The news that Leeds’ best known karaoke bar had shut its doors for good was tough to take for the city’s tipsy crooners.
The realisation that work nights out might never feature as many dodgy singalongs was a positive for many, nevertheless, for the showmen and women among us, the loss of OK Karaoke was a sad day.
Having lain empty for months upon months, the East Parade venue is in the midst of a revamp into a Spanish tapas restaurant with a compact bar beneath.
The Office basement bar is one of the newest recruits to the city’s bar circuit. It’s tucked away below the forlorn-looking OK Karaoke and is easy to miss from street level.
Two weeks after its low key opening, Barfly decided to take the steps down into this confused cosy bar.
Spanish music rang around the venue as we walked into an understandably quiet space given its hard-to-spot location and we were greeted by a Spanish bartender eager to serve us in this quite modern, but not particularly uniform space.
Sparkling black hard wearing flooring lines the bar space, which has an impressive black metal bar sporting the grand Office logo that is backlit with glowing neon lights.
The metal-topped bar is backed by a neon spirit rack that constantly changes colour which itself is lit by twinkling fishbowl glass lights and sits beside elaborate black and white patterned textured feature walls.
All these elements dominate the venue stylistically so that it looks something more akin to a swanky nightclub or champagne bar at first glance.
As a result The Office’s rustic scents of Spain, through its wood-panelled walls, flamenco music and beer barrel high tables, are drowned out somewhat.
Don’t get me wrong, the space has been well used and this place has only just opened but it does seem a little conflicted from the off.
It appears as though The Office is trying to pull in punters from its business quarter surroundings as well as from its Spanish tapas alter ego upstairs. But these are two very different concepts.
Especially in a part of town that has dropped off a little – with the closure of nearby popular restaurant Akbar’s due to development next door and the end of Prohibition bar – The Office needs a unique selling point.
Making more of its Spanish niche might come when the groundfloor tapas restaurant opens but on first visit it is difficult to place The Office’s appeal.
Its drinks offering is pretty broad and varied, with the bartender open to requests for classic cocktails, plenty of beers, ciders and wines in the fridges and a pleasant beer trio on tap comprising of Bombardier, Estrella Damm and DNA.
We plumped for a rum-based Mojito cocktail, which was a bit strong on the soda water, and a rum and coke. We followed those with a pint of Estrella and a small bottle of Magners cider, which brought the bill to a decent value £18.10.
It’s early days for The Office.
Clearly plenty of money has been thrown at turning what used to be basement karaoke booths into a bar with a fresh outlook.
Decent prices, an unusual bar space and friendly service are all good ingredients but time will tell whether this place’s mixed appeal proves a cocktail for success in the city centre.