Bar review: The Turk’s Head, off Briggate, Leeds city centre

The Turk's Head, off Briggate, in Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

The Turk's Head, off Briggate, in Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

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If you’re not massively keen on supping hearty real ale, it’s understandable that you might not have ventured into some of Leeds’ heritage pubs.

Former Tetley pubs and historic ale houses are unlikely to be on the checklist of punters fond of a different scene – but times are changing.

The Turk's Head, off Briggate, in Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

The Turk's Head, off Briggate, in Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Whitelocks is a celebrated 300-year-old pub off Leeds’ busiest street, Briggate, yet for many its location down the Turk’s Head Yard back alley and its reputation with real ale lovers has meant its well-carved niche has remained.

New management and fresh ideas are changing that, however. A winter refit of the pub’s less frequented ‘top bar’ has spawned The Turk’s Head cocktail and craft beer bar.

This deep blue bar space, complete with a marble-topped bar built on gleaming glass cabinets filled with apothecary bottles, gives people of all tastes an excuse to explore the majesty of Whitelocks’ Victorian drinking space next door. It’s easy to miss the polished brass and copper, sculpted tiles and ornate mirrors of Whitelocks hidden away off Briggate.

Nevertheless The Turk’s Head is a bit of a gem in its own right. It oozes cool, with its classic ornamental decanters, sculpted cocktail glasses and Victorian drawing room design.

The Turk's Head, off Briggate, in Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

The Turk's Head, off Briggate, in Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

A low tempo soundtrack mixing Motown, laid-back indie and left-field pop add an easy-going gloss to this cosy venue.

Drinks-wise you can choose from 12 craft beers on tap from £3.70 a pint, two handpumped real ales and many more bottled beers. There are also 12 red, white, rose and sparkling wines on the menu.

In terms of cocktails, The Turk’s Head offers a small selection of six mixes which are pretty traditional, in truth, although the bartenders are open to suggestions.

Taking note of the two-for-one cocktails offer on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in February, we opted for a couple of the £8.50 Turk’s Head Old Fashioneds, which comprise of small batch bourbon, orange bitters and sugar. They proved a simple, sippable delight with the addition of the zesty orange.

We also tried an £8 bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth Boulevardier, which had an earthy, medicinal edge, and a £6 Hop Gin & Tonic that came with juniper berries, thyme and featured a Yorkshire gin. The bill came to £17.

The carefully concocted cocktails were good quality, if arguably on the pricey side, and the suave refit of this space is more than inviting.

Whitelocks now has a second high quality string to its bow as well as a means of drawing new visitors to its stunning main bar – it’s a win-win.

The Turk’s Head has been billed as the move that marked beginning of the fourth century of Whitelocks and, on this visit, it’s off to a successful start.

PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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