Last week I ventured north to Yorkshire to spend two days in Leeds. Close to my hometown of Hull, Leeds used to be my family's shopping destination of choice, long before the days of Trinity Leeds, and long before before my appreciation of fashion full stop; as a grumpy teen I befriended many a fitting room chair in despair as my sister tried on her umpteenth outfit. Leeds also happens to be the city in which my university life was lived, and the place that shaped the opinions I hold true today.
It turns out a place can change a lot in 4 years. When I graduated in 2011 the landscape of Leeds was different. I don’t ever remember stopping to admire Holy Trinity Church back then. I wasn’t a gig-goer and from what I can remember it spent much of the three years that I called Leeds home behind hoarding, an ambiguous dingy building which as far as I knew had nothing to offer me. Today it signifies the beating heart of Leeds city centre: Trinity Leeds, which boasts a strong retail, restaurant and bar offering.
Our evening plans were set - we were off to see John Legend at the First Direct Arena - but the rest was wide open. After much deliberation we lunched at The Botanist, a rustic gastro-pub towards the back of Trinity Church which champions all things earthy whilst remaining utterly chic. With the best drinks menu I’ve ever laid eyes on - ’The Anthology of Ales’ - it also has super friendly staff and an awesome collection of filament lightbulbs. Tapas was on the menu in the evening and La Rambla was the restaurant of choice. My clean plate post-churros was proof that it didn’t disappoint. Visiting the First Direct Arena was a first, and the semi-circular seating meant that everyone had a great view. Other highlights included the audience; only in Leeds would someone in the crowd brazenly shout ‘Go on Lad’ to Oscar-winning John Legend.
I couldn’t visit Leeds without taking a stroll down to Leeds Dock. An area I’d seldom visited as a student save for a trip or two to the Royal Armouries Museum, it is now one of my favourite places in Leeds, and it wasn’t surprising to find Google’s Digital Garage on the waterfront given Leeds’ reputation as a digital hub.
A quick art fix at Leeds Art Gallery was topped up by splinters of street art spotted en route, as well as Nicola Adams golden post box and a piano-playing horse…of course! A drink at Nation of Shopkeepers also provided the homage to uni days now a distant memory.
Call Lane’s Graze coffee shop was a hit too, spotted on Independent Leeds, a site championing the city's best independent retailers. Its printed counterpart, Little Black Book of Leeds Independent’s, is searching for supporters to back a reprint after stock flew off the shelf, putting the power in the hands of local people to encourage individual talent. (Support the kickstarted campaign here ). The answer to my northern place app dilemma, I realised a little too late, was in the recently launched web-based app Leeds Radius. Designed by David Simmonds and linked to google maps, Radius allows you to explore the best of Leeds’ indeoendents by categories and proximity, allowing less established and recognised high street retailers to get the attention they deserve.
Associated with Independent Leeds and Leeds Radius is Leeds Welcome, which like Leeds-List showcases places to go and things to see. When I think back to my time as an intern at Otley Courthouse, Leeds Welcome and Leeds-List would have been a massive help in promoting upcoming events and helping to pull communities together, so their apparent success is a great sign.
Our final stop was Angelica, which sits on the sixth floor of Trinity Leeds, above The Botanist. Serving fantastic breakfasts and fresh mint tea, its balcony offered 360 degree panoramic views and fantastic sights of the church spire, ensuring I left with no doubt what I’d been missing out on those years ago, and with every resolve to come back soon.