Bar review: Old Red Bus Station, Vicar Lane, Leeds

Old Red Bus Station opened in Vicar Lane, Leeds, last year. Pictures: James Hardisty
Old Red Bus Station opened in Vicar Lane, Leeds, last year. Pictures: James Hardisty
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Travelling into work I pass this quirky Leeds venue every morning on the bus and think to myself that I really must call in one night to see what it’s like behind the dated brick exterior.

As the name suggests, the Old Red Bus Station is situated in the building that served as the city’s bus station until the mid 1990s and it lies in an area of Vicar Lane that had been somewhat forgotten about as shiny, new hotels, restaurants and bars popped up elsewhere.

The bar is the focal point on the ground floor, with various seating areas surrounding it.

The bar is the focal point on the ground floor, with various seating areas surrounding it.

Fair play then to Champion Up North who saw the potential to bring something different to the scene and took over part of the site on a five-year lease, opening it as an arts and music venue last year.

It’s only when you venture in that you appreciate just how big it is inside, with various seating areas surrounding the bar and space for gigs, exhibitions and courses in the rooms upstairs.

On the Wednesday night we called in, there was a yoga class taking place in the cantina above and a decent crowd of drinkers of various ages dotted about the bar.

The overall look is fairly minimalist, with a mix of exposed brick, metal pipes and unusual lighting accompanied by an assortment of benches, stools and sofas.

As the name suggests, the venue is the site of the city's old bus station.

As the name suggests, the venue is the site of the city's old bus station.

Happily, this doesn’t feel like the contrived work of the much-derided ‘hipster’ set who are just that bit too keen to prove they are authentic, bespoke, heritage or whatever the word of the day is.

It feels like a place where a group of genuinely creative people have chipped in ideas and are adding bits and pieces as they go along, hoping you’ll like the results but not losing any sleep if you don’t care for it.

We settled down near the bar on a set of deep cushioned chairs around a wooden table as we sampled some of the drinks that appear to be have been created for the venue – an enjoyable pint of Bus Station Brew (£2.50) and a half of the crisp Old Red Cider (£1.60).

These struck us a being particularly good value for the city centre, although we might have caught the tail end of a happy hour offer.

Inside the Old Red Bus Station.

Inside the Old Red Bus Station.

A soundtrack with nods to the drum and bass nights held here brought a smile to my drinking partner’s face, adding the atmosphere needed to stop such a sizeable space feeling flat but without rendering conversation impossible.

Returning to the bar, a poster almost lured me into trying the Mount Gay rum and tropical Red Bull combination (£4.50) but that seemed a bit much for a quick drink after work.

Instead I chose from the decent range on tap and in the fridges, with a bottle of fruity Liefman’s On The Rocks (£4.50) for me and a pint of Erdinger wheat beer (£4) for my friend.

By this time in danger of being lulled into a full-on drinking session by the laid-back and welcoming vibe, we sensibly made our exit with plans to return before too long.

Another of the seating areas inside the bar.

Another of the seating areas inside the bar.

Rating: 4/5

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