On the bar circuit everybody likes a good secret.
It might not be the key to immediate success but stumbling across a virtually unknown gem of a venue when its opening has not been plastered all over town can often be a thrill in itself.
Feeling like you’re one of a select few who know about a place can be part of its appeal.
In Leeds we’ve seen this through the blossoming buzz that surrounded the Maven’s arrival at the top of Call Lane in 2012, after its unmarked entrance gradually became known as the passageway into a quality Prohibition-style cocktail bar. The recent emergence of the similarly meek Blind Tyger, which quietly goes about its business in Cross Belgrave Street, has also captured that ‘secret bar’ feel quite deliberately.
Bird & Beats looks to be the next link in the secret chain, seemingly by accident. Plonked opposite the Hifi Club, in Central Road, and adjacent to the bustling Call Lane bar district, you’d think a new bar would be hard to miss.
This plush drawing room-inspired cosy first floor bar opened months after Bird & Beast, the second floor rotisserie chicken restaurant, and due to a lack of obvious promotion its October opening went under the radar.
There’s barely any signage at street level, while there is an easy-to-miss neon bar sign in the first floor window, so its only when you’re halfway up the staircase entrance to the restaurant that you might spot the tiny ‘bar’ sign next to the Bird & Beats door.
On our midweek visit we were the only ones in there, while the restaurant upstairs was clearly a hive of activity.
The bar’s two large plush green velvet booths, classic green leather and dark wood armchairs and buttoned leather stools decorate an impressive parquet wooden floor. Dark green wood panelled walls are broken up by stylish white shuttered windows and an equally fresh white ceiling, while its small mirrored tables are lit with glowing candles. The bar itself is a simple wooden centre piece highlighted by subtle purple backlighting.
Bird & Beats is by no means a restaurant after thought, its stylish decor combine with an atmospheric soundtrack that melds disco, Motown and 80s music from the likes of Stevie Wonder and Tears for Fears.
The menu is extremely varied. You can choose from a mixture of 20 classic and original cocktails from £6.95, as many white, red and rose wines and six sparkling wines and champagnes.
There are also five draught beer and cider choices including Shipyard Pale Ale and Thatchers Cider at £4 a pint as well as eight bottled varieties.
After being served at our table by the friendly, if not slightly lonely, barman, we ordered a dark chocolate liqueur, bourbon, triple sec and double cream Chocolate Orange cocktail and a mixed rum, ginger, lime and mint Caribbean Storm.
The Chocolate Orange was creamy but lacked any real orange hint and the dark chocolate was slightly lost, although the Caribbean mix was a tangy triumph. With the addition of a half pint of smooth Bird Own Craft Lager, the bill came to a slightly pricey £17.
It’s obviously early days for Bird & Beats but this bar has all the hallmarks of a quality inner city cocktail venue. With its profile still low, this place has the potential to become a go-to bar – all that’s needed is a tweak in the cocktails and for Leeds bar goers to see it for themselves.