It might be time to reintroduce a few places into your bar-hopping route...
If your weekend bar crawl routine is beginning to feel as dry and predictable as the roof of your mouth the morning after, then it’s probably time to freshen it up a bit (and your mouth too, while you’re at it)
Endlessly re-treading the same steps seems a little short-sighted when there’s so much going on in Leeds, and some of the haunts you have currently labelled as ‘ex-amours’ have realised they can’t afford to rest on their laurels. A bit of DIY and a headful of new ideas can work wonders; here are ten old favourites that are worth a re-visit on your next outing:
Easy to miss as one of an enclave of New Briggate doorways you’ve staggered past a hundred times, Sela Bar remains an unfussy and unpretentious underground den of delight. Doing pretty much everything you could ask of a bar, and doing it well – craft beers, cocktails, pizzas, art installations and even merchandise – the vibe is eternally late night and laid back, with great playlists of jazz, funk and soul and live music on the tiny stage, and regular ladies nights in association with Girl Gang Leeds. If Sela Bar popped up on an American Road movie in the middle of nowhere, we probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
20 New Briggate, Leeds LS1 6NU. Website
Wapentake is an all-day open door to affordable home comforts, with vintage chic and mismatching furniture evoking memories of an old mate’s back room that was a – probably less pleasant smelling - communal space filled with laughter, intoxicants and pastries. Combining a bakery, café and bar, Wapentake changes as the day progresses and even offers big screens for football upstairs.
This place is Yorkshire through and through, from the name, to local beers and gins behind the bar, right down to the fact they don’t make us delve too deeply into us pockets…
92 Kirkgate, Leeds LS2 7DJ Website
An old stager of the Call Lane scene, Oporto uses its links to Jake’s Bar and the Portobello Star in London to ensure it keeps ahead of the game after all this time. Spacious, vivid and vibrant, this is a thrill seeker’s paradise and a home for rock ‘n rollers either emerging, retiring or still going strong.
As a showcase for up and coming bands, Oporto has a strong reputation for its frequent live music nights and its heaving bar is a utopian vision for those with a daring thirst for a drink.
33 Call Lane, Leeds LS1 7BT Website
Having enjoyed 20 years on the more downtrodden end of Call Lane, Milo has undergone a dramatic reinvention, swapping the tired-looking and suffocating cloak of red for exposed brick with steel and concrete fittings.
Through the beery haze of a thousand drunken nights you might legitimately believe you’ve never been here before, as the front door and bar have been swapped over, and that freshness works miracles. Sticking to its guns as a ‘friendly neighbourhood dive bar’ there is a good line up of keg beers, great music, and friendly faces, as well as a hireable event space both downstairs and on its second floor above.
10-12 Call Lane, Leeds LS1 6DN Website
The 2015 Boxing Day floods nearly spelled the end for this pioneer of waterfront drinking, but a dogged persistence managed to salvage this underrated bar from a six foot deluge of river sludge.
Aire Bar’s proximity to the water’s edge has been a curse, but it’s more frequently a blessing: on a sunny day there are few better places to be in Leeds. Its brick-vaulted arches and underground mystery provide a mix of pool, leather sofa relaxation, and big screen sports, and as a conduit between Call Lane and Brewery Wharf this is a stop-off point that demands loyalty.
32 The Calls, Leeds LS2 7EW Website
The ever-changing pop-up concept worked well in fooling beered-up scenesters that this was a new bar they hadn’t chanced upon before, but having morphed from Hogarth’s Gin Joint to Trader Dan’s Surf Shack and a few others in between, the identity crisis appears to have been satiated, and we have settled on the Hedonist Project - for now.
This is a cool bar that hits the right notes, small with warm, knowledgeable staff who practice making cocktails as an artform. They haven’t completely ditched the pop-up approach either, the kitchen hosts ever changing residents such as Bao Boys and Dilla Deli.
156 Lower Briggate, Leeds LS1 6LY Website
Sheaf Street Cafeteria
Pouring new life into a derelict red brick factory, Sheaf Street is the front of house welcome to Duke Studios, a creative art space, which has combined beautifully with inventive food purveyors Grub & Grog, former residents of the Northern Monk.
Brimming with ideas and bursting with a new found confidence, this is an all-day and all-night café, bar, and event space with one of the best outside seating areas south of the river.
3 Sheaf Street, Leeds LS10 1HD Website
North Brewing Company
Their Eat North series turned this summer into an opulent booze and handheld-food bonanza we didn’t want to end. Sadly in September it had to, to make room for North Brewing Company’s planned expansion (we get more beer out of it in the long-run, don’t worry).
The taproom is still open though, and you can still taste fermentation tank-fresh beer and great collaborations with their many friends on Fridays (4-10pm) and Saturdays (2-10pm) every week.
Unit 6, Taverner’s Walk Estate, Sheepscar Grove, Leeds LS7 1AH Website
Another old stager, somewhat shipwrecked in theatreland but still proving a fine accompaniment to a more cultural night out, or a meal at nearby Aagrah or Kendells Bistro. Its basement venue provides a great variety of live bands, club nights and comedy nights, and upstairs its impressive bar and spacious communal areas offer a warm welcome that bubbles with atmosphere.
St Peter’s Square, Leeds LS9 8AH Website
White Cloth Gallery
White Cloth Gallery is so close to the train station you couldn’t even finish a cig or make a ‘just nipping for a quick pint before the 22:07’ phone call home on walk between the two.
A great range of cask and keg beers and a busy pizza oven are quite often just what you need, and the two adjacent art galleries provide a spacious event space too. On the fringe of the office sector but still bang central in town, this is a little gem you might want to file under ‘cool places I must visit again’.
24-26 Aire Street, Leeds LS1 4HT Website