Jenessa Williams gets ready for some serious carb loading

“You don’t have to be drunk to eat at Harlie’s, but it certainly helps,” a friend advised. Not the most resoundingly comforting recommendation I’ve ever heard before embarking on a restaurant review, but certainly one that begins to make more sense on arrival. Open until 4am midweek and 6am on Fridays, it’s situated in a busy district of the city centre, primed for the late-night crowd; music pumping out of it’s bright pink entrance, which is flanked by bouncers and a flyering team. 

Less ‘cheat day’ and more ‘I’m going to have to work this off at the gym for the entire month’

Turning up dead sober at 8pm does feel a little bit like being the designated driver, but we are intrigued to see how their American diner service measures up four months after opening. We’re the first ones in for the evening (and, as it transpires, the only sit-ins in the time we spend there), but are immediately treated like VIPs – invited to sit wherever we like, greeted by five individual members of staff who offer menus, table water, even general chit chat. 

2018 09 17 Harlies Restaurant
A reasonably-priced place to soak up alcohol

The menu is pure American diner – burgers, milkshakes, loaded fries and hard slushies, the sort that are less ‘cheat day’ and more ‘I’m going to have to work this off at the gym for the entire month’. Still, everything is made fresh, there are a reasonable amount of veggie and vegan entries and we are assured that almost all dishes can be customised to our liking.

If your idea of a good time waiting is disco lights illuminating your table and a playlist of exclusively 00’s smooth RnB bangers (as mine 100% is), you’re in for a treat. Even without the influence of alcohol, I quite enjoying shimmying about to Ne-Yo and Mariah in the booth as I recall memories of Fresher’s Week – can you believe this year’s freshers were probably only just BORN in the year 2000? It makes me weirdly emotional, but maybe that’s just the hunger talking – we’ve ordered big, and as the smells emanate from the kitchen, I am ready for some serious carb loading. 

2018 09 17 Harlies Interior
Disco lights and RnB

Arriving piping hot and surprisingly all at once, we tuck in. My guest and I have gone in on the burgers – a classic New Yorker (£5.95) for me, and a New Mexico (£6.95) for her. The New Yorker is serviceable, roughly on par with a Five Guys, but The New Mexico is something a little more boujee; juicy chicken topped with nacho crumb, guacamole and jalapeños. Although a little burnt on the sides, I find myself experiencing noticeable food envy. Luckily, the fries (+£1.75) keep me distracted – cut in a celery-stick like shape, they offer optimum surface-area for scooping up condiments, and are well portioned and doused in chip spice. 

2018 09 17 Harlies Burger
New Mexico chicken burger
2018 09 17 Harlies Chicken
Disappointing diminutive dippers and bland wings

Our other sides are a little less successful - the strips (£2.99 for 3) are somewhat comedic in their diminutive size, and the wings (£3.99 for 5) a little bland, despite requesting peri-peri hot seasoning. The same goes for the Dirty Mac & Cheese (£4.95) – at first it is a seemingly dry blend of macaroni and pulled pork (think lightly grubby rather than fully dirty), and we have to request some cheese sauce which perks the dish up to point of comfy stodginess. It’s pretty obvious that this is something that would be much more enjoyable after four or five pints.

2019 09 17 Harlies Dirty Mac And Cheese
Mac & Cheese - more lightly grubby than full on dirty

Suitably stuffed to the point of resisting pudding, we leave satisfied if not overwhelmed. Any teething issues shouldn’t put you off if you’re passing – staff are kind and highly attentive. With it being in an area of town that’s seen it’s fair share of crime of late, it’s nice to know that ahead of a new intake of students, there is a well-lit eatery that offers a reasonably-priced place to soak up alcohol and wait for a taxi with a takeout. Also available on Deliveroo and Just Eat, there are plenty of solid hungover options too. Next time, we’ll be back for a few of those hard shakes… 

Harlies, Townhouse, Assembly Street, Leeds, LS2 7DE

The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 6/10

    The New Yorker 5/10, The New Mexico 7/10, Fries 9/10, Dirty Mac & Cheese 6/10, Chicken Strips 4/10, Chicken Wings 5/10

  • Service 3,5/5

    Friendly and attentive, if a little OTT

  • Ambience 4/5

    Fun, youthful and upbeat – definitely one to visit late night