Jenessa Williams gets stuck into the new bar menu at a Leeds favourite

I’m going to come right out and say it: Shears Yard is my favourite traditional, sit-down establishment in the city. I mean it. Any meal I have ever eaten there has been lovingly prepared, well seasoned and delivered with the perfect balance of familiarity and ingenuity. From celebratory Christmas pudding parfait, to the roast dinner I shared with my family as my brother’s last ‘British’ meal before moving to Canada, they have supplied the eats to some of my most treasured memories in the city, and I look forward to every visit with some serious enthusiasm.

Our little fingers swab the last trails of salt and vinegar-infused mayonnaise

Shmaltz aside, getting a table at Shears can be difficult during peak season, but the clever folk have come up with an answer. For those who cannot get a booking or simply don’t have the time, they’ve introduced ‘The Half Yard’ – a selection of small plates designed to be enjoyed as a bar snack, all with a low, accessible price point. With no need to book, you can simply roll in with a bunch of pals and get eating. So that’s what we did.

2019 06 17 Shears Yard Bread
Bread with oat and whiskey butter (£3)
2019 06 17 Shears Yard Beetroot Goats Cheese
Pickled beetroot and goats cheese mousse (£6.50)

If you have never known the joy of going to the bar and saying the phrase ‘we’ll have one of everything please’, then I allow you to live vicariously through my boujee-ness when ordering. Except for the chicken parfait, which I’m sure was delicious, but just isn’t my style. What we wanted was carbs, and plenty of them.

I’d happily survive off the hearty bread with oat and whiskey butter (£3) that arrives first, but to pair it with the pickled beetroot and goats cheese mousse (£6.50) is to truly live - surprise little pops of pomegranate bursting on your tongue. As far as bar snacks go, it’s all a little bit Cotswolds supper club rather than pissed-up picnic, but if this is moving up a social class, then I’m happy to go fully Countryfile

2019 06 17 Shears Yard Cods Tongue
Cod’s tongue scampi (£6)
2019 06 17 Shears Yard Pork Pancake
Hoisin Pork Belly pancake (£7)

Moving onto the warm plates, I take down a cod’s tongue scampi (£6), succulent and singing with a pesto-like kohlrabi, in record time, while one of my dining pals swallows her very first oyster (£3) with a look of glee on her face. All four of us temporarily forget that we’re meant to be taking artful pictures and in my case, some vaguely insightful notes. When food is this tasty, it’s often difficult to know what to say, and we lapse into silence as our little fingers swab the last trails of salt and vinegar-infused mayonnaise.

Midway through the snack marathon, we hit a lull by way of the Hoisin Pork Belly pancake (£7). While the fillings are everything you want them to be – sweet, sticky and full of kimchi – the vessel of choice is simply not up to the task. A food hill I’m willing to die on, pancakes just aren’t all that. They’re mostly bland, and they certainly don’t have the structural integrity to contain moist pork without splitting into a soggy mess. Swap out for a soft-taco, and we’re laughing. 

2019 06 17 Shears Yard Roast Potatoes
Classic roasties and gravy (£5)
2019 06 17 Shears Yard Cheddar Fries
Cheddar French fries (£5)

Back on course, it’s time for the battle of the tatties – classic roasties (£5) and gravy versus cheddar French fries (£5). At this point I’m half expecting the Man vs Food crew to arrive for my close up, but I get involved nonetheless. Rich gravy softens the perhaps slightly dry potatoes, while the French fries are an elevated Big Mac-style sensation, topped with Sriracha mayo and pickles. If this menu is designed to soak up a cocktail, these fries should be top of your purchase list.

We round things out with perhaps the two surprise hits of the evening. A bowl-blend of heirloom tomatoes, artichokes, garlic and kale pistou (£6) is a very lovely thing to smear across leftover bread, cutting against the sweetness of a drink or indeed the stodginess of potato. But right at the last minute, tempura broccoli fritters (£6) arrive, and it’s game over for everything else – light as anything you’d expect from a high-grade Asian restaurant, it drags wonderfully through the pool of miso hummus, and is the one bowl that is completely cleaned out, despite our four supposedly full bellies.

2019 06 17 Shears Yard Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes, artichokes, garlic and kale pistou (£6)
2019 06 17 Shears Yard Broccoli Fritters
Tempura broccoli fritters (£6)

By now you have likely realised that this is a pretty enthusiastic review, but it is worth reiterating here that The Half Yard is only a small, beginners insight into what Shears Yard have to offer.  All dishes are well-priced, well portioned and arrive swiftly, a great alternative to traditional dining that doesn’t compromise on flavour. Experimenting with seasonal produce and diverse, cultural dishes, they are a great example of indulgent, stylish eating that still brings comfort and nutrition to your plate. Do yourself a favour, and make the trip. 

Shears Yard, 11-15 Wharf St, Leeds LS2 7EH

Follow @jnessr on Twitter

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 8/10

    Bread 7, Goats Cheese 8, Cod Tongue 8, Pork Pancake 5, Heirloom Tomatoes 8, Broccoli Fritter 9, Chips 8, Potatoes 6, Oyster 7

  • Service 4/5

    Low-key and easy, no less prioritised than the usual diners

  • Atmosphere 4/5

    Calming and nicely removed from the bustle of the main food floor