From virtuous Veganuary vittles to Bánh Mì sarnies and finger lickin’ chicken
Our team has been as busy as ever supporting the bars and restaurants across Leeds during this tricky month for hospitality. While (mostly) laughing in the face of Veganuary and barely even registering Dry January, our intrepid reporters have been scoffing and boozing their way around the city to bring you their round up of the best things to eat this months.
Where else would you find tofu stuffed into baguettes, chicken stuffed into cornflakes and crunchy crabs stuffed into mouth?
Here are six of their favourites this month...
Buckwheat Soba Noodle Salad - The Vanguard (£8.00)
Aaahh noodles. Those squiggly swirly friends of mine. Tossed with peanut satay sauce, even better. Twirled with carrot strips, kale and shredded cabbage, a Veganuary dream. Topped with toasted seeds and generous handfuls of pecans, the buckwheat soba noodle salad is 100% worth the £8.00 price tag. Pecans, people! The Vanguard is where it’s at. Sarah Cotterill
7 Duncan St, Leeds LS1 6DQ
Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple Syrup, Berry Compote and Crème Fraiche - Mrs Atha’s (£7.50)
Even from the depths of a head-throbbing hangover, there is salvation in the stodgy sweetness of a Mrs. Atha’s pancake stack. Watch light return to the eyes of your comrades, as fumes of syrup rise from the pile of feather-soft drop-scones before them. See them fawn over the charm of a miniature jam jar, now laden with crème fraiche and berry compote to balance the fruit that swims in what can only be described as a lake of maple syrup. This is Sunday morning like no other. Kate Ryrie
Central Road, Leeds LS1 6DE
Mama Tran’s Homemade Tofu Bánh Mì - Bánh & Mee (£3.80 + £1 for fries)
The Bánh Mì sandwich was born out of the French occupation of Vietnam, when European ideals and dietary demands were forced upon locals. The sandwich was usually made with butter and expensive cuts of cold meat; the bread was baked with imported flour and was not affordable for locals. When the French occupation ended, the Vietnamese were free to modify French dishes, making them affordable, and introducing those exciting fresh flavours that Vietnamese cuisine is so famous for. They kept the crunchy baguette and mayo, adding veggies, spice, affordable meats (pork and lemongrass patties are a favourite) and heaps of herbs. Bánh & Mee in Kirkgate Market, as you'd expect, does a mean Bánh Mì and offers exceptional value for money - it’s a perfect for lunch on-the-go. Grated carrot, cucumber, pickles, mayo, sriracha and a heap of coriander provide a great accompaniment to Mama Tran’s homemade tofu. The crisp sound of biting into this bread is one of life’s simple pleasures, and these are some of the best fries in the city. Anja Madhvani
Leeds Kirkgate Market, LS2 7HY
Wagyu beef nigiri – Sushi bar Hanamatsuri (£5.90)
A re-review of Meanwood’s hidden Japanese gem, sushi bar Hanamatsuri, meant another chance to witness the knee-meltingly calm process of watching chefs expertly starch-sculpting perfectly vinegared rice and massaging it flat on top of bamboo mats and sheets of nori. It’s hard to pick a favourite from a few dishes that scored a perfect ten, but I loved the slices of velvety, fat-flecked A5-grade wagyu, which idly loll over the edges, their penultimate stopover on a long journey from being imported from the Gunma prefecture of Japan to your mouth. A quick blast from a blow-torch brings the fat up to melting point and caramelises the very edges of tiny cross-hatch incisions in the meat’s surface. Thom Archer
580 Meanwood Rd, Leeds, LS6 4AZ
Crispy Soft-Shell Crab – Zucco (£9.80)
I haven’t done much eating out this month, but it’s nothing to do with any corporate-driven dry this, diet that rubbish. No, it’s because I spent all my money on alcohol to get me through this most depressing of months. One place I can always find the wallet space to go though is Zucco. It’s proper Italian home cooking, served tapas-style in a warm, homely environment and whenever I go, it’s all about having at least one or two bits off their seafood menu. The crispy soft-shell crab comes with a fresh, zingy lemon mayonnaise and, like most of the menu, it’s pretty straight up. But the crab is bursting with flavour, and there’s something immensely satisfying about eating the whole thing – shell, eyes, claws and all. It reminds me of Homer parodying The Little Mermaid, gobbling up all the cartoon fish whole as he swims. “Under the seeeeea…” Simon Richardson
603 Meanwood Rd, Leeds LS6 4AY
Fried Chicken - The Brunswick (£10)
They make look small, but they sure are mighty – these Brunswick Fried Chicken pieces are a rich-yet-addictive treat. Served with peppercorn aioli and a particularly lairy Chili sauce, they’re soaked in buttermilk and doused in a light crunchy batter reminiscent of cornflakes, leaving the meat soft, tender and full of flavour. Do not underestimate how filling these beauties are – I ate two with a side of chips and merrily took the third home with me as a late night snack. Get yourself down on a special-offer Wednesday for the holy trinity - chicken, fries and a pint for just £10. Jenessa Williams
82 North Street, LS27PN