Yard and Coop Review: It’s chicken tonight - and every night - at this quirky Leeds eatery
As nice as it is to sit down to a three-course gourmet dinner complete with canapes and fine wine with coffee and minty chocs for afters, sometimes time is of the essence and a ‘quick fix’ to sate hunger and get you on your way is preferable.
Thus we found ourselves in Leeds city centre on Light Night Leeds last month with a yearning for something hot, nutritious and filling before we made our way around the many attractions.
Deliberations were prolonged but we eventually agreed that Yard and Coop ticked all the boxes, including offering a decent selection of vegetarian dishes - despite its name and the fame it has attracted for its famous Buttermilk Fried Chicken.
Opened earlier this year and tucked away down a side street in premises formerly occupied by Miah’s Kitchen on Merrion Street, Yard and Coop is one of three independently-owned restaurants - the others are in Manchester and Liverpool.
The exterior is, to put it bluntly, a bit scruffy, but I’m sure that’s more for effect than any lack of care on the part of the management. A sketched mural of the company’s mascot - a fox wearing sunglasses and headphones - sits high up on the wall.
Once inside, the downstairs area is set out like a bar with a few tables and, at the time of our visit, a DJ working a turntable.
The music sounded good - if a little too loud for our mature ears - but once we went up to the first floor where the majority of the dining takes place, all we got was the bass note which was intrusive and annoying. Thankfully it stopped after a while, just before I was minded to mention it to staff.
Walls are bare brick and distressed plaster, different floor covering mark out sections of the restaurant and kitsch artwork adorns the walls - some of it in such bad taste as to be almost trendy. I’m sure one of the prints used to hang in our neighbour’s house in the 60s
Chairs don’t match and tables are stripped wood. There are booths and banquettes and walls to hide behind and the atmosphere is vibrant and welcoming.
Orders are delivered from somewhere down below via a dumb waiter and the dirty plates go back the same way - you can actually become quite mesmerised watching the staff at work in the tiny galley kitchen. It all works like clockwork with everyone cheerfully skipping around each other.
Despite the early hour of our visit (6pm) there were plenty of tables occupied. Many of them by students taking advantage of the discounts afforded them and others probably on their way to the theatre or the light show as we were.
To get into the mood we ordered a couple of cocktails at £8.50 a pop which hit the sweet spot while we waited for our meals.
Like all those of the menu they have quirky and inventive names like Gin Oddity, gin with a dash of absinthe (and a whole lot more) and Girl You know it’s Rhu, a lovely gin and vodka combo. A pint of draught Mahou was a pricey £5.50.
But at Yard and Coop, Chicken is what it’s all about and there’s plenty to choose from.
As we were new to the game, Megan, our helpful server guided us through the ordering procedure, which is simple once you get the hang of it.
First pick your cut of chicken - breast, thigh or drumstick, with Not Chicken Nuggets for the vegetarians ( crumb-coated halloumi nuggets) - add a sauce (one of seven).
Decide on the type of fries you fancy and add in a side or two for good measure.
If you like the decisions to be taken out of your hands then that’s OK too.
Simply opt for one of the large plates with names like The Dirty Bird, (fries, cheese sauce chicken and bacon) Coop Kebab, (chicken thighs served on a warm naan bread) and Winner Winner Chicken Dinner (chicken mash, cabbage and chicken gravy - homemade of course) or one of the burgers, one of which is reputedly 12in tall, costs £18 and has a risque name which we couldn’t possibly publish in a family newspaper - I’ll leave you to guess.
We decided to go for a selection of smaller dishes to add variety to proceedings.
Chicken breast with barbecue sauce, crispy and succulent; crisply fried halloumi nuggets with bees' knees sauce and salt and pepper fries; buffalo wings; amaizeballs (sweetcorn, chickpea and spices); feta and honey; and cauliflower cheese. The only real disappointments were the cauliflower cheese which came in an insipid watery sauce and the wings which were distinctly lacking in meat. The amaizeballs and feta were perfectly cooked and praised by both vegetarian and meat-eater.
Despite being sated with chicken and the rest of the food we felt we needed to sample dessert.
The menu is limited - to say the least. Perhaps the rationale is that diners are so stuffed with chicken they won’t bother. Apart from ice cream, there was just Malteser brownie and crack pie. Both, as promised gave a sweet fix to the meal and were a great way to round off the Yard and Coop experience.
The bill came to a nicely rounded £78 and considering the amount of food and drink we ordered was reasonable and we couldn’t complain.
Address: 6-8 Merrion St, Leeds LS1 6PQ
Phone number: 0113 430 0285
Opening Hours: Mon to Tue, noon to 10pm. Wed ti Sun, noon to late.
Food - 7
Value - 7
Atmosphere - 8
Service - 7