The student heartland of Headingley is still stacked with nighttime variety – so how do you add to it?
Bar chain Arc Inspirations dominates with its food and drink deals at Arc, The Box, Trio and The Pit, while there are cool cafe bars like White’s Deli, more traditional Otley Run pubs as well as real ale and wine bar Arcadia.
That spread has been the eternal problem facing the North Lane bar space recently reopened by the Camerons pub firm’s Head of Steam chain.
Formerly Citrus, Voodoo and more recently Havana, the two-floor venue has been one of the few bars in the suburb that has struggled for consistency.
Head of Steam is hoping to change all that having opened back in April as a cask and craft beer and live music venue shared with the Longhorns Barbecue Smokehouse restaurant chain.
Head of Steam, which has also revamped Spencer’s in Mill Hill, has overhauled its latest venue into a weathered wood, tweed upholstered, leather laden, bare brick paradise for real ale and meat lovers.
The venue’s soundtrack ranges from the classic rock of Journey and The Police to indie pop from Everything Everything while punters take in the smells of Longhorns’ huge trays of slow-cooked meat.
The white tiled thick-set dark wooden bar is lined with more than a dozen beer and cider pumps including a huge, extravagant Estrella Galicia tap, as well as eight cask handpulls.
Behind the bar is a library of bottles and a wall of spirits and liqueurs that shows this place means business. Its vast array of Belgian, Trappist, American, British and gluten free beers is matched with 22 varieties of wines and champagnes, a dozen £6 cocktails, four beer-based cocktails, four sparkling mixes and Hendrick’s gin teapot sharer cocktails.
And despite its pretty rugged interior, beer-heavy menu and rocky soundtrack, Head of Steam is not an off-puttingly macho space.
Floor-to-ceiling windows drench the interior in light, the music isn’t overbearing, the TV screens displaying the football aren’t booming out commentary and on a midweek evening it genuinely feels pretty relaxed, playing host to a diverse mix of punters.
On our visit we opted for a refreshing pint of Stowford Press cider, a small glass of Malbec red wine and a bottle of Fentiman’s ginger beer, which brought the bill to £8.70.
Thankfully, it seems that the Head of Steam’s makeover of this venue may have struck that fine balance between pub and bar that could offer some much-needed longevity here.
The incredibly broad drinks menu, the promising food and drink combination, earthy style and open-to-all feel should make the Head of Steam a must-visit during an evening out in Headingley.