The day job has encroached more than it should have done these past few weeks, as my lovely loyal regular readers will know. As a result, Christmas has been steadily creeping up, almost without my noticing, and certainly without my feeling at all ‘Christmassy’. However, this weekend my daughter-in-law came to stay and we decided to celebrate by visiting Brasserie Forty 4, otherwise known as 44 The Calls, in Leeds. (More about this shortly.) My daughter-in-law discovered that the German Christmas market in Leeds had opened last weekend. It’s been a regular Advent feature in Leeds for several years, but I hadn’t visited it since (I think) 2010. We decided to make a detour.
Leeds is one of my favourite cities and I’ve always loved Leeds crowds. They’re good-humoured, not pushy, and enter into the spirit of things. I was therefore delighted suddenly to find myself in the midst of one in the Christmas market and astounded at the number of people who were there. We had a very happy hour wandering around the stalls, watching people taking rides on the beautiful Victorian manège* or, if they felt more adventurous, on a sort of super-cakewalk that lifted them high in the air and juddered up and down before finally releasing them; as my husband remarked rather dourly, “I hope none of them has been drinking the beer.”
German Christmas markets are renowned for the beautiful artefacts that are sold at them – hand-carved Christmas tree decorations, wind-chimes made from naturally polished stones and all kinds of intricate small gifts fashioned from beeswax. But, more than anything, they are about the food. It is street food at its best: currywurst of improbable length unashamedly greedy, tea-breads, candy-floss, giant ginger biscuits (lebkuchen) proclaiming “ich liebe dich” in brightly-coloured icing-sugar and, of course, the drinks: Weissbier or fruit beers, gluhwein or coffee laced with liqueurs. One stall was selling gluhwein with amaretto, rum and cream: a heady drink, I’m certain, and probably one that would have a more significant effect on your head than intended, the following day.
As we were eating at Brasserie Forty 4, reluctantly we confined ourselves to a gluhwein each before going on our way. The restaurant , which has a Michelin star, is located in a wonderful old warehouse that was originally built to serve the Leeds – Liverpool canal. The area was developed in the eighteenth century. Later, The Calls became the city’s red light district. Today, the whole area has been redeveloped and is home to some very swish but tastefully-constructed flats, as well as being one of the centres of the city’s vibrant night life. The restaurant has been there since 1975 – well before the redevelopment took place – and has always had an excellent reputation. Its owner was responsible for creating the restaurant at Pool Court, another of Yorkshire’s famous restaurants. Dining there is a rare treat; in fact, I think yesterday was only my fourth occasion. (I remember the first one well: it was a launch lunch to celebrate the publication of Howard Jacobson’s first novel.)
So: Christmas is coming and it’s on my radar at last. If you happen to be in Leeds at some point during the next four weeks, I recommend a visit to the Christmas market and, if you have something special to celebrate, or just want to get into the mood for the festivities, you could top it with lunch or dinner at Brasserie Forty 4 (but book first!).
16 thoughts on “An evening in Leeds… full of atmosphere!”
That sounds a really magical way to get into the Christmas spirit 🎄🎅🎄
For us, it was, Charlotte. I’m delighted to say that everyone appeared to be having a great time in an entirely sociable and friendly way. 🙂
Loved your post on Leeds, Christina. Leeds is one of my favourite cities too. I spent almost every other weekend there in the 90s. Eland Road, to watch and support Leeds United, and then out for a meal. Fabulous city centre now. Reading the post brought back some very happy memories. x
Thanks, Madalyn! Leeds has been our ‘home’ city for nearly half a century and we’ve had lovely times enjoying its many pleasures. I’m glad to have stirred some of your happy recollections. 🙂
This sounds just lovely, Christina! I have never been to Leeds, but I’m very pleased to hear it is such a nice city and with such a good atmosphere. Christmas hasn’t really impinged on me yet either, but no doubt I will pay a visit to Gent, which also has a lovely Christmas market.
Now Gent at Christmas must be very special, having seen your photographs of it. I must go sometime. Leeds is a fantastic city, very compact and within striking distance of some of the most glorious countryside in the country. AND… it has a wonderful canal. 🙂
A canal? Yes, even better 🙂 I think I’ll need to pay a visit one of these days!
Let me know when you do! 🙂
Anything called a “brandy basket” has got my vote! Happy holidays, enjoy the season.
Thanks for your good wishes, Laura. Mine in return, with brandy baskets and brandy snaps and… well… brandy a-plenty! 🙂
Looks great Christina! I miss Leeds, was my University city and some great years there.
It was very atmospheric. If you haven’t been back for a while, the area in front of the Civic (not Town) Hall, adjacent to the LGI, is now redeveloped, with a lovely modern theatre (The Carriageworks), whilst the Civic theatre is now a museum; the area, now called Millennium Square, is used for all manner of entertainments, from Christmas markets to ice-rinks. The city has been transformed and is lovely, day and night. Thanks, Lindsay, for dropping in.
Looks lovely and certainly makes you feel like Christmas. My daughter visits the German Christmas market every year but has heard this year that they have cut the number if German stalls and given them over to Scottish traders,why do they always have to spoil things?
That’s a shame – I can understand why, perhaps, but the German markets have their own special quality and it seems a pity to dilute it. Thanks, Anne.
We have friends in Headingly but I’ve never been into Leeds centre. The market looks lovely. A lot of people have said that they don’t yet feel Christmassy, but then it is still November!
Hello, Ros! Sorry not to have replied earlier, but I’ve been otherwise ‘engaged’. When you next visit your friends, try to get them to show you the best of the city centre; you’ll find something to enjoy, I’m sure. Thanks for popping in. 🙂