Bar review: The Wrens, New Briggate, Leeds

The Gin Bar in The Wrens.
The Gin Bar in The Wrens.
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Walking into The Wrens on what seemed to be a fairly quiet Monday night for the city centre, the first thing that struck me was how genuinely warm the welcome seemed.

A man serving behind the bar, who I took to be the landlord, was joking with a group of friends as they finished their drinks and dashed over the road for a show starting at the Leeds Grand.

The Wrens in New Briggate, Leeds.

The Wrens in New Briggate, Leeds.

Theatregoers such as these and a slightly older crowd are the target audience, he told us, as we took in the vast array of gins on offer in the very aptly named Gin Bar.

Just to the left is the cosy Theatre Bar, which was designated a non-smoking room long before the ban so that singers, actors and actresses could enjoy a drink without fear of any smoke damaging their voices.

While this room and the rest of the pub were transformed a few years back when The Wrens underwent an £80,000 refurbishment, it has retained much of its original features including the old fireplace.

Although the modern decor doesn’t quite sit right in some respects, the new owners and management have certainly breathed fresh life into this long-standing venue.

The cocktail bar in The Wrens.

The cocktail bar in The Wrens.

Somewhat overwhelmed by the aforementioned selection of 60-odd gins, I sought the advice of our friendly host and was left in the very capable hands of one of the bar staff.

After questions about whether I’d prefer dry, sweet or fruity gin, a selection of three or four contenders were brought down from the shelves so that I could smell each.

In the end, I went for a Warner’s rhubarb gin (£4.20) served with Fevertree tonic water (£.160) and sliced apple. It proved the perfect refresher after a long day in the office.

My friend opted for a pint of Heineken (£4.10) that went down nicely while we chatted in the cocktail bar, which lies to the back of the pub.

Comfortably settled in the bar, we decided to have another round of drinks and I turned to the knowledgeable young lady behind the bar once again as I selected a different gin.

This time I went for an unusual saffron flavoured gin, having ruled out a coconut variety which reminded me a little too much of the sickly white rum Malibu.

Topped up with the remaining half bottle of tonic, this was not quite as much to my taste as the first but enjoyable nonetheless.

With a whiskey and Schweppes ginger beer for my friend, our second round came to a reasonable £7.90.

The city centre may not have been at its busiest, but there were still a respectable number of drinkers in the pub on the night we visited and I can certainly see the appeal.

With a less chaotic feel than some of its neighbours, friendly staff and an well stocked bar, The Wrens has plenty to offer.

Rating: 4/5

Daniel Rajkumar

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