Sometimes it involves test driving a bus, meeting some famous people or scouring an area of Leeds that I’m hitherto unfamiliar with. But, in all frankness, the best are the ones that involve free food and drink.
Admittedly they don’t come around all that often, but when they do it makes the already-rewarding work in local journalism well worth it. And if the food is good, then you’re really on to a winner.
So when I started a midday shift and was asked if I’d like to go and try a selection of the offerings at the new Wendy’s restaurant set to open to the public in Leeds City Centre tomorrow (Thursday), I didn’t take much persuading.
The American burger chain’s new spot at the corner of The Headrow and Briggate is part of its plans to have 45 restaurants in the UK by the end of the year and follows openings in Sheffield and Lincoln in recent months.
The franchise – which I was familiar with only from seeing it in American films and TV shows – made its return to the UK in 2021 after a failed push that started in the 1980s and included one restaurant on Briggate just a door down from the new spot.
After heading down for my veritable feast of a lunch I had a chat with the managers of the new location; who have been working hard to get the 40 plus members of staff up-to-scratch with what’s expected at a Wendy’s takeaway.
They told me how Wendy’s intends to stand out from the other host of burger places that stretches from big high street hitters like McDonald’s, Burger King and Five Guys to independent Leeds gems like Slap & Pickle and (my personal favourite) Brgr Time by being both fresh and affordable.
The beef burgers – which are famously made square to reflect that they “don’t cut corners on quality” – are unfrozen and made fresh every day, they said, and this same emphasis on quality and freshness is also endowed in their salads, fries and chicken dishes.
So without further ado, here’s what I made of each of the dishes I sampled, one-by-one:
The restaurant’s signature burger was a hit, with an audible ‘offt’ to boot upon having my first bite of the hefty sandwich.
The fillings were as fresh as had been indicated and the Applewood bacon had the American crispiness that I was also told to expect.
There’s also the price. In demonstrating the affordability of the restaurant I was told that it would cost around £7.99 for a Baconator meal, which also includes a medium chips and a drink. A bargain in my books.
Baconator fries/regular fries
The skin-on fries themselves were really tasty and not mouth-destroyingly doused in salt, which is always a bonus.
The baconator fries as well were terrific; with the succulent, creamy cheese sauce being as moreish as you’d hope.
Spicy chicken burger
Probably the most underwhelming of the dishes served up but still perfectly enjoyable. The juicy chicken breast – with a subtle hint of spice – was served with freshly cut salad and a mix of tomato sauce and mayonnaise. Again, perfectly enjoyable.
I was served portions of the spicy and regular nuggets and they were both as tasty as you can get from a high street takeaway chain. The spicy nuggets in particular caught the eye (or tongue?) in that they had a surprising peppery kick swoop in at the back end that raised the bar somewhat.
I was also told that the chicken dishes that I tried were all Halal.
What else is there to know?
A full breakfast menu will also be available before 10.30am, which will be offering early-day treats such as the Breakfast Baconator, Croissant Sandwiches and the Classic Egg & Cheese Sandwich with optional bacon or sausage, plus a range of coffee options including flat whites, cappuccinos and lattes.
Wendy’s will be open Monday to Thursday 7am to 11pm, Friday to Saturday 7am to 11pm and Sunday 8am to 10pm.