We’ve been a little Leeds-focussed lately for a couple of reasons. Firstly Chad has been suffering with an eye condition, secondly because the weather is staring to get a bit grim and we’re still acclimatising to autumn.
Fortunately, Yorkshire’s biggest city has plenty up its sleeve to keep you fed, watered and entertained whatever the weather.
This weekend we popped into the Corn Exchange, right by Kirkgate Market. The building is instantly recognisable with it’s rounded walls and domed roof – although the real beauty of the building is not apparent until you step inside.
Once you get inside the double doors of the main entrance, the open plan space is a real surprise. They really don’t make commercial buildings like this anymore, and usually when they’re converted floors are added to maximise the space, or they’re used for other purposes like performance spaces.
From the first floor you can see the level below right up to the ceiling, which adds even more space for being dome-shaped, and the floors are made from two mezzanines which curve around the edge of the building.
The first floor is the largest of the two mezzanines. With a big open-plan area it has a selection of boutique shops and small eateries; the main space is filled with tables and chairs for the coffee bar and there’s plenty of places to stand and take in the whole structure.
The second floor is a smaller mezzanine, a narrow balcony off which there are a number of small shops selling everything from drum-kits to clothes and tattoos.
The ground floor, the centre of which can be seen from all levels, is used as an exhibition space and frequently plays host to events, pop-ups and galleries. This weekend it was both a gallery and a rum festival… great news for someone who is in the middle of Go Sober October (and a great lover of good rum).
We visited the Corn Exchange for two reasons: Humpit, on the first floor, and the Leeds Drum Centre, on the top floor.
Humpit is Leeds’ only restaurant dedicated to houmous and its usual accompaniments – like falafel. The place has become, in a very short time, one of our favourite places to eat lunch when in and around the city centre.
It’s food is of exceptional quality and everything is vegetarian, so it’s dead easy for a non-meat-eater like myself to indulge in a selection of items on the menu. The fresh home-made lemonade is also really, really good and a great way to cleanse your palette in between mouthfuls of glorious garlicky houmous.
The only real problem with the place is that it’s nearly always full to the brim – you have to be a little patient or incredibly lucky to get a seat, especially at lunchtime, such is the popularity of the place.
After lunch, the staircases – curved like all the other architectural features in the building – provide a great way of gently burning off the plate of houmous, salsa, falafel and mushrooms you’ve just polished off.
We tend to hike up to the top floor for one reason – drums. Chad, as a drummer, will go into any shop with the word ‘drum’ on its sign and despite the general lack of browsing material in there he still insists on a visit.
What the place lacks in space, though, it makes up in expertise. Like a lot of the stores in the Corn Exchange it is very niche, but it does that niche well. And if it doesn’t have something you need, they can help you order whatever it is you do.
The space really is the crowning glory of independent trading in Leeds.