Nothing signals luxury, expense and celebration quite like champagne.
Investing in the golden bubbles of premium brands is for many a rare treat but, ever more so in Leeds, it’s becoming an attainable one.
You don’t have to break the bank or dress to impress to indulge in the glamorous glow of bubbly in 2014, and it is bars like Epernay, in Great George Street’s Electric Press, that make it something of an affordable treat.
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t a place to come and grab a pint. Instead it’s a quite understated offering of premium fizz and cocktails in a warm, bare brick and weathered wood homage to rustic champagne houses.
Situated in the Electric Press development, which also houses chart music bar/ club Revolution and upmarket chain bar All Bar One, this candlelit retreat is a popular post or pre-Christmas Markets haunt for visitors to the city.
And it’s easy to see why, given its lovely section of the building’s shared covered courtyard, which has all the positives of an outdoor beer garden without Leeds’s ever-colder winter drizzle. Plush black leather armchairs and simple wood-topped tables, covered by redundant parasols and finished with candlestick-laden champagne bottles, set the scene.
Self styled as ‘one of life’s little luxuries’, Epernay offers a more down-to-earth taste of luxury than some of the city’s more overtly flashy venues like the sky high Angelica or Skylounge for example.
After entering through the courtyard you’re presented with a series of soft black leather booths to your right and a marble-topped red brick bar right in front of you, which is bejewelled by hanging champagne glasses.
To the left the venue winds through along an aged wood floors to a seated area featuring a long black banquette and simple wooden tables and black leather chairs, warmly lit by hanging orb glass lights and more bottle candles.
Having visited here in the past, it seems a slightly more toned down version of what it once was, slightly shying away from exuberant expense and in-your-face champagne bottle decoration and playing to its strengths as an alternative to competitors at Trinity Leeds, The Calls and Granary Wharf. Its Thursday night sound track of low key pop music and laid back acoustics from Benjamin Francis Leftwich added to that, bringing in post festive market shoppers, date night couples and older mixed groups.
Menu-wise there is plenty to choose from, with an impressive array of more than 40 bottles of premium champagne and around 20 varieties of white, red, rose and sparkling wine from £5 a glass.
You can also choose from around 36 cocktails, which start at £6, and a small selection of beers and ciders.
We went for a flavoured tequila, triple sec and fruit Mandarin Tommy, a rum, orange bitters and champagne 1796 Classic complete with a fizzing sugar cube at the bottom, and a bottle of Big Wave Hawaiian ale. The cocktails were interesting mixes, particularly the former, which was a refreshing fruit twist on a classic although the champagne mix was more of an acquired taste. The bill came to an agreeable £19.
Epernay is a sparkling alternative to the bustling bubble bars closer to Boar Lane and, with its more laid back approach, offers a different proposition altogether.
It might not have the dazzling views of the city’s sky bars but it does offer a classy menu with a warm reception.