IT’S a weeknight and thousands of people are flocking to Leeds’s First Direct Arena for a concert.
But we’re going against the crowd as we venture into nearby LAB bar at the Merrion Centre.
Well, it used to be LAB bar, but last year the owners hosted pop-up cheese restaurant Homage 2 Fromage, and the three-month venture has now become somewhat of a permanent fixture.
Last time we ventured in, it was a bar-type feel downstairs with the cheese restaurant upstairs.
But since then the cheese element has expanded, taking over the downstairs area as well. As we walk in, the smell of cheese is overwhelming.
We can’t pinpoint if the cheese smell is coming from the food being served at tables next to us, the towering cheese-filled fridge in the centre of the restaurant or the cheese counter on the bar.
In fact, as my companion suggests, it may be all three.
It’s so strong that it almost puts us off staying – which is impressive considering we are both actually quite big cheese fans.
But after a couple of minutes, we become accustomed to it and decide to stay.
We make our way to the bar to order but there’s not a staff member in sight.
After waiting for a few minutes, a queue starts to build up.
Eventually two bartenders appear and we ask for a drinks menu.
After the friendly barman rummages around to find it, we are handed a wine list, with a good range of sparkling wine, red, rose and white wine on offer. There are also some beers on tap.
According to the website, there is a cocktail menu, but there’s no sign of one when we visit.
We go for a glass of prosecco for a very reasonable £3.90.
The drink is light and crisp and goes down a treat.
We also go for a small glass of sauvignon blanc for £2.70 – although it’s worth noting the price is for a smaller size than usual as they do three sizes here – 125ml, 175ml and 250ml.
It’s one of the best sauvignon blancs I have had in a while, and is perfectly chilled.
To round it off, we share a glass of Portuguese dessert wine for £6.
It’s a generous serving for a dessert wine and is tasty but difficult to finish.
It’s clear that LAB bar/Homage 2 Fromage is no longer just a bar.
With every visit, the cheese element is becoming more central to their offering.
Offering a great range of both wine and cheese, that could be good news for die-hard dairy fans.
But it might be slightly off-putting for punters wanting to nip in for a quick odour-free drink.