Heading into Oporto late on a week night, it was perhaps unfair to expect to see the bar in all its bustling, energetic popularity.
But to be honest, it was all the better for it.
Call Lane on a weekend, for this reviewer, is one tiresome mass in which punters can’t hear each other speak as they terminally stand arms-crossed to get served. Brrr. So late on a mid-week evening, it’s arguably the best time to go – you get to see the bars for what they really are. Oporto seems to have changed a bit in the couple of years since Barfly last dropped in, and looks more rough and ready than before, in a stylised way, though it’s difficult to take too much in with the low, red lighting. One eye-catching seasonal feature is a prosphetic severed head wearing a Santa hat attached to one of the fans, circling above. How festive!
It’s also good to see that a varied demographic are into the place – there are the university students dancing with the DJs, the over-30s who obviously have something to celebrate drinking fizz, and the odd couple who wander in for just the one.
For drinks, my friend goes for a pint of Brooklyn (£5.90, oof!) while I try Oporto’s own lager (£3), which is serviceable and tasty enough even if not one to wax lyrical over.
The music on the night we go is mostly modern indie with the odd ‘classic’ thrown in later, played loudly and lapped up by the vast majority of the bar’s main room. There’s a second room with plenty of seats for anyone who wants to get away from the busier area.
My friend suggests that it feels a bit like the last good place open on a night out in a small town, and because of the varied clientele I know what he means, but this is Leeds, and post-last orders there are plenty of options down Call Lane evening on a Wednesday, so it’s clearly a popular place people still enjoy. It’s been around for 21 years, apparently.
We ask whether there’s any wheat beer, as my pal is big fan, and although there isn’t, the friendly barman offers a close substitute. London Fields Brewery’s 3 Weiss Monkeys (£3.90, five per cent) is an IPA and wheat beer hybrid with “bursts of banana and citrus”, according to the company’s own website. It’s a nice tipple, and though I don’t recall such flavours, we’re satisfied.
Aside from the continental lagers, ciders and craft ale on tap and in the fridges, there’s also, as you’d expect, a large range of spirits. During the day, it also has a pop-up vegan diner as well.
Before we leave, people start dancing on tables to Supergrass’s Alright.
It’s safe to say Oporto serves the timeless social function of being a place where one and all can come and be themselves. It’s one of those places that’ll just keep on offering what it offers, and by and large people will take it up.
Address: 33 Call Ln, Leeds LS1 7BT]