Don’t let the name deceive you – this is not a sushi place, in fact, it’s Yorkshire through and through, right down to its rather unusual name.
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a place called Wapentake was some kind of sushi joint, but actually the word has been passed down through the generations right here in Yorkshire. It’s essentially a community of a hundred, coming from the old Norse vāpnatak, which refers to the show of weapons at public votes (vāpn meaning weapon and tak meaning taking).
So what, pray tell, is this new Wapentake that’s sprung up in Leeds? Well, it’s a mix of a bakery, a cafe and a bar, bringing the best of all three into one place. And the name is rather apt, because owners Anton Welburn and Emily Youell have made it their mission to create their own little community, by supporting local independents, brewers and market traders.
The food is a major highlight here. They bake their own bread on site every day, using it for their own sandwiches, as well as selling it on its own, in case you want a freshly baked loaf to take home. And they’re not afraid to experiment. “We’ve been playing with speciality bread like Stilton & Leek, Chilli or Cheddar & Mustard,” Emily told us. “There’s more experimenting & sweet treats to come!”
If it’s a sarnie you’re after, you can’t go wrong with bacon, sausage or egg to start your day – and at just £2.50 each (add 50p if you want a cuppa), you’re not going break the bank either. With the ingredients sourced from just across the road, at Kirkgate Market, you’re sure of quality too.
It’s not just sandwiches though. Wapentake is about to become the new go-to place for British classics at affordable prices, as you can tuck into the likes of sausage and mash or bacon, black pudding and poached egg salad for just £6. Even the bar snacks have that ‘home comfort’ feel with Yorkshire puddings slathered in gravy, cheese and bacon potato skins, and our personal favourite, homemade chip butties.
Food is served until 9pm Monday to Saturday and until 6pm on Sunday, giving Kirkgate a new nightspot, and there’s plenty to wash down your dinner with. They’ve got a host of local ales on cask and keg, with lager for those of you who prefer it – and there’s an entire fridge dedicated to Yorkshire, so you can work your way through brews from the region’s most famous and little known breweries.
If you’re after something a little bit stronger, they have plenty of spirits behind the bar – and the gin lovers of Leeds will once again be well catered for. “We’re only using gins from Yorkshire,” Emily told us, “We’re big fans of Masons & Loxley here. Already the Masons Yorkshire Tea Gin has become one of the fastest sellers from the back bar for us.”
All this is served up in a venue that’s vintage chic through and through, fitting into its historic home on Kirkgate with a little help from its neighbours – Art Official, who can also be found across the road, have done them up a piano in their signature style, which sits in a venue that in Emily’s words, is “homey, & especially cosy on an evening.”
Wapentake is definitely an exciting addition to Leeds, and not just because we’re fans of locally-sourced food, coffee, ale and gin (oh but we are) – it’s also the first sign of Kirkgate regeneration, and after the demolition of Hills Furniture in the wake of the fire, it offers a much-needed glimmer of hope for the area.
The building benefited from £110,000 investment from Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative, which paid for a new roof and windows, as well as the shopfront, which as we’re sure you’ll agree, looks great. It’s great to see this historic building back in use – and we’re looking forward to many a visit in the future.
Wapentake, 92 Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DJ.