THINGS are certainly hotting up in the city centre at the moment – and in one area in particular.
The news of the Arena Quarter’s latest addition got tongues wagging this week.
The YEP revealed that celebrity chef Marco Pierre-White was to open a restaurant in the heart of Leeds but at a rather unusual spot – The Merrion Centre.
When you think of the shopping centre, you think of bagging a bargain, not fancy restaurants with big-name chefs.
But we can now reveal another new eatery that’s about to follow in Marco’s footsteps.
Just days after the news that Leeds-born Marco Pierre-White was to return to his hometown with his ‘New York Italian’, a barbecue restaurant has jumped on board too.
Smoke is expected to open at the Merrion Centre in August and will serve up big, bold Texan flavours, with a load of meat to boot.
Think pulled pork, brisket and big, messy burgers and you’re on the right track.
Owners Sean Gregory and Duka Nagy opened their first site in Sheffield a couple of years ago after being inspired by the popular Man vs. Food television show.
Before they knew it, they were on a plane to Texas to do some research before coming back to open Smoke.
“We fell in love with it and said, ‘Yes, that’s what we want to do’,” Duka said.
The business duo met whilst working as managers at Pizza Hut and have been friends ever since.
She added: “We’ve known each other for about 20 years and are best friends.
“Our friendship grew and we’re like brother and sister now.”
So what’s the sudden appeal in this part of Leeds?
“The barbecue scene is thriving in Leeds so we thought we should see if we can add to it,” she explains.
“Leeds makes logical sense – it’s close to Sheffield and already has an established restaurant scene.
“The location we have chosen is really developing and there are loads of opportunities and investment going on around it.
“The Leeds Arena was a big plus too, and Marco Pierre-White’s new restaurant does make it more attractive to restaurateurs. We always say ‘the more the merrier’ because it brings people to the area, creates a buzz and gives the customer a choice.”
There’s no denying the Arena Quarter is going from strength to strength.
Since the arena opened in 2013, it has already sparked a wave of investment, including a £50m refurbishment of the Merrion Centre.
It’s attracted new tenants such as Select, Crawshaws butchers and Taiwanese-style tearoom Bubble Bubble.
My Thai also invested £50,000 in a unit at the shopping centre last year and reached its six month sales target in just four weeks.
There were a record-breaking 11.2m visitors at the Merrion Centre last year, so with all these new additions this figure is surely set to soar.
The arena has undoubtedly had a knock-on effect on Merrion Street, with a number of new bars springing up in the area.
Smoke is the latest in a long line of newbies but we’re sure it won’t be the last, and we’re excited to see what other news is around the corner for this new city centre hot spot.