Leeds certainly isn’t short of places to eat – there are restaurants, cafes and takeaways on every corner in the centre of the city. It’s home to countless eateries including everything from Michelin-starred restaurants and swanky fine dining establishments to family-friendly diners and street food heroes. There’s something for everyone in this great Yorkshire city.
Casual dining restaurants are by far the most popular choice in Leeds and with the city centre bursting with options, competition is fierce.
The latest player on Leeds’ casual dining scene is Pizza Punks, with a great offering of reasonably priced sourdough pizza, fresh pasta and craft cocktails. Having already seen huge success with their other restaurants in Glasgow and Newcastle, the company chose Leeds as the home for their latest opening and boy are we glad about that!
We were lucky enough to have been invited over on Sunday evening to find out exactly what Pizza Punks have to offer and we were more than happy to oblige.
Just yards away from Trinity Leeds, Pizza Punks’ new restaurant looks modern and inviting from the outside, with their recognisable funky branding and what we think is a rather large exterior dining area for this part of the city.
We arrived at 6 pm and received an enthusiastic greeting from the staff member at the door. They had only opened the day before and business was already booming; no doubt partially due to the excellent marketing campaigns they ran during the lead up to launch.
The restaurant wasn’t at full capacity so we were given the option of a booth area at the back of the restaurant or a table by the window. I always appreciate being offered a choice of tables as I’m not one who enjoys being gawped at by passers-by whilst trying not to miss my mouth.
Soon after we were seated, a friendly young waitress came to take our drinks order. As their cocktail menu is quite extensive, being comprised of their own creative craft cocktails plus classics with a twist, I asked for the waitress’ recommendation. It was soon decided that my sweet-toothed husband would have the Swizzle’s Matlow Drumstick inspired cocktail and I would have the Vanilla Manhattan – supposedly the “the booziest one on the menu”.
Shortly after our drinks had been ordered, the same polite and bubbly waitress returned to take our food order. There were no lengthy waits whatsoever during our visit.
The sides and starters section of Pizza Punks’ menu includes all the expected offerings at a pizzeria – Doughballs, Salad, Chicken Wings, Bruschetta, Mac n Cheese etc. We chose the Chicken Wings and the Garden Salad to share between us.
Usually, ordering pizza is a simple process. You are often presented with a list of pizza names, each with different topping combinations. We all have our favourites and most of us like to stick to what we know. Pizza Punks, however, offer far more than that. Yes, such a list exists on their menu but you are also able to create your own. For just £11, you can have as many toppings as you want and the list of available toppings is pretty extensive. The same applies to their fresh pasta – choose your sauce and then add unlimited toppings. Quite apt for a company that describes themselves as “advocates of freedom and expression, of making your own choices and not playing by the rules” and “giving you the freedom to be who you are”.
I’ve always been a fan of pizza but having developed a tomato allergy in recent years, it isn’t usually an option for me when eating out. Most pizza places tend to offer only garlic butter as an alternative to the tomato sauce base and I find this makes the pizza far too greasy. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Pizza Punks offer a white sauce as an alternative and this was partly why I was so eager to accept the invitation!
Both my husband and I chose to create our own pizzas. I opted for the white sauce base and chose courgette, roasted rosemary and garlic potatoes and caramelised pork belly as toppings. My husband, being unashamedly predictable, requested a BBQ sauce base topped with Chipotle Pulled Pork and Rum Ham Hock.
Not long after our food order had been taken, our cocktails arrived. The Drumstick-inspired drink was indeed garnished with a retro lollipop – much to my husband’s delight! As mine was a smoked cocktail, it arrived in a bottle and was poured out by the waitress at our table. Upon tasting, I found the waitress’s description of it as “the booziest one on the menu” to be entirely accurate. That initial taste blew my socks off but further sips were far more pleasing on the palette as the beautiful flavours of smoked vanilla and chocolate bitters became increasingly noticeable.
Our starters arrived shortly after our drinks and we were given a number of wet wipes for sticky fingers. Both dishes were perfectly seasoned and packed with flavour – particularly the sauce on the chicken wings which delivered just the right amount of heat. Nothing to fault there whatsoever.
Our pizzas arrived not long after we had cleared our starter plates and we ordered a second round of cocktails before getting stuck in. This time, a Strawberry Smash for my husband and a Love Heart sweets inspired cocktail for myself.
When the pizzas arrived, mine was a tad overdone on the underneath but as someone who purposely burns toast, a blackened base is a bonus for me rather than a negative! I’m sure, had this not been the case, the staff would have rectified this immediately as throughout our visit they remained attentive and eager to please without being intrusive.
At Pizza Punks they have taken the best elements from various pizza-making methods to create their own unique style. As stated on their website, “This is not Neapolitan Pizza, this is not New York Pizza. This is Pizza Punks!”. Their dough was inspired by the legendary sourdough produced at the famous Boudin Bakery in San Francisco. Handmade in-house using the finest Italian ingredients, it is fermented for 48 hours to ensure maximum taste. The result is a thin, crisp base for the toppings and a wonderfully light but chewy crust.
Although delighted to have been able to choose a white sauce base, I had been somewhat worried that this would make the pizza too sickly. This wasn’t the case at all as the white sauce made the perfect base for the flavoursome toppings I had requested, A truly delicious pizza that was vastly different to any I’ve tried before. The creaminess of the sauce paired perfectly with the freshness of the vegetables and the subtle sweetness of the Caramelised Pork Belly. The Limoncello based cocktail I had chosen also complemented the flavours perfectly.
My husband’s pizza looked equally delicious and was loaded with meaty toppings. He can be a difficult one to please when it comes to pizza and usually comes away from big chain pizzerias voicing his disappointment. He wolfed his pizza down in no time before claiming it was one of the best he had ever had in a restaurant and then proceeded to devour the rest of mine.
Upon finishing, we were asked if we would like to order desserts. We politely declined as had no room for anything else within our stomachs. Had we brought our son, we would undoubtedly have ordered the Biscoff Cheesecake for him so that we could “just have a little taste”.
All in all, it was an enjoyable dining experience. The atmosphere within the contemporary restaurant was incredibly chilled with its industrial style decor, punk playlist and super friendly staff. Precisely what we needed on a dull and dreary Sunday evening. We left Pizza Punks and headed back to the train station feeling satisfied and in good spirits – possibly due to the strength of the cocktails and not just the exceptional quality of the food.
There are plenty of places in Leeds offering pizzas and cocktails but we recommend making Pizza Punks your next stop. At just £11 for a great quality pizza with as many toppings as you desire, it’s superb value for money. The cocktails average at around £8.50 and you certainly get your money’s worth in alcohol. I’ve paid a few pounds higher for cocktails in Leeds which tasted of nothing other than fruit juice. If you do visit Pizza Punks, we’d love to know your thoughts. We’ll be visiting again very soon!