New Leeds bars come and go so quickly these days that it’s hard to keep up – but that can be a good thing.
Experiencing something a bit weird and wonderful that happens to be short-lived can make it all the more exciting.
A friend of mine still romanticises about the fleeting tenure of the Johnny Fontane’s burger joint in Great George Street, while, for me, the gem that was Dock Street Market at Brewery Wharf was a place I loved but only got to experience once before it closed.
Having only one chance to visit somewhere you consider to be a good venue, can make it feel even more special down the line.
So-called pop-up bars are turning this principle into a sustainable business, while making Leeds ever more varied.
The Hedonist Project, an experienced collective of ex-Leeds bar managers, have become masters of the pop-up.
There was Rum Shack, in Cross Belgrave Street, and then The Liquor Store and Whisky Parlour, in Lower Briggate, that both impressed us.
Now, the latter has been made over into a specialist gin bar just as the sun is starting to peep from the clouds. Perfect.
A few subtle design tweaks and some shelves stacked with differing gins later, and Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen was ready.
Inside there is weathered wood flooring, tables topped with flowers, a bright white tiled bar, simple hanging lights and some cosy grey booths to nestle into. A stripped-back brick feature wall is met with smooth white and pastel green surfaces punctuated with framed floral pictures.
The menu is well tailored to its gin kitchen theme too – there is plenty of substance behind the styling – and the classic hip-hop soundtrack is an added bonus.
A whole page of the menu is dedicated to a dozen gin and tonic mixes, and there are 18 inventive gin-centred cocktails.
The menu also features nine white, rose, red and sparkling wines, a couple of bottled or canned beers and ciders and some homemade sodas.
We opted for a couple of cocktails, with a Nichol Sour (£8.50), comprising of gin, green tea syrup, lemon chartreuse and egg white, and a Charlie Chaplin (£8), which featured gin, apricot liqueur and lemon juice.
The former was beautifully refreshing, with the tea notes and sharp lemon proving a perfect match with the gin, while the Charlie Chaplin gave off a vivid, sharp cherry flavour. They were both great mixes and came to £16.50.
Yet again The Hedonist Project has delivered. Old Tom’s is a quality little venue that offers innovation, atmosphere and above all great drinks.
Get to Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen while you can, though – it will turn into the rum-centred Trader Dan’s Surf Shack on June 30.