Independents are all the rage in Leeds right now, but Arts Café is one of the city’s original indie hotspots. Having resided on Call Lane since 1994, they are officially older than many of the iconic street’s weekend revellers, but are showing no signs of slowing down.
The indie ambience is heightened with ever-changing art exhibitions from local up-and-comers, and the food too is sourced from local suppliers to keep things proper Yorkshire. Now under new management and renamed simply Arts, we dropped in to check out their new menu and see if they can still pack a punch in the kitchen.
The place was packed with an eclectic crowd, yet the vibe was laidback and the service swift and friendly. The bar at Arts stock a wide selection of both permanent and guest local ales, including Leeds favourite, Northern Monk. We enjoyed a pint of the flavoursome Eternal Session IPA as we awaited our starter.
The Mediterranean Plate (8.00) features a colourful array of Parma ham, chorizo, calamari marinated olives, halloumi and charred aubergine. Everything here was great, but the calamari, halloumi and chorizo were especially moreish. Accompanied by the thickest chunks of doorstep bread I’ve ever seen, this turned out to be an excellent choice.
Unable to choose a main, I went with the waitress’s recommendation of the Arts Handmade Beef Burger (8.50) with a side of French fries (3.50). I can hands down say this was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while, and came with bacon, cheddar, American mustard and tomato relish. The patty was delicious, and really had that homemade flavour that you don’t get from your average burger.
Across the table, my friend was enjoying the Mediterranean Beef Stiffado Stew (9.50), which was slow cooked with red wine, tomatoes, peppers, olives and herbs. Served with fragrant herb mash, it was a rich and hearty dish that’s just perfect for the colder months.
Both mains were elevated with a glass of the Australian Listening Station Malbec, which more than held up to its Argentinian and French rivals with its dark, peppery flavours. The only misstep of the afternoon was the dessert. The Almond Milk Panna Cotta (5.95) just didn’t pack enough flavour, which was a shame as the almond brittle and winter berries topping was delicious.
Something tells me we should have gone for the Double Chocolate and Cherry Brownie instead, but we’ll get to that next time. With high-quality ingredients, wallet friendly prices and an almost perfect lunch, Arts Café is still at the top of the Leeds indie game.
Arts, 42 Call Lane, Leeds. Tel: 0113 243 8243