Bar review: Bar Soba, Merrion Street, Leeds

Bar Soba, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Bar Soba, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson.
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Holidaymakers across the UK are becoming increasingly familiar with Thailand – its full moon parties, oriental cuisine and party islands.

Well, Leeds’s latest bar aims to bring a taste of the Far East to Leeds city centre through an inventive street food menu, exciting layout and decor.

Bar Soba, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Bar Soba, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Bar Soba, in Merrion Street, is the first foray into England for a Scottish bar brand and restaurant chain that has four locations north of the border.

Its ambitious £1million two-floor refit of a chunk of Leeds Grand Arcade is sandwiched between New York-inspired Manahatta and The Pit, sitting opposite stalwarts like Mojo and The Reform.

Its addition to pedestrianised Merrion Street is the latest in a trail of investments that has transformed Leeds’s Northern Quarter into something to rival the city’s bar capital Call Lane.

Bar Soba is no wallflower either – it’s a well designed, vibrant city space. You’re drawn in at street level by a glowing image of a headphone-clad cartoon face with neon lightning bolts for eyes.

Bar Soba, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Bar Soba, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Downstairs there are graffiti murals depicting oriental women on the concrete walls – some covered by industrial metal mesh – while plush leather banquettes and simple metal and brown leather chairs add comfort to its urban style.

It feels both minimalist and grungy down here, with hanging lightbulbs and candles subtly lighting what is a ice cool ground floor backed by an eclectic soundtrack featuring everything from noughties indie pop from Franz Ferdinand to Elton John and Motown hits.

Upstairs the Grand Arcade’s impressive glass ceiling is the star of the show in a mural-filled space furnished with stools, dining seating and tables to those tasting Soba’s Pan-Asian treats.

The drinks menu is simply top notch. You’re spoilt for choice with 30 largely original cocktails from £5.95, quirky Thai bucket mixes which come in glass skulls, and around 15 varieties of wines and champagne.

Dozens of bottled world beers, including Asian Singha and Tiger, are available, as are eight draught beers and ciders. You can also order full bottles of spirits.

We went for a couple of the cocktails, with a rum and mint-centred Apple and Ginger Mojito and a tequila, apricot liqueur and lychee syrup Far East Margarita, which had a salt and coriander rim.

Both mixes were very good quality – the former was packed with flavour and the latter was a fruity delight with a spiced kick. With the addition of a bottle of pear Rekorderlig cider the bill came to £15.85.

Overall Bar Soba is a very exciting proposition. Its fresh approach, unique styling and vibrant menu adds yet more variety to what is fast becoming the city’s new bar hub.

The Commercial.

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