Whisper it quietly, the Merrion Centre has so much more than just shopping up its sleeve.
From Korean barbecue joints, all-you-can-eat sushi and spicy hot chicken wings to electric drift go karts, cool tattoos and rockin’ live music – the Merrion Centre has plenty going on besides retail. But don’t worry, if shopping’s your bag, there’s plenty of that too, with everything from ultra-rare vinyls, queer literature and chilli-loaded treats all on offer under one roof. Here are the Merrion Centre’s best hidden gems.
Serving up over 200 types of tequila alongside an epic menu of finger-licking wings and burgers, Cult Wing oozes cool, decorated with a post-apocalyptic punk aesthetic. Their fantastic cocktail menu offers plenty to choose from, but you can’t go wrong with a Paloma, which pairs Rooster Rojo Blanco Tequila with lime, grapefruit and agave. Prefer beer? There’s a great selection on tap with North Brewing Co’s Piñata a fitting way to soothe your mouth after you dive into those all-important wings, which come in no less than nine saucy variations.
The Bookish Type
The Bookish Type is a queer-owed indie bookshop, stocking a wide range of LGBTIQA+ literature along with non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels and more. Founded on the value that it’s vital for queer people to be able to find representation of themselves and their community, the store is now a fully-fledged member of the community, running Queer History Tours of the city and an outdoors book group. Drop in on Second Hand Sundays to pick up pre-loved books while raising money for local grassroots charities.
The Key Club
The Key Club is one of Leeds’ most intimate live venues and an absolute haven for rock and metal fans. Playing host to some of the hottest alternative artists alongside its own infamous club nights, it’s a Leeds institution – one that’s amassed a fiercely loyal following. Head down on Tuesdays for a night of emo and pop punk, visit on Thursdays for the indie disco, while Fridays and Saturdays showcase rock anthems and guilty pleasures in equal measures. Expect wall to wall bangers and some of the cheapest drinks deals in town.
Calling all hot heads – the Chilli Shop is an absolute haven for those who like a bit of spice in their life. The store is a treasure trove of all things hot – you’ll find an incredible collection of chilli-packed goodies, from ultra-spicy sauces, jams and marinades to more unusual fare like chocolate, cheese and even the world’s hottest gummy bears. With plenty of opportunities to try before you buy (if you dare), along with challenges bound to get you hot under the collar, this is a shopping experience like no other.
Step into a real-life Mario Kart experience at Drift Stop, Europe’s first electric drift karting arena. Cruise around in your e-kart as you navigate the track’s twists and turns, backed by UV lights and pumping sounds. It’s not just for kids, either – Drift Stop is perfect for corporate events as well as birthdays, with hireable party pods providing a unique venue for your next celebration. After you’ve whizzed around the course, head over to the classic arcade for a spot of retro competition, before tucking into a delicious slice of pizza.
Support your local record store and crate dig ’til your heart’s content at Jumbo Records – Leeds’ oldest record shop. You’ll find rows and rows of vinyl spanning everything from rock and reggae to hip hop and garage, alongside CDs and tickets to gigs across the region. With everything from new releases and re-issues to an ultra-expansive back catalogue, you’ll want to set aside some quality time to browse this wax collection. They also host their own in-store shows, so keep an eye out to catch a live performance.
If you’ve never experienced the joy of Korean barbecue, now’s your chance. The cook-your-own experience centres around ssam – bite-sized lettuce wraps loaded with tasty fillings. Build your own ssam by grilling beef, pork, seafood and more right at your table, then wrap it all up into a delicious parcel. Eat that heavenly package in one bite to bring good luck – and to avoid sauce spillage. Sample the best that Bulgogi Grill has to offer with their special menu, which comes with starters and unlimited rice, sides and dips for £39.95 per head.
Looking for an ink fix? You’re in safe hands at Rude Studios, where custom tattoo artists and highly-trained piercers are on hand for your next addition. Each of their apprentice-trained artists has their own defining style, from traditional works and Japanese designs through to watercolour and realism. Speak to an artist to work up your own custom piece or make a spontaneous pick from the flash wall, the choice is yours. They also offer additional services including micro blading, semi-permanent makeup and scalp pigmentation.
Family-run Hama combines delicious Korean BBQ with an all-you-can-eat experience, so you can take your pick from a range of meats, seafood and veggies and cook them right there and then at your table. It doesn’t stop there, oh no. You can pile your plate high with tasty goodies from a whole host of buffet dishes, including the likes of homemade kimchi, hand-rolled sushi and Korean fried chicken. The range of food on offer is absolutely incredible, with plenty of options for vegans, veggies and meat eaters alike.
If you’re serious about your coffee, a brew from Konga is sure to hit the spot. They use Yirgacheffe beans, straight from the hills of Ethopia, known for their sweet, fruity taste and floral aroma. Peckish? You can dive into a range of grab and go meals, from hearty breakfast sandwiches and stuffed jacket potatoes to spicy chicken and rice and their famous curries. Whatever you go for, you can be sure that it’s wholesome, handmade and served with a smile. If you’re looking for a new indie fave for your daily brew, this is it.
The award-winning Blue Sakura is one of Leeds’ most popular Japanese restaurants, with sushi-hungry customers flocking to the stunning venue for a unique all-you-can-eat experience. Take a seat under one of the blossom trees and use touch screen technology to build your own feast from hundreds of tasty Asian dishes. Expect everything from oh-so-fresh nigiri and spicy dragon rolls to sticky Teriyaki beef and crispy vegetable tempura. The cocktails are great, too – the Sake Negroni twists up the classic with sweet Plum Sake.