Leeds is renowned for its diverse selection of bars, from high end cocktail lounges to ‘spit and sawdust’ ale houses and everything in between.
It’s also known as one of the top dining destinations in the North, so here, by way of a short guide, are places which manage to effortlessly combine both, while carving out their own unique place in the market.
Until relatively recently, this was a cocktail bar of some repute, a bolthole in the middle of the city, accessible via a single doorway sandwiched between two other businesses down in The Calls.
When the Maven opened seven years ago, we thought it was pretty cool. It was dark and moody with chandeliers and dudes behind the bar who wore braces and poured cocktails from china teapots and offered 47 different gins - which was a lot in those days. Now the Maven is serving food. With plenty of room upstairs, they have redesigned the space and created a second-floor restaurant and private dining room. It has the same dark walls as the bar, a new cocktail bar at one end with glowing amber lighting highlighting a fine display of bottles, wooden tables and school chairs. The menu is long and inviting, the service swift.
It’s been a mainstay of the Leeds dining scene for so long now it almost feels like part of the furniture but Bundobust continues to sit at the top of a tree many might argue it planted – the idea of serving craft ale alongside some of the best vegetarian Indian food you are likely to find in the area. It began life as a collaboration between award-winning Prashad and craft beer cafe The Sparrow.
The Hungry Bear
Situated in Meanwood, this is a restaurant first but offers an extensive range of beers created in its one-room brewhouse upstairs. It has been here since 2013 and makes 65-litre batches of ale. It’s won plaudits over the years for its combination of excellent craft ales – including bourbon porters and super strength Indian pale ales – and superb food.
Built in 1715, and with its interior dating from the late 1800s, Whitelock’s is (allegedly) the oldest public house in Leeds. I say allegedly, as The Bingley Arms, Bardsey, which claims to be over 1,000 years old, might want to stake its claim. Under new ownership since May 2012, Whitelocks have infused the place with new life, opening its sister bar The Turk’s Head, after which the yard it occupies is named after, in 2016. Beside the ale, think classic fish & chips, homemade beef in ale pie and black pudding scotch egg.