Rooftop terraces, cocktail destinations, street food fests; what haven’t Simon Stephens and Ash Kollakowski added to Leeds’ cultural scene? A boat perhaps…
Well rumour has it that’s exactly what new canal side venue Water Lane Boathouse might be getting. This hotly anticipated launch is the real deal, and if you can get Boaty McBoatface out of your head, Water Lane Boathouse will be on everyones lips in Leeds this Summer.
Originally a grain store and shipment warehouse, the interior is suitably industrial, open plan, and infinitely cool. With a balcony and tall windows looking over the canal, plenty of outside seating, and a laid back soundtrack; it’s perfect for after work drinks or weekend catch ups. The bar hosts a wide selection of beers; local Saltaire Blonde on tap, bottles from Northern Monk (brewed further down Water Lane) and Magic Rock, plus an impressive and summery list of spritz and gins. Steelite ceramics serve up a dreamy food menu, compiled by Exec chef Ben Davy, who is certainly set for big things looking after the team’s other sites across the city.
Water Lane Boathouse are, quite rightly, proud of their beauty of an oven. Handmade by third generation Italian craftsmen at Stefano Ferrara Forni, and run by Small Victories, whose bakery concept is at the heart of what the team are producing. Ben explained how their sourdough is proven for 36 hours and left to ferment in the fridge before being shaped and baked into 10 – 20 loaves each morning. The dough forms the base of their Neapolitan style pizzas with beautifully puffy, slightly singed crusts, and their range of hot and cold sandwiches.
Spoiler alert: the Boathouse Club isn’t a double decker, but the creamy filling of avocado, butter roast chicken and garlic aioli more than makes up for the lack of an additional slice of griddled sourdough. Plus sources say a club technically only needs the hors d’œuvre sticks, which it totally has, and needs, as these are chunky mothers. If you are looking to double up, the Small Victories burger is where two aged Yorkshire beef patties meet a homemade brioche bun, bacon jam with an oozing three cheese fondue. Don’t go anywhere without dipping the skin on chips into their burger sauce.
Now if you’re a pizza purist this may not be for you; “kale, on a pizza?” you may ask, it’s 2017 after all! The flavours are surprisingly uncomplicated however, and the sourdough offers a lovely nuttiness to each mouthful, which thanks to the generous San Marzano tomato base, needs to be picked up with two hands. I was majorly impressed by the vegan pizza. Not at all dry, with smoked aubergine and a tangy gremolata — and on the veggie side, the beetroot, white bean & fennel burger is really something.
I’m not normally one to order a salad out and often begrudge paying £9.00 for some leaves, but I can safely say I will be getting one of these as a side to go with my pizza next time. They do two sizes, so perfect for sharing, but with combos this tasty you won’t want to. Try the super citrussy carrot, fennel & crispy kale, with not one, but two types of quinoa, or the mint flecked watermelon & feta. The stand out for me was the roasted cauliflower & green lentil, which doesn’t feel like a salad at all. The lentils had a nice bite to them and the smoky almonds with strained yoghurt made it feel complex and indulgent.
I’m thinking a failsafe bank holiday weekend plan might involve sampling their small but well formed brunch menu, served from 11am-2pm. Potentially even sticking around with a few drinks for one of their incredibly reasonably priced pizzas, which is buy one and get the next for £1 between 12 and 9pm on Sundays!
I feel like Water Lane Boathouse has done well to cater for everyone. Burgers, steak, and beer for the blokes; delicious fresh salads, light moreish pizzas and big bowls of gin for the gals; and a roomy relaxed space ideal for families and children. Just don’t let them too near the water’s edge — I nearly fell in the canal locking up my bike. Luckily, I’ve spied plenty of life jackets.
Visit Water Lane Boathouse at Water Ln, Leeds LS11 5PS
Words by Sarah Cotterill