Bar review: Trader Dan’s Surf Shack, Lower Briggate, Leeds

Trader Dan's Surf Shack, in Lower Briggate, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.
Trader Dan's Surf Shack, in Lower Briggate, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.
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We might get more than our fair share of rain but Leeds certainly isn’t known for its ‘surf’.

That minor point has not stopped serial bar makeover merchants, The Hedonist Project, creating this land-locked city’s first surfer bar however.

Trader Dan's Surf Shack, in Lower Briggate, Leeds.

Trader Dan's Surf Shack, in Lower Briggate, Leeds.

The collective of seasoned former Leeds bar managers has given its Lower Briggate venue yet another facelift to unveil Trader Dan’s Surf Shack – the group’s fourth pop-up concept to open in a year.

There was Rum shack, in Cross Belgrave Street, and then The Liquor Store and Whisky Parlour and Old Tom’s Gin Kitchen which both enjoyed stints in the Lower Briggate unit that used to house a Wok On noodle bar.

What was a specialist gin bar with cosy grey booths, a clean-cut tiled bar and smooth white and pastel green surfaces has been transformed into a rustic, weathered rum joint.

Not-so-subtle design changes mean a DIY plywood feature wall daubed with graffiti and plastered with surfing and skating posters and an impressive skating mural add to the earthy bare brick and weathered wood floors to create a space that transports you out of busy Leeds and into some sort of coastal American urban sports haven.

Trader Dan's Surf Shack, in Lower Briggate, Leeds.

Trader Dan's Surf Shack, in Lower Briggate, Leeds.

The cosy booths have been stripped back to their panelled wooden bases, the bar has multicoloured beach shack cladding and there are mounted surf and skateboards on the walls.

The 90s rock soundtrack, featuring everything from Papa Roach to Third Eye Blind, just adds to the escapism.

Style and substance in equal measure are quickly becoming a Hedonist trademark, so we were excited to see the brand new themed menu.

More than a dozen original cocktails, ‘rum & tin’ spirit and mixer combos, seven white, red, rose and sparkling wines and a handful of beer and cider can varieties feature alongside a beachside food offering.

We went for a mixed rum, lime and pineapple Trader Dan’s Hurricane (£8), which came in a cool Tiki glass with flaming rum, and an inventive Peanut Butter Jelly Time (£8), which combined a dark rum, peanut punch, sugar and bitters base with a raspberry jam foam.

The former was a beautifully fresh and fruity cocktail that packed a punch – a drink befitting of any beach – while the latter brought classic flavours to a deliciously moreish cocktail. With the addition of a Caple Road cider (£4), our bill came to £20.

The Hedonist Project are the masters of the pop-up – it’s venue expertly changing with the seasons.

Trader Dan’s, which will stay open until October 1, is a lesson in delivering an exciting themed bar that perfectly captures the summer vibe.

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