What do you remember of eating out in Leeds? Last month in the Yorkshire Post I asked what were the first game-changing restaurants in Leeds and cited Get Stuffed, La Grillade, Brasserie 44 and latterly Anthony’s.
So I was surprised and delighted to receive an email from the Get Stuffed man himself Len Cohen, who told me how it all began, arriving in Leeds in 1959 as a fashion and textile student from his native Dublin, opening Get Stuffed Dining Chambers in 1969 in Park Cross Street opposite the Town Hall and later Get Stuffed Italian on Albion Place, the one I remember best. As well as fresh British food, locally sourced and three fresh vegetables with every main course, Get Stuffed Dining Chambers also offered pizza. ‘We were the first people to sell pizza, this was before the Flying Pizza’ says Len, ‘We innocently served it cold as a starter until someone told us it should be hot. Customers called it Pitsa Pie and wanted it with chips, but Get Stuffed Dining Chambers never served chips in its whole life and nor did Get Stuffed Italian’
We may chuckle now, but these were the dark days of British food where a grilled half a grapefruit was considered an acceptable starter. Get Stuffed though wasn’t just about food it was about style and atmosphere. When he opened Len’s Bar on York Place and later Digby’s nightclub, Len crammed it with stuff: ‘I was so impressed by the bars in the U.S. I filled the place with bric-a-brac bought for pennies, served wine by the glass and offered waitress service’, all things that were revolutionary in the early 70s and those of us around at the time, especially our Yorkshire TV crowd, staff and stars alike, made the most of it, packing the place out night after night.
Len dug out a couple of photos from back then and by coincidence they featured our BBC and YTV colleagues, naturally looking a good deal younger. I can’t see from the photograph above what was on the menu, but they all look happy enough with bottles of McEwans and a loaded ashtray. Happy days. Thanks Len.
What do you remember of early restaurants in Leeds? In the top picture Cindy Ritson in the white blouse sits beside David Seymour and opposite Barry Chambers and Pat Seymour. Do you remember Get Stuffed or where you ate in the 60s in Yorkshire. Please leave us a comment.