Easter saw our annual pilgrimage up North and, as always, there was no shortage of good eating. After Uncle Johns Good Friday fish feast was decided to jump on a bus into town the next day and check out the Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen for a few afternoon beverages.
A former assembly hall, the Belgrave, in Leeds' Northern Quarter, has reopened over three floors with a programme of arts and live music alongside some great beers and grub from several concessions throughout the venue. They also host a monthly Street Feast featuring a wide range of street food traders, an art market and live bands.
We made our selves comfy in one of the fron window sofas and kicked off with a couple of beers, a Five Points Hook Island Red for me and a Cascadian Black stout for the Ewing. There's a big choice of ales, stouts and lagers, including six casks, with a good local selection, several kegs, some Belgian bottles and plenty of American canned craft beer for the hop heads.
Slices of pizza, from Neapolitan pie slingers the Dough Boys, are displayed along tiled counter as you walk into the main seating area. There’s a few different types up for grabs, from the classic Silvio, tomato, buffalo mozzarella, smoked sea salt, torn basil to slightly more outré combos such as the Paul and Linda, with Artichoke, Sicilian olives, pimento, caper berries, smoked mozzarella, salsa verde.
They also run an incredibly good offer through the afternoon that allows you to buy one slice, get one free. Clearly the Ewing and I weren’t shy of putting that to good use and ordered four slices for the bargainous sum of five quid. I doubt it’d be cheaper from Tesco.
Unlike supermarket pizzas, these beauties are crisp and charred underneath; with a nicely chewy crust. The toppings are also bob on, with the Baa No More - Middle Eastern spiced ground lamb, pecorino, baby red chard, pinenuts, and pomegranate; and Screaming Goat - creamed goats cheese, roasted beetroot, caramelised walnuts, chervil leaves being standouts. I also enjoyed dosing my slices with an ungodly amount of Hot Bastard sauce.
Pizza and the first pint dispatched we ventured into the bowels of the ground floor, past the communal picnic benches and comfy window seats running along one side of the room, to find the small serving hatch at the back. From here patty Smith and Fu Schnickens serve up burgers and bao to the hungry masses.
After initially being thwarted on trying to order some of the aforementioned vietnamese buns we found out they were running a special brunch menu in honour of Record Store Day. Brioche baps stuffed full of all your breakfast favourites, and, for me, a pleasing absence of egg in most selections.
Beers and brunch burger in hand we ascended the many stairs to the roof terrace, a truly lovely spot with a variety of sheltered seating, communal tables, deckchairs and even sheds fitted with sofas to escape the inclement weather.
I went with the El Patty, a fearsome mix of grilled chorizo, morcilla, spiced cherry tomato jam and hollandaise sauce topped with baby spinach and balanced on an, unadvertised, crispy homemade sausage patty. Ooof.
Perching on stalls with views across the chimney pots of Leeds I soon made short work of the brunch burger. One of the best things I have eaten this year, and I don’t say that lightly, this was a masterful creation where the combination of salty, fatty hot meat, sweet tomato and crisp spinach was crowned by a soothing blanket of exemplary hollandaise. First rate grub, and at a mere £4.50, superb value, too.
Feeling the need for some post-prandial relaxation, the Ewing bagged a spot of one of the shed sofas and kicked back asking on the decking, while I was dispatched down to the Laynes coffee concession to grab a couple of brews and some cakes.
Retuning with a 4oz espresso with steamed milk, a double espresso and a plate of cakes stood me in good stead with the wife, with her proclamations of joy as she ate her salted caramel brownie being right heard across the terrace. My lamington was equally joyous; a fluffy vanilla sponge coated in a thick chocolate ganache and coated in a dreft of coconut flakes. The Ewing, despite her supposed lamington aversion, seemed to have no problem helping me polish it off.
Good food and beer, better company, friendly service and a laid back vibe lacking in too much hipsterishness, if there’s a better way to while away a sunny Saturday afternoon, I’ve yet to find it.