Simon Richardson kicks back (almost too much) in a barbershop's basement cocktail bar
You can’t just call a spade a spade in Leeds any more. A craft beer and street food location here, a guitar shop and bar there. And, of course, a hairdresser with 1920s-style cocktail bar in the basement. It’s all very M&S advert – and makes us look a bit like a city obsessed with boozing. Fortunately, that’s something I can get on board with, so I decide to pay Remedy a visit.
It’s as if he’s put a massive red button on the table with “Do Not Press” emblazoned across the top
They charge more for one haircut than I’ve spent in the last 25 years combined, but I’m bald and my liver is rumbling, so my partner and I head straight downstairs to the cocktail bar. In fact, ground level is also a wine bar (the hairdressing side of things is hidden away on the first floor), but it’s the underground space that is easiest on the eye and there’s some real warmth to the décor; no bare walls, dark wooden furniture and a soundtrack that makes you want to put a suit on. Oh, and a stuffed ferret.
Looking at the ingredients of each of the seven cocktails on the specials and classics page, it’s clear to see that a lot of effort has gone into Remedy’s creations.
I get started with a Kumaru Hellfire (£12), which is a rummy affair with tonka beans, cacao and orange. A little vessel with two delicate slivers of chocolate accompanies the potion. “Have a bit of chocolate first and don’t breathe in on the first taste; it’s quite potent,” says the barman, and it’s as if he’s put a massive red button on the table with “Do Not Press” emblazoned across the top. It’s not quite nostril hair-singeing, but he is right that it’s a lot more balanced with the chocolate taste already on your palate.
My partner goes for an Old Boy (£11), basically an Old Fashioned with the addition of an imperial stout syrup; all very subtle, with the syrup tempering the Bourbon kick you get with the traditional version.
For the next round, it’s time for an unintentional delve into the 90s. My partner’s got the Poison (£9), I’ve got the Remedy (£8), yet I don’t feel as jilted as Keith Flint did from my cosy corner of a well-to-do city centre cocktail bar. When I was fifteen, I used to skim booze off the top of all my Dad’s spirits bottles at once and put them together to make a concoction that I used to call “poison”. This one’s a lot better, but the one thing both have in common is a dominant taste of sherry. Whether I never liked the taste, or my dislike was strengthened by my teenage idiocy, I’ll never know. Either way, all I can say is that if you like sherry, have at it.
Meanwhile, the Remedy cocktail contains two different types of tea and is served warm. It’s not my cup of… well, you get the idea. Still, it’s definitely well balanced, with hints of plum sake and satsuma on the nose ensuring that it isn’t just like a cuppa with your nan.
To finish, I prove that I’m a creature of habit by asking for a Mezcal Negroni (£8). I want to be blown away by the smokiness that comes from the very heart of the agave plant. As with the rest of Remedy’s offers though, it’s a tempered affair and an admirable appreciation of how to bring out all the different tastes that lie within a cocktail - just not quite the smoke bomb that I’ve been served elsewhere.
The Duchesse Sour (£9) is a beautifully presented, foamy delight, served in a sexy glass with a rum base and sweet, citrus overtones. Again, it’s all so understated, so carefully put together.
In the end, Remedy’s cocktails can be mostly summed up by their glassware – delicate. I love being treated to an array of glasses, a different one with each order, and there’s something about this approach, along with the long list of fancy, one-off ingredients that accompany each cocktail, that reminds me of London’s incredible Nightjar. Like London, it’s also pretty pricey. One look at the attention to detail with the ingredients tells you why, but it’s difficult to justify the three sips I got out of my first drink – that’s £4 a taste.
The music, the lighting, the décor and the flavours – it’s relaxed, sedate and soporific. I don’t mean this in a bad way at all, it’s very much a masterclass in tailoring everything to the very essence of your concept, and it’s a great date location. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re planning on a big night out and, if it’s less subtle flavours and a slightly livelier vibe you’re after, there are several alternatives within a 50-yard radius that will no doubt keep your attention a little longer.
16 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NU. Tel: 0113 380 4912
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: made by God him/herself.
Kumaru Hellfire 7, Old Boy 8, Poison 5, Remedy 6.5, Mezcal Negroni 7, Duchesse Sour 9
Superb in application, knowledge and understanding of his customers
Good for a date, less so if you want something a bit livelier