quality Siamese fare in a chilled-out, no-frills environment. Their menu is loaded with Thai classics you’ll know and love – jump into a Jungle Curry, wolf down a Weeping Tiger and polish off a Pad Thai. But you can also try a few dishes you might not have sampled before, like the Goong Chae Nam Pla, which combines king prawns, garlic, chillies, fish sauce and lime juice.

Thai Aroy Dee, 120-122 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.

Pizza Fella

Pizza Fella

Once a humble street food vendor, Pizza Fella is now one of the best independent restaurants in Leeds. The decor isn’t fancy, with cool knocked-together tables and cork-board walls, but the food speaks for itself. The focus is on mouthwatering Neapolitan pizza. You can pick from eight options, all made with Italian Caputo flour and San Marzano tomatoes, before adding a raft of toppings. A local favourite is a fiery pie, loaded with ‘nduja di spilinga, caramelised onions and a sprinkling of fresh basil.

Pizza Fella, 114-116 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.

Manjit’s Kitchen

Thali Manjit's Kitchen

Credit: Andrew Benge

It doesn’t matter if you’re at their Kirkgate Market stall or Kirkstall Road cafe, Manjit’s Kitchen is a Leeds indie institution. It puts traditional vegetarian Punjabi fare on a pedestal that it can’t be knocked off. The menu promises a smattering of curried bliss, which is best sampled with one of their Thalis, a mixed platter of two curries, salad, cumin rice, pickles and roti, but their Kirkstall Road home offers even more delights. Potato & pea rolls, butternut squash kofta, parsnip crisps with desi ketchup – the delights are deliciously unceasing.

Manjit’s Kitchen, Leeds Kirkgate Market, 28-34 Great George Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7HY. 

Dave’s Pies & Ale

Dave's Pies

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Joseph Sheerin

Eating out in Leeds doesn’t have to mean a sit-down meal. In fact, it could be nipping out for something as simple as a pie and a pint, that perfect Yorkshire combination. And nowhere does that better than Dave’s, what could be Leeds’ smallest traditional pub. The stained-glass bar panelling and rich mahogany furniture create the perfect setting to delve into their divine homemade pork pies, from the classic growler to more adventurous fillings like chorizo, chilli or Stilton. Paired with peas, gravy and a pint, it’s a little slice of Yorkshire heaven.

Dave’s Pies & Ale, 350 Kirkstall Road, Burley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2HQ.

Dill & Bay

Dill and Bay

It often flies under the radar, but Dill & Bay is a foodie gem lying in wait in the heart of Rothwell. It’s a simply furnished, unfussy restaurant, but that’s all part of its charm, especially when confronted with a menu of classic British dishes, served with a refined touch by chef and owner Simon Jones. Menus ebb and flow with the seasons, but you can be sure of great produce turned into exquisite dishes – it could be a Duo of Lamb, it could be handmade pies, it could even be their epic Sunday lunch. Whatever it is, you’re in for a treat.

Dill & Bay, 19 Marsh Street, Rothwell, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS26 0AG.

Cantina

Cauli Bites

You’ll find Cantina tucked away above The Old Red Bus Station, an independent hub for art, music and 100% vegan junk food. It was the first of its kind in Leeds and it’s still dishing up meticulous meat-free fare in its relaxed, cafe-style dining room. Right now, they’re all about burgers and loaded fries, but the menu changes with the seasons. Keep it traditional with The Classic, a seitan twist on a cheeseburger, or try one of their cauliflower steak stacks. Paired with poutine or their salt and pepper fries, it’s meat-free dreams come true.

Cantina at The Old Red Bus Station, 101 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.

Ox Club

Ox Club

Since it opened within Headrow House back in 2015, Ox Club has cemented itself as one of the best independent restaurants in Leeds. What these guys don’t know about grilling ain’t worth knowing. The Grillworks grill takes price of place in their kitchen, and from it, you can enjoy incredible flavour combinations. Yorkshire Cull Yow loin chop with grilled onion and black garlic sits alongside Grilled Cornish pollack with cauliflower and horseradish sauce. The Scandi-cool dining room is just as good for an epic Sunday lunch too.

Ox Club, Headrow House, Bramleys Yard, The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PU.

If… Up North

If Coffee Bar

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

If is one of the best independent cafes in Leeds. It’s a lovely spot to watch the world go by, as you settle down in one of their leafy, stripped-back hideaways. Treat yourself to a delicious coffee before pairing it with a treat from the menu, all of which are made using locally sourced ingredients. Eggs Benedict use Whittaker’s eggs and their breakfast sarnies are stacked with the wares of Lishman’s of Ilkley. Not too hungry? Try one of the sweet treats made daily by their in-house baker or just grab a coffee to go.

If… Up North, 43 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT, 18 York Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS1 2EX & 14 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7JF.

Dapur Malaysia

Dapur Malaysia

Indies bring a taste of far-flung shores to Leeds and Dapur Malaysia is the perfect example. It’s a colourful family-run restaurant run by Valerie Kolat who has used recipes handed down by her mum to show off the wonders of South East Asian cuisine. Start with their delicious spiced lentil cakes before moving on to mains like the Aubergine and Tempeh Sambal or the Mamak Fried Noodles. If there’s one dish you have to try though, it’s the Beef Rendang Curry, where the national dish of Malaysia is cooked to coconut-tinged perfection.

Dapur Malaysia, Unit 1, 5 Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3PJ.

Sarto

Sarto

With its cool canteen vibe, light wood tables and exposed brickwork, Sarto might not feel like your traditional pasta spot, but this out-of-the-way gem serves up some of the best in Leeds. Their small but perfectly formed plates are made for sharing, but don’t be surprised if you want to shield it like it’s a GCSE exam. Liven your palate with snacks like three-cheese arancini or marinated white anchovies, before you stuff your face with glorious, day-fresh pasta in dishes like fettuccini in pork and ‘nduja ragu. Buon appetito!

Sarto, Munro House, Duke Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS9 8AG.

House of Fu

House of Fu

Ramen, glorious ramen! House of Fu will make all your Japanese dreams come true. This is a super cool canteen-style restaurant, all trendy artwork, tiled walls and neon signs with karaoke upstairs, but the slurp is the most important thing. Their carefully concocted bowls of steaming Japanese joy make it a must for ramen lovers – the Original Fu is their classic, but if you want to see them finesse, try the luminously Green Ramen, a veg-packed joy. Off ramen? They do rice bowls, super bowls and glorious gyozas. You’ll be ramen it home!

House of Fu, 15-19 The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PU.

Cha Lounge

Cha Lounge

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

An eco-friendly cafe in the heart of Leeds, Cha Lounge serves up delicious grub with a conscience. They work with local suppliers to minimise food waste and ensure all the ingredients are organic and sustainably sourced. Take a seat in their rustic cafe and start your day with breakfast classics, from a full English to their trademark blueberry pancakes. As the day moves on, their menu evolves too, with servings of homemade soups and a menu of delicious sarnies. Match yours with a vast selection of speciality teas for the perfect daytime treat.

Cha Lounge, 24-26 Dock Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1JF.

Lupe’s Cantina

Lupe's Cantina

Credit: Marcus Macauley

Take a trip to sunny Mexico City without ever leaving the city with a meal at Lupe’s Cantina. This is one of Leeds’ finest indies, a true Mexican cantina in an unassuming prefab in the heart of Burley, packed full of Latin charm. Authenticity is central to all they do – the menu of classic small plates is made up of recipes handed down by chef and owner Rudy Garcia’s mum, Lupe. Devour the tacos, gorge on the quesadillas, but leave room for the delightfully oozy and oh-so-cheesy Queso Fundido – it’ll go down a dream with margaritas!

Lupe’s Cantina, 204 Cardigan Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1LF.

Wen’s

Wen's

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ali Turner

Don’t let your preconceptions about Chinese food fool you – Wen’s has taken it to a whole other level. This is a simple, down-to-earth restaurant, an almost cafe-like dining room, where the food does all the talking and they’re getting wordy. You’ll find all the classics, done very well indeed, but Wen’s really comes into its own when you fancy trying something new. Hot poached lamb in chilli oil or marinated jellyfish with shredded Chinese leaf? Live a little. The pan-fried dumplings are worth ordering by the bucketload too.

Wen’s, 72-74 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.

La Taberna

La Taberna

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

Tucked away out of sight in a basement below a plain-looking office building, La Taberna is a true hidden gem of Leeds’ independent food and drink scene. It’s only a small restaurant, with a handful of tables dotted around their rustic dining room, but if you manage to bag one, you’ll get to snaffle a selection of classic tapas plates. Spanish omelettes sit next to Chorizo al Vino, Patatas Bravas alongside Albondigas, and Padrón Peppers nuzzle up to Gambas al Ajillo – the menu reads like a what’s what of Spanish cuisine, so come hungry.

La Taberna, Basement, Britannia House, 16 York Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2EU.

Bulgogi Grill

Bulgogi Grill

Credit: Richard Walker

If you want to show off your own chef skills, a visit to Bulgogi Grill is a must. This is one of the most interactive indies in Leeds, offering all kinds of DIY feasting. It’s a Korean barbecue restaurant, stylishly decorated with leather booths that come complete with a grill built into your table. Sit back as they bring out platters of sweetly-marinated cuts of beef, pork, duck, prawn and squid for you to hand-grill yourself. Once sizzled, wrap them up in a lettuce leaf filled with a medley of rice, lettuce, tempura veggies, sauces and dips.

Bulgogi Grill, The Arena Quarter, 9 Merrion Way, Merrion Centre, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8BT.

Wolfox

Wolfox

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

The smell of fresh coffee welcomes you at Wolfox because it’s roasted right next door to their leafy cafe. It doesn’t get any fresher than that! But the coffee is just the start. To go with your cuppa, they have a menu of tasty and often healthy eats. Their all-day brunch menu is home to good-for-you treats like their Overnight Oats, Organic Açaí and Tropical Bowls. Feeling indulgent? You can treat yourself to a touch of decadence with Brioche French Toast or Fox Pancakes – why not get yours topped with Nutella and banana?

Wolfox Coffee Roasters, 66 Wellington Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2EE.

Buon Apps

Buon Apps

Nestled next to the River Wharfe, Buon Apps is a picturesque restaurant in Otley. In the summer, you can dine out on the terrace or head inside the rustic dining room where beamed ceilings and exposed brick capture the imagination. Tear your eyes away from the setting, because theirs is a menu that deserves your full attention. This is quality Italian cooking, done with love and care – classics like creamy tagliatelle carbonara vie for attention alongside substantial mains including Tuscan fish stew and braised lamb shank. Buon apps, indeed.

Buon Apps, Hartley House, 50 Mill Way, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 1FE.

Viva Cuba

Viva Cuba tapas, Leeds

An old bank is now throbbing with Cuban flair thanks to Viva Cuba, a Leeds institution that continues to stand the test of time after two decades. It’s a colourful restaurant, all bells, whistles and pictures of Che Guevara. More than the decor, the food is what gives Viva Cuba its soul, with a menu of Latin American favourites spoiling you for choice. Albondigas Cubanas sits alongside Gambas a la Plancha, Wild Mushroom Croquetas and their trademark Aromatic Cuban Bean Stew. Wash it down with rum cocktails and you could be in Havana.

Viva Cuba, 342 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2DS. 

Zucco

Zucco

Tapas, but not as you know it – this is why Zucco is one of the best indies in Leeds. It specialises in Italian small plates, in a stylishly decorated restaurant that brings a modern touch to traditional osteria cooking. It’s laden with soul and each plate takes you on a culinary journey around this famous foodie country. Highlights of their impressive menu include fragrant fritto misto, creamy smoked haddock with mussels and the fiery chicken diavola. Room for dessert? Treat yourself to a slice of their achingly-good almond polenta cake.

Zucco, 603 Meanwood Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 4AY.

Wapentake

Yorkshire pudding burger at Wapentake

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

If you want to taste the best of Yorkshire, Wapentake is the place to dine. It’s a down-to-earth bar that sources all of its produce locally for a menu that pays homage to God’s Own County. Their crisp butties are the stuff of legend, their Sunday roast is one of the best in Leeds and their homemade beans on toast elevates a humble classic with the addition of Henderson’s relish. That’s not to mention their revolutionary approach to Yorkshire puddings – they use them as burger buns, filling them with chicken or beef, bacon and cheese, covering it all with gravy.

Wapentake, 92 Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DJ.

Eat Your Greens

Eat Your Greens Squash Smash

It trebles as a bar and organic grocery store, but Eat Your Greens more than holds its own as one of the most innovative independent restaurants in Leeds. The venue itself feels more like a hip hangout than a stuffy dining room and it’s the perfect place to explore their menu of fuss-free farm-to-fork goodness. It’s not meat-free, but there’s a real focus on using good quality, organic produce with an abundance of veg-first dishes. Spiced lamb leg and native oysters with kimchi sit alongside roast red Jerusalem artichokes and spiced cauliflower.

Eat Your Greens, 42 New York Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DY.

Da Vito

Da Vito

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

One of the most underrated independent restaurants in Leeds, Da Vito is hidden away in the backstreets of the city’s business district, but if you seek it out, you’ll find all kinds of Italian deliciousness waiting for you. Nibble on fresh focaccia with mozzarella or marinated olives before tackling starters like deep-fried brie or creamy burrata. For your main, you can test out the kitchen’s skills with an array of classics done well, from Spaghetti alla Carbonara to MareMonti Risotto, or go for meaty delights like the Parma ham-enveloped veal escalope.

Da Vito Ristorante, 3 York Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2DR.

De Baga

De Baga

A taste of Goa in the heart of Headingley and Chapel Allerton, you’re in for a treat with De Baga. They do Indian food, but a little differently to what you’re used to. Classic Goan cuisine is made with modern, seasonal British ingredients to create a delicious culinary marriage. You can tuck into Lamb Xacuti, a flavour-packed lamb leg curry with coconut, or their velvety smooth Dal Buhkara. If you visit their Chapel Allerton home, you’ll get to try specials like the Khargosh (rabbit) Xacuti and the Goan Chicken Cafreal.

De Baga, 9 Otley Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 3AA and 8b Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3QY.

Grumpy’s

Grumpy's

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There’s nothing ill-tempered about Grumpy’s. This Farsley favourite is owned by sisters Cassie and Alex Rogerson, who’ve won an army of fans for their wood-fired, Roma-style pizzas, which are served in a bright, airy and stripped-back venue. Their pies are made using hand-thrown dough to a roughly 10-inch size and are all named after people. Take a bite out of Simon and enjoy a fiery flavour hit of smoked mozzarella, spicy ‘nduja and chicken, or enjoy a slice of Audrey and her artichoke, semi-dried tomatoes, olives and garlic oil combo.

Grumpy’s, 2 Old Combing, Sunnybank Mills, Farsley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS28 5UJ.

Casa Leeds

Casa Leeds

© Copyright Leeds-List 2022 by Ellie Hodgson

Casa Leeds is one of the most vibrant independent restaurants in Leeds. It’s somewhere you can enjoy a few cocktails, delve into Latin American tapas and dance the night away at one of their live music events. The food is the big pull, their gluten-free small plates will take you from beef empanadas to seafood tacos, prawn arepas and beef cassava fritters. Fancy something bigger? Their ‘not tapas’ section offers classics like the quintessential Colombian favourite, Bandeja Paisa, rice topped with beef, pork, chorizo, beans, avocado and more.

Casa Leeds, 6 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.