The papers are full of the joys of leaving London and moving north. Young people are finally seeing the benefits of cheaper housing, cheaper beer (though not restaurants unless you compare them to the daft ‘pretentious’ Muse in London reviewed by Grace Dent – she’s no Marina), cheaper and much shorter travel. We have the best walking country, the best beer and the friendliest people. You don’t find people saying ‘hello’ or, more probably ‘now then’ as you battle along Pall Mall or Oxford Street – in Yorkshire you dread meeting a big walking party – ‘hello’, ‘now then’, ‘good day eh?’, ‘grand day’ etc etc. until they’ve all gone past. We’ve got friends whose four daughters have all moved out of London and reclaimed their Yorkshire roots to Sheffield. We probably wouldn’t choose Sheffield – but we would definitely choose Leeds.
Yes, just after ‘the war’ (1950s) it was all black stone, trams (first time round) and grey downtrodden people – or was that just the black and white photos? Now though Leeds is tingling with excitement and fabulous shopping – the architecturally acclaimed Victoria Gate is magnificent and boasts the biggest John Lewis in the country. Craft beers, neighbourhood cafés (e.g. the Lidget Larder), and arts venues to die for (where did they put that ditch?). Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute next door, the nearby Hepworth, the outstanding Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Three venues triangulated in the same way as the Rhubarb Triangle (Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell in case you’re asking). Joining them is The Tetley. This former offices for Tetley’s brewery was converted to a gallery in 2015, after this outstanding, world-famous (that’s enough…Ed) brewery was acquired by Carlsberg and production moved south (further than Sheffield even!). Great venue, beer obvs, excellent coffee where you’re surrounded by people tapping away on laptops, restaurant and…oh some art. This is where it fell down for us – in the same way that The Baltic in Newcastle fails to thrill. No idea what it was all about. Still, the coffee was simply splendid.
Gallery café The Tetley Leeds
Oh, by the way, we visited the Tiled Hall café in Leeds Central Library. What a wonderful building, one of many erected in the 1800s when Leeds was full of confidence and money. Thank goodness, those times have returned. London – eat your heart out…
Oh, and we had lunch at the Victoria Gate branch of Le Pain Quotidien. Normally reliable – and we’re keen Europeans – this time was pretty hopeless. One plate of quiche of the day with rocket drowned out by rough tasting ‘french’ dressing heaped everywhere, and one bowl of assorted tasteless salad ingredients in need of livening up, but not by throwing a bucket of sharp pesto dressing all over it. Any semblance of taste or texture has clearly been put up against the wall and shot. £40. We should have gone back to Humpit in the Corn Exchange – it’s all the Le PQ wasn’t – and for a fiver a head.