DON’T even go there,” says owner Gerti Masllavica, batting back my question about just how much it cost him to turn a disused fish and chip restaurant into the luxurious Locus bar, a storey above the busy heart of Cross Gates.
It’s almost as though he is in denial at the amount which was spent on this sumptuous refit, which required the floor to be raised, the ceiling to be lowered and a small fortune to be invested in a stylish electric installation.
“Every bar you go into these days seems to be shabby chic – all wood, metal and industry.
“I wanted much more of a Mediterranean feel to it, with soft furnishing and flowers. Shabby chic would definitely have been cheaper.”
Originally from Albania, Gerti has been in the UK for some years now and is the brains behind the excellent Greek restaurant Zorba’s, which opened in 2016.
Locus is directly above, though access to the bar is through a slightly unprepossessing doorway in an alley around the corner.
The first thing that greets you as you approach up a narrow dogleg of stairs is a large black and white image of protesters carrying “We want beer” placards.
This is the first of a series of arresting archive images, mostly beer themed and several showing the Leeds of old.
That nostalgic feel vanishes as you reach the top of the stairwell and step inside, where subdued lighting, candles and giant murals of dense jungle foliage create a bar of sumptuous modern comforts clothed in an air of mystery.
It is so tastefully – and no doubt expensively – done that it has the feel of a rather exclusive gentleman’s club, with its long comfortable banquettes, ornate mirrors, and beautifully lit bar where yellow fairy lights snake between colourful spirit bottles. Tea lights flicker on every table; old blues music thumps and thuds behind a light thrum of conversation.
In a suburb which has long been dominated by traditional pubs, this something very different.
And yet the one thing that it really needs is customers: “The weekends are good,” says Gerti. “This past Friday and Saturday we were really packed, but we know that if we were on the ground floor we would do even better.
There are still a lot of people in Cross Gates who just don’t know that we are here.”
The bar can accommodate up to about 90, and has already become a popular spot for private parties: “We’re actually having to turn bookings down,” says Gerti.
On each table is a drinks list detailing the wines and a great choice of gins.
Aside from the house lager Cruzcampo, the bar’s single draught beer changes all the time.
On this visit it is the hop-heavy Identity Theft from Leeds microbrewery Legitimate Industries – but kegs from local rivals such as Kirkstall and Wilde Child have featured in the past. “We try to focus on beers from the Leeds area,” says Gerti.
At £3.50 for a two-thirds pint schooner, this is not cheap, particularly when compared to the suburban pubs nearby, but sometimes it is worth paying a premium price for the quality surroundings, which has all the feel of being removed, remote. secluded and far from the madding crowd.
LOCUS, CROSS GATES
Address: Austhorpe Road, Cross Gates, LS15 8DX
Type: Comfortable style bar
Opening Hours: 5-11pm Tues-Thurs, 5pm-midnight Fri, 2pm-midnight Sat, 2pm-10pm Sun
Beers: Three keg lines – Cruzcampo lager plus one changing craft ale at around £4.50-pint, plus good choice of bottled beers
Wines: Decent selection available from £3.50-glass and £14-bottle
Food: Cheese and meat platters
Disabled: Difficult. Bar is on first floor up a narrow flight of stairs
Children: Not especially suitable
Entertainment: Occasional special events
Functions: Bar is available for private hire
Parking: On-street parking available nearby
Phone: 0113 232 6678
Website: www. locusbar.com