Leeds Permanent Building Society was formed in 1846 and operated from headquarters in various locations around Leeds over the years. Indeed, they were somewhat nomadic until they had the magnificent Permanent House built specifically for them in 1930.
It stands on Leeds’ main thoroughfare, The Headrow, on a prominent corner plot.
It is architecturally outstanding, built in white Portland stone and red brick, with large, feature windows. The Society remained there until 1992.
The building then remained empty for some time, though listed as a building of architectural importance.
A development company took over the site, which extended for a considerable distance along the Headrow, way beyond the Building Society premises. They created a superb, indoor shopping mall, whilst retaining the excellent exterior.
A new glass roof, enclosing the area, made for a spectacular shopping experience. It is now called The Light. It contains many shops, cafes, restaurants, a gym, a hotel and a multiplex cinema. The units are rarely empty here and when they are, they are quickly filled. It is a destination in it’s own right and in the very centre of Leeds.
In 2001, as part of the redevelopment, Brown’s restaurant chain invested significantly in the corner plot, to create a flagship restaurant. The former banking hall was sympathetically converted. Much of the interior wooden panelling was incorporated into the designs and they did not make the mistake of inserting another mezzanine level.
The result is a vast, airy and very impressive open space, lit with subdued, character lighting. It is a classy place to visit and is very popular.
There is a terraced dining area in the shopping mall itself.
Inside, a dark wood panelled cocktail bar greets customers as they enter from The Headrow. Tables are on different raised levels, so making it an intimate place to dine, despite it’s size.
We were greeted quickly and taken to our pre-booked table and shown the menus.
Items from it were explained and the option of the two or three course ‘early-bird’ menu was taken (up to 7pm). This is a mere £11 for two courses or £15 for three. Great value indeed.
The full a la carte menu will not break the bank either.
The fishcake starter with salad and a creamy sauce was soon with us and very good it was, light and fluffy with no hint of grease.
For an additional £1.95, we chose the steak, which came with skinny chips and a fresh pile of large leaf watercress and a grilled half tomato. The steaks were tender and tasty and came cooked just as we ordered.
Desserts couldn’t be resisted and my salted caramel chocolate pot was intensely gorgeous.
The star, however, was the custard tart with a side of juicy forced rhubarb. Many an envious eye was cast in this direction and the taste justified the envy.
A very good meal at a bargain price, and highly recommended.
‘Special’ meals apply on some nights. Lobster Thursdays, Fish and Bubbles Friday and Cote de Beouf Saturdays all feature.
On our visit, a very professional piano player added to the experience with a selection of jazzy, bluesy tunes. His efforts were much appreciated.
There was a lively buzz about the place which was hugely enjoyable.
Browns is open seven days a week and by signing up to their newsletter at
www.browns-restaurants.co.uk/restaurants/yorkshireandthehumber/leeds you can obtain a voucher for a free cocktail (a delicious Aperol spritzer worth £7, was my choice).
On the website, there is also the option to take a ‘virtual tour’ of the premises, which reveals the restaurant in all it’s glory.
Browns have branches throughout the country, though I doubt if any are as grand and imposing as the Leeds restaurant.
You can bank on a visit here to be excellent.
This restaurant can be found at LS1 8EQ and The Light multi-storey car park is just the rear. For parking in Leeds centre however, only a couple of hundred yards down the Headrow is the John Lewis Victoria Gate shopping centre. The car park here is safe, secure and is only £3 all night after 5pm.