WHEN you think of cocktail venues in Leeds, your mind doesn’t automatically turn to a hotel.
The idea of a hotel bar conjures up images of patterned carpets, tired businessmen and menus with hiked-up prices for its convenient location.
But Leeds seems to be fighting that stereotype.
Malmaison’s bar recently underwent a revamp and Chino Latino at the Park Plaza Hotel on City Square has some of the best drinks around.
And it’s only recently that Fire Lake has been added to the list of top-quality hotel bars.
The steak house and cocktail bar joined the Radisson Blu at The Light last year and proved a hit with YEP food reviewer Oliver.
We decide to visit on a Sunday evening and are greeted by a friendly waiter who offers us a booth by the bar, which is empty. But we can hear lively chatter coming from elsewhere and ask to sit there instead.
The waiter takes us to towards the back of the bar, where it opens up into a bigger and brighter modern space.
There is a huge black and white mural of Leeds actor Peter O’Toole, with other, more subtle Leeds references adorning the walls, such as Kaiser Chiefs lyrics and a rhino.
We take a seat in the middle by the fireplace – a pleasant surprise, if a little unnecessary at the start of summer.
It adds a cosiness and warmth to the otherwise quite imposing modern space.
The drinks menu includes a range of local and international beer and ale, from bottles of Leeds Best and Midnight Bell to Heineken and Peroni.
The cocktail menu is quite extensive – with prosecco-based creations, ‘classics’ and specials as well as sharers and alcohol-free offerings.
Cocktails are priced around £9, with some giving a nod to the city in which they were created, such as the Dirty Leeds Martini and the Hyde Park.
I choose a Bakewell, with cherry liqueur, amaretto, lemon and prosecco at £9.50. It is perfectly sweet, with the lemon juice balancing out the cherry flavours.
My companion goes for the Cariña, with vodka, passion fruit purée, red berry tea syrup, pineapple juice and passion fruit foam, at £8.50.
Served in a martini glass with a ribbon round the stem, it looks as good as it tastes.
Both drinks are delicious but there are so many on the menu that we want to try that we go for one more. We choose a Fruit and Nut Sour, with Chambord, Frangelico, amaretto, Cointreau, lemon juice and cranberry juice at £8.50.
The ingredients are perfectly balanced to give the flavour of the well-known chocolate bar, and it’s unlike any cocktail I’ve had before. Fire Lake is certainly raising the bar and blazing a trail when it comes to top-quality cocktails.