Bar review: The Social, Merrion Street, Leeds

The Social, Merrion Street, Leeds.
The Social, Merrion Street, Leeds.
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The alternative hipster is finding his home in the bars of Leeds’ Northern Quarter now more than ever.

A burgeoning collection of cool, quirky drinking dens and off the wall indie-inspired independents is creating an earthy bar hub increasingly occupied by skinny jeans and fashionable beards.

Recent additions including The Belgrave Music Hall, It Bar and The Pit have added more variety to what has been an established area of cosmopolitan nightlife for well over a decade.

Mismatched furniture, bare brick walls and alternative playlists are a running theme and with ongoing regeneration seemingly a knock-on effect of the close-by First Direct Arena’s arrival, Leeds’ Northern Quarter is becoming a pin on the map for bar-goers more and more.

The latest addition is The Social – a bar based in Merrion Street, slightly down from Lounge Bar & Grill.

Arriving through a collaboration between Sela Bar, in New Briggate, and the legendary Brudenell Social Club, in Hyde Park, The Social is a bar of simple pleasures.

It follows the stripped-back etiquette of Leeds’s most fashionably understated venues with brick walls and exposed ceiling wiring, while housing a collection of basic non uniform oak chairs and tables, and an eyecatching jigsaw effect wooden bar centre-piece filled with glistening beer pumps to the right. Nevertheless this place has been well-finished, with its green and cream painted ceiling and mirror-backed bar proving very easy on the eye.

And unlike many of its contemporaries, particularly those on Lower Merrion Street, The Social is a broad, airy space that was already bubbling with chatty atmosphere from the young hipster groups gathered there on the Friday we stopped by.

The venue’s floor-to-ceiling glass walls add to that spacious feel, while hanging bulbs and candle-lit tables add a warm glow to a bar dotted with gig posters, retro canvas prints, a piano and even table football.

The Social’s suitably diverse playlist of everything from Maximo Park and Daughter to Grandmaster Flash is also worth noting. It’s a lively, unsophisticated bar befitting of its name.

The menu in here is quite short and sweet. The venue’s social club roots through the Brudenell are easy to trace here, with well priced craft beers, lagers, ciders and changeable real ales galore on tap including its very own Session Lager.

You can also choose from bottled beers and flavoured ciders along with a small selection of wines. Spirits and mixers are available but cocktails are a no-go.

We decided to give a pint of the Session Lager a try along with a pint of Staropramen lager, before a couple of spiced rum and cokes which brought the bill to a great value £11.70.

Open seven days a week, including being open on Friday and Saturday until 1am, this place is very much a venue to have a some social pints or a lively few drinks as part of a Northern Quarter mini-tour.

Its open-to-all modern social club style also makes the venue feel all inclusive, the age range is pretty broad as far as punters are concerned but the crowd is mainly 20-somethings.

The Social fits in perfectly with the emerging Northern Quarter crowd and, as much as it follows a pretty well-appreciated recipe for alternative success, its value, vibe and spacious feel makes it individual enough to attract a strong regular crowd.

Rating: 4/5


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