The Watermark is the latest cocktail bar to open in Leeds. Expect creative concoctions and tasty sharing platters in a cool-as-heck watering hole.
The Watermark has taken over the old Epicurus bar on Cross Belgrave Street. This cool cocktail joint comes from Dariush Afshar Haghighi and Filippos Filippopoulos, two mixologists who’ve worked at some of the biggest bars in the UK. They wanted to create a more homely, down-to-earth venue for people to enjoy quality creative cocktails and tasty cheeseboards until the early hours of the morning – and that’s exactly what they’ve done.
The Watermark isn’t exactly new. In fact, it has a remarkable history. It actually started as a ‘home bar’ – Dariush and Filippos both worked in cocktail development, so they turned the kitchen of their Beeston residence into a place where they could work on their new creations and collaborate with other mixologists and chefs. Here, they created the kind of drinks and atmosphere that they wanted for their own bar, before doing a series of bar takeovers in the UK and Europe.
“The idea to open a bar was always a topic that came up on the odd evening when we were both in the house after work, but there was no real ‘what’ or ‘why’ to the bar idea,” Dariush explained. “It was little more than a pipe-dream for a couple of bartenders wanting to have a bar that was ours. It was only after about 3 years of owning one of our favourite bars in Leeds, our home bar, that we decided we wanted to open a bar in the likeness of it and with the style of hospitality you would expect with walking into someone’s home.”
The venue is spread across two floors. The bar downstairs is a warm and welcoming venue, with bold blue and red walls contrasting against deep mahogany furniture, leather benches and soft lighting. Upstairs, Death and Taxes, the former members-only bar at Epicurus, is now known as The Living Room, and you no longer need a membership to get in when this hideaway opens on Friday and Saturday nights, complete with carpet floors, leather sofas and a grand dining table.
So what drinks can you look forward to? Downstairs in The Watermark, the cocktail menu is typical of Dariush and Filippo’s background – it’s ever-changing as they come up with new creations on a regular basis. There are just eight to choose from, split into Highballs and Lowballs. The former includes drinks like Shrub-Alub-Adub-Dub, which brings white port and tonic together with a pineapple and sage shrub, while the latter promises drinks like the Aegean Breeze, a mix of Metaxa 12 Star Brandy, Amato Montenegro, fig liqueur and cold brew coffee.
Need a recommendation? According to Dariush, you should try The Bartender’s Brunch, “It’s a combination of two classic cocktails, a Garibaldi and an Americano, which is then twisted. It’s got a low ABV with the soft bitterness of Campari and the round fruit notes of sweet vermouth. We use leftover zested oranges, which would otherwise be thrown out and juice them. Then add proteins from the soya bean and aerate with nitrous oxide to make a stable but light and fluffy orange foam. This is shaken with ATXA Mango vermouth and Campari and topped slightly with ginger ale. The ginger effervescence complements the bitterness of the Campari and lifts the foam to the rim of the glass. The garnish is a stack of roasted kiko corns wrapped in homemade mango leather.”
It highlights their ongoing search for creativity, which they pass on to their bartenders – each month, they’re challenged to come up with a new drink, so they can develop their skills and bring something unique to the menu. Don’t worry if you prefer something more straightforward, though. The Living Room has a menu of classics with a twist, or you can also choose from a small, rotating list of craft beer and wine.
You won’t go hungry at The Watermark either. They’ve got a menu of small plates, alongside meat and cheese boards, all of which can be ordered until they serve the last drink of the night, which means on Fridays and Saturdays, you can eat until 4am. The small plates menu includes dishes like the Marinated Tomato Salad and the Hummus with Pitta, but the stand out has to be their Crumpets, which come with a selection of chutneys, Marmite, whiskey-washed butter and cheese.
“I would recommend a bit of both sharing boards for sure,” Dariush confessed. “You get a selection of two of our daily sliced meats from the meat board and a selection of two of the cheeses. Half of our locally-sourced butchers best pork pie, caramelised onion & rhubarb chutney, sweet tomato & chilli chutney, a selection of pickles, quince jelly, crisp thin slices of Bramley apple, grapes, lightly toasted and seasoned bread drizzled with our exclusive Greek olive oil from our farm in Aigio, Greece.”
Everything The Watermark offers has been carefully thought out, from the inventive cocktails to the simple food menu and the extra bits that set the bar apart, like the monthly movie nights and their ‘board games and boilermakers’ event on Sundays. It’s a bar that lives at the cutting edge of creativity, so why not pop in and see what genius they come up with next?
The Watermark, 3 Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JP. It’s open 3pm to 12am on Tuesdays, 3pm to 1am on Wednesdays, 3pm to 3am on Thursdays, 3pm to 4am on Fridays and Saturdays and 4pm to 12am on Sunday.Cover image © Copyright Leeds-List 2018 by Alia Drewery