Like most UK cities, Leeds’ high streets have a multitude of multi-present restaurants and coffee shops that are easy to fall into for lack of knowing where else to go. But what sets Leeds apart from all but the finest food cities, are an array of unique independent eateries only a few steps away from whichever *insert chain name here* you’re contemplating. 

A short walk around Leeds city centre, with eyes open and belly empty, travels through multiple culinary continents, and if you find the right restaurant you’ll be transported to the glorious taste of your country of choice. This guide will help you choose wisely…

The far flung flavours of Asia are evidently popular throughout the UK, and Leeds has progressed from the Westernised curry to authentic Eastern dishes. Thailand is represented by several super restaurants here, from the fun Zaap to the traditional Mommy, but this blog tells of a real success story that you can stumble across and into at Trinity Leeds. 

Rosa’s Thai Cafe started life as a small casual diner in London’s east end, where founder Saiphin brought her Thailand origins to British mouths. She and her husband have since opened ten sites across London, and recently stepped out of the capital by opening in Leeds earlier this year.

The multiple locations have not diluted Rosa’s vision or passion, and the restaurant combines the best of Thailand with the comfort of Yorkshire. Indeed, the fine view over Leeds reminds where one is, but the Bangkok interior and the cooking of Thai classics – spring and summer rolls, tom yum soup, spicy papaya salad, pad thai, red and green curries – are on point and welcome indeed. 

A slightly less discovered cuisine that has been gradually increasing in the British consciousness and palate is that of Korea. Leeds has been lucky to sample the country’s unique spices and textures for the last few years, thanks to the city’s first barbecue Korean joint, Bulgogi Grill. And whilst the food alone is enough of a reason to visit, there’s a whole lot to experience here too…

Indeed, you’re not just getting to know the eating of Korean food, you’ll be learning to cook it too! This is a tabletop BBQ in a swish setting, where meats and seafood are brought to your booths for you to sizzle up. Whilst that might sound like a lot of work for an evening out, with the right attitude it’s some memorable fun, and excellent service is on hand for those who want it. More importantly, the food that you’ll have somehow created is terrifically tasty Korean specialities!

Closer to home, there are many examples of Leeds eateries showcasing Yorkshire produce and skilled British cooking, with one standout place calling itself just that: HOME. Set up by renowned chefs Elizabeth Cottam and Mark Owens, this is a masterful presentation of modern UK cuisine, respecting the past and inventing the future. 

This in-demand on-trend restaurant serves multi-course tasting menus of the finest local ingredients and familiar flavours, reimagined into unique and progressive small plates – within one visit try haddock omelette, caviar and chives, and salt baked artichoke, horseradish and samphire, amongst other exciting and wonderful creations. In all that HOME does, the contrasts complement, as a special occasion visit that is equally relaxed and comfortable, and as creative forward-thinking dishes that are equally comforting and, of course, homely. 

Other notable places that are bigging up the region and elevating it include Shears Yard, a relaxed and refined space with a menu of classics that are lifted by skill and seasons, and inside Headrow House, Ox Club, dishing up similarly precise plates of hearty goodness. Both menus mix simple pleasures with unique combinations, and are winners for brunch, Sunday lunch and evening a la carte, so at any time they will treat the eyes, fill the stomach and warm the soul. 

Of course, there are dozens more to be recommended, like the great British fare at The Foundry and The Swine That Dines, or the dazzling European delicacies at Stuzzi and Kendall’s, or treats from further afield at Manjit’s Kitchen and Casa Colombiana. And the rest. So next time you’re ready to give in to the mediocre, step on, and you’ll soon see you’re surrounded by something much more.