Smokestack Review: a vibrant slice of New Orleans on Lower Briggate, central Leeds

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You can't walk past Smokestack and ignore the loud blues music which rolls out of the front door and onto the sidewalk.

It's a bar which announces its character proudly and doesn't fail to deliver on its promise of big, boozey, blues-y fun.

From a poky doorway on Lower Briggate, you'll go up some narrow stairs to find a vibrant, atmospheric bar designed to take you away from Leeds, West Yorkshire and whisk you off to New Orleans.

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Between rusting instruments mounted on exposed brickwork are Paris cabaret posters and black and white snaps of bygone music stars - it's the perfect drinking spot for music lovers and those with a yen to let themselves loose from 2022 awhile as you drink to the sound of maracas and double bass and husky smokers' voices.

'Beware pick-pockets and loose women' reads a sign hanging by the bar which join velour curtains and cast-iron table legs in setting the tone of an early-hours-of-the-morning visit.

But when my companion and I visit early on a weekday, the bar presents a different experience to the raucous, spirited den of liquor and dancing I know it to be of a Saturday night, with the daylight revealing some quirky, personal touches - a collection of little rubber ducks and a blackboard listing each of the bar staff's favourite drinks.

We are served by tattooed maverick with a razor-sharp knowledge of spirits and a slightly laissez-faire approach to tending a bar whose emptiness is accentuated by the late afternoon sun streaming through the window.

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Smokestack. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.Smokestack. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Smokestack. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

He pays careful attention to the flavours, tasting my drink with a clean spoon before tweaking it and tailoring it to my taste by withholding sugar syrup to suit the sweetness of my tooth. It's some performance from the bartender who, thumb-twiddling at the end of a long dayshift, is keen to show off his flair, but the presentation of the cocktails is spare and a little underwhelming given the price.

We order a Tramp Stamp Martini - which is, as suggested by the playful menu, 'for fans of Pornstar Martinis, Bellinis, Tinder' - and a Rosa Colada, whose encrusted-rim attracts envious glances from a neighbouring table who then opt to order their own.

The cocktails are tasty but no-frills, though it's the energy of the place that makes it worth a visit - there's few better spots a late-night boogie in Leeds than its jazzy, writhing dancefloor.

Address: 159A Lower Briggate, Leeds LS1 6LY

Telephone: 0113 245 2222

Opening hours: Tues-Thurs, 4pm-3am; Fri, 4pm-4am; Sat, 1pm-4am; Sun 4pm-3am.


Drinks: 6

Value: 5

Atmosphere: 8

Service: 7