It’s summer in the City, and things are starting to look up. Tentative slithers of sunshine have grown into confident slices, illuminating smiles and accentuating tan lines among Leeds’ drinkers, diners and amblers.
And people are looking up, too – up towards the often-more-than-fifty-percent blue sky. Up to rooftop bars and skyline views, now open and alive – welcoming guests for long, sprawling days and evenings of light and laughter.
Collectively, we’re ready for new heights; ready to discover new ways of doing things – to level up, reach higher and go beyond just remembering how we used to do things. And channelling that sense of energised rediscovery is Multistories, the new food, drink and entertainment experience taking over the top floor of the Merrion Centre’s multi-storey carpark every weekend from now until September.
I make my way over to Level 8 of CitiPark on a Sunday afternoon towards the end of June. The sky is a multiplicity of grey, the air calm but with a promise of warmth. Classic English summer, I think, as I attach my paper wristband and begin my ascent – past the orange-clad security and up onto the roof. Tickets for Multistories start at £15 (plus booking fee) for a table for two. That gets you your seat and a drink on arrival, which seems like a decent enough deal to me.
That said, I’m slightly disgruntled when, upon reaching the top floor, the aforementioned security team searches my bag and unceremoniously empties my reusable water bottle into a drain across the car park. My pointing out that it’s 1pm on a Sunday, and I need to stay hydrated, doesn’t make much headway, and I enter the venue feeling like a humiliated 18-year-old on her first trip to Pryzm. The dude in question mumbles something about throwing away people’s perfume bottles, which I’m sure went down just as well.
Not one to dwell on overzealous security, I find myself seated on one of the colourful bench tables that sprawl across the car park’s top floor. A DJ booth to my left casts a spellbinding bubble of soulful bass across the rooftop, giant rainbow letters spell out the venue’s name, the smell of various sizzling savoury dishes wafts around me, and the views over Leeds are pretty all right, too.
I tuck into my can of prosecco (the very aptly named Cansecco, no less), as my partner enjoys a pint of Multistories beer. It’s a shame to see no local names on the drinks menu, which leaps from craft beer to wine to a range of summery cocktails – but it’s a solid selection all the same. And when it comes to indies, I need look no further than the three pop-up food stalls kicking off deliciousness from one end of the roof.
Matt Healy (Masterchef, Gron) is here with a tantalising tapas selection – serving up meat and cheese sharing boards plus a smorgasbord of smaller plates – or cardboard bowls, to be more precise. We order padron peppers, lamb and aubergine, a spinachy garlicky tortilla and – my favourite – a manchego cheese toastie with ham and truffle. The flavours are knockout, the textures more than complementary, and seeing Matt himself whipping up the dishes from his tiny pop-up kitchen is the icing on the cake.
More on cake later, but first, to Solita, the burger joint serving up wagyu beef delights and vegan creations alongside obligatory portions of addictive fries. We share a classic cheeseburger and the verdict is a double thumbs up – pickly, juicy and impossible to eat without surrendering all dignity.
We are full, of course, but when it comes to the final foodie resident of Multistories, The Savvy Baker, all notions of ‘full’ fall away. If you’ve been under a rock for the past 12 months and the experience has rendered you unaware of Savannah Roqaa’s total conquering of taste buds in Leeds and beyond, may I recommend getting your hands on one of her brownies pronto. Up on the roof, you can choose between flavours like Oreo, Snickers and Mars – or even go all out and have yours warm with ice cream. I opt for a square of Kinder-laced deliciousness and it’s fully worth the ensuing blood sugar rollercoaster.
Food eaten, I sit contentedly enjoying the pockets of warmth brought by a conviction-less June breeze. There’s a new DJ in the box, and the tunes are mellow enough to bob along to as we absorb the environment and try to get over the giant blue parking spaces marked on the floor beneath us.
With tickets currently on sale until August and more dates to be announced soon, Multistories has potential to be an unexpected star of Leeds’ food and entertainment scene this summer. And given the rotating line-up of local music talent, the big screens to watch the Euros on, and the many announcements to come, it’s certainly worth a trip in the Merrion Centre elevator to see for yourself what a few hours of rooftop living could do for you.
Multi Stories, Level 8, CitiPark, Merrion Centre, Leeds LS2 8BT. Friday 3 – 10pm, Saturday and Sunday 12 – 10pm. Tickets from £15 for a table for two at multistories.co.uk.
Photography by Kaye Ryrie.