Bar review: Oporto, Call Lane, Leeds

Oporto, in Call Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.
Oporto, in Call Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.
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Without bars like Oporto, Leeds’ bar scene and more specifically Call Lane might not look anything like it does today.

Nearly 20 years ago this simplistic mix of quality live music, straight-forward drinks and stripped-back style set a precedent for other bars to follow.

It’s a recipe that hasn’t changed and has quite clearly stood the test of time. After the launch of Oporto and Arts Cafe in Call Lane, what was once the heart of the city’s red light district became an ever-evolving hub for nightlife.

Bars generally come and go, but Oporto is one of the few to have remained current and to some extent fashionable.

Venturing in on a Tuesday evening, we were met with a bustling crowd waiting to see indie pop band Fickle Friends take the stage in one half of the knocked through venue.

There are bare brick walls, dramatic murals featuring a theatre stage, octopus tentacles and playing cards, weathered wood floors and simple leather sofas.

Oporto, in Call Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Oporto, in Call Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

It is split between two compact spaces, which each feature a bar of their own, and the secondary ‘back bar’ room is often used for gigs.

The venue also has its own playfully named ‘dogging club’, which actually means hot dog menu for those in the back bar most nights every week.

The whole venue is low-lit, while red spotlights give Oporto a night-time glow. And between the live bands there is an indie soundtrack featuring the likes of Little Comets and the 1975 as well as rock classics.

Oporto feels slightly old and worn in, but not to the point that it feels in any way unloved or past its best. Instead it is cool, inviting and somewhat comfortable – to a certain extent you’re made to feel at home here.

Oporto, in Call Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Oporto, in Call Lane, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Drinks-wise there isn’t a printed menu but the bartenders are up for pulling together simple cocktails with the bar’s vast array of spirits.

Beers and ciders appear to be the bulk of the offering here. There are more than half a dozen varieties on tap including Tiger, Aspall, Cowbell, Poretti and Guinness as well as countless more in the fridges.

There are also wines on offer and the possibilities for spirit-mixer combos are pretty much endless.

We went for bottles of naked apple Kopparberg cider and Sol lager along with a can of Jamaican ginger beer, which brought the bill to around £10.

Oporto set the standard for indie bars on Call Lane and remains a favourite among revellers for obvious reasons.

You’re not going to get gimmicky fruit cocktails, marble surfaces or five star table service in here, but you do get an earthy, rustic bar experience that has indie music pumping through its veins.

Oporto is a stalwart in everything sense – and long may that continue.

The Commercial.

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