Bar review: The Maven, Call Lane, Leeds

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A throwback to the style and secrecy of prohibition era America, The Maven is a bar with attitude.

Specialising in a broad array of complex cocktails, this classy upstairs escape has cemented a reputation as a high quality cocktail bar over the past two years or so.

Gone are the days that city drinkers were unaware of The Maven’s secretive unsigned street-level stairwell entrance on upper Call Lane near Bad Apples and The Wire – revellers have cottoned on.

Now on Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll often see a queue of punters waiting to be waved inside.

The lack of that early sense of exclusivity and escapism from the rest of busy Call Lane, which once helped The Maven stand alone, is now gone but the appeal of quality cocktails in a cool, themed environment is still a big draw.

Once you’ve made your way up the unusual tiled stairwell and walk two sets of thick wooden doors – the first emblazoned with Maven’s ‘M’ – you enter a dark wood, cream and dark blue space that oozes character.

Quirky decorative touches, such as a mocked up parrot cage, wall-mounted serving trays, deer skulls and tiger taxidermy, punctuate a slick main bar space that is centred around a lengthy, thick dark wooden bar with an enviable mirror-backed rack of spirits, which is staffed by bartenders wearing bowties and braces. Basic wood tables and stools provide ample seating bordered by a thick black leather banquette.

Since Barfly last reviewed The Maven, a second bar has been opened up to the right of the DJ booth, which provides an area filled with black leather booths and a similarly stylish secondary bar often used for functions.

A classic RnB, rap and Motown playlist featuring everything from Cameo and Mark Morrison to Womack and Womack adds a welcome modern compromise to this heavily-styled bar.

Its gramophone light fittings, veiled curtains and ornamental mirrors combine with the modern soundtrack to create a pleasant mix of the old and new.

The Maven’s ever-increasing popularity, particularly with the under 35 crowd, has not taken away from its well-put-together cocktail menu however.

The expert bar staff are open to suggestions, while offering a complex range of signature cocktails from around £7.50 to suit all tastes. You can also choose from a small selection of wines and champagnes, and a number of bottled beers although there are none on draught.

You’ll struggle to find any buy-one-get-one-free offers in The Maven but, by the same token, you’ll struggle to find a duff cocktail.

We went for an elaborate blow torch-boosted mixed rum, blackcurrant and cherry liqueur Jamaican Blazer at £10 and a mint-infused whiskey and ginger beer Spiced Julep at £7.50. The mixes were both impressively made, well presented and delicious. We followed those with two bottles of Estrella Damm Spanish beer to bring the bill to a premium £25.30.

The Maven is a sharp, well-themed city bar with substance. Situated a stone’s throw from popular Call Lane stalwarts such as Jake’s Bar, Oporto and Call Lane Social, this effortlessly cool venue is bringing high quality cocktails to the masses.

Everything comes at a price, but if you’re after tailored drinks in a top city setting, The Maven is more than worth your time.

Barfly rating: 5/5

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