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A Look into Leeds Indie Food Festival

  • Published in Taste
leeds indie food festival H.Webster
Photography by H.Webster

The inaugural Leeds Indie Food Festival has officially begun! Fresh off the heels of Live at Leeds, #LIF15 puts the spotlight on food. Not just any kind of food either – amazing, mouth-watering independent food. Food that makes the grub in THOSE M&S adverts look like a greasy kebab in the searing light of day.

So what is it, and what does it entail? It’s a collaborative, independent festival of Food and Drink running as part of ‘Leeds Food Month’ from the 7th – 24th May. The brainchild of influential Leeds foodies, and funded by a hyper-successful Kickstarter campaign, this Festival is from the people, for the people. It’s passionately grassroots. It’s an aromatic medley of cultures. It bellows the benevolent essence of Leeds. So far, over 100 businesses have signed up, from a takeover of Shear’s Yard by Viva Cuba, to a candlelit Victorian banquet at Whitelock’s, to the closing party at the majestic Tetley. May is the month of guiltless gluttony, and it’s never tasted so good.

leeds indie food festival JimDAN
Photography by Jim Dan

In homage to the worldly array of cuisines and instead of the conventional wristband, festival-goers have been granted Leeds Indie Food Passports – sponsored by independent Leeds publication The City Talking. For 15 quid, you get access to special dishes, great discounts and exclusive events, as well as the thrill of a culinary quest around Leeds’ archaic arcades and beyond. A few examples of these perks include 25% off all food at Bundobust, bottomless filter coffee at Mrs. Atha’s, free corkage at Tall Boys Beer Market, a free hotdog with your first drink at Oporto, and special tacos at Chapel Allerton’s Pinche Pinche. There’ll even be prizes awarded at Leeds Feast (the closing party) for those with the most stamps in their passports! Go travel, yo.

This Festival has something for everyone, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, a craft beer aficionado, a parent with little’uns, looking to expand your taste buds, or just searching for some homegrown good-for-the-soul food. There are hosts of free events, events solely open to Leeds Indie Food Passport holders, and those you have to pay extra for – to be wined and dined by the crème de la crème of chefs.

‘Gorse: A Dinner Experience For Curious Gastronomes’ at Mrs. Atha’s is a veggie’s wet dream. Toying with savoury and sweet, showcasing Yorkshire produce, and in a truly wonderful venue, this is not one to miss. Each Saturday of the Festival, famously fantastic Salvo’s will be welcoming in new eaters for their Southern Italian Regional Dinners. They’re hosting a Coeliac dinner, along with La Festa Del Pescatore – a prime place to be shellfish... Find out exactly why Salvo’s is Gordon Ramsay’s favourite Italian restaurant.

leeds indie food festival Belgrave
Belgrave music hall

If you’re looking to rest your ever-growing belly and feast on some art, Tall Boys Beer Market is holding the free exhibition ‘Process: An Artist’s View of Brewing’ for the duration of the Festival, that blends the worlds of art, design, and beer. Further afield, cinema meets grub with Hyde Park Picture House, screening food-focused films like Mystic Pizza and Babette’s Feast, and award-winning community cinema group Minicine showing such films as Jiro Dreams of Sushi at the Arch Café and Munro House. On the topic of film, with #LIF15, you can even venture into the gastronomical Oz of Leeds’ own Wizard, with the Man Behind the Curtain x Laynes Brunch. Like the food-lined Yellow Brick Road, the total of 109 events lead up to the Emerald City, namely Leeds Feast. Held at the Tetley over Bank Holiday weekend (yup, two in a month – another reason to love May), this closing party will be Leeds’ biggest outdoor street food event, with over 5000 patrons. Passport holders get in free, while others have to pay a reasonable fare of £2. If you’ve ever been to one of the Belgrave’s monthly Feasts, you’ll half-know what to expect. The Tetley and the Belgrave, both in their second years, join forces with Beacons Metro (this year swapping the fields of Skipton for the city centre) to host this huge event. There’ll be independent booze from progressive breweries, there’ll be independent coffee and the launch of the Northern Coffee Guide (swoon), there’ll be independent industry panels on all of these things, and most importantly, there’ll be all the beautiful, independent food you can shake a fork at. As Leeds propels forwards with its bid for Capital of Culture 2020, events like Leeds Indie Food Festival help showcase exactly what’s so great about this city and why we should win. Why travel to London, when you can take your passport and visit some of the finest eateries in the country? Now go, tuck in!