Pubs are open, bars are pouring drinks, restaurants are serving food, and we’re allowed to meet our friends. All things which we would’ve taken for granted in early 2020 are reasons to rejoice in 2021. And as we’ve lived without them for so long, their absence has only made our hearts grow fonder. 

So now that Leeds city centre resembles its former vibrant self, it’s time to get back out there and get back in it. Rather than navigating the infamous one-way system and staying sober, and instead of paying fortunes on taxis, we’re taking the bus into town. For groups going out at weekends and bank holidays, 5 people can travel together for just £6 on the aptly named First Taste of Freedom ticket using the First Bus app – leaving you with all the more to spend on the food and drink at these places within minutes of Leeds City Bus Station. 

Eat Your Greens

Nice name, but not one which screams fun times, huh? Well, actually this place delivers a dollop of good clean healthy fun right across the road from Leeds bus station. There’s veg to take home from local growers, sure, and you’ll be surprised how irresistible that is after dining out on a menu that harmoniously links vegan organics, grass fed steaks and natural wines to delicious effect. 

Outlaws Yacht Club

Next door to Eat Your Greens is a venue which almost a decade ago turned this former forgotten corner of town into a hipster hangout. Outlaws Yacht Club is a cafe-bar serving coffees, craft beers and deli platters to a discerning crowd. Pop up events of DJs, talks, art exhibitions and record fairs add to the already impressive mood of this creative space.  

The Wardrobe

Leaving south out of the station discovers an artistic piece of the city, where Leeds Playhouse and Northern Ballet call home. Besides these is The Wardrobe, a bar which suits the vibe of its neighbours. It’s slick and spacious, relaxed and inviting, with an upstairs bar and kitchen serving everything from bottomless brunch to Sunday lunch and classy cocktails to ice cold lagers. Downstairs turns into a club, where you can see some great comedy and music gigs. 

Sarto

At the same end of town is Munro House, a building which has several lovely reasons to visit – with gallery, cafe, book shop and pasta restaurant all within. The latter, Sarto, make fabulous fresh pasta in glorious Italian dishes which you can scoff alongside a bottiglia di vino or perhaps a negroni or Aperol spritz. 

Issho

Contrasting the industrial decor of Leeds bus station, the swish shopping centre Victoria Gate arrived alongside it in 2016. Inside is a high-end experience which also adds restaurants, bars and casino to the shops. One such venue well worth dressing up for is Issho, a Japanese restaurant and contemporary bar with rooftop terrace. The classy vibes are matched by the food and drink, with expertly executed small plates, sushi and cocktails to impress. 

The Duck & Drake 

On the other side of the bus station is the other side of Leeds’ personality; The Duck and Drake is a traditional pub pouring real ale in real comfort. As well as a relaxing pint or few, you can also soak up occasional sunshine in their beer garden and enjoy live rock and blues music gigs inside. Now impossible to miss thanks to the giant Pablo Hernandez Leeds United mural on its exterior wall!

Images: Eat Your Greens, Outlaws Yacht Club, Issho