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This year, The Times voted Leeds the number one cultural place to live in Britain above London, Manchester, Brighton, et-personal-al.

Though I hadn’t been back for almost two years, the year I spent living in the city centre left a lasting impression on me. The food, drink, and people are – in my opinion – second to almost none.

When asked to return to the city for work, I couldn’t help but turn business into pleasure and book myself in for a little staycation.

The second I booked in at the Crowne Plaza Leeds, I felt I was home.

Though the 135-room hotel is far from small, the high (and noticeably Northern) level or service made the stay feel rather intimate.

Arriving before our room was ready, we were welcomed into their beautiful club lounge (part of their recent £4.5 million refurbishment and a special hideaway for those in executive suites) for refreshments before being taken to our insanely affordable little suite.

After a few hours in bed (the novelty will never wear off), we headed out to luxuriate in Leeds’ electric landscape. The hotel is within walking distance of the First Direct Leeds Arena, Headingley Cricket Ground, Kirkstall Abbey, and my forever-beloved street food kitchen at Trinity Leeds – to name but a few.

We were out too long to get acquainted with the hotel’s Spirit Health and Leisure Club but I have already earmarked a full morning to enjoy the large indoor heated swimming pool, gym, and spa during our inevitable follow-up visit.

From king-sized bed to rainfall shower, I developed a hell of an appetite for breakfast so booked it for the hotel’s Bar & Kitchen @ LS1 for a locally-sourced Full English.

Or, as the bridal party across from us kept cooing, a “bloody grand Full Yorkshire”.

Not an attribution too different from the Crowne Plaza itself.

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firelake grill house leeds
This past weekend marked my long overdue return to Leeds for a few days of catch-ups, indulgences, and bittersweet goodbyes.

But, most importantly, the indulgences.

Though I had lived in Leeds for over a year, I never made it to the Firelake Grill House in The Light’s Radisson Blu hotel – despite heavy praise – so decided my return was the perfect opportunity to book in.

Upon arrival, my lady love and I passed through the bar area and made our way to the dining area to snuggle up in a plush, kitchen-facing booth. Aesthetically, Firelake is somehow both expansive and cozy – it has ‘Yorkshire’ written all over it.

Quite literally; I started the meal with the ‘Stubbornly Yorkshire‘ – a beautiful wooden platter of cured meats, pressed pig cheek & ale terrine, beetroot yoghurt and homemade pickles – while my accomplice opted for the much more sensible grilled asparagus starter, paired with parmesan, hazelnuts and lemon.

After quite literally agonising over the decision, she then chose to play Yorkshire’s Advocate with an incredible tray of Champion Yorkshire pork sausages, home-made ketchup, milk-bottled gravy and charred potato mash while I gave into my vices and ordered half a native, flame-roasted lobster with lemon preserve.

In the comfort food stakes, Firelake’s fresh bread (smothered in olive oil) and lobster are going down as an unlikely lead.

Upping the ante on our skinny jeans, we decided to go all out on dessert with warm doughnuts (warm cinnamon sugar, strawberry preserve & cream) and black figs (floating atop lavender custard & salted meringue).

The menu is an unusual delight and one I plan on forking my way through for many Northern trips to come.

firelake grill house leeds
firelake grill house leeds
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meat liquor leeds
Though it hadn’t been too long since I was last in Leeds, my dear Jen’s birthday called for an excitable return and some city shenanigans alongside The Manfriend and our fourth musketeer, Molly.

Starting our day underground at Meat Liquor, we binged on cocktails and burgers like there was no “tomorrow, I’ll wear skinny jeans”. I opted for the lethal ‘Game Over’ (vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, pisang ambon, absinthe, lemon juice, and Red Bull) and Dead Hippie burger (two french Mustard-fried beef patties, dead hippie sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and minced white onions) with a handful of cheese fries.

As the food coma dictated, we paused for present-opening before moving to our second location. I’d been collecting little gifts for Jen’s birthdays for some time, but really wanted to find something that celebrated her love of tea and keys.

Though it’s no easy feat, Personalised Gift Solutions’ customisable pink teapot ended up being the perfect gift. I have to give them a huge shoutout because even though I found them less than 5 days prior, my concerned e-mails about the gift not arriving in time were met with the friendliest service, a timely delivery, and a beautifully produced personalised teapot.

When we arrived at The Alchemist we were lucky enough to snag a table under the sunshine and drink an innumerable amount of dry ice-garnished cocktails (the best of which warranted an instavid, below) before running up to The Light to take our seats for Pitch Perfect 2.

I love you, Leeds.

A video posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

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hotel chocolat blogger dinner
As part of my digital PR agency, I have launched a new service so entertaining I almost feel like it shouldn’t be called a service: blogger dinner parties.

The first event (of many!) was in partnership with Hotel Chocolat’s celebrated Leeds restaurant, Roast + Conch. The evening brought a bevy of carefully selected blogger babes – from all niches – together for an evening of hilarity and chocolate.

Mostly chocolate.

We kicked #BlogChocolat off with introductions over Prosecco-swishing glass-clinking and settled in for a private chocolate tasting masterclass, courtesy of Hotel Chocolat’s very sweet and very passionate master chocolatier, Dan.

After learning not to scoff the sweet stuff (at least temporarily) and grilling poor Dan on the health benefits of chocolate (you’ll be pleased to find out a lot of Hotel Chocolat’s ‘lighter’ chocolates are as healthy as your supermarket ‘darks’ based on their natural cacao content!), we headed upstairs for dinner.

Like every visit prior, the ol’ R and C didn’t disappoint.

Though we all went for a variety of courses, not a single plate of food was left un-Instagrammed. My own beautiful starter – cacao gin cured salmon in a tart apple-radish-endive salad (served with white chocolate horseradish dressing) – packed the tangiest of punches.

Then, among a cacao-infused sea of curries, fish, meats, and veggies, my main stole the show. A few of us ordered the medium-rare chopped rump steak burger with aged cheddar, cacao beer-braised onions, potato chips, and creole chutney, and we were all swooning, tweet after tweet.

Though we were all too stuffed to attempt dessert, I made a note for my future orders (I’m coming for you, Prosecco-poached new season rhubarb, white chocolate cheesecake, spiced biscuit, and cacao pulp sorbet extravaganza) and took the ladies down to the bar for truffle nibbles and cocktails.

Our delightfully intimidated bartender (imagine: 10 big personalities armed with SLRs and camera phones) then talked us through their latest cocktail previews, Hotel Chocolat’s incredible homemade cacao syrups, and poured us all a few drinks to cap off the night.

All in all, an evening I’ll never forgot.

hotel chocolat blogger dinner
hotel chocolat blogger dinner
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oil can cafe carding shed
As a vintage lover, my little perusals around West Yorkshire have proved to be explorations of high reward. This past weekend, the Manfriend and I sat-navved our way through Hepworth with the hope of arriving at the reclaimed warehouse that now serves the public as The Carding Shed.

From floor to ceiling, The Carding Shed is a pandora’s box of vintage motors and memorabilia;it may only be a wanton step into bygone days for me but it is a trip (or literal drive) down memory lane for many of its patrons. A mesmerising oasis for anyone with a penchant for retro wonders. So mesmerising, in fact, that it took me two hours to notice the vintage clothing shops – e High Society Vintage Clothing and Retro Shed – nestled in its sidelines.

Decidedly, our distraction for the day was food and automobiles. The latter resulting in a lusty affair with a scorpion-topped 1969 Fiat 850 Abarth. The former providing a chance to settle in and appreciate the atmosphere, but not much more.

Though we initially set out to enjoy the Oil Can Cafe’s afternoon tea, we were quickly deterred by a singular ‘festive’ afternoon tea option (far too rich-sounding for our tastes) and a list of £7-ish sandwiches, therefore opting for a cream tea (tea or coffee with a scone, cream, and jam) and a cheese & pickle sandwich to share.

The scones took fifteen minutes to arrive, were cold and tough, and arrived an additional fifteen minutes prior to a sandwich plate that warranted no more than two minutes to put together. The value comes in the sandwich’s size and sides (coleslaw, potato salad) with the choice of ‘build your own’ pickle jars, but did not warrant such a wait.

Now, I refuse to write a dishonest word and try to avoid less-than-wow reviews, so while it pains me to not be able to give The Oil Can Cafe the highest praises, I am hoping the gastronomy and service were hiccups that will improve with time and support.

On my inevitable return to The Carding Shed, I will simply settle for a china teacupped coffee, homemade cake, and exuberant use of my credit card.

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