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

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

By YEP Reviewer
Saturday, 16th April 2022, 11:45 am

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.

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

Cocktails at Smokestack.

Telephone: 0113 245 2222

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

Website: www.smokestackleeds.co.uk

Drinks: 6

Smokestack.

Value: 5

Atmosphere: 8

Service: 7

The bar at Smokestack. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.