Leeds First Direct Arena is the U.K’s first ‘fan-shaped’ seating arena, with seats arranged almost in a semi-circle around the stage. The views from each seat are therefore unobstructed and terrific.
The venue holds 13,500 and the atmosphere generated is wonderful.
It has been an instant and overwhelming success with acts from around the world flocking to it.
Those people seated at the very back however, like at any arena, are some distance away and events are usually supplemented by giant screens above the action.
I have been several times and have always had a good view.
The Arena is handily placed right in the city centre and is a short walk from both the railway and bus stations.
Obviously, there is money to be made on the back of such a popular venue and even before it’s opening in September 2013, several enterprises sprang up in the immediate area to take advantage. This development has continued and the 1960’s built Merrion Shopping Centre, which is adjacent to the Arena, has been totally refurbished with many new businesses moving in. These include hotels, restaurants, cafes, fast food outlets and more.
The Ibis Styles hotel, has recently opened on Wade Lane, a very short walk from the Arena and part of the Merrion Centre itself.
It is a modern, stylish place with 137 bedrooms and on the ground floor it incorporates ‘Marco’s’.
This a branch of Leeds born Marco Pierre White’s Italian/American family friendly restaurants and was where my wife and I were headed on a cold, miserable and wet Monday evening.
We had the cheery prospect of a special coupon deal with two courses and a glass of wine at around £14 each. Bargain territory.
The exterior is glitzy and a small reminder of Hollywood even in the rain.
We were greeted by the Manager and our needs quickly established. We were given a choice of several tables from the restaurant which was already quite busy. We were able to choose a window seat from which to watch the passers by in the drizzle.
The décor is contemporary as one might expect, with matt black paint covering the metal ducting on the ceiling. Furniture was simple and user friendly. The lighting was dimmed, which created a cosy atmosphere.
From the reduced menu, there were four choices from each of three courses.
I cannot resist a antipasto board and I was not disappointed. Four sizeable selections of cold meats came with slices of sun dried tomatoes, breadsticks and toasted breads which I drizzled with balsamic and olive oil from the table. Simply delicious.
Across the table, a selection of Italian breads also went down well.
From the main I chose a sirloin steak, which the waiter was swift to inform me, was no longer available, though a rump had taken it’s place. The rump was duly ordered.
Unusually, what arrived WAS a sirloin. I guess they had found one after all.
The steak was a little more cooked than the medium rare I had ordered.
A small gravy boat of punchy peppercorn sauce accompanied it, as did a basket of chips. These had been advertised as ‘rosemary chips’ but if they had indeed been introduced to any rosemary it must have been a very brief encounter as the taste was undetectable.
A string of grilled cherry tomatoes on the vine completed the dish, and very tasty it was too.
My partner opted for a chicken and tomato choice with potatoes which looked and tasted very good indeed.
The house wines, a light and grassy white and a smooth very palatable red were perfect accompaniments, though I failed to ask what they were.
Staff were attentive and eager to please and we left having been very satisfied with what was on offer at such a bargain price.
This would be a good venue for a pre-Arena meal if you wanted something above the usual standard and although there was no performance at the Arena on the night we visited, it was still quite lively in the restaurant. We can’t say we were blown away, but it is certainly good.
Further information can be found at https://www.mpwrestaurants.co.uk/our-brands/new-york-italian whilst the sat-nav will show you the way to LS2 8NJ. There is a large multi storey car park in the Merrion Centre or plenty of on-street parking pay bays.
I guess it was all White on the night – Boom boom!