Whether you want burger porn for days or melt-in-the-mouth Brazilian barbecue, award-winning Punjabi curry or crowd-pleasing falafels, Assembly Underground delivers.
Add to this a slick speakeasy cocktail bar and no less than 50 ever-changing craft beers on tap, and you’ve really got a destination worth shouting about.
Residing on Great George Street in the basement site previously occupied by Carpe Diem, Assembly Underground became an overnight success when the venue debuted in its new incarnation last autumn. As the city’s most unique drinking and dining mecca fast approaches its milestone first birthday, Team H&N dropped in for a bite to eat to find out what tricks this Leeds trailblazer has up its sleeve for the coming months.
By chance, our visit coincided with the annual Leeds Indie Food Festival, which meant that each of the six on-site food vendors were offering foodie mash-ups inspired by their peers. Making a beeline for Slap & Pickle (who first wooed us with hotdogs at Trinity Kitchen before morphing into their current incarnation as burger-and-loaded-fries maestros ), we were all over their Pizza Fries.
Drawing inspiration from the guys over at Pizza Authority, these reassuringly calorific chips came drenched in marinara sauce, mozzarella, cheese sauce, pepperoni, olives and garlic and herb mayo. Slap & Pickle co-founder Zoë Perrett explained that the dish had gone down so well, she and partner James Tabor were contemplating making the dish a permanent staple.
Returning the favour, Pizza Authority delivered a dreamy Neapolitan pizza topped with sausage, potatoes, mushrooms, goats’ cheese and spinach. Over at Falafel Guys, the dish de jour was an unbelievably fiery plate of Chilli-stuffed Falafels, which paid homage to award-winning Punjabi curry legends Jah Jyot – as did Bread & Butter BBQ’s combination of chicken thigh strips, tikka cauliflower & Punjabi-spiced churros
It’s this infectious team spirit that sets the venue apart from other street food offerings in the city. On top of that, the chameleon-like quality and ability to create trends as opposed to simply keep up with them means that Assembly Underground is a major disruptor in the casual dining scene.
Why go to a half-baked restaurant chain for a bog-standard, overpriced meal when you’ve got such a wealth of diverse, high-grade grub under one roof? The newest addition to the family, Holy Ramen, arrived days before we went to print, and has already caused a stir on social media with its riff on the Japanese noodle soup for which it’s named.
The family-friendly venue is also poised to launch a weekly brunch in July, with its operators currently perfecting their offerings to ensure Assembly Underground sets itself apart from the overcrowded ‘bottomless’ craze which Leeds is mad for. Acoustic Sundays have also just launched; the ‘Assembly UnPlugged’ sessions providing live music to soothe hangovers and allow punters to unwind before the working week begins.
Culture vultures are also catered for, with Assembly Underground’s regular art exhibitions showcasing the most promising local talent – providing visitors with a little food for thought whilst they chow down. And, having smashed their Beers of Belgium mini-fest back in May, the resident craft beer aficionados at Vocation & Co. Leeds are planning even more exclusive tap takeovers.
With our bellies full (and still slightly on fire thanks to the Falafel Guys!), we got a round of Pizza Waffles and coffees from Stage Espresso Bar to go, and left on a promise to return soon. Look out for our brunch review dropping online in August – we’ve got a feeling this one is going to be a game-changer.
Words by Jordan Fletcher