The atmospheric common room vibe is something that many bars aspire to.
And while some venues go all out on glitzy decor and others opt for exotic and experimental menus to create that welcoming factor, Strawberry Fields – known to many as Strawbs – goes down a different route.
There are no spangly light fittings, luxurious leather banquettes or cocktails made from Moet & Chandon to draw groups in here.
Instead this family-owned cocktail bar and cafe, which has become an established venue on the Otley Run pub crawl, focuses on friendliness, simplicity and value.
Strawbs, which is based down the road from Leeds University on Woodhouse Lane, feels like a strange middleground between a youth club and a student common room.
Daubed in red paint to make it stand out to passers-by, the bar oddly splits into two before you’ve even entered as the stairs invite you to the upper floor before you’ve even entered the main bar’s doors.
We opted to nip into what is an unusual and slightly shabby-looking downstairs space, which houses a pokey bar featuring two beer pumps and a couple of fridges under the stairs on the left.
The floor is lined with light wood-coloured laminate flooring, while the rough walls are covered in white paint and dotted with huge, garish fabric strawberries, framed photo collages of punters on previous nights and odd painted murals of characters including a bearded 70s disco-lover.
The furniture is a mix of simple sofas draped in ill-fitting red blankets and simple dark wooden chairs and tables.
It has that weathered student halls style to it, which, though a bit rough around the edges, certainly seems to fit well with some of the students and pub crawl punters who are passing through looking for a cheap night on the tiles.
On our midweek visit, we were greeted by the incredibly friendly owner Yvette and quickly served drinks from the bar’s bargain basement menu.
There are around 20 varieties of cocktail on offer, which are all pretty simplistic, cost just £3.99 and are regularly available at two for £7. You can also choose from a variety of shooters and ‘bombs’ which are seemingly all geared at the younger end of punters.
There are also Stella Artois and Carlsberg lagers on tap, a handful of well-priced bottled beers and ciders in the fridges. You can also choose from a basic selection of wines.
We went for a couple of cheap and cheerful cocktails, with a refreshing white rum, lemonade and raspberry liqueur Raspberry Razzle and a simple banana liqueur, orange juice and white rum Banana Rumble.
We followed those with a pint of Carlsberg and bottle of Magners cider, bringing the bill to a very reasonable £13.
Open Monday to Saturday from 7pm until late, the venue caters to its lively crowd in a very open manner.
As well as cashing in on money-saving offers, you can also play beer pong and even bring along your own iPod and hook it up to the sound system. When we nipped in, the likes of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Robert Palmer were on in the background.
There is a social, if not luxurious, feel to Strawbs and in many ways that’s something to behold but at the same time there is much to dislike.
Its out-there and quite tired decor make it somewhat hard to bear from the outset but if you’re willing to sit through that, the common room vibe is very much alive here.