Bar review: Roland's, Call Lane, Leeds

PIC: James HardistyPIC: James Hardisty
PIC: James Hardisty
One quite privileged problem with places like Call Lane is that, by a certain time of the evening - or morning - each bar can begin to feel exactly like the last.

A night of hopping from venue to venue becomes a blur as each dark, neon-filled space loses its particular charm.

Although by now part of the furniture on the street after four years, Roland’s is perhaps still a bit of a departure this, and from what you expect along the drag more generally.

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It’s spacious and is made up of nice, wooden features, with plenty of standing room in the bar area. I’ve found myself in there a number of times recently, enjoying the relaxed setting. On a recent visit, it was for post-work drinks with a colleague - an ideal spot if you’re lucky enough to work around the corner on The Calls (we’ve had to amble from across town, however).

My friend also suggested it’s a good place for a first date, and I can see why: stylish but not flashy, welcoming but not overbearing – because you’re looking to impress - great drinks.

But it’s a pint of beer to start. Roland’s deals in the pricer end of things, though to be fair much of what’s on offer is above the usual standard. We go for a Vedett (£6) and Beavertown’s Neck Oil Session IPA (£5.60).

These look almost indistinguishable, and taste similar, but the first is a Belgian beer and the second from a modern London brewery.

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The latter usually comes in one of the Beavertown’s colourful, illustrated cans, but a chance to quaff as a pint is welcomed.

Both are crisp and easy-going but pack plenty of flavour.

We seize a spot outside, in the small seated shelter among the chatty exiled smokers on high stools, and it’s only natural our attention soon moves to the gin cocktails advertised on a chalk board nearby.

We whittle down our choices to a Roland’s Negroni (Star of Bombay Gin, Sipsmith Sloe, Campari, Martini Reserva Rubino, £8), and a Gin Daisy (Bombay Sapphire gin, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, bitters and soda, £7.50).

Our intention was to share these and discuss, critic-style, but such was the difference in flavour that we had to come clean. I hated the Gin Daisy, he loved it. I loved the Negroni, he hated it.

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Which makes sense, as the former is certainly for a sweet tooth and the latter is for someone with a palate preferring harsher tastes.

I found that it didn’t differ hugely to any Negroni I’ve been served in the past - strong, always identifiable - but it certainly tasted great.

A very respectable selection of whiskeys/whiskys, and world beers are also offered.

The unique selling point of Roland’s might be that in a time of themed pubs and novelty, it’s simply a classy bar.

Rating: ****