I can vividly remember moving to Leeds 9 years ago. I was so excited to finally living be in a city and I fell head over heels with the place almost immediately. I loved my university, I made great friends and the nightlife was great, but for someone who had grown up slap bang in the middle of Manchester and Liverpool, Leeds did feel a little bit behind the times.
Sure the shopping was great (hello Harvey Nichols and the Victoria Quarter) but the bars and restaurants were all pretty standard. Of course, it didn’t really matter that much to me at the time as I was a poor student living off ready meals who was happy to drink whatever lager you could get for £1 a pint at a Scream pub.
However, grown up me is pretty glad that in the past couple of years, Leeds has undergone a huge transformation. It’s almost impossible to imagine the city without Trinity now and the recently opened Victoria Gate has made shopping in the city even better. There are tonnes of new bars and cool places to hang out, and most importantly for a foodie like me, there seems to be a hip new restaurant opening pretty much every week at the moment.
One of those new restaurants is Issho, which has recently opened in Victoria Gate. They focus on contemporary Japanese dishes and I knew it was going to be good when I heard that their executive chef has previously worked at renowned restaurants like Zuma and Sexy Fish. Plus, knowing it was a D&D venture made me confident that the service would be just as impeccable as it is at their other venues.
So, you can probably see why I was pretty excited when I was invited along to try their brunch menu a couple of weeks ago. I went along with my friend, Teddy, who I met at uni and used to drink all those £1 pints with. We both had a little chuckle about how our tastes have matured slightly over the years!
We were shown to our table and our waiter very kindly explained the menu to us. The first thing that hit me was just how stunning the interiors were – I mean, aren’t those chairs just total Instagram goals?! The whole place was lovely and bright too, which I think makes dining during the day much more enjoyable.
You can order from the main menu at lunch time, but we opted for the bao and bubbles brunch option – let’s just say that the draw of bottomless Prosecco won it for us! You pay £15 per person and for two hours you can drink as much fizz as you like. We thought this was really reasonable, especially as the staff were very attentive at topping the glasses up.
We ordered the beef short rib to share, which was served with bao buns, pickles and salad. Our waiter very kindly shredded it at the table for us, taking care to only do half at a time so that the meat didn’t get cold. Little things like that just show how great the service is here.
The food itself was absolutely delicious. The meat was smothered in a delicious sauce and topped with crispy peanuts, roasted garlic and spring onion. The flavour was similar to peking duck and the meat must have been cooked really slowly as it just melted in the mouth.
The best way to describe the bao buns is like little fluffy clouds of deliciousness! The doughy texture contrasted wonderfully with the meat and the pickles and salad really added an extra kick of flavour. It took us a while to work our way through everything as we were chatting and laughing, but we both had very happy tummies by the time we’d finished. In fact, we were both absolutely stuffed. That was until the waitress brought the dessert menu over of course…
We decided that we could just about manage one to share and settled on a delicious strawberry dessert that had an almost creme brulee like texture. It was absolutely delicious – creamy and comforting, with a tart, fruity topping that cut through the sweetness. It’s definitely something I’d order again when I inevitably return to Issho.
We decided to round off our meal in true Japanese style with some sake. Teddy had recently tried a plum sake at The Man Behind The Curtain, so our waiter recommended one he thought we would enjoy. I was dubious at first but it was absolutely delicious – fruity and rich, but with a lovely almond flavour too. The tradition with sake is that you can’t pour your own, so we obligingly kept each other’s cups topped up!
Once we had finished with our sake we headed through to the bar area, which has a lovely terrace looking over Leeds. We enjoyed another drink (it’s safe to say we were suitably merry by this point!) before heading off to enjoy the rest of the day.
We were both really impressed with our whole experience at Issho – the food was yummy, the setting was beautiful and the service was impeccable. I’m so glad we have places like this on our doorstep now – especially when I look back and remember Leeds 9 years ago!
Have you been to Issho yet? Are you a fan of bottomless brunch?
*Our meal at Issho was complimentary but as ever, all views in this post are my own – I’m just really enthusiastic about bottomless prosecco!