The ever-lovely guys at Pink Gorilla recently invited me down to Bar Soba in Leeds city centre for an interactive menu sampling and to get a vegetarian’s perspective on the offerings. Trying new food, getting my hands messy and rating veggie options must be up there as three of my favourite pastimes so I didn’t take much convincing.
I’d popped into Soba once before for a drink not long after it had opened – one of those ‘this place looks nice let’s go in’ kind of things, not because I’d heard anything of it at the time – and noted then how cool yet different from each other the upstairs and downstairs were.
Being located in the Grand Arcade gives Bar Soba some seriously gorgeous Victorian architecture to work with; this location is perfect to reflect the two sides of Bar Soba’s personality, nestled between the arcade full of tasty eats on one side, and Merrion Street’s bars on the other.
Bar Soba originated in Glasgow but was tempted down to Leeds by the similarities between the two cities, notably the thriving independent scene and just the fact there’s always so much going on in both. The concept hasn’t simply been replicated though; for example, much of the street art-inspired decor inside has been created by local Leeds artists.
One thing that hadn’t come to my attention on previous visit was that, alongside their cocktails, Bar Soba also serves up Pan-Asian street food with dishes inspired by the chef’s travels who on the evening told us in particular about the time he’s spent in Hong Kong (one of my all-time favourite cities). Each item we tried was paired with a specially selected cocktail to complement the flavours in the food.
First up were steamed dumplings (you can see me helping out with creating the veggie ones over on Made in Leeds TV!) served with a coconut & chilli daiquiri made with homemade lychee syrup. The glass was coated with a spicy sugar rim that gave it a delicious kick.
For main course, this was followed by a vegetable Thai green curry and a Japanese plum sour. On the face of it, a Thai green curry didn’t sound especially imaginative but it had a light fresh flavour, huge chunks of chewy tofu and, my favourite bit, crispy cubes of sticky rice. Seriously, the rice part has to be tried to be believed.
Finally, to round things up we were served deep-fried coconut bananas with salted caramel peanut ice cream and a refreshing mango tango (with a hint of coconut and passion fruit). The ice cream was insanely good and the deep-fried banana was surprisingly good with its thick, crisp batter.
Overall, Bar Soba really impressed me with its creative food and drinks, gorgeous decor and welcoming staff. They actually have a separate vegetarian menu and a dedicated gluten-free menu, a touch that I really appreciate given how many places are content to stick with one token dish. I’d love to see Bar Soba begin to label up their vegan dishes in future too as they already seem to have a good selection on offer but it’d be useful to pick them out easily.
What’s the best sign of a good venue? When you’re looking forward to going back, of course, and Bar Soba is definitely one of those!
Looking for more recommendations for vegetarian food in Leeds? Take a look at the vegetarian Leeds archives.