A chat with the man who built Wellington Street's latest addition from scratch
Usually when people say they poured their blood, sweat, and tears into a new bar or restaurant it’s a figure of speech, but for Chris Rhodes, a joiner by trade who took on an empty unit on Wellington Place and fitted it out with his own two hands, you can imagine there’s some truth to it.
That’s not to say he’s a clumsy joiner, of course, nor inexperienced - he’s spent the last twenty years in the business, recently fitting out three new openings on the huge, ever-expanding Wellington Place development, before deciding that he fancied doing it for himself.
It’s almost like he saved the biggest challenge for himself as well, taking a ground floor unit with a tricky shape, thanks to being above the underground carpark - and using it his advantage by splitting the venue across two levels.
The entrance level is lined with tables with a view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows (currently that view consists of roadworks, but it’s for the greater good - improving access to this side of town is essential with Wellington Place being such a huge development) which can double as a separable area for private bookings.
Up a few stairs is the main area decked out in reclaimed oak flooring, exposed features, and gun-metal grey walls, complete with the bar, horseshoe-shaped booths, sofas, and an elevated booth that can seat up to twenty people.
It might be cosy up there with twenty mates, but Chris has, er, cracked the numbers behind it: “The whole fit-out follows the BOS measurement - that stands for bums on seats - everybody’s bum gets 60cm…”
Behind the bar is a selection of familiar beers on tap - as well as Angelo Poretti, a crisp, dry Italian lager that runs rings around Peroni - a couple of locally sourced hand-pulls, and some craft treats in the fridge. Sourcing spirits has become a bit of an obsession for Chris as well.
“All I’ve done since I was 18 is work, I’ve never been one for going out, so this is all new to me - I’ve been teaching myself about all of the spirits and cocktails, sniffing the bottles and reading up on what’s served with what. I’m building up an impressive selection of gins from all over the world - one of our regular customers requested one for a birthday booking last week, so we sourced that in for her straight from the distillery”
“I’ve liberated a few bottles of wine from our cellar as well, for research purposes, and I’m so happy with the selection our merchant has found us.” Based on the Saint-Emilion 2014 we tried, we’re pretty happy with the merchant too.
After Chris proudly shows us a photo of his head chef in a training program with Heston Blumenthal, we’re relieved by absence of snail porridge or truffle popping candy on the menu, which is mostly classic-verging-on-modern pub food, all cooked from fresh - including a proper, comforting steak and ale tray-bake style pie with peppery mash - the kind that satisfies stomachs, rather than balance sheets (“Twelve pints of our ale from the cask goes into every pie”)
On top of that there’s a weekly quiz hosted by Kwizzbit every Tuesday (it’s played through an app on your smartphone to ensure there’s no cheating going on), live entertainment from an open mic night on Monday and acoustic singers on Thursday, and happy hour between 4pm and 7pm on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. This is our kind of place.
The Place, Building 6, Wellington Place, Whitehall Road, Leeds LS1 4AP. Mon-Thu 7am-11pm, Fri 7am-12am, Sat 8am-1am