Mushroom croquettes, arancini and vada pav

It's February and that means the welcome return of our "best things to eat" series. Our food and drink fanatics have been out and about eating and drinking in Leeds seeing what's worth throwing down your pie holes to make up for the dullness that is the second month of the year. 

They know what they're talking about, so you could do much worse than following their advice and book a table at each of these places right now while there's still some money in your bank account. This month, it's clear everyone's got staying toasty in mind with three of our best dishes being of the deep-fried variety and the fourth featuring ash. 

Read on for the best thing to eat in and around Leeds this February.

Arancino Zucco Leeds Best Dish
Zucco is back with a blast of flavour Image: Confidentials

Arancini, Zucco (£4.50)

Last year was a rough one for Zucco, not only did it have to navigate the complications of pandemic life, but it also had a car drive through the front of the restaurant in the middle of the night, wiping out the entire front dining space. After months of enforced closure, waiting for insurance and then extensive building repairs, Zucco is back. 

It’s like nothing ever happened, it has been restored to its former glory. Zucco is one of the most consistent dining experiences in Leeds, you always know exactly what you’re going to get from the regular dishes on the menu, and there are always some exciting seasonal surprises, too. The Arancini from the snack menu are joyful little flavour bombs. A marriage of unctuous, creamy rice and crispy breadcrumb. And the chefs don't hold back on the aioli. Welcome back Zucco, we have a lot of lost time to make up for. Anja Madhvani @anja_madhvani

Dish Of The Month Bundobust Vada Pav
The vada pav is this February's Bust-have Image: Confidentials

Vada Pav, Bundobust (£6.50)

Let’s get down to it. Bundobust serves the best vegetarian food I’ve ever tasted. If everywhere else put as much thought, texture, and flavour into their work, - I still wouldn’t be vegetarian, but I’d certainly eat a lot more green things. 

Anyway, the core of the menu is the absolutely brilliant, hangover-busting vada pav. It’s an enormous, intoxicatingly squishy "patty" made of deep-fried mashed potato, served in a bun, with a pleasingly thick chutney and a real bastard of a chilli on the side. I’ve had it a hundred times before, but each time I try it, I swear blind it’s the best they’ve ever made. Best eaten with far too many other delicious things – as per the picture. Simon Richardson

Mushroom Croquettes Copy
Mush you go on about these croquettes, Richard? We get it. They were good. Image: Confidentials

Mushroom croquettes, Coin, Hebden Bridge (£5.50)

Of course, there comes a point during a rain-soaked and booze-fuelled afternoon where a plate of anything battered and deep-fried would do the job, regardless of its provenance. But at Coin, newly minted in Hebden Bridge just before the damp squib of December, the mushroom croquettes were a cut above. Crisp and airy, these bronzed, adroitly-cooked down-in-one mouthfuls were perilously moreish. 

The accompanying salsa verde was no afterthought, either, but a verdant coming together of wholesome herbs and slick olive oil, cut through with a sharp and sobering thwack of vinegar. Bottle this gear and in me, they’d have a customer for life. Richard Miller @eatingthenorth

Ash Cured Trout At Ox Club
This trout is the cure for your winter blues Image: Confidentials

Ash cured trout, buttermilk, salsify, Ox Club (£30 as part of the prix fixe menu)

Heading out to eat has proven a perfectly packaged panacea for this year’s bout of January blues, and this starter from Ox Club gave me some of my best mouthfuls of the month. Smokey trout, creamy buttermilk and earthy salsify purée came together to form a little plate of harmony – each bite super satisfying and full of light yet rich flavour. Ox Club’s signature understated ambience was the perfect backdrop, so whether this number appears on the menu during the rest of the year or not, Ox Club's door is well worth darkening soon.

Ox Club, 19a The Headrow, Leeds LS1 6PU

Read next: Estrella Damm Top 50 gastropubs 2022: how did the North do?

Read again: Best places in Leeds for low and no alcohol drinks

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