Call Lane is the city’s most famous nightspot, and with good reason, because you’ll find a slew of bars that are determined to make your night unforgettable…
Whether you head down The Calls or up Merrion Street, there are loads of places to go out in Leeds – but none of them are quite as famous as Call Lane. Home to everything from cool rock’n’roll haunts to secret cocktail bars, it’s the most famous nightspot in the city – and we’ve created the ultimate guide to help you plan your next night out in Leeds.
Top of Call Lane
You might not realise it, but Call Lane actually starts at the other side of the Corn Exchange, just by the Kirkgate entrance to Leeds Market, and it’s got a couple of Leeds’ favourite bars to try out…
You might have to be a member of the Illuminati to find the entrance to The Maven cocktail lounge, but when you do, you’ll uncover one of the best bars in Leeds. Dressed up in a cool pre-Prohibition America decor, it’s a novel way of adding a different dimension to the existing Call Lane offering, as it brings a sense of elegance amidst the chaos.
And what do you order? Well being a cocktail lover’s paradise, you can take your pick. They present their own take on the classics, such as the Spiced Daiquiri, and offer up original incarnations (try the Smoking Tommy if you’re a margarita fan). They have one of the finest collections of spirits you’ll find in a Leeds bar, so if you can’t find the cocktail you want, just ask them as they’ll be able to make it for you.
The Maven, 1st Floor, 1 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7DH.
If you’re after something a little heavier, with drinks served alongside a fair helping of Black Sabbath or Mastodon, Bad Apples may well be the Call Lane bar you’ve been looking for. The rock fan’s ideal soundtrack (they even promise no Morrissey – ever) and skeletons in the floor make for a buzzing atmosphere, one that’s quite different to its neighbours.
But that doesn’t mean it totally sits out of character from the rest of Call Lane’s bars. In fact, they too pride themselves on cocktails and quality lagers, but with their own rocking spin – how about a Deep Purple Flirt or a Planet Caravan? They cater to what would make their own staff come in, which is always a good sign, and the busy, but not absolutely heaving evenings, even at weekends, make it a pleasant alternative to the norm – rocktail bars are a local source of pride.
Bad Apples, 7 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7DH.
Wire is akin to a Leeds right of passage. Most locals between 18 and 30 have spent a murky night in here, spinning on their toes with a lager or shot in hand to some classic indie rock’n’roll or raising the roof with some of the world’s best DJs. Its list of club nights is impressive – Future Daze, Sub:terranea, Overflow and Butter Side Up are all cornerstones of the Leeds nightlife scene and help give rise to the popularity of new (and old) genres of music.
The underground venue isn’t massive, but that plays into its intimate, everlasting charm (and ability to make you boil at the depths of winter). With the help of the ground-shaking Funktion One Soundsystem, names such as Theo Parrish, Four Tet, Tensnake and Annie Mac have all been responsible for memorable nights out here. As a result, Wire has become an integral part of the city’s nightlife, particularly for those students who have weekdays free to party.
Wire, 2a Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DN.
Celebrate all things Yorkshire with a trip to Slocken on Call Lane. It’s a cool venue spread across two floors, both of which are stripped back to bare walls and exposed brickwork. Downstairs, you’ll find their well-stocked bar, while upstairs you can take advantage of their pool and foosball, as well as live music and sport depending on what’s on.
When it comes to drinks, they have something for everyone – you’ll find a line-up of great Yorkshire beers from breweries like Kirkstall and Ilkley behind the bar, or you can go for one of their unique cocktails – they’ve taken classic sweets and reinvented them with booze to put a new twist on Midget Gems and Fruit Pastilles. Hungry? Try one of their unusual pizzas, like the Sunday Dinner, which is topped with broccoli, cauliflower, gravy and a Yorkshire pud.
Slocken, 10-12 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DN.
Call Lane Strip
The heart of Call Lane runs from the Corn Exchange to the junction with The Calls, and it has earned itself quite a reputation over the past decade or so as the vibrant heart of Leeds’ nightlife. That’s even if you do have to battle your way through the hordes of revellers that pedestrianise the street of a weekend.
Red’s True Barbecue
Red’s True Barbecue is a stone-cold Leeds institution, and one that has taken flight to places like Nottingham, Manchester and Liverpool, but their original home is on Leeds’ Call Lane and it’s always packed out with diners hungry for slabs of juicy, marinated meats.
That’s what Red’s is all about – meat, slow cooked and smoked to give it an intense flavour. Their menu will have you drooling, whether it’s the Kansas City Strip Steak, Baby Back Ribs or the double patty Donut Burger with smoked peppered bacon and crispy onions – you’ll soon see why Red’s has come to be regarded as one of the city’s finest exports. It can get incredibly busy, but it’s certainly worth the wait.
Red’s True Barbecue, 1 Cloth Hall Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2HD.
Jake’s Bar and Still Room
For over a decade, Jake’s Bar has been a solid force behind Call Lane’s revival into one of the city’s most thriving nightspots. Venturing down (or back up) the stairs might not be the easiest or cheapest thing to achieve in high heels or after one of their famous cocktails, but you will not be left short-changed. The ‘thank God it’s Friday’ atmosphere is all over the venue, backed up by a soundtrack of dance anthems, classic hip-hop tunes and indie sing-a-longs.
Jake’s has an advantage in that it has its own still room, allowing them to create their own unique recipe spirits and liqueurs, as well as selling a fine range of draught and bottled beers. But those cocktails – first you have to battle your way through one of the most detailed, thirst-inducing menus you’ll find at a Leeds bar. When you’ve come to terms with the offering, you have to try one of them out whether it’s based on gin (Blighty Mojito), vodka (Black Beauty), whiskey (Rob Roy), or whatever else Jake’s have ready to throw at you.
Jake’s Bar and Still Room, 29 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
Oporto survives on three staples – good music, good people and good drinks, and it’s this triumvirate that has helped build the Leeds bar up into a bastion of drinking invincibility. Well, if you can withstand their notoriously rowdy antics that is. The latter of the three is, of course, vital, and whether it’s beer or spirits, you’re well looked after with a hefty selection behind the bar.
Music, however, is what makes the place so popular. Gigs are on weekly, and feature esteemed nights by the likes of Communion (Noah and the Whale, Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons) and The Gaslight Club (Sam Airey, Slow Club, The Crookes), while the soundtrack nods back to classic rock’n’roll, soul and dance from the past five decades. And with Knave’s Kitchen supplying the vegan junk food to feed their punters, Oporto seems to have all bases covered.
Oporto, 33 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
Bringing a taste of the ‘old town street vendors of Mexico’ to Leeds, walking into Neon Cactus is very much like stepping into the heart of Central America. Its rustic charm springs from the old wooden bar top and tables to the bar backdrop which rings of true Mexican spirit, with all the right spirits and trinkets on display. It makes it a comfortable place to chill and chow during the day, and a lively hotspot at night.
Drinks-wise, you should obviously take a look at their five margaritas or indulge in one of their many tequila-based cocktails, like the El Saltamontes which blends El Jimador Reposado, tomato juice and cactus spices. It’s the perfect place to experience real Latino culture with over 50 different variations of blanco, reposado and anejo tequila on offer too. Need a bite to eat? Head in during the day to try their street food-inspired menu of tacos, nachos and burritos.
Neon Cactus, 35 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
Cuckoo is a bright, colourful party bar that’s all about escapism. Step inside and discover a world of weird and wonderful eccentricities, from the secret rooftop garden to a Narnia-inspired wardrobe that leads to the loos. Alongside the unusual, you’ll also find cosy booths, neon signs and handpainted murals.
The bar is well stocked with craft beer from the likes of Beavertown, Lervig and Siren but this is really a cocktail bar. They take the classics and give them their own twist, like the Watermelon Margarita which brings together tequila, melon liqueur, watermelon syrup, lime and sugar with a wedge of fresh watermelon. Hungry? They do sweet and savoury stone-baked pizzas and you can get a free slice with every drink you buy before 9pm.
Cuckoo, 37 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
Roland’s Bar offers something a little different from its neighbours – it’s a more laid-back, grown-up bar that makes the most of its small space. The little touches such as the brass beer taps, chalkboard menu, hanging mirrors and fairly minimal furniture leave more space for folk to enjoy Roland’s two specialities – beer and music.
To a consistently fantastic playlist of classic soul music that’s bound to get the feet moving with little issue, Roland’s loves beer, and one look at their menu suggests they’re not lying. It’s a place to try new and interesting beers, like the bottles of Icelandic Einstok and the American Portland ales on draught. But it’s not just beer, they have an envious cocktail menu too, with the Margarita and Espresso Martini popular favourites, as well as their own one-off creations.
Roland’s Bar, 39 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
Northern Guitars Cafe Bar
If you’re a fan of classic rock, Call Lane is home to your go-to bar – and it’s in a guitar shop. Northern Guitars has been selling the finest axes for over three decades, but they’ve split their shop in two. The guitars are upstairs, and the ground floor is home to the finest rock & roll bar you never knew existed.
It’s a really cool space, with reclaimed furniture and exposed brickwork partially covered in classic gig posters and photos of rock icons. Tunes from The Clash, David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac blare out of the speakers and they have a retro jukebox in the corner too. Treat yourself to a couple of pints of Yorkshire’s finest ales – they stock local favourites like Leeds Brewery and Kirkstall Brewery, just be careful, after a few pints you might go home with a new toy you hadn’t bargained for.
Northern Guitars Cafe Bar, 41 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BR.
If you’re a weekend reveller with a love of cocktails and pop music, get down to Norman Bar. It’s only open on Friday and Saturday nights, but it means they go all out for a good time. The staff know what they’re doing and take pride in the range of drinks, whether you’re after beer, wine, spirits or cocktails.
Norman provides an alternative to the other Call Lane bars because it does something different to the rest. It’s got a clientele that loves it which means it’s lasted for over a decade, helped by the DJs who have the ability to fuse classics with current chart and dance favourites to create a decent soundtrack to any night out in Leeds.
Norman Bar, 36 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
Call Lane Social
Much like its opposite number Oporto, Call Lane Social brings together rock’n’roll and cocktails in the surroundings of one of Leeds’ favourite bars. It achieves the look people love with exposed brick walls, dark mahogany furnishings and a quite scary stuffed stag’s head on the wall – and if you can stomach the latter, you’re bound to have a night to remember in here.
Their well-packed bar is obviously appreciated by those looking for beers with the likes of Quilmes, Pacifico, Erdinger and Cusquena being imported in from around the globe, as well as a healthy range on tap and in the fridges. They’re also well stocked when it comes to spirits, so you can get your favourite mixer or a couple of shots no problem, as the never-ending jukebox of rock’n’roll hits keeps the folks coming back.
Call Lane Social, 38 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
If you’re looking for a taste of some warmer climes while partying on Call Lane, there’s only really one place to go – the Tiki Hideaway. You might want a pint at Call Lane Social first, but then you should make a beeline for the stairs at the back of the bar which takes you up into this 1950’s tiki paradise.
Split across two rooms that are decorated with low red lights, bamboo decking and some quite scary Polynesian mascots, head straight to the bar, because their cocktail offering is sensational. Their signature is the Flaming Zombie, which is exactly what it sounds like, so don’t dive straight in or you’ll have no eyebrows left. There’s also a wide range of other exotic cocktails to pick from while you’re boogying down to their eclectic soundtrack.
Tiki Hideaway, Call Lane Social, 38 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
Arts is a small, intimate restaurant with a love of creativity. They give new life to classic dishes with locally sourced ingredients and a menu that changes often enough to keep us coming back for more. But that’s not the only thing that makes them unique, because they also showcase of the work of local artists, so you can take in a little culture while you eat.
The food takes its cue from every corner of the globe, but they bring their own creativity to every dish. Start with Thai fishcakes with sweet chilli jam and dressed rocket, before you tuck into lamb shank with mixed bean smoked paprika ragù and mint yoghurt. If you head in during the day, they serve a smaller version of their a la carte menu, alongside a host of lighter lunch bites.
Arts, 42 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
Okay okay, it might stand out on this guide as being the rarity that is a national chain, but Call Lane and Revolution have managed to serve each other remarkably well during their time together. After all, Revs, as it is affectionately known, fits in with the exposed décor the area thrives on and isn’t bad at knocking up a tasty cocktail or two to wash down their menu of burgers, sandwiches and mains.
While it might not have the kudos of some of its nearby friends, Revolution is a favourite because it does what it does so well. There are decent tunes if you’re into a mix of chart, dance and r&b, while the food is straightforward meaning everyone’s fed well. It might not change the world, but Revolution succeeds in giving people what they want – food, drink and good music.
Revolution, 48 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
Brooklyn is the place to party on Call Lane. Spread across two floors with a jam-packed bar, you can choose from a tempting line-up of classic cocktails, from the Long Island Iced Tea to the Downtown Daiquiri. Not your thing? You can also choose from a selection of craft beer and lager from around the world.
Out back, you’ll find an open plan garden that’s connected to the other venues on Queens Court – it’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink on sunny days, without losing any of the party spirit. If you’d rather stay inside though, there’s plenty to keep you busy – it’s the home of beer pong on Call Lane, so gather your pals and see who can make the opposition down their drinks first. And all of this is backed up by a soundtrack of floor-filling anthems.
Brooklyn, 50 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
Bottom of Call Lane
The world doesn’t begin at Jake’s and end at Brooklyn you know – Call Lane stretches down to the bottom of Lower Briggate and there are a few gems on here that are well worth your time and your money…
Right on the bottom corner of Call Lane, The Backroom is a lively spot for nights out in Leeds. It’s only open from Thursday through to Saturday, making it worth your wait for the weekend. Split over two floors, with white leather sofas and black furnishings, it’s a stylish affair with more than a hint of a 1920s speakeasy.
If you’re a fan of spirits, you might want to settle in for the night. They have an envious selection, ranging from Grey Goose vodka to Tanqueray gin and Mount Gay rum to Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel bourbon, which they can also turn into delicious cocktails. If you’re going all out, treat yourself to some Verve Clicquot or Dom Perignon champagne – you can really make a night of it at The Backroom.
The Backroom, 50a Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
A little bit different from its neighbours, Baracoa is a lounge bar and club that aims to create a luxurious experience where you can sup cocktails in a sumptuous setting before the party starts in earnest. The bar is well stocked with spirits, which are put to good use in their classic cocktails, and you can also choose from a selection of beers and wines.
But it’s not just the drinks that will tempt you here, it’s also the entertainment. They have DJs on the decks, taking your night into the early hours with the likes of Manny Brown and DJ Trooper making appearances.
Baracoa, 52 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
Revolución de Cuba
Revolución de Cuba, the sibling venue of Revolution, is now a cornerstone of Call Lane’s offering. It’s a smart looking venue, spread out over two floors with three different bars, all of which have a chic, rustic design. But it’s the food and drink menus that will demand your attention.
As you can probably guess from the name, Revolución de Cuba provides a lively, Latino twist to proceedings, with rum at its centre, thanks to an abundance of Havana, Appleton, Wray and Nephew and more. You’ll also want to delve into the Cuban-inspired tapas menu, with dishes like Pork Belly Skewers and Chorizo Croquetas, or try out their other dishes, with an array of burgers, sandwiches and mains.
Revolución de Cuba, 52 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6DT.
The New Penny
Across the street is the famous heart of Leeds LGBTQ+ nightlife – The New Penny. As the oldest gay bar in Leeds, and potentially the oldest surviving venue in the country from when it opened in 1953 as The Hope and Anchor, it has become the cornerstone of an area which is the heart of gay nightlife in the city. And not only that, it lays claim to being one of Lily Savage’s early venues before she shot to stardom.
Expect cheesy pop classics and dance tunes, as well as a DJ who – wait for it – is happy to take requests. It’s an atmosphere that feels a lot like a traditional boozer, just without the miserable old fellas propping up the bar. It’s also decent value for a standard fare of drinks, and you’re nigh on guaranteed to have a ball, particularly if you choose one of their event nights to visit, with drag acts and karaoke keeping punters entertained all night long.
The New Penny, 57 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BT.
Down the Alleyways
Tucked away just off Call Lane, you might not realise these bars are here, but once you venture down Hirst’s Yard, you’ll want to keep going back for more.
Halfway between Call Lane and Lower Briggate on Hirst’s Yard, Mook is now a firm staple of Leeds’ nightlife. It’s got no airs or graces and prides itself on people having a decent time for a decent price, with an eclectic soundtrack designed to get the punters dancing, whether they’ve got the skills or not.
It’s all about cocktails here, and they have a 2-4-1 offer from Thursday to Sunday which you can make the most of. Choose from the Classic menu, which includes the likes of the Caipirinha, Mojito and Moscow Mule, the Signature menu, with creations like Mango Ice Tea, Dib Dab and Toffee Mookshake, or the Fruity menu, featuring the French Martini, Applemac and Polish Princess – you won’t regret it.
Mook, Hirst’s Yard, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NJ.
If normal opening hours don’t do it for you, and you need somewhere to dance into the early hours down by Call Lane, well, there’s only one real choice – Space. It aims to bring the spirit of Ibiza to Leeds with a super club that’s so good it has a nationwide reputation.
Once you’ve got past what is usually a pretty extensive queue on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, you’ll enter a cavernous club that plays only the finest in house and dance music. The drinks offering is your pretty normal club choices, but once you’re throwing down some shapes on the dance floor, that will do just the job
Space, 11 Hirst’s Yard, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NJ.Cover image © Copyright Leeds-List 2019 by Laurie Cooper-Murray.