Bar review: Mal Bar, Malmaison Leeds, Swinegate

Mal Bar, Malmaison Hotel, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

Mal Bar, Malmaison Hotel, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

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A boutique hotel in the “Knightsbridge of the North” is how Malmaison Leeds bills its luxurious city venue.

And though others may feel the hotel chain’s sentiments over-egg the admittedly thriving area around Swinegate and The Calls that it calls home, a slice of sophistication is exactly what you get inside.

Among the many strings to Malmaison Leeds’ bow is its celebrated Mal Bar, which has made a name for itself with high-end cocktails.

Hardly advertised outside, the cavernous basement bar can be accessed by walking through the hotel’s main Swinegate reception or from a side door in Lower Briggate.

It’s a glowing underground bar space with a slightly European edge, which adjoins the hotel’s intimate and formal fine dining restaurant.

Chateau-style dark wooden blinds shut you away from the busy street above, while bundles of wine bottles decorate the raised sills that border the bar.

Sandy treated paint colours the venue’s arching ceilings, matched by cream marble-tiled floors and complemented by a mahogany bar, tables, boothed seating and dark wood and leather banquettes.

Low lit spotlights give Mal Bar a warm glow, adding to the intimacy of a space littered with varied couples fresh from the restaurant or simply out for a couple of date night cocktails.

There is certainly an air of sophistication down here as well, but the gold covered wooden chairs with odd-looking door knocker attachments on the back and the television on the wall playing a Barcelona football match do feel a little bit out of sync.

Nevertheless Mal Bar is overall a hotel bar, and has to cater to differing crowds so I guess you have to make allowances.

A subtle, inoffensive soundtrack featuring the likes of Gary Barlow and Aloe Blacc helps to broaden the bar’s appeal further.

Overall there is a nice welcoming mix between luxury, style and unpretentious appeal here.

Mal Bar’s cocktails are the stand out feature of a pretty extensive menu. You can choose from around 30 classic, champagne, signature and after dinner mixes from £8.50 each.

There are as many white, red and rose wines, as well as around 15 varieties of champagne, up to £500 magnums, and sparkling wines.

The bar also stocks a handful of draught beers, as well as two bottled ciders and 10 beers in the fridges and plenty of spirits.

We went for a delightfully smooth and flavoursome mixed rum, pineapple and cream of coconut Painkiller and a delicious sharp citrus vodka, Cointreau and cranberry Cosmopolitan.

With the addition of a bottle of Sol Mexican beer, the bill came to a premium total of £21.95.

Price-wise you can’t really come to a top city hotel’s bar and expect a bargain, and you’re certainly not going to get that at Mal Bar, but here you are at least guaranteed attentive to-the-table service and some top class cocktails.

The bar’s extensive menu, impressive mixes and imposing styling make it a venue with bags of appeal, particularly to the date night crowd.

Although it may not look like an attraction in itself from outside, Malmaison Leeds’ city centre bar is something to behold but quality does come at a price.

Date:22nd May 2017.
Picture James Hardisty.
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