Be it a late night drunken visit to one of the city’s more questionable fast-food joints, or a hangover mission to KFC, I really can’t get enough fried chicken. But is this guilty pleasure of a dish best left as nothing more than a dirty habit, or does it deserve to be treated with a little more respect?
Leeds’ newest gourmet fast food joint, Yard and Coop, certainly believe the latter, and after just one trip, it’s hard for me to disagree. Perched at the very bottom of Merrion Street, the restaurant promises booze, birds and beats, and proudly claims to be the home of buttermilk fried chicken. I was intrigued.
Entering the downstairs bar area, the first thing you notice is the striking interiors. Somehow the combination of one part rustic farmhouse, one part modern industrial and a dash of the exotic works. Upstairs in the main restaurant, the eye-catching pink Smeg fridge adds to the warm, homely vibe further, creating a space that’s perfect for causal dining.
We began proceedings with a pint of the very quaffable Yard Pilsner, which is far tastier than your average house ale. Yard & Coop also stock a pretty wide selection of bottled lagers, ranging from international classics to more unusual, crafty brews.
Care too has been taken to ensure the cocktail menu is up to scratch for the more discerning booze hounds of today. On recommendation of our lovely waitress, I went with What’s Golden, which comes packing no less than three different rums (including the lethal Wray and Nephew), lime, pineapple and passionfruit. I’m not usually one for sweeter cocktails, but the excess rum here made this one a worthy exception.
Of course, the success of Yard & Coop on the mean streets of Leeds will ultimately boil down to its food offering, so let’s cut to the chase. Starters were largely a hit, with kudos going towards the moreish Gunpowder Chicken in particular. Consisting of crumb coated curried chicken and onion poppers, I could have easily downed two portions of these, especially with the delicious minty buttermilk sauce.
The Not Chicken Nuggets, which are crumb coated halloumi bites, were not quite as good as I had hoped. A little on the small side, they didn’t quite have that gooey, chewy texture you get when you order deep fried halloumi elsewhere.
However, this minor disappointment was quickly corrected with the arrival of mains, and all was forgiven. I went with the ‘build your own feast’ menu, choosing boneless and skinless thighs, blue cheese sauce and an upgrade to Dirty Fries.
It’s worth noting that Yard & Coop are careful to ensure their chicken is of the highest quality, and this really shows. Going from farm to fork within 48 hours (with 24 hours of that time spent brining) is impressive, and the tenderness and superior taste of the meat is apparent with each bite.
Dirty Fries are another modern fast food staple done very well. Loaded with cheese sauce, spicy Bee’s Knees, Dr Pepper BBQ and blue cheese, they are as calorific as they come, but oh so worth it. There was a suggestion of dessert, but having already gained a stone since arrival, I passed on this occasion.
But, with a menu so jam-packed with naughty but nice indulgence, there’s always going to be another time. Whether I ever get round to taking on the Massive Cock MK IV Burger is another question, but I most certainly shall be back.
Also available on Deliveroo for lazy city dwellers in need of instant fatty treat relief, Yard & Coop have taken buttermilk fried chicken to new heights in Leeds, and deserve to be a success in 2019.
Words and pictures by Jordan Fletcher.
Yard & Coop, 6-8 Merrion Street, Leeds, LS1 6PQ. Tel: 0113 430 0285.