Going independent: The alternative freshers guide
So, you’re a new student in Leeds. In your first few weeks, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll find yourself going to at least one of the city’s multiple, big chain venues, bars and restaurants. However, it doesn’t take much to realise that Leeds is a city awash with amazing independent businesses, hidden gems, and places jam-packed full of individuality.
The best way to discover these independent businesses is undoubtedly to go and seek it out for yourself. Pop into places you don’t recognise, explore and get to know Leeds, be part of a community. But, then again, that can take absolutely ages. Here’s a little nudge to set you off in the right direction.
Where to drink
Now, no one is pretending that dancing in your Halls kitchen with a bottle of Glenn’s vodka, playing Spotify on someone’s tinny speakers, isn’t the cheapest way to get drunk. It gets the job done, but it’s grim. Leeds has responded to the “craft beer boom” with total dedication, but for a little bit of “before it was cool” edge, look no further than North Bar on New Briggate. Reportedly the first craft beer bar in the country, North has been leading the way for 18 years and still has the best selection of draft and bottled beers from all over the world. And with a back bar heaving with spirits, and a cocktail list as long as your arm, there’s almost too much choice.
Where to dance
Popular enough to make it a student favourite, but small enough to make sure you don’t lose all your friends within two minutes. The HiFi Club on Central Road is an award-winning nightclub and venue, playing both little-known and well-loved Soul, Funk and old school Hip Hop tracks. HiFi has 15 years of nightlife knowledge under its belt, and its legendary weekly, and monthly, club nights are the perfect alternative to the same old playlist of chart hits. With discounted student entry, and truly great drinks at low prices, it’s the perfect independent night out.
Where to go for gigs
Heading right into the heart of Studentville, The Brudenell Social Club in Hyde Park is the coolest, most unpretentious venue in the city. You’ll get the cheapest and best pint in the whole of Leeds, there’s pool tables, dartboards, and such an eclectic bunch of student and local clientele that self-consciousness and posturing goes out the window. There are gigs almost every night, from fringe acts, to cult legends, and you won’t find yourself paying loads for the privilege. When you’re tired of the has-been acts and gimmicky comebacks that are shoved in your face all throughout Freshers Week, The Brude is the place to go.
There’s no getting away from it: part of student life is takeaways. But after you’ve realised that those big pages full of “special offer” coupons for big-chain pizza places don’t actually save you any money, it’s time to change it up.
For the most dedicatedly authentic pizza, look no further than Pizza Fella. Delicious, handmade, and great value, it’s worth watching out for them at their spot on Albion Place Thursdays and Fridays as well as popping up at events and festivals.
For vegan Indian food which changes the way you understand vegan food, and Indian food, there’s nowhere like Bundobust. On Mill Hill, close the Leeds Train Station, Bundobust has great beer, and a fantastic menu inspired by the thriving street food culture throughout India. Great for veggies and vegans, but meat eaters would be foolish not to dive in.
Spanning the Grand Arcade and part of Merrion Street, Bar Soba is two levels of truly delicious Thai, Japanese and Malaysian inspired dishes. Huge portions, staggeringly good student offers, and meals you’ll be dreaming about for days afterwards, Bar Soba is a new go-to for student dining.
Taking it easy
As if you needed to be reminded, student life isn’t all about drinking, eating, and hitting the town. Most days you just want to chill out, and Leeds is full of independent places for that too.
Going to the pictures
Right on the doorstep of much of the student population, Hyde Park Picture House offers the best new films, art-house flicks, classics, and cult favourites, all at almost half the price of the bigger chains. In a listed building, the cinema has been established for over 100 years, and its ornate interiors and wonderful staff make it one of the best places to visit in Leeds.
Another stunning piece of Leeds cultural heritage is The Tetley. Formerly the Tetley Brewery building, established in 1822 and a short walk from Leeds Train Station. It’s now a contemporary art gallery, with exhibitions, events and activities. Free entry, and open seven days and week, there’s no excuse not to get involved.
Discover more of independent side of Leeds through the profiles on our site.
Words by Jen Pritchard