With the closing of Merkato the excellent Ethiopian restaurant in the back of the Merrion Centre and Ephes Mangal changing hands, pulling out their restaurant dominating charcoal grill, and scaling back their meat portions, I’m starting to worry about the security of my other favourite secret eateries in Leeds. So I think I’d better document the rest so more people can go and keep them in custom. I’m going to leave out Indian and Chinese restaurants for another time.
LS2 9DZ 01132263099
Best kabab in Leeds that I’ve found. Real layers of lamb and chicken on the two skewers cooking at the back. Nice freshly made falafel too. You can also tell the quality of the place by the range of pickles, sauces and salad that go in to each wrap and meal box. I’d recommend the lamb shawarma or falafel meal which comes with a couple of flat breads to mop up the grease and sauces, and a couple of chips thrown in to balance everything out. Try Shani from the drink fridge for something sweet, or Ayran yoghurt cup drink if they have them for something cooling.
Bonus goes to those who ask to eat in, and take their food upstairs. An art wonder awaits , with one room modelled with fake rock around the edges, and painted up to look like a sea scape and temple.
LS8 5PL 01132496070
Good charcoal flavour on the roasted chicken keep me coming back. The half chicken meal deal has a nice mix of chicken, salad, chips and naan. The two pots of sauce (one garlic, the other red spicy) are great for dipping it all in to. There’s plenty of space to sit at the back, and always people eating in, and dropping past to collect.
Harehills Rd LS8
Mostly a biscuit, cake and sweets shop, this place also does an excellent Samosa Chaat. There’s a choice of meat or veg, and the samosa comes chopped up in a bowl slathered in yoghurt sauce, with a touch of spice, onions and chickpeas. I always make the mistake of ordering the large and then feeling too full to finish.
While you’re there, you might as well ask for a small box of sweets and biscuits. The staff can pick you a selection, or you can point out what you want. Nearly all of them are delicious, a couple are surprisingly savoury and I had one that was strangely the consistency of MDF sawdust.
Zm Zm Bakery
Harehills Rd LS8 01133186795
No nonsense bakery that churns out flat breads and naan. Always friendly and busy. They have trays of baklava which is what really keeps me coming back. Also do a side line in roast chicken, but it’s the fresh baking that makes it stand out.
This restaurant might have another name, but the sign over the door is what you spot first. It sits on the corner of Mushroom St and Cherry Row which are both great names. That corner is always a place for lots of men chilling out and chatting. The restaurant has tables, a section at the back for games and plenty of tvs showing east african and maybe arabic pop. The take away is insanely cheap. Generally when I’ve been there’s one special on offer, and most meals come with soup, a cooked vegetable or beans, rice and flat bread included. If you’re on your own, you can feel a little out of place, but they’ve always been really friendly when I’ve been there. It has a feeling of a working man’s club in some ways. I’ve never seen a woman sat at any of the tables, so you might stand out even more eating in if you’re female.
Check out the floor. It’s made from a large selection of non-matching carpet tiles – I like the look.
Thai A Roy Dee
LS2 7NL 01132452174
There are lots of Thai restaurants in Leeds, but this newcomer is my favourite. They do a good version of my favourite dish, Som Tam – a green papaya (or sometimes cabbage) salad with chillies, beans and peanuts. Theirs comes with grilled chicken. Order a sticky rice to complete the package. The stews feature ‘honest’ cuts of meat (so more bits of bone to pick clean on some meats), great street food style. If you’re after something comforting, I’d recommend the Massaman curry which is creamy, with potatoes – good with chicken or duck.
There’s a range of ace drinks, including sweet and complex flavours in the Thai iced coffee. It’s also byob, so pick up some cold beer on the way.
Jino’s in Headingley deserves on honourable mention for my second favourite Som Tam salad in Leeds. But I’ve had a couple of slightly off take aways in amongst the many good ones, and so it didn’t quite make the list.
160 Chapeltown Rd 01132627280
I wrote a review once for this great Chapeltown take away. Here it is:
Good, honest take away Caribbean food. Service is generally friendly and fast (there’s also a couple of sit-in tables in the window). Always seems busy since they moved across the street into a newly renovated and cosier space.
All the standards are there; ackee & saltfish, dumpling, goat curry, plantain, rice & peas, etc.. There’s also a couple of set chicken meals for the indecisive. My favourite, the ‘special xpress’ comes with jerked chicken, festivals, dumpling, salad and jerk sauce (although they’ve nearly always run out of festivals when I get it).
LS8 5AJ 01132400349
I’ve only had take away from here twice so far, but the food was particularly delicious. Try the boneless chicken with lemon and garlic. The dishes come with a nice flavoured rice.
LS2 8NJ 01132439184
A long established favourite, hidden round the back of the Merrion centre. This low key Japanese restaurant has a reliably comforting take on ramen and cha han. Both are great. I like the addition of lettuce to the fried mix in the cha han, and it always feels like a bonus to get soup and pickles. Remember to order green tea to sip in quantity along with your food. The Japanese largers are crisp and refreshing, or go for a plum wine for something that tastes of sweets.