Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and a delicious meal out together is the perfect way to mark the occasion. If you’re planning a dinner date in Leeds, here are some of the city’s most romantic places to eat.
The Empire Cafe
This hidden gem can be found on Fish Street, a ginnel that runs between Albion Place and Kirkgate. The Empire retains its original painted signs but don’t be misled by its unassuming frontage – alongside its famous rotisserie chicken, this cosy cafe serves up culinary delights that have received praise from food critics. The Empire’s food is lovingly made with produce from the nearby market, while its German ‘wall of flame’ spit keeps turning all day long. The roast chicken here is always a hit and comes with your choice of crumb and ‘lather’, and an optional side of ‘chicken schmaltz’ potatoes. In The Empire’s candlelit basement, you and your date can try something a little different in the form of an eye-catching hoisin duck eclair or a spam pakora with egg yolk jam and chilli. Chef Patron Sam Pullan and his team have also dreamed up a rather exciting dessert menu, which includes a coconut and vanilla arancini and a Cointreau crème brûlée with saffron, chilli and dark chocolate.
If you’d like to bond with your other half over a bottomless brunch, look no further than Fleur. This stylish restaurant in The Light boasts decor that’s both romantic and on trend: its ceiling is filled with butterflies and the walls are painted in dreamy pastel shades and adorned with neon signs. Fleur offers an all day two or three-course dinner, which costs £24.95 or £29.95 per person and includes a glass of prosecco on your arrival. Alternatively, you can go bottomless for an extra fee, giving you 90 minutes to indulge in unlimited prosecco, beer, lager or cocktails. Among the latter you’ll find creative concoctions like pink gin fizz or a limoncello spritz. Fleur’s food menu features starters like a crispy chicken bao bun, served with sriracha mayonnaise, jalapenos and spring onion, or a vegan alternative that’s filled with BBQ jackfruit. For a main, you can tuck into miso marinated salmon with cauliflower puree or slow roasted and glazed ox cheek, drizzled in rich gravy with crushed potatoes and fresh veg. Desserts include a scrumptious sticky toffee pudding or classic Italian tiramisu.
Italy is widely regarded as one of the world’s most romantic destinations, but if you’re not able to hop on a plane to Venice the next best thing can be found on Leeds’ Dock Street. Authentic Italian Ciao Bella resides in a sympathetically converted former mill with a simple interior that gives it the relaxed feel of a real trattoria. You can eat al fresco here in the warmer months too. This family-run restaurant serves delicious pizzas and pasta dishes. Seafood fans will love their special ‘linguine nero con capesante e gamberi’ – a black linguine tossed in a saffron cream sauce with scallops and prawns. Before 7:30pm, diners can opt for the Early Bird Menu, which costs £15.50 for two courses or £17.50 for three. You’ll be able to choose from a selection of starters, followed by mains like ‘pollo diavola’ – chicken breast in a spicy tomato sauce with rice, or fungi pizza. Desserts include a range of tempting Italian-style ice creams.
Also located on the banks of the River Aire in Brewery Place, HOME is a unique fine dining restaurant by chef Elizabeth Cottam. Cottam draws inspiration from nature and her own memories to create dishes that transform thoughts and feelings into flavourful works of art. Talking about the restaurant’s current menu ‘Stuck in the Past’, Cottam says: ‘Each plate is a modern twist on a classic flavour combination that I absolutely adore. Some of these dishes have been a part of my life for a long time, while others are more recent discoveries. But they all have one thing in common – they evoke a sense of comfort and familiarity.’ You can try a selection of dishes for £80pp, or experience the whole collection for £120. This is served in 10 courses, which include black pudding with pistachio and plum, crab and kaffir ‘Kyiv’, and the intriguing ‘rosemary, sea buckthorn’ to finish.
Situated in the Grade II listed Calls Landing building, tapas bar Ambiente brings the vibrant atmosphere of a Spanish tabanco to the heart of Leeds. This characterful restaurant still has the original brick walls and wooden floors from back when it was a warehouse, and its exposed steel beams now sparkle with glowing lights. Ambiente offers its own modern take on classic tapas with small plates that are cooked to order, often using the restaurant’s Josper charcoal oven. These include dishes like caramelised chorizo and potatoes, creamy mushrooms with manchego, or yoghurt and spice marinated chicken strips. There’s also plenty of seafood in the form of calamares, mussels in white wine or the impressive centrepiece ‘Dorada a la Sal’ – a whole salt baked sea bream. You can complete your meal with Spanish-inspired drinks including Ambiente’s speciality, sherry. The restaurant’s tasting flights allow you to sample three different kinds to decide which you like best. Among their desserts, you’ll also find a burnt Basque cheesecake served with PX sherry-infused raisins.
Six by Nico
If you’d like to surprise someone special with a Valentine’s meal like no other, Six by Nico is definitely somewhere to check out. This concept restaurant on East Parade has a six course set menu that changes every six weeks. Until the 25th February, diners here can take a trip down the rabbit hole and be treated to a culinary adventure in Wonderland. For this whimsical tasting menu, chef Nico Simeone has drawn on the curious characters and topsy turvy happenings in Lewis Carroll’s much-loved novel to create six tantalising courses, starting with ‘The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ (mushroom tea, smoked bacon jam, truffle parmesan royale, pickled walnut and Keens cheddar scone) and finishing with the ‘Queen of Hearts’ (white chocolate mousse, red velvet cake, raspberries, pecan brittle). The menu costs £39pp and an optional wine pairing can be added. The restaurant has also created a range of themed aperitifs to accompany your meal with, including ‘Alice’s Gin & Jam Tart’ – a mouthwatering medley of raspberry, white chocolate liqueur, gin and lemon – or ‘Tick Tock’, made with Kingston 62 white rum, Briottet bergamot liqueur, lemon & ginger tea and ginger ale.
Contemporary Chinese restaurant Tattu offers exquisitely-presented food in a dazzling setting that’s sure to impress. Tattu’s Leeds restaurant can be found on East Parade and its award-winning interior conjures up a sense of opulence and mystery with mirrored walls and hanging white cherry blossoms that pay homage to the Yorkshire rose. You can whet your appetite here with body art-inspired cocktails such as the velvety Silk Road Crusta, made with Four Roses bourbon, ginger and cardamom. There are also a range of equally exotic non-alcoholic drinks to try, which are all made with Everleaf. When it comes to food, Tattu’s most romantic offering might be its Moon Stand Lunch. This features three dishes of your choice, which are brought to your table on a sculptural tiered stand for £29.40pp. Alternatively, you can splash out with The Taste of Tattu menu, which costs £73.50pp and arrives in three waves. To get started, you’ll tuck into seven spiced seared tuna with truffle aioli and caviar, and aromatic crispy duck with pancakes. These are then followed by dishes like satay ribeye beef and sea bass tom yum, finishing with a white chocolate dragon egg and an Asian pear sticky toffee pudding.
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