Plush hotels, a plethora of fashionable bars, award-winning restaurants and designer boutiques. No, it’s not Milan or Paris but somewhere much closer to home. Just two hours from London by train and one of the UK’s busiest financial, creative and legal hubs, Leeds is an emphatic mix of old, new and up-and-coming. The city is constantly re-inventing itself and attracting big names to rub shoulders with the likes of Harvey Nichols.
Work, rest and play
Leeds is one of the busiest business destinations in the UK. Global names flock to the city for its heady mix of business and culture. The city is also fast-developing its status as a creative hub with many digital and media companies populating the Round Foundry in the up-and-coming Holbeck area of the city centre. And, perhaps one of Leeds’ best assets, the city doesn’t sprawl- it packs a lot of punch in a relatively compact area. The ideal female-friendly business city.
But it’s not all work, work, work!
Come lunch time- whether you’re ladies lunching or talking business- you’re spoilt for choice.
There’s the usual mix of well-known chains- Brown’s, Jamie’s Italian, the Living Room, Pizza Express – but Leeds has spawned its own, eclectic mix of lunching haunts.
At the heart of the city centre, Anthony Flinn is the name to know, whether you want fine dining or coffee and cake. Head to the historic Corn Exchange where you can choose from Anthony’s Patisserie (there’s also one in the stunning Victoria Quarter- handy for shopping!), the brasserie-style Piazza or his Rib Shakk for more casual dining. Not forgetting Anthony’s Restaurant, his flagship on Boar Lane.
Leeds is also home to its own hidden gems – you might find yourself in the Granary Wharf area of the city- lots of businesses are moving to this impressive location by the canal and convenient for the train station- and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
VINeatley serves authentic Italian food and wine, while Fazenda offers a break from the norm with its Brazilian cooking and Cuvee is a picturesque waterside boutique bar.
Time to shop?
Leeds is a rare haven home to a myriad of well-known high street and designer names all within easy reach of one another. Opening in March is the Trinity Centre- bringing more shops to the city- and John Lewis will land in 2016 at the new £110 million Eastgate shopping development.
The Victoria Quarter is the place to be for all you top designers and don’t forget to look up- the Grade II –listed building proudly sports Britain’s largest stained-glass roof!
Time to play?
Music venues, theatres and galleries make Leeds a cultural hotbed.
Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and the Kaiser Chiefs are just some of the names already confirmed to play at the new Leeds Arena which opens in the city centre later this year, while the brilliantly atmospheric O2 Academy regularly hosts bands such as the Scissor Sisters, The Stranglers and Stereophonics
Theatre-lovers are spoilt for choice. The Grand Theatre and Opera House is exactly that- a grand old music hall dating back to the 1800s. These days expect to be entertained by everyone from Opera North and the Military Wives to Ken Dodd and The Hairy Bikers, as well as jaw-dropping theatrical musicals and plays.
And the West Yorkshire Playhouse has a regular programme of some of the best live entertainment in the North of England
Eat, drink, sleep
As the sun sets over Leeds, those in the know head to the SkyLounge at the DoubleTree by Hilton, tucked away in the aforementioned Granary Wharf. Admittedly, hotel bars can be stuffy, expensive and lacking in variety but the SkyLounge offers the best views across the whole of Leeds (as its name suggests, it’s up on the roof!), as well as sumptuous cocktails and wines.
As well as the names you’d expect to see adorning the streets of any big city- there are a host of bars and restaurants to sniff out.
Head to the super-cool The Calls where the fashionable folk festoon bars such Jake’s, Oporto and Norman’s. For a bite to eat that combines art and food, the Art’s Café is a Leeds’ institution, offering some of the tastiest bistro food at reasonable prices.
If a good steak is more your thing, then the Gaucho Grill is the place to be. Not only is it blessed with sleek surroundings (and the staff to match!) but the menu is quite simply one of the best in Leeds. There’s something special about a steak cooked to perfection- and staff who really do know their rump from their fillet! The cocktails are more than just your average Bloody Mary or Mojito too. The imaginatively-named ‘Patagonian Cobbler’ will get your evening off to a lively start with its mix of Sauvignon Blanc and apple liqueur mixed with peach purée and apple juice. Gaucho isn’t just a restaurant it’s an all-round experience.
And so to bed….
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to places to rest your head in Leeds. Hotels are springing up on what feels like a monthly basis- so there’s always an offer to be had too!
- Something glam? Head to Quebecs- a sultry townhouse with rooms to match.
- Looking for something practical and close to the action? The Park Plaza, Marriot and Radisson hotels will fit the bill.
- Something quirky? Then try 42 The Calls with its cosy rooms overlooking the canal.
Wherever you visit, eat, stay and do business in Leeds- one thing is certain, you’ll want to go back!
Working for the Beeb was great- as well as reading news bulletins, reporting on a variety of issues and presenting shows, I also got to work on high profile events like Children in Need, Comic Relief and Music Live- a lot of fun and a chance to get to know a whole host of diverse locations around the UK. A passion I’ve never lost.
My job now sees me working for everything from top 5* hotels, exclusive interiors’ companies and global telecommunications’ brands to schools, unis and manufacturing companies. Never a dull moment in PR! It also means I’m often here, there and everywhere- and I love it. Hopefully, I can share with you some of my tips for the best spots across the UK.