2 Oxford Place

This pearl of a restaurant, obscured by the shadow of the grand Leeds Town Hall opposite, can easily be lost if you don’t know what you’re looking for. This is a great shame, as it is easily one of the most charming eateries in the city, offering a wide range of delicious dishes for a variety of specialised diets.

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From the outside, it looks like somebody’s home. A large black door with a scuffed brass letter box and matching number make you feel as though you’re about to break into a private abode, but as soon as you step inside it’s like a cabinet of wonders, the Mary Poppins bag of the Leeds dinning world. It’s much larger that than it seems from the street and can easily accommodate for three larger parties as well as smaller ones. The decor is homely and plush, water is served in vintage decanters and all crockery and china are individual pieces hand picked by the staff from various charity shops across Leeds.

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The food is particularly rustic and moreish, with a fantastic array of menus including a whole veggie/vegan menu as well as a gluten free one. Rarely does one find good, homely dishes like broccoli and blue cheese pie with all the trimmings in a restaurant that doesn’t cater solely to vegetarians, but 2 Oxford Place go out of their way to ensure that everyone has a choice. There is also a mouth-watering dessert menu including a Madagascan Vanilla Cheesecake, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Warm Chocolate Brownie and more, all served with an option of cream, custard, or ice cream.

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As well as perfect evening menus, they offer a variety of afternoon teas, breakfast and brunch. 2 Oxford Place is literally perfect for any meal of the day and I dare you to find a better place to spend your 23rd birthday (Psst, there isn’t one. I had mine there and it was the bee’s knees).

2 Oxford Place, Leeds, LS1 3AX | Tel: 0113 234 1294 | open Tues-Sat 11:30am-10pm, closed Sun-Mon

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American Style Pancakes (V)

Lately I have become a pancake master. After multiple attempts, I have perfected these flawless sweet, fluffy american pancakes, vegan style. I have enjoyed them with maple syrup, soya ice-cream, fruit and berries, and even veggie bacon. Here is the easy recipe for you to follow and enjoy.

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Ingredients:

  • 135g/4¾oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 130ml/4½fl oz almond/rice/soya milk (I use almond)
  • 2 tbsp apple sauce or egg replacement
  • 2 tbsp melted margarine or olive oil, plus extra for cooking

Method:

  • Sift all the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, caster sugar) into a large bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, lightly whisk together the milk and egg replacement, then add in the melted butter.
  • Pour the milk mixture into the dry mixture. Beat until you have a smooth batter. Make sure you beat out any lumps!
  • Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the cooking butter or oil. When it’s melted, add a ladle of batter. It will seem thick but this is how it should be, more than crepes. Wait until the top of the pancake begins to bubble, then turn it over and cook until both sides are golden brown and the pancake has risen to about 1cm (½in) thick.
  • Repeat until all the batter is used up. You can keep the pancakes warm in a low oven, but they taste best fresh out the pan.
  • Serve with all the extra bits and enjoy fluffy golden goodness.

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Roses Bar

Berlin has long had a prosperous and progressive queer scene. From the roaring 20s gay bars like ‘Eldorardo’, where Marlene Dietrich and Christopher Isherwood regularly whiled away their nights in lavish company, to today’s infamous Berghain club, a hot spot for Berliners and hopeful tourists alike.

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Nowadays, the diversity in Berlin’s queer scene extends to venues and events that steer away from the stereotypical and aim to include all members of the LGBTQIA community. However, Roses Bar is sadly not one of these places. Although highly recommended on many Berlin queer essentials websites and regarded as one of the most popular bars in the queer scene, the atmosphere in Roses leaves much to be desired. Due to it being a small bar, there is no space to move around inside and in order to get a drink you must awkwardly lean over others sitting at the bar trying to converse. The crowd is mainly older cisgendered white men, with a fair few creepy looking guys sitting alone in corner tables. The staff are obviously not keen on tourists, and in response to asking for a Hemingway you will be told that they ‘don’t serve fucking cocktails’, with emphasis on the ‘fucking’ bit. Although they only serve long drinks, these long drinks are very strong, so at least you will be getting your money’s worth.

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The only redeeming part of Roses is the interior design- a fantastic amalgamation of fetish-themed artworks, disco balls and rainbow coloured chandeliers, huge dildos amusingly tacked onto the walls becoming somehow tasteful coat hangers, and walls covered in vibrant magenta fur. It is a shame that this bar suffers for its bad attitude, because it has the potential to be a fabulous start to a night out, but instead leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. Onward to other bars like Silver Future…

Kit Kat Club

From its origins in 1994 to the present day, the Kit Kat Club has been the crowning glory of Berlin’s thriving fetish scene. The lovechild of Austrian pornographic film maker Simon Thaur and his partner Kristen Kruger, who have been running the club ever since, it is infamous for bringing aspects from the trance scene into its sex parties. Every year it attracts thousands of people from all walks of life to its dance floor, from hardcore BDSM lovers to curious tourist spectators.

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Named after the risqué burlesque bar from Harold’s Prince’s Cabaret musical, you can expect to see similar sights to those fictionalized ones portrayed via show tune; women (and men) walking around in suspenders and corsets, outrageous theatrical costumes, leather, silk, and satin flowing past you in all directions. Although many websites will tell you that in order to get into the club you must be wearing little to no clothes, in recent years regulations have relaxed. You will see a couple of people dotted around in jeans and a t-shirt looking slightly bewildered, next to those decked out in full latex gimp suits. Although beware that wandering bouncers may advise that you remove an article of clothing if you don’t quite look the part.

Comprised of three dance floors, a pool area, and various private nooks and crannies, there are many opportunities to go exploring, even if you don’t fancy getting intimate with anyone in public. The interior of the club is interesting enough: walls adorned with fluorescent colour murals of people in various stages of copulation (by Berlin-based artist Der Träumer), random cages dotted about that you are free to dance in, and strange halloween-esque decorations adorning the bar areas.

Ultimately, this club is exciting and interesting regardless of whether or not you are actually a kinkster yourself, and will always be a huge part of Berlin’s image and notorious reputation as a city of rebellion and sexual decadence.

The YAAM

For the last twenty years, the YAAM (short for the Young and African Arts Market) has been a crucial part of Berlin’s youth and leisure culture. Comprised of makeshift shanty buildings covered in breath-taking graffiti art, tree houses with winding ladders, two recording studios, a stage area and beach bar with actual sandy beach, it is the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon with a strong cocktail and good company.

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Initially, the YAAM was founded as a youth center for kids of various nationalities, with an emphasis on African culture. At that time art and music played a strong part in the community, with Dancehall/Reggae fusion musicians Culcha Candela and Seeed performing their first live concerts here. Sport was also a huge part of the YAAM; basketball tournaments are still held there today, and there is a pingpong table and small football space in the beach bar area free for anyone to use. A plethora of events are held at the YAAM yearly, including Graffitibox, Germany’s largest street art event, music festivals, outdoor film screenings, and DJ hosted club events.

Nowadays, it is more inclusive of all kinds of people including families with small children. Jamaican inspired food, like jerk chicken with rice and sweet potato fries, is served in the bar area during the day, and there are lots of toys scattered around the beach for toddlers to play with while parents enjoy a chilled drink and soak up the friendly atmosphere. In 2006, the community center was awarded the Mete-Eksi Prize for its contribution to the peaceful co-existence of youth from different backgrounds, and this feeling of peace and openness still exists in abundance today.

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Lazing in a hammock with reggae drifting through the air from the bar, looking out onto the river Spree glistening in the sunlight, you will feel a sense of overwhelming happiness and tranquility. Definitely aided by that person smoking a huge spliff next to you.

An der Schillingbrücke 3, 10243 Berlin | Mon-Sun 10am till late 

Last Cathedral

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Ever dreamt of drinking from a beer tower in Dracula’s lair? If so, this horror rock bar on Schönhauser Allee is the crypt for you. Stepping inside, you are immediately swallowed by darkness and immersed into a gothic dungeon with medieval chandeliers, skeletons and spiderwebs hanging from every corner, and corpses lying underneath glass panels in the floor. They are not real skeletons, nor corpses, but that feeling of primal fear is still there as you continue to notice small spooky details all around, including deathly white faces embedded into the wooden benches seated around individual tables.

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With its scary interior and penchant for playing goth, punk, and metal music, this bar has long been an integral part of several Berlin subcultures. On Saturdays it holds a ‘Dance Macabre’ event, playing a mixture of post-punk, goth rock, and Neue Deutsche Härte music such as Rammstein and Megaherz.

Since the 1980s and the birth of Berlin’s own Neue Deutsche Welle (new German wave) bands Malaria! and Einsturzende Neubauten, the goth scene in Berlin has been more active than most paces outside of London and L.A., with several nights dedicated to an umbrella of genres all considered ‘gothic’. Although musically, Post-punk and Electronic Body Music might be extremely different, what unites these gothic genres is a love for all things macabre, and a distinctive physical appearance encompassing leather, latex, and velvet into outfits. Several of these events take place around Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße, including popular monthly goth/synth-pop night Centuries, making Last Cathedral the perfect place for pre-drinks and getting into the mood.

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Upon entry you will receive a free shot, and once inside you will find the drinks selection to be vast as well as humorous. Cocktails with names like ‘Black Death’ and ‘Hannibal’ arrive with edible gummy bats and eyeballs on cocktail sticks. Mentioned earlier, the ‘Beer Tower’ is a plastic tube of your own personal two, three, or four litre beer on tap, made to look like a old-fashioned contraption with use of copper base and rusted tap. A regular stop on the ‘666 Alternative Berlin Pub Crawl’, nowadays there are more tourists around than before, but this does not stop Last Cathedral from being a thoroughly good time and worth braving the night for.

Schönhauser Allee 5, 10119 Berlin | Mon-Sun 8pm-5am

Berlin Atonal

Since it’s 23 year hiatus, Berlin’s most important and innovative experimental music festival returns yet again in 2015 with a cacophony of triumphant bangs and crashes. Berlin Atonal was founded in 1982 by Dimitri Hegemann, community organizer and cultural activist, and for over a decade it was the ultimate goal for underground noise musicians and artists in which to showcase their creations. Originally held at notorious rock club SO36, it featured the most revolutionary acts in experimental and industrial music, like Psychic TV, Einstürznede Neubauten, and Die Haut among many others. The festival stopped in 1990 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but all was not lost for electronic music lovers. Hegemann went on to open techno club Tresor, nowadays one of the most popular clubs in Berlin for electronic enthusiasts, keen tourists, and everything in between.

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Since its re-opening in 2013, Berlin Atonal takes place in the huge abandoned powerplant that Tresor shares. For five nights, the space becomes a futuristic mecca haunted by the sounds of its industrial past. The space is almost too large to comprehend- no matter how far you crane your neck to look upwards, the ceiling seems a thousand miles away. Crowds clad in black scuttle relentlessly up and down the gargantuan concrete staircase, like ants marching mindlessly to a tasty grease spill. No matter where you in are this vast apocalyptic catacomb, the sound is just as intense, with heavyweight subwoofers blending seamlessly into the surrounding darkness.

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The festival features performances, installations and workshops from over 50 artists, and since its re-launch has boasted names like Jon Hassell, David Borden, Murcof, and more. There is also a huge selection of street-food stalls set up outside, along with some seating set up under a canopy of fairy lights. Although beware that the transition from inside to outside will leave you confused and maybe questioning your existence. For those that never want to leave, there is an after-show party to close the festival that continues until the sun sits high in the sky.

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