From Po Boys to Pulled Pork and beyond

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Just before Christmas, I was invited to eat at the brand new sister restaurant to The Pit in Leeds city centre, the rather sensibly named Pit Chapel Allerton, due to its location. For those of you who don’t know Leeds very well, Chapel Allerton is about ten minutes drive outside of the city centre and quite an up and coming place, if it’s not actually up and come already.  There are already a number of cool restaurants and bars, one being the highly prized Mexican Pinche Pinche, so it’s well worth the detour if you are in the city.
Back in the day, Chapel Allerton wasn’t always this nice so it’s good to see it grow and the out of town vibe spread with new bar and restaurant openings, the latest of which is The Pit. Pretty much a carbon copy of the Central Leeds operation in terms of branding, design, menu and interior, The Pit is a big restaurant with equally large ambition and clearly they believe that the market is there for them to open here.
It was another ‘getting the kitchen up to speed’ event but this time a lunch table was offered. We paid for our drinks and the food was laid on and it was order at the bar as there was no table service for some reason. No issue, so we ordered from the same menu the Central Leeds restaurant has, which is extensive Americana. I’d been to the original restaurant a few months ago and I have to say was a little disappointed, so was eager to see if there was any difference with the Chapel Allerton outpost.
My lunch companion and I went for nachos and fried catch of the day to get things underway, both of which were perfectly good. It’s all straight forward food here so it’s all about getting the small things right – so far so good. I ordered the half roasted chicken for mains with mac and cheese side and my fellow luncher opted for the very good looking fillet burger, which came perfectly rare as ordered. The chicken came with sweet potato fries and a lip smackingly hot peri peri style sauce which was on the money and still makes my mouth water as I write this.
The menu is very much in vogue  right now and the time is right for burger / rib / nachos / po boys / pulled pork et al – and a particular emphasis on attracting a younger crowd will ensure the success of places like this.
With Schooners of Brooklyn lager to wash it down, this was the perfect easy going lunch and, in my opinion, a more enjoyable experience that the previous meal at the Central Leeds restaurant. Perhaps it was down to the food ordered or the nuances of the individual restaurants, I’m not sure. The service was better in Leeds, but the food was marginally better in chapel Allerton.
I’m sure they will iron out these wrinkles in both restaurants in the coming months, but one thing is for sure, restaurants in Leeds that serve this kind of cuisine will have one eye over their shoulder at The Pit Leeds and Chapel Allerton – there is a lot of ambition and investment here, and I get the impression they won’t settle for second best.

Mrs Atha’s and the best breakfast in Leeds

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A bit of an oversight that I’ve not written about Mrs Atha’s yet. It’s been open for absolutely ages and I’m well behind the curve in terms of up to minute coffee reporting. I’d walked past a few times and made a mental note to find the time to visit, then ended up visiting a few times in a flurry of coffee activity.
It’s worth saying a lot of time and effort has gone into the design of Mrs Atha’s, from the branding to interiors and beyond. I always spot this first up as it’s the business I’m in but I am a big believer in businesses that get this right always get the product right too. Other nice touches like Aesop hand wash in the toilets—the only place in Leeds that does so— tell me there is an eye for detail at work here.
The first time I visited it was a quick coffee and I settled at a table waiting for my friend to turn up, I marveled on how Mrs Atha’s actually makes you feel cool just sitting in it: like you’re in the know, and that’s hard to pull off. It’s also hard to pull off a genuine coffee alternative contender in a city dominated by corporates but Layne’s Espresso, Bottega Milanese and a handful of others have done it, so if you get your offer right, it can work.
I have bemoaned the lack of a genuinely great breakfast in Leeds but with Mrs Atha’s we do have a contender. It’s not your standard full English but a component led version, using Lishman’s bacon and sausage, thrillingly creamy scrambled eggs,delicious sourdough toast and buttered crumpets. Team these up with simply great coffee then we have something really good to get the day started.
The location on Central Street is definitely tucked away, not obvious, and I like that. The place isn’t enormous so does get busy quickly although there are seats downstairs. Food and drink are ordered at the counter and it’s brought to you, which works reasonably well although I’d quite like to see table service but I’m sure there are practical reasons why that’s not possible.
So, lagging woefully behind the bleeding edge coffee hipsters, I can now declare Mrs Atha’s my favourite place for breakfast in Leeds, safe in the knowledge that they’ve probably spotted something new anyway and I can enjoy my flat white and bacon sarnie in peace.
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