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New to Leeds: Cuckoo

· Ali Turner · Food and Drink

A rather nutty new bar has opened on Call Lane – check out Cuckoo.

Cuckoo Bar

It’s stood empty for too long, but now 37 Call Lane has reopened as a bright, colourful bar where you can indulge in cocktails, craft beer and free pizza.

It’s a little bit Cuckoo. In fact, you might say batshit. They’ve thrown the rulebook out of the window and turned this vast Call Lane drinking den into an instant escape from reality. Think colourful murals, hand-painted by local artists, bright neon signs glaring out from over the bar and quirky themes that pop-up in the most unexpected places – and that’s just the decor.

Cuckoo Bar

Credit: Lucy Forrester, Proud Fox Creative

Although the bar itself is new, it’s not an only child – Cuckoo comes from good Leeds stock. It’s the brainchild of Phil Harrison, a mainstay of the city’s bar scene. He started his first bar with his wife Mel in 2004 – you probably know it as Mean Eyed Cat, but it had a good run as Reform before the rebrand. Verve followed in 2007, with Call Lane Social joining the brood in 2010 and The Tiki Hideaway following suit in 2013. Now they’ve taken over Brooklyn and bolstered their numbers with a fourth venue on Call Lane.

Cuckoo isn’t like its siblings though. As you might remember from its previous incarnation as The Black Swan, it’s a massive unit, and they’re doing it up in stages. The ground floor bar was stage one and it’s now open, but the upstairs event space will be coming in the New Year.

Cuckoo Bar

Credit: Lucy Forrester, Proud Fox Creative

So what can you expect? Well, it’s a party bar. So you can move from afterwork drinks to late night revelry, with a few surprises along the way – like free pizza. That’s right, free pizza. Those famous pizza ovens are still in place, so they’ll be serving a mix of sweet and savoury stone baked pizzas, with some really unusual toppings, and you can try ‘em for free with every drink you buy before 9pm.

If you want something straight up, try the Grande Fuoco, which comes topped with roast tomato, pepperoni and spiced cheese, or the Vegalot, which promises peppers, tomato, spiralizer veg and halloumi. But if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, they have some damned tasty options. How about the Peach Pit? It’s a wonderfully sweet and savoury mix of roast peach and maple syrup with crispy bacon. Or what about the Love or Hate? It’s actually topped with Marmite, cheese and pickle.

Cuckoo Bar

Credit: Lucy Forrester, Proud Fox Creative

They also have a selection of sweet pizzas, so you can skip straight to pudding. It’s going to be tough to choose, but the Wonka Pizza definitely stands out – this bad boy is a chocolate pizza smothered in salted caramel and melted marshmallows. If that’s not your cup of tea, why not try the Blueberry Hill? Who knew blueberries, cream cheese and cinnamon would work so well together?

And the drinks? Well, they’ll have craft beer, with Brooklyn taking pride of place behind the bar, alongside Beavertown’s Black Betty, Siren’s Liquid Mistress and Lervig’s Lucky Jack. Keep an eye on the fridges if you want to try the latest finds – but it’s their Giraffe sharer that’s going to win you over. It’s a tall necked beer-pouring device that you take back to your table, so you can have freshly poured beer as and when you want it.

Cuckoo Bar

Credit: Lucy Forrester, Proud Fox Creative

At its heart though, Cuckoo is a cocktail bar. They have a long menu of age old classics and original concoctions for you to work your way through, so whether you’re after a Porn Star Martini or a Jammy Bast*rd, you won’t be short of choice. For something a little bit different, try the Royal Grape Margarita, it’s a twist on the Mexican Bulldog – now this drink is usually made with lager, but here they’ve replaced it with prosecco for a distinctly different approach.

You can enjoy your drinks anywhere in the bar, which has been transformed into a big open-plan space with pockets of personality. You’ve got bright, colourful artwork at the entrance, a cool potting shed beer roof terrace upstairs and a Narnia-style wardrobe that leads you into the toilets – there’s even a Photo Booth where you can take snaps of your night out.

Cuckoo Bar

Credit: Lucy Forrester, Proud Fox Creative

Cuckoo is a little bit quirky and a little bit different. The free pizza thing is pretty damned tempting, the beer Giraffe is more intriguing still and the decor is crazy as a coconut – the question is, will it be it instant ‘Love or Hate’ like their Marmite pizza? Let us know in the comments.

Cuckoo, 37 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.