Christmas 2014: Five of the best festive venues in Leeds

As premature as this post may seem, that time of year is slowly creeping up on us. The time of year we tell horrible lies to children the world over, that a big fat, old man they don’t know is going to enter their house and bestow them with gifts. No wonder kids turn to drugs when they finally realise it’s all a load of rubbish, and that life can be a bit of a bitch after all. I was always told never to speak to strangers, and judging by 90% of the stories dominating the news over the last three years, my parents were probably right.

Anyway, I digress – the office Christmas party is something any self-respecting company that actually gives a toss about its staff should be booking very soon (unless you’ve already done it of course).  Leave it too late and your options thin out and you’ll be left with an unhappy team eating dry turkey, pulling Poundland crackers in a generic four star hotel wishing they’d taken that job offer at your rival company back in July.

Leeds has got more great pubs, bars and restaurants than ever before these days, so check out my selection of some of the city’s big players and find out what they are serving up for Christmas 2014:

Town Hall Tavern

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Town Hall Taverns signature flat iron steak

Leeds’ best gastro pub has long been a favourite of mine, serving great ales, great food and all done by lovely staff who have a sense of humour and actually care about what they do. Their flat iron steak is one of the best you’ll eat in town, easily knocking dust of some of the more upmarket and overpriced steak houses you’ll find in the city.

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Deep fried brie

Last year they invited myself and another bunch of bloggers along to a special Christmas menu sample evening, with all the trimmings including tree and decorations. We then had to rate everything we tasted to see whether it was gonna stay or go – this was in August, and it was a bloody brilliant event, testament to their razor sharp focus on customer feedback and service.

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Timothy Talyor ale galore

This year they are offering yet another mouth-watering menu, with deep fried brie, salmon mousse or velvety duck pate for starters. For mains, you have the option of a traditional roast turkey dinner, beef sirloin or lemon crusted salmon fillet. For the vegetarians, there’s a warm goat’s cheese salad with walnut, orange and cranberry, with a filo basket. The deserts include a Bailey’s luxe in a brandy snap basket and Gran Marnier raspberries, Winter berry pavlova and of course, a traditional Christmas pudding option.

The Town Hall Tavern are serving their festive feast from Friday 28th November, check out their Christmas menu here.

The Town Hall Tavern, 17 Westgate, Leeds, LS1 2RA – tel: 0113 244 0765

The Atlas Pub

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Leeds’ latest gastro pub is situated just opposite Blackhouse, and is fast gaining a reputation for its cracking food, great ales and extensive whiskey selection. Their standard menu offers up such dishes as hoisin marinated belly pork as well as more traditional dishes such as beef wellington and confit of lamb.

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For the season of good will, they have a buffet option or a two/three course dinner. The buffet includes cajun popcorn, pork pies with smooth piccalilli, BBQ chicken wings, a smoked salmon platter and chicken and chorizo skewers to name just a few. Their Christmas dinner has an assortment of treats, including fried halloumi, 8oz rump steak, chilli and sweetcorn fritters and pan fried coley with a chick pea, chorizo and spinach stew.

The Atlas Pub, Atlas House, Leeds, LS1 2HL, tel: 0113 244 2906

Chaophraya

Fine Thai dining at Chaophraya

Fine Thai dining at Chaophraya

If you fancy something different from the traditional English Christmas dinner, or want to impress some clients who are probably attending a number of similar do’s elsewhere, then why not give one of Leeds finest Thai restaurants a try? Set over two floors, Chaophraya offer first class Thai dining and their Christmas menu is anything but run of the mill. Their Thai green curry is the best I’ve ever tasted.

chao thai

Served as a platter for a minimum of two people, you get to try a bit of everything. Appetisers include grilled chicken and mango spring rolls, duck salad and tempura prawns. The choice of mains ranges from a massamam lamb curry, sea bass fillet with chilli sauce, weeping tiger and crispy duck in orange sauce.

Vegetarians needn’t settle for soya beans, Quorn and dust here – a vast array of tasty dishes await meat dodgers, including thai green spinach curry, golden baskets, stir fried aubergine and basil and vegetable tempura. Check out their full festive menu here.

Chaophraya and Palm Sugar Lounge, 20A Blayds Court, Swinegate, Leeds, LS1 4AG, tel: 0113 244 9339

Bird and Beast

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*uck the Colonel – it’s all about Bird and Beast.

The Bird and Beast burst  onto the Leeds scene a few months ago, promising to give the humble, yet versatile chicken the respect they believed it deserved. Might sound like marketing bulls*it, but they more than delivered their promise and had doubters licking their lips and eating their words along with their chicken. Their rotisserie cooked poultry, marinated in herbs and spices and cooked over cherry wood chips is so good, you wont want it any other way. Screw Nandos, and that bloody colonel too.

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Quite literally, the tastiest bird you’ll ever tuck into.

They are offering festive revellers the choice of bronze, silver, gold and platinum packages, with nibbles including almonds, spiced walnuts and Spanish olives. Main courses consist of their signature rotisserie chicken, roasted beef sirloin and vegetarian filo pastries served with tomato concasse sauce.

Sides include Yorkshire pudding, pancetta wrapped chipolata sausages, Dauphinoise potatoes, seasonal veg and cauliflower cheese. Five puddings are available, including traditional pudding and brandy sauce – you even have the option of a Champagne reception. Check out their Christmas menu here.

Bird and Beast, Central Arcade, Leeds, LS1 6DX, tel: 0113 245 3348

Rare

Sue the cow takes centre stage at Rare

Sue the cow takes centre stage at Rare

Rare opened towards the back end of 2013, seemingly popping up from nowhere, and promising foodies ‘uncommon excellence’. I had a Sunday dinner there a few weeks back, and I’m pleased to say they weren’t telling porkies. The topside beef dinner was simply delicious, the other highlight being the sweet, braised red cabbage – since when has cabbage been anything but bog standard elsewhere?!

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Topside beef Sunday dinner at Rare

The restaurant itself is really cool too – the basement oozes atmosphere, with an an abundance of taxidermy, the highlight being a gigantic cow cased in glass. I was seated near its backside last time I ate, so thank god it is most certainly brown bread. Aesthetically pleasing as this place is, it’s the food that takes centre stage and it really is exceptional.

pork ribs and braised red cabbage

pork ribs and braised red cabbage

Their festive starters include cured Gressingham duck, pigeon breast with cranberry puree and spicy Tamworth pork belly ribs. Mains include Porterhouse steak, pork belly and elderflower cider braised pig cheeks. As beef is their speciality, they also stock a fine range of red wines from around the globe.Take a look at the Rare 2014 Christmas set menu here, and their Christmas a la carte menu here.

Rare, 163 Lower Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6LY

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