Amsterdam, Seoul, Reykjavik. What do these exotic cities have in common with Hull? Well, chief among their potential similarities there’s a fact that stands out above all else. They’ve all been named in Rough Guides’ top ten cities in the world - and one of the places you simply have to visit in 2016. And when you can jump on the train straight to the heart of Hull, you simply don’t have any excuse not to visit the UK’s 2017 City of Culture.
The gong has come as little surprise to Hull’s residents. On the back of a massive redevelopment of the city centre, Hull boasts a range of attractions including the mile-long Humber Bridge, a huge new aquarium and a beautiful Old Town that celebrates the city’s cultural, industrial and maritime heritage.
In naming Hull one of its chosen destinations to visit this year - alongside cities including Vancouver, Mexico City and Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal - Rough Guides praised Hull as “brimming with new hotels and restaurants, and even more of that distinctive home-grown creativity the city has always had."
Hull’s wide range of attractions also includes the National Trust’s fairytale-like Maister House; and the road-inside-a-museum that’s the Streetlife Museum, at the heart of such a collection of museums and galleries that it’s known as the Museums Quarter.
Rough Guides also has plenty of praise for Hull’s culinary wares, mentioning its “atmospheric old-timey pubs”. With its Great Newsome brewery and plenty of independent public houses, it’s well served when it comes to real ales. The Wellington Inn is close to the station and even has its own microbrewery attached
You’ll need something to eat of course. Rough Guides recommends 1884 Dock Street Kitchen, a glamorous restaurant that tilts at fine dining without the attendant starchiness. It’s based in a converted Victorian ropery and overlooks the city’s Marina: offering stunning views inside and out. The menu is very British and features a lot of game, a sprinkling of offal and a dose of ‘hearty’. But don’t expect a stodgy pie and lumpy mash - 1884 Dock Street Kitchen has won raves from some of the country’s most respected restaurant critics. Needless to say, you’ll need to book ahead.
All of which might leave Hull residents mouthing ‘I told you so’. But don’t take our word for it. Hull is officially one of the best cities to visit in the world - and it’s on your doorstep.
While January is the coldest month, there’s something positively tropical going on at The Tetley in Leeds. Where once there was an art deco brewery, there’s now a brand new gallery featuring a new commission, Winter Garden, transforming one of its biggest spaces into a botanical garden.
Using a nine-metre drawing of a tropical palm tree - plus exhibits that invoke colonial and artistic themes and use mixed media to decorate the walls - the Tetley’s Atrium Gallery will evoke a tropical paradise during the winter months. The exhibition displays varied works from Roger Palmer, a former Professor of Fine Art at Leeds University, as co-curator Zoe Sawyer explains:
“One thing that sets us apart is that we commission new work - Winter Garden is not only a new commission, it’s also site-specific to the Tetley. It’s unique. Roger has a large body of work that means he’s been influential across photography, the land art movement and in artwork that comments on colonialism and postcolonialism.”
It’s only five years since brewing stopped at the venue, after 189 years, and there are still plenty of reminders of its proud past in the old brewery headquarters. The Tetley has a number of static exhibits, which include a museum dedicated to the brewery.
There’s also a bar and kitchen serving hearty local food, whether you’re after sharing platters, afternoon teas or a simple veggie or vegan meal. And, needless, to say, you can have a pint of Tetley to wash it down. It’s a winning recipe that has reaped rewards since the venue reopened in 2013.
“We had over 100,000 visitors in the first year we were open. Us being here has not only preserved the building but restored it to its former glory. We’ve reopened the Atrium and brought it back to how the building was in the 1930s - and we’ve opened it up as a public building."
Roger Palmer found the source image for Winter Garden in an antique South African horticultural book, which will also be on display. It’s all a welcome reminder of warmer climes to come during the shivering winter.
There’s a revolution going on in food and, despite what Nigella Lawson would have you believe, it’s not salted caramel. In fact, it has less to do with what we put in our mouths than what we put in the bin.
One example is The Real Junk Food Café in Manchester - a new project inspired by a similar venture in Leeds - which is set to open in February. With a number of pop-up events behind them they’re due to open in late January, operating out of The Wonder Inn, a short walk from Manchester Victoria station. With the support of supermarkets and independent food retailers across the city, they turn food that businesses might throw away into delicious meals - in a very literal sense it’s rubbish food. When you’re done, you pay whatever you think it was worth.
It’s a concept that’s gathering speed and popularity across the North of England. Joining the original in Leeds and ready-to-go Manchester outlet, there are junk-food cafés in Newcastle, Doncaster and Wigan.
One of the most established is Regather in Sheffield, currently open four days a week and offering meals from braised pig’s cheeks to veggie curry - sometimes with the help of a Michelin-starred chef. Think Ready Steady Cook, but without Ainsley.
“Our food is always freshly cooked and we're lucky to work with a lot of local and organic businesses so the ingredients are often as good as you'd get in any restaurant” says project director, Jo Hercberg.
While visitors can pay what they feel, diners can also choose to pay their way by helping out - and they range from professionals to students and pensioners. “Anyone is welcome in the café, and as they say, if you eat, you're in!”, says Jo.
It’s not simply an issue of tackling food waste, however - the café has become a focal point for the community too. “A regular customer lives alone, so she finds it hard to cook for one and it gets expensive,” explains Jo.
“She loves coming to the café as she knows we'll have plenty of menu options full of fresh veg, and homemade desserts. Now she brings all her friends in on a weekly basis.”
Currently supported by a local supermarket and range of Sheffield indies, the Real Junk Food Project Sheffield serves food every Thursday, Friday and Sunday at Regather - a short walk from the train station at Club Garden Road.
They plan to rebrand as Potluck Pantry soon - around the same time that The Real Junk Food Café Manchester is scheduled to open. With over 15m tonnes of food going to waste in the UK every year, this is one junk-food revolution you can feel good about.