It wouldn't be our biannual trip to Leeds without a trip into town before we go home. As it was our December visit - for Christmas Number One - we also decided to involve some festive shopping. Theoretically that means a few hours happily browsing, while picking up the perfect gifts for all our friends and family. In reality that means bickering our way around two shops, max, followed by a row because it's been at least two hours since breakfast.
This trip was surprisingly peaceful - apart from a disagreement about which way to go beside a giant illuminated reindeer, which I'm blaming firmly on Google Maps - although I was exceedingly happy when my Uncle John called while were we in Lush, meaning I could duck outside to escape the eye-watering aroma of patchouli and despair. Even better he told us he was also in town, and did we want to meet for lunch.
Of course we wanted to meet for lunch. And where better than the very recently opened Assembly Underground, located on the previous site of the former Leeds School Board building on Calverley Street (as I was reliably informed by my Uncle). Run by Hebden Bridge's Vocation Brewery it features fifty taps of beer, a hidden cocktail bar and an open dining hall area featuring grub from Slap & Pickle, Felafel Guys, Punjabi street curry specialist Jah Jyot, Leodis Coffee, and Bread and Butter Churrasco BBQ.
Uncle John went for a classic pint of what I *think* was Vocation's Heart and Soul on cask (I was somewhat distracted at the time, trawling through the vast beer menu myself). Whatever it was, look at it - all things bright and beautiful, glittering in the afternoon winter sun. He nearly managed a second pint, but a queue at the bar saw him fall back on plan b; a very nice looking flat white from Underground Coffee.
Somewhat overwhelmed with choice, I asked the barman for some 'murk' and was rewarded with a schooner of Vocation's Where's Dan, a delicious, opaque NEIPA that tasted, and looked, like hoppy pineapple Just Juice. The Ewing, our designated driver, also went fruity with a half of the Vocation agave and lime radler.
I hadn't already had a surfeit of red meat on my visit - with roast sirloin of beef for Christmas Dinner Number One, followed by a game pie at the House of Trembling Madness the day after - I decided to complete the hat trick with a big ass burger at Slap and Pickle.
I went for the light option with the Baconator and a side of Big Mick's fries. The burger - double cheese, double bacon, double beef, iceberg and burger sauce - was one of the best I've had this year. Salty, oozy, greasy, drippy, just like all the best things in life.
The loaded fries, as you can probably tell from the name, riffed on a popular burger chain's popular eponymous burger and came topped with burger crumble, cheese sauce, burger sauce, mustard, lettuce and pickles. Eat 'em while they're hot for maximum pleasure, although I do secretly love the odd cold and congealed chip that gets welded to the bottom of the dish.
My Uncle and the Ewing went for a bit of spice from Jah Jyot, Punjabi inspired Indian street food traders who have ended up in West Yorkshire via Horsham in West Sussex. Alongside curries and thalis they also offer a range of filled dosas, samosas and tikka wraps made with fenugreek chappatis.
Both chose a selection of curries including the Amritsar chicken with potato and fresh coriander and a vegan ajma (red kidney bean) curry with fenugreek seeds, which was excellent. Alongside were rice and the aforementioned chapattis, flecked green with the aromatic leaves.
Of course a trip into town wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Kirkgate market for provisions before the long schlep home - which on this occasion included ten sirloins for a tenner and over three kilos of limes for two quid. having said that, I skipped the arseholes and tripe. My wife says that's the standard of my drunken Christmas conversation already...