ANYONE who knows me well knows just how much I love food. In fact my reputation for having a healthy appetite is something I’m quite proud of.
Granted, the time I had 12 plates of food at Red Hot Buffet may have blurred the lines between a ‘healthy appetite’ and pure gluttony, but I maintain to this day that the plates there are actually a bit on the small side. Honest.
So naturally, when an invite to attend the opening of the new MEATliquor restaurant at Trinity Leeds came along, I jumped at the chance.
There’s quite a buzz around the launch, as it’s a big step for the London-based burger company, which is finally taking a leap from the Big Smoke to open its first northern venture right here in Leeds.
Owners Yianni Papoutsis and Scott Collins are so confident about their new Yorkshire restaurant that they’ve sunk a cool £1m into the site.
And, luckily for us food fans, MEATliquor isn’t the only one looking to invest in Leeds.
Byron Burger (which is paying a whopping £165,000 in annual rent), Almost Famous and Twisted Burger Company have also chosen to set up shop in the city centre, all having opened venues here in the past six months.
For those of you about to lament the fact that we’re approaching burger chain saturation point, there are plenty of independent eateries sprouting up too, with the rather impressive Man Behind the Curtain, Teppan Two Sixty, Bundobust, Red’s True BBQ, Bird and Beast and Tharavadu to name just a few.
And whether you’re a fan of city centre dining or prefer to stay local, the fact that Leeds now has the pulling power and appeal to attract these names is a good yardstick for just how far we’ve come in a short space of time.
The restaurant industry here seems to be well and truly booming at the moment, with new places popping up practically every month – and recent figures back that up.
According to industry experts, up to 30 new eateries have thrown their hat into the ring around the Trinity Leeds area within the last 18 months, meaning there are now around 130 eateries in the city centre alone.
This is fantastic news for the city (and not such good news for my waistline), with former retail units that were left empty when Trinity Leeds came to town being snapped up by restaurants and putting the doubters well and truly in their place.
In fact, bidding wars between restaurant operators are reportedly driving up rents by up to 40 per cent in some locations.
But the flipside of course is that with so many big names with big money behind them entering the fray, competition is getting more fierce and unforgiving than ever.
And if we take a step back from our food-based frenzy it’s abundantly clear that even in the midst of a boom, the restaurant business is far from plain sailing.
Long term staples like Anthony’s along with bold new ventures like Create and fun concepts such as Johnny Fontane’s all struggled so much to navigate the choppy financial waters that they were forced to close.
There are differing lessons to be learned from the closure of each of these venues and I hope those now dipping their toes into the water have been paying attention and have done their homework.
It might be that not all of the newbies will get to taste success, and some of them may have bitten off more than they can chew.
But there’s no denying that having such a diverse dining scene means there’s now more on the menu for us lucky punters than ever before.