Bar review: Arcadia, Headingley, Leeds

Arcadia offers a range of uncommon beers, wines and spirits.
Arcadia offers a range of uncommon beers, wines and spirits.
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The joy of a good tipple seems self-consciously high on the list of concerns at Arcadia – the many framed photos adorning its walls downstairs are almost exclusively inviting shots of prized golden beers.

And Yorkshire-based Market Town Taverns, which runs the bar, lauds itself as the “proud purveyors in the art of pub craft”.

This love of drink itself should perhaps be a prerequisite for any pub worth its salt, but in the student heartland of Headingley, where much of the nightlife centres around the ‘cheap and cheerful’ buzz of the Otley Run, this implied claim of distinction is a world apart.

Arcadia in fact has a sign outside which expressly lets people taking part in the famous fancy dress pub crawl know that they are not welcome inside.

So expectations are high for the quality of product and experience as soon as you walk through the door.

Eight hand-pull ales are offered with an emphasis on Yorkshire’s output – permanent beers include those by Timothy Taylor’s and Elland Brewery, and guest beers are also on offer. Bottled and tap fruit beers, as well as a wide selection of wines and spirits also get a good showing.

I opt for Timothy Taylor’s 2016 CAMRA gold medal winner Boltmaker – which has been kept well and tastes as it should do.

But when my friend asks for a Whittaker’s gin and tonic, the barman seems slightly irked by the order.

It took a short while to come because the lime had to be finely sliced and raspberries included.

The end product looked satisfyingly ornate, but we expected some enthusiasm. Generally, though, the bar staff are polite and happy to serve.

Gourmet snacks are also available at three for £4 or £1.50 each, and again it’s good to see the region’s produce on offer.

Options include Harrogate blue cheese, Wensleydale cheese, chipolatas and wasabi peas.

There is almost a mountain lodge cosiness to Arcadia which is totally at odds with its placement in the drab-looking Arndale Centre. The pub is decorated in many shades of wood, with booths and tables set out in a way that seems to invite good conversation between firm friends. And this seems to flow as well as the beer among the young and old clientele. In the two rooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs, the sound of deep chatter on a mid-week evening is lovely – this is no place to bury your head in a phone.

Arcadia may still be the one pub in Headingley people go out their way to visit – but with other in-the-know bars such as Head of Steam setting up just around the corner, it needs to work hard to keep its king of connoisseurs reputation.

Arcadia

Address: 34 Arndale Centre, Headingley, LS6 2UE

Rating: ***

EASTERN PROMISE: The rooftop terrace at the Kori bar, Victoria Gate.

Bar review; Kori, Victoria Gate, Leeds