Let’s face, the site of the current Headrow House used to be one of the most depressing places in town.
Rough and ready, home to the less than salubrious Big Lil’s nightspot and off the beaten track, it was definitely not the place to take a first date in the hopes of impressing them.
Thanks to the innovation and talent of the site’s new owners, Headrow House could not be further from its history.
Headrow House, dare I say it, has something for everyone.
Spaced out over 11,000 sq ft former textile mill at Bramleys Yard, just off The Headrow, it has seen millions of pounds invested in it, and it shows.
The space downstairs is styled as a beer hall, with as big a choice as you will find any where in the city.
My friend asks for a beer and tells the barman “surprise me”. He is genuinely flummoxed as he has so much to offer us. I later learn that the beer they serve on tap is brought in from the Czech Republic “live”, meaning it is flown in from the country and into the beer hall within 24 hours for maximum freshness.
Even though it is a Friday night we manage to get a table and enjoy great music and conversation. Also on the ground floor is a restaurant named The Ox Club.
A cursory check of the menu reveals it serves up an array of steak and fish dishes. We resolve to return for food at a later date.
After a drink we all head upstairs to the cocktail bar, Redondo Beach. A far different ambiance to its downstairs counterpart, this section of Headrow House is all about the spirits and mixers, although tanks of Pilsner remain for those still in need of ale.
Brighter lighting, louder music and friendly bar staff all pervade but the real treasure lies not inside the bar but out.
A vast roof terrace, dubbed Kennedy Meadows affords visitors views of the city centre, 13 feet above the street below.
Rows of seating, a sheltered area and large scale steel gantry mean that, come summer, this will be one of the principal magnates for city centre drinkers.
Even during this week’s inclement weather, it still has a few hardy souls willing to brave the elements. A really special place.
Gin and tonics are ordered and consumed.
All of us agree that this is surely one of the most laid back and friendly places we have visited in the city centre in all the years of living here.
The worst thing you can say about Headrow House is that it is a little bit removed from the action, but the owners are in this for the long haul.
Next year Victoria Gate will open. A John Lewis will finally come to Leeds and the eastern end of the city centre will begin to throng with people.
The old Big Lil’s site has a bright future ahead of it.