North­ern high­lights

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL - BY JAN SHURE

IF YOU WERE com­pil­ing a list of must-see Bri­tish cities, the York­shire town best known for its foot­ball team and its Tet­ley’s Brew­ery is not nec­es­sar­ily the first place one would think of. But for any­one who fan­cies a week­end break in a city ooz­ing with style, Leeds has plenty to of­fer. Not only does it of­fer fab­u­lous shop­ping, a brace of stun­ning bou­tique ho­tels and great restau­rants, but since the mil­len­nium, it has been un­der­go­ing the kind of city-wide re­fur­bish­ment and clean-up that makes it a truly at­trac­tive city to stroll.

The city cen­tre is now largely pedes­tri­anised, mak­ing shop­ping a joy, with branches of vir­tu­ally ev­ery ma­jor re­tail name, from high street favourites M&S, House of Fraser, French Con­nec­tion, Dune, Top Shop, River Is­land, Zara, Prin­ci­ples, and H&M, to the more rar­i­fied Jo Malone, LK Ben­nett, Swarovski, La­coste, Molton Brown, Space NK, The White Com­pany et al, all the way to a bi­joux Har­vey Nichols and shiny Louis Vuit­ton, both on Brig­gate.

The shop­ping streets are criss­crossed by a se­ries of lov­ingly re­stored Vic­to­rian ar­cades, such as the Thorn­ton’s Ar­cade, where you will find, amid some fa­mous brands, great lo­cal bou­tiques such as Charles Clinkard for men’s shoes; No 15 for cov­etable, wom­enswear cute kidswear, beau­ti­ful gifts and vin­tage hand­bags; Bon Bons for hand-made Bel­gian choco­lates and Chimp, for groovy menswear.

For those in search of more cut­ting edge and orig­i­nal items, don’t miss the city’s old Corn Ex­change. The cir­cu­lar build­ing, con­structed in the 19th cen­tury, is in the fi­nal stages of trans­for­ma­tion into a Spi­tal­fields-style re­tail em­po­rium, crammed with in­di­vid­ual shops on its ground and up­per lev­els. A more mod­ern take on a mall is the The Light, all soar­ing steel and glass, with a cin­ema, shops and eatieries in­clud­ing Bagel Nash, Caffé Nero and a vast Brown’s where shop­pers can stop for lunch or the best value tra­di­tional af­ter­noon tea in the UK (non-of­fen­sive sand­wiches; cake and scone for £6.75 or £13 with a glass of Laurent Per­rier).

When you are all shopped out, stroll to Vic­to­ria Gar­dens, tak­ing in the im­pres­sively or­nate Gothic li­brary, be­fore head­ing to the gor­geous Mil­len­nium Square, carved, at a cost of £12 mil­lion, from the area be­tween the Civic Hall, Town Hall and Leeds Gen­eral In­fir­mary. Af­ter man­i­cur­ing the civic struc­tures, the space be­tween was trans­formed into a pedes­tri­anised area fea­tur­ing the Nelson Man­dela Gar­dens and a buzzy recre­ational space for out­door rock con­certs and the like.

The re­fur­bish­ment con­tin­ues down by the River Aire, where the wharves and ware­houses have been trans­formed, Dock­lands style, into a se­ries of gor­geous apart­ments, of­fice build­ings, pubs and bars.

Nearby is Gra­nary Wharf, the su­perb new de­vel­op­ment with state-of-the-art of­fice and res­i­den­tial build­ings, shops and cafes, and run­ning from there to the Tet­ley Brew­ery, with its interactive mu­seum, is a shiny new prom­e­nade.

As if to demon­strate the city’s cool, the prom­e­nade now has a branch of Brasserie Blanc, the Ray­mond Blanc chain of eateries, with out­door ta­bles for sum­mer din­ing. Close by is one of the city’s other main claims to cool, the stylish Mal­mai­son, part of the chain which has per­fected the hip ho­tel for­mula, get­ting not only the in­te­rior dé­cor right, but also of­fer­ing high-qual­ity ser­vice and stel­lar food.

Con­verted six years ago from a bus com­pany head of­fice, the ho­tel of­fers sump­tu­ous rooms done out in Far­row & Ball tones of navy and mush­room, with gor­geous bath­rooms, gen­er­ous toi­letries and all the nec­es­sary hi-tech ac­cou­trements (wi fi, flatscreen TV). No hip ho­tel is com­plete with­out a great bar, and this one ticks all the boxes.

Af­ter cock­tails, guests can head to the ho­tel’s su­perb brasserie. Here, din­ers have plenty of per­mit­ted fish and veg­gie dishes, many us­ing or­ganic and lo­cally grown in­gre­di­ents.

We started with a sub­lime white onion and thyme soup, made creamy with goat cheese; fol­lowed by plaice and seabream, and shared one of the stun­ning pud­dings. There is also a and a good wine list. Healthy (non-meateat­ing) vis­i­tors are well catered for at break­fast, too, with Bi r c her muesli, fresh juices, fresh fruit and yo­gurts along­side break­fast sta­ples which in­clude eggs, kip­pers and ev­ery variety of cof­fee and in­fu­sion.

If all that isn’t enough to tempt you, there is also the Royal Ar­tilleries Mu­seum, opened in 1999, hous­ing the na­tional arms and ar­mour col­lec­tion re­lo­cated from the Tower of Lon­don and the Leeds Art Gallery, which has just had a £1.5-mil­lion re­fur­bish­ment, and next door, the Henry Moore In­sti­tute.

The shiny new river­side in the cen­tre of Leeds, where a Brasserie Blanc nes­tles near the Mal­mai­son Ho­tel

Leeds Town Hall be­side Mil­len­nium Square

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