In your face and controversial bathroom graffiti landed the Almost Famous chain in hot water upon its arrival in Leeds earlier this year.
The American-themed burger restaurant’s outspoken and ill-advised toilet scrawlings rubbed people up the wrong way, were rightly painted over, and started the venue off on the wrong foot entirely with punters.
Nevertheless its out-there recipes, over the top dishes and calorific concoctions have brought the Great George Street restaurant some more warranted attention since, and now the indulgent city centre venue has a new string to its bow - 314 in Progress.
Situated in Almost Famous’s basement, this brand new bar shares the rebellious streak and the same sense of unbridled excess as the neighbouring restaurant.
The bar apparently takes its name from the Californian penal code for indecent exposure, while there are defiant slogans daubed such as ‘You can’t arrest me I’m a rockstar’ and ‘I don’t do drugs I am drugs’ emblazoned on the walls in graffiti paint and neon art.
It’s certainly no wallflower but, upon walking in, is a massive improvement on its ageing predecessor, Escobar, which had experienced a sad demise following years of success as a Mexican restaurant and underground indie music venue showcasing the likes of The Cribs, Arctic Monkeys and the Kaiser Chiefs in their earlier days.
Accessible from the entrance to Almost Famous, or the entrance nearer Carpe Diem, this expansive basement space stars a main mirror-backed metal bar, which is decorated with streaks of graffiti paint and highlighted by a row of hanging UFO-like chromed lightshades.
Opposite the bar are a couple of backlit high leather booths, while at one end there are a few pews beside the toilets, and at the other there is a lengthy faux snakeskin purple banquette, cubed stools and that ‘You can’t arrest me’ wall art surrounding a DJ booth and weathered wood dancefloor.
This fresh combination of music, decor and style is a real departure from the norm in Great George Street. The rise of Leeds’s Northern Quarter bars such as The Belgrave, The Pit, The Brotherhood and old favourites like Mojo have seen those tastes migrate in-part, so it’s nice to see something more diverse hit this part of town. The music is all well and good, but the cocktail menu is what 314 in Progress is all about. Sharing Almost Famous’s care free love for excess, there are 30 original and classic twists priced £7 and up with quirky additions from mini donuts and candyfloss syrup to ice cream scoops and chunks of fresh fruit.
We went for a rum, guava, pineapple, cherry, coconut and lime Tropic Thunderball cocktail and a vodka, watermelon, peach and apple Waterboy. Both were top notch. The former was a smooth tropical fruit mix topped off with chunks of pineapple in a decorated tankard, while the Waterboy was a lovely sweet watermelon and sour apple combo. With the addition of a bottle of Pacifico beer, the bill came to an agreeable £18.
An exciting menu with substance helps to give 314 in Progress instant credibility. This venue is a well thought out laid back hip hop bar with focus on quality indulgent cocktails.
It is only a matter of time until word spreads and 314 becomes a go-to watering hole in this part of town.