The Vanguard is a laid-back cafe by day and a cool bar by night…
First it was Roland’s, then it was The Domino Club – now the people behind two of the city’s most popular haunts have now opened their third Leeds bar. The Vanguard is two venues in one – it’s a smart, modern cafe during the day where you can get a quick brew and a bite to eat, but at night, it transforms into a cool-as-heck cocktail and wine bar.
The Vanguard is slap bang in the middle of the city, in the former Cielo Roasters cafe on Duncan Street, and they’ve worked hard to make to make it serve a dual purpose. “We fell in love with the building straight away,” General Manager Craig Mahon told us. “The main challenge with this build was how to make the space truly multi-functional. In our experience places that try to be both cafe and bar struggle as they are usually one or the other, a cafe that sells booze or a bar that does coffee.”
They’ve found the balance with The Vanguard. It’s a spacious, airy venue that’s perfect for taking a break from the hustle and bustle outside. The floor-to-ceiling windows let in loads of natural light, while the tan leather booths, parquet flooring and long marble-topped bar make it look effortlessly chic.
Their brunch menu is served from 8am to 4pm, so you can tuck into dishes like Blueberry Oat Porridge, House Baked Beans on Toast and The Vanguard Breakfast Roll. From 12pm, they add lunch options, like Reuben Sandwich and the Smoked Haddock Kedgeree, but if you need somewhere to start, Craig has a top tip.
“Try the Eggs Benedict from the brunch menu,” he told us. “Instead of the bacon that’s usually used, we’ve gone for a sweet glazed home cooked ham, inspired by making such a ham for my Christmas dinner this year. The sweet, thick-cut ham with the tangy and rich hollandaise works a treat with a perfectly cooked and runny poached egg.”
To go alongside the food, they’ve sourced the best coffee possible. Robert Gordon is their Head Barista. He’s worked in and opened cafes across Australia and New Zealand, but for this, he’s kept it local with North Star. You can choose their house blend or go for an ever-changing guest blend, and whichever wins you over, it’ll be made using a La Marzocco Modbar machine, making this the only place outside of London that uses one.
If you fancy a daytime treat, you can try one of their lunch-friendly cocktails. They’re light on the booze, but big on taste. Take the Breakfast Martini for example, it’s is made with gin, marmalade and earl grey syrup. Or try one of their daily Bellinis, made using Hattingley Valley English Sparkling Wine and the homemade puree of the day.
Everything changes at 4.30pm when the baristas are replaced by mixologists, and the music is turned up a notch. It’s also darker and more atmospheric, ready for evening crowds, but the biggest change has to be the bar. During the day it’s filled with coffee, tea and plants, but at night, it slides round to reveal a new bar filled to the brim with beer, wine and spirits.
You can pore over an eclectic wine list, made up of 30 different hand-picked bottles, most of which are available by the glass. They’re also bringing over the ‘break even bottle’ that’s so popular at Roland’s and The Domino Club, but this time it’s focussed on wine. Each week, they’ll get an exceptional case of wine and sell it at cost price, with tipples like the Lytton Springs 2010 by Ridge Vineyards in California.
Alongside the wine, they’ll serve a menu of classic cocktails with a distinctive Vanguard twist. For the Pisco Sour, they use fennel syrup to give it a unique edge, and they’ve got a classic Vesper cocktail made with Douglas Fir Vodka, which uses pines from the Douglas Fir tree. If you like beer, they’ve got that covered too, with bottles and cans from Magic Rock, Beavertown, Camden and more.
The food offering also changes at night. The menu is as petite as the dishes themselves – you can choose from five small plates, all priced at £4 each or three for £10. From Smoked Mackerel Arancini to Cauliflower Pakoras and Pea & Sweet Potato Falafel, there’s something for everyone here – they even do a cheeseboard, loaded with Stinking Bishop, Harrogate Blue, Wensleydale Kit Calvert and Olde Yorke.
There’s already a lot to love about The Vanguard, but this is just the beginning. They’ve taken over the three floors above and they plan to transform them into six hotel suites in the coming years, so they really are living up to their name – after all, the definition of vanguard is a group of people leading the way.
The Vanguard, 7 Duncan Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DQ. It’s open 8am to 11pm every day.