RECOMMENDATION | Wapentake, Leeds
You’d be forgiven for thinking you were rocking up at a sushi bar with a name like Wapentake; that is until you look directly under the name and discover that the place is claiming to be ‘A Little Piece of Yorkshire.’
Step inside, look above the window and all becomes clear – the meaning of Wapentake and its relevance to this wonderful little place is clearly explained.
The place is eccentric to say the least. The custard yellow walls feature a very eclectic mix of photography, pop art and hand-drawn squiggles hanging randomly, all offset by a huge chalk board, which features a very reasonably priced menu of all-day breakfast options, snacks, mains and sarnies, with gluten free and veggies also catered for.
Behind the bar is a decent gin collection, jars of pickled-on-the-premises eggs, chillies and some that that may or may not have been beetroot. A collection of 20th-century weapons don the walls above, and the bar’s counter showcases a collection of delicious home-made cakes, loafs and chocolaty treats all made on-site. The shop window display is largely bread-based. Again made on-site, and for those who like to experiment with the locally brewed stuff, there is a very bright menu listing an interesting collection of pale ales, craft ciders and stouts, some of which are brewed with rhubarb, passion fruit and oatmeal!
The furniture is made up of the odd church pew and random second-hand pieces, but unlike so many ghastly gastro pubs who try so hard to make a place look hip and a la mode with mis-matching furniture, which generally ends up looking far too contrived for my liking, Wapentake oozes a certain East London-style cool. And a rather battered piano with a tatty written invitation to tinker away providing you ask your audience for requests nails it.
Out the back is a wonderful little sun-trap of a yard, which has been carefully cleaned up to create an informal, urban space. Brand new beer-garden style tables and benches and a scattering of foldaway stripy garden chairs once again give the place a cool, laidback vibe.
Upstairs there is a little event space, again with rather random photography and art handing from the walls, a giant battered claret red sofa and dramatic mahogany flooring.
It’s seriously great value for money too with the sandwich selection starting at a mere £2.50. My doorstop of a tuna-and-mayo sandwich was scrummy; party down to the amazing homemade, freshly baked and cut bread. The coffee was hot and strong, just how I like it, and my slice of vegan lemon cake was divine.
It’s great to see that central Leeds is eventually broadening its social scene beyond the many pretentious cocktail bars and chain pubs, flamboyant restaurants and pompous club scene a lot of which caters for under-dressed and over-made up 20-somethings.
And it’s thanks to little gems like Wapentake, taking a risk, going against the polished grain and opening its doors in a part of Leeds city centre that was once (and possibly still is) associated with a more unsavoury crowd. But Hoxton wasn’t built in a day. A few more Wapentake’s around Kirkgate and this little corner of Leeds could well be the Shoreditch of the North in the not-too-distant future.
I want to venture here after dark and experience Wapentake with a Masons Yorkshire G&T in my hand and see if the clientele match up with the laid-back, cool, creative vibe. A great little find for a spot of lunch too.
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