Plus, his secret for perfect Yorkshire pudding.
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Yorkshire, in Northern England, is quickly becoming a favorite destination of mine for its too-easy-to-overlook charm. The biggest county in the UK, Yorkshire encapsulates stunning, expansive nature and quaint towns, in addition to bustling cities with young entrepreneurs, outstanding food, and art, new and old.
A few months ago, I experienced the great outdoors of the Yorkshire Dales National Park with a trip to Richmond, leading me to pigeon-hole the county as an idyllic destination, and nothing more. But a more recent visit to Leeds, the biggest city in the county, has totally transformed my perception of the area. Leeds has striking buildings from its bygone eras (from elaborate Victorian architecture to practical industrial designs), a river that runs through the city, more craft breweries within a stone’s throw than you can count on one hand, and baked goods fit to serve the Queen.
My Leeds guide, Edd Kimber—aka "The Boy Who Bakes" (and the first-ever winner of The Great British Baking Show!)—is a baker extraordinaire, so I knew he wouldn’t lead me astray when he insisted we try the baked treats of Sarah Lemanski, a young entrepreneur who has made a name for herself with her company, Noisette. Think: bittersweet chocolate and rye cookies with a fudgy interior and a morning bun that is like coffee cake on crack. She won Best Pastry Chef in the UK this year, awarded by popular British food publication Olive magazine, and is my definition of a rockstar.
There with two baking masters, I couldn't leave without getting a few tips for Yorkshire pudding, the famous "pudding" that's baked in searing-hot oil until crispy on the outside with a soft, hollowed interior (a bit like a mini-Dutch baby pancake). You’ll learn the insights I picked up about Yorkshire pudding by watching the video above, and can get all of Edd's many excellent tips for a visit to Leeds below.
Katie Quinn: Where would you put up friends visiting from out of town?
Edd Kimber: Leeds has an independent spirit and that is also true with hotels. 42 The Calls is a mill converted into a small hotel with a simple, cozy style. Based in a revitalized warehouse district close to the river, it’s enough out of the epicenter of the city to feel quiet and relaxing but just a couple minutes walk from the bustling center of the city.
KQ: Where do you head for a casual meal in Yorkshire?
EK: I love a night at the Friends of Ham, a charcuterie bar in the center of the city. It has a wonderful vibe where a night whiled away over drinks and a selection of charcuterie would be a great place to catch up with friends.
KQ: Where would you send folks for a celebratory dinner out?
EK: The Ox Club is a haven of smoked meats and a restaurant that celebrates the idea of nose-to-tail dining. Whilst it uses a grill imported from the heart of US barbecue country, the food here is a bit more upmarket than what you’d expect.
KQ: Where do you go for a proper cup of coffee or tea?
EK: Tea is something I drink a lot of at home. But when I’m out, it’s coffee I go for, and Leeds is a city that is really bringing it with third-wave coffee spots. My favorite place is North Star Coffee, a local coffee roaster. (Maybe it’s no coincidence that it’s my favorite, as they serve baked goods from Noissette Bakehouse, in addition to serving up a perfect cup of coffee.)
KQ: What about a night cap?
EK: Leeds is a great nightlife city and there is always something happening. If you love beer, you’re also in luck. Bundobust would be my choice; they serve a huge range of beers alongside some wonderful Indian street food. If beer isn’t your thing and only a cocktail will do, firstly can we be friends, and second—you should check out Blind Tyger. With its slightly hidden location, a laid back playlist, and its style of wood and leather, it’s definitely a bit of a drinkers’ den. (The Stirrup cocktail, made with rye whiskey and coffee, is a favorite of mine, if you’re buying.)
KQ: What’s the spot in town with the best late-night eats? What’s the thing to order?
EK: I can’t come back home without going out for Indian food, which is especially good in this part of Yorkshire. Akbars is open late and well-loved, with restaurants across the North of the UK. I also happen to have been going there since I was little. These days, however, I often opt for vegetarian food, and am a big fan of Prashad, a spot that specializes in cuisine from South India and Gujarat. You really can’t go wrong with anything they serve, but I won’t visit without ordering the paneer masala or maybe a masala dosa.
KQ: What’s the dish everyone should try once when visiting Yorkshire?
EK: Curd tarts are my favorite Yorkshire specialty even if they might be looked upon as a little old fashioned. Made with fresh cheese curds (think homemade ricotta), currants, and spices, these are a taste of my childhood and I love them.
I’d also suggest an ingredient: Yorkshire is famous for its “forced” Rhubarb. It’s grown in a small but famous area known as the rhubarb triangle (originally the triangle between Leeds, Bradford, and Wakefield, but it now covers a smaller area) in “forcing sheds,” which are kept extremely dark, with just the light of candles to help the farmers see what they’re doing. The dark environment makes the rhubarb grow quicker and results in a thinner, more tender rhubarb that has an amazing flavor. If you’re in the area when it's in season (January through April), make sure you try a dessert made with it—my favorite would be rhubarb crumble served with custard.
KQ: Where's the best place to get Yorkshire pudding?
EK: Literally any pub in the county that serves food would be a good choice, but for me it's my mum's house; she makes the best Yorkshires, hands down. They were also something we grew up eating at home, not in restaurants or pubs.
Katie Quinn: Is there a museum or cultural activity you really love in the area?
Edd Kimber: Down the road from my childhood home is the historic village of Saltaire, now a world heritage site, and an absolute must-visit. Every time I have a friend visiting, this is the one place I always take them. It’s a stunning Victorian village set up by a philanthropic mill owner who wanted to look after his workers. The centerpiece of the village is the Salts Mill itself. It ceased operating a long time ago but was reborn in the mid ‘80s as a multipurpose space that includes places to eat and shop, and a very large collection of art. The man behind the renewal, Jonathan Silver, had a friendship with David Hockney and the space reaps the benefit. There is a large permanent collection of the local artists’ work and much of his new work is exhibited there before it's shown elsewhere.
KQ: What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday or Sunday in Yorkshire?
EK: If the weather was nice, when I was younger my family would go for walks in the Yorkshire Dales, a beautiful countryside full of rolling hills and moorland. It might not have huge mountain ranges but it’s absolutely beautiful. You could also visit one of the many beautiful villages that scatter the county. Places like Grassington, or Haworth (which is better known as Brontë country named after its famous residents). Yorkshire is an area full of history so it’s a beautiful place to visit and explore our Victorian past. You could even delve further back into the past and visit the capital of the region, York, which has both Roman and Viking history all over the city.
KQ: Where can folks find the best view in town?
EK: Leeds has many beautiful Victorian buildings (the Corn Exchange is a personal favorite), but if a view is what you’re looking for you should travel a short distance outside of the city and see some countryside. Growing up we would visit the Cow and Calf, a large rock formation on the moorland north of the city in Ilkley. As a scout, I would go rock climbing there, and as a family we would take long walks across the moors which offer beautiful views. The hotel at the top of the moorland also happens to be where my parents got married.
KQ: What’s your favorite shop in the area?
EK: It’s not a single shop, but I love the arcades of Leeds which have been around for over 100 years and are still as relevant today as they’ve ever been. There are a handful in the city, but my favorites are in the Victoria Quarter, which is just the most beautiful; the Thornton's Arcade is a haven for independent shops that I shop in regularly when I am home.
KQ: What’s the best souvenir from Leeds?
EK: Well, us Yorkshire folks drink more tea than any other county in the UK and we even have our own brand, Yorkshire Tea. So you could buy some of that, from literally any supermarket, or you could go to the Yorkshire Shop in my favorite building in Leeds, the Corn Exchange, and buy a whole manner of products made in the region.
From London to Edinburgh, Cornwall to Yorkshire, there's so much to do, see, eat, and experience all across the United Kingdom. In partnership with VisitBritain, we're so excited to share our favorite unexpected discoveries to help inspire your very own British adventure. Follow along on Instagram to see what's going on across the pond at @lovegreatbritain and what Great Britain is eating at @greatbritishfood.