Bar review: Smokestack, Leeds

PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Smokestack on Lower Briggate is not short of custom, as we discovered when we visited on a busy Saturday night. It was gone midnight when we reached the bar, which is renowned for its cocktails and understated sense of style.

I understand they also have bands gigging here from time to time but it’s a relatively intimate space and as we make our way to the bar, which is already three deep as we enter, it’s hard to imagine they would fit in here when it’s busy.

Barfly.... Smokestack, Lower Briggate, Leeds.

Barfly.... Smokestack, Lower Briggate, Leeds.

There’s a new ‘Bullfrog Blues’ music night on Sundays, which I’m guessing is a little bit hectic.

Still, it’s one of those places you feel instantly at home in. Eventually, after a short battle to the bar involving subtle elbows and strange shoulder movements, we managed to get served and promptly ordered two G&Ts.

Such was the traffic on the night however that my partner noticed - quite by chance it has to be said - that the bar tender made the gin up to the level by using the dregs of numerous already opened tonic bottles, which from one point of view is laudable.

I mean, we’re all told ‘waste not, want not’ at some point in our lives and I dare say it’s a mantra many of us hold dear, even though for the most part we could probably abandon it.

However, we’re not talking here about making the weekly family shop stretch that bit further or saving a few quid on the bills in some other way. Simply put: when you’re paying for something, you don’t expect someone’s left-overs.

When we pointed this out to the bar tender, the response was to ask whether we wanted a fresh drink making. This was a silly question. Of course we did. What did he expect us to day? ‘No, just leave it, mate, I’ll have my G&T flat. I don’t want to put you out. But thanks for asking.”

So, the bar tender begrudgingly obliged, although there was no apology and while I appreciate they are rushed off their feet at such times, it could have been dealt with a little better.

Moments later, we received the new G&T, made using a fresh (unopened) miniature bottle of tonic. So we got there in the end and in the grand scheme of things, it would be unfair to draw wider conclusions from the incident, because the service here is otherwise slick and attentive, the atmosphere sultry and laid back, with a great choice of tunes wafting over the hum of conversation.

Smokestack has become something of an institution in Leeds - it’s known far and wide and it’s central location means its always going to be a firm favourite for people on a night out.

Opening times: Sunday-Thursday 5pm-3am, Friday and Satruday 5pm-4am. Website:



SCORE: 3/5