Merrion Street is one of the most famous nightspots in Leeds and it’s no wonder with so many bars and restaurants for you to visit…
When it comes to nightspots, Merrion Street is right up there with the best of them. You can weave your way between traditional pubs and lively dive bars, stopping for a cocktail or two along the way. It’s perfect place to party, with everything from live music to top DJs, but you don’t have to stay out all night, you can just get a bite to eat if you’d prefer an evening of good company and good food.
The main strip of Merrion Street is a buzzing hub of pubs, bars and restaurants…
There’s something for everyone at Parkside Tavern. This Merrion Street staple is a huge pub where you can cosy up in leather booths, play your mates on one of their three Sam K pool tables or boogie to classic indie tunes on the weekend. When the weather’s good, take the good times outside to one of their three sun-trap beer gardens.
Parkside Tavern is brilliant for beer lovers. It has 16 cask and keg taps with brews from Shepherd Neame, Ilkley and Saltaire. Prefer cocktails? You can work your way through a menu of all-time classics alongside signature serves, like the Watermelon Spritz, a delectable combination of Aperol, sparkling rose and watermelon liqueur. If you get peckish, tuck into something from their small menu of flatbread pizzas or plough into Garlic Dough Balls and Baked Camembert.
Parkside Tavern, Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JG.
From the folk behind Sela and Brudenell Social Club comes The Social, one of the most popular bars on Merrion Street. Inside, the exposed brickwork is bedecked in all kinds of music memorabilia. There’s plenty of seating to settle down in and you can even enjoy a few games on their foosball table. In the summer, you can head out back to the beer garden – they even have awnings and heaters to keep you toasty when the sun sets.
They’re renowned for their ever-changing selection of local cask ales and global keg beers, which you can enjoy for a very pocket-friendly price. If you want more choice, check out the packed fridges because there’s even more inside. You don’t have to drink beer though – they have loads of spirits and a small cocktail menu, all just as easy on your bank balance. Head in on Friday and Saturday for a few drinks as DJs from Jumbo Records spin eclectic tunes on the decks.
The Social, 21 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JG.
You’ll find Manahatta at the corner of the main Merrion Street stretch and it’s a bit different to its neighbours. This New York-inspired bar has a cool industrial decor, finished with luxurious leather booths, bright neon lights and a huge statement bar. It’s popular during the day for a bite to eat and with after-work crowds for a cheeky drink, but it really comes alive at weekends when DJs play you into the early hours with dance and pop faves.
You’ll find plenty of craft beer behind the bar, but this is a bar for cocktail lovers. Alongside the classics, you can try their own unique creations, like the Central Park Spritz, which brings together Ketel One citron vodka, Martini Ambrato, vanilla, pear, lemon, star anise and lemonade. If you fancy a bite to eat, they have a menu that takes inspiration from the cultural melting pot that is New York, including dishes like Katsu Chicken Curry, Cajun Fajitas and Steak Frites.
Manahatta, 11 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
Mojo is the original rock and roll dive bar and it all started here in Leeds. 20 years after it opened its first ever bar on Merrion Street, it’s still going strong. Covered in framed pictures of rock legends and home to an impressive mural of The Beatles, revellers pack in to party the night away seven days a week, grooving to a playlist classic soul, rock and funk tunes.
While you’re dancing along, you can enjoy everything from bottled beers like Pabst and BrewDog to classic cocktails like the Bramble and Alabama Slammer. Prefer rum? Head to The Rhum Room upstairs, which has its own dedicated bar for the Caribbean spirit. Hungry? Get down early to start your night out with a menu of burgers, fried chicken and their famous hot wings.
Mojo, 18 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ.
If you love retro video games, Roxy Arcade is the bar to go to on Merrion Street. This neon-lit, graffiti-covered venue is home to 25 multiplayer, token-operated arcade games. You can play on classics like Space Invaders, Street Fighter, International Track & Field, or try your hand at electronic basketball and pinball.
Rather sing than play? Roxy Arcade also has three hi-tech karaoke booths with a choice of over 100,000 songs. To keep your mind focused and vocal chords lubricated, head to the bar where you’ll find craft beers and signature cocktails. Try the Scared Shotless, a mix of Absolute vanilla, Luxardo limoncello, strawberry puree, lemon and sugar syrup.
Roxy Arcade, 9 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
Roxy Ball Room
Roxy Ball Room sits on the two floors above Roxy Arcade – there’s even a secret tunnel that connects the two. You can play on their Sam K pool tables, have a game on their Butterfly ping pong tables or challenge your mates on their 18-foot shuffleboard tables. If you’re feeling brave, swap table tennis for beer pong and put your money (or more aptly, your beer) where your mouth is.
You can play to your heart’s content in a cool-as-heck venue with walls covered in graffiti, industrial-chic furniture and loads of leather booths where you can take a break between games. The bar is full of local craft beer or you can try one of Roxy’s signature cocktails, like the Let’s Bounce, which brings together Bombay Sapphire gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, agave and orange bitters.
Roxy Ball Room, 9a Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ.
Mean-Eyed Cat Bar
Mean-Eyed Cat is a late-night party bar that brings a touch of the Deep South to Merrion Street. Inspired by the rebellious spirit of Johnny Cash, this bold and lively dive bar is the place to show off your dance moves as you move your feet to a soundtrack of old school rock and roll anthems until the early hours.
The bar is stocked with a trio of their own craft beers brewed with Northern Monk Brew Co. or you can try favourites like San Quentin, Coors Light and Blue Moon. Prefer cocktails? They have a host of boozy iced teas and American-inspired concoctions like the Low & Sloe, a blend of peach, sugar, lime and sloe berry gin. If you get down there before 9pm, you can even bag a free slice of stone-baked pizza with any drink.
Mean-Eyed Cat Bar, 14 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ.
The Key Club
If you love punk, rock and metal music, The Key Club is the most important live venue in Leeds. It welcomes a raft of up and coming bands, both local and national, to its stage on an almost-nightly basis – you can even check out big name bands playing intimate shows in this cool underground space.
But it’s not just gigs. The Key Club is one of the busiest clubs in the city. They put on hugely popular nights four times a week. Slam Dunk spin pop-punk and emo on Tuesdays before Hypersonic presents the best in indie on Wednesdays. If you love heavy metal, head to Fuel on Fridays or if you prefer to indulge in your guiltiest of pleasures across pop, rock and metal, get down to The Garage on Saturdays.
The Key Club, 66 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8LW.
Verve really comes into its own after dark as their DJs spin a mix of classic rock, pop and indie tunes. The masses descend on the dance floor every weekend, boogying their way into the early hours, but if you’d rather go out on a school night, they do free stand-up comedy on Tuesdays and free live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
Whatever you’re at Verve for, you can take your pick from an eclectic mix of craft beers or go for one their great value mixers. Prefer cocktails? They have loads of classics as well as more unusual concoctions. The Paloma offers a refreshingly straight-forward hit of lime, tequila and Ting or you can try the beery Lagerita, which brings together lager, lime and tequila.
Verve, 16 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ.
Head to Gabbar for a refined take on classic Indian soul food. The menu has been inspired by the hawkers and working class cafes of India, but the venue itself is a stylish affair. It brings together traditional features like wooden beams and original windows together with modern furniture and a sleek statement bar.
The menu is a mix of street food favourites and classic curries. You can start with small plates like Fish Amitsari or Paneer Tikka, before you move onto mains like Hyderabadi Lamb Shank, Daal Makhani and Paneer Butter Masala. They have plenty of local craft beers and an extensive wine list, but you can also pair your food with one of their Indian-inspired cocktails, like the Mojito South India, which uses tamarind water, cardamom and cinnamon to give the classic a twist.
Gabbar, 17-19 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JE.
New Briggate has some of the Northern Quarter’s best-loved venues, whether it’s cocktail joints, craft beer favourites or sports bars.
The Brotherhood of Pursuits and Pastimes
With screens adorning nearly every nook and canny, The Brotherhood of Pursuits and Pastimes is one of the best sports bars in Leeds. There are loads of places to sit, from the long benches in front of the main bar to the big leather booths upstairs, which is handy because they show all major live sporting events on British TV, so it gets pretty busy.
You can grab a drink and bite to eat as you watch. They have loads of local ales and craft beer on tap or you can go for one of their classic cocktails like the Long Island Iced Tea or the Espresso Martini. Pair yours with a straight-forward menu of burgers, sarnies and hot dogs at this sport-crazy spot on the corner of Merrion Street.
The Brotherhood of Pursuits and Pastimes, 54 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
North Bar is a Leeds institution. It opened back in 1997, making it one of the first dedicated craft beer bars in the UK, and it’s still at the very top of its game two decades on. This long, narrow bar has local art on the walls, plenty of tables and a photobooth at the back, so you can document your night out.
They serve many of their own North Brewing Co. creations, but that’s just the beginning of their beery goodness. They have over 150 beers at any one time, on keg, cask and in the fridge. You can get local ales like Kirkstall or try something a little more exotic like Hitachino from Japan and Little Creatures from Australia. If beer’s not your bag, don’t fret – they have rare whiskies, gins and rums behind the bar, and if you don’t know where to start, they can point you in the right direction.
North Bar, 24 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 6NU.
Sela Bar has been a cornerstone of nightlife in Leeds for over a decade. It’s a hub of jazz, funk and soul music, so make your way downstairs to this cool subterranean bar and prepare for a night of undeniable earworms. After all, they welcome local and international bands to their stage on a regular basis.
At the bar, they have local draught beers on the taps and brews from the UK, Europe and America in the fridges. But it’s cocktails they’re most known for. Try the amaretto and brandy fusion of the Cherry Bakewell, a Sela original that they’ve been serving since 2006. If you get peckish, treat yourself to one of their stone-baked pizzas. The Blue Balls is a must with its a mix of meatballs, caramelised red onion and blue cheese.
Sela Bar, 20 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 6NU.
If you like your cocktails with a dose of old school rock and roll, you have to visit Wax. Small, but perfectly formed, it has a big personality – the walls are decked out in cool pop culture references, old gig posters and classic record covers. It’s the perfect setting for laidback drinks during the week, but come the weekend, it’s jumping as their DJs take to the decks to play vinyl-only sets.
While you’re dancing to tunes by the likes of Blondie, The Rolling Stones and The Ramons, you can enjoy a well-stocked bar of quality drinks. They have loads of craft beers, which come served in an ice-chilled glass fresh from the freezer, or go for one of their classic cocktails – brambles, daiquiris or caipirinhas, they’ve got the lot!
Wax Bar, 20 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 6NU.
Neon lights, lush greenery and industrial fittings – Hardy’s Bar has all the hallmarks of a modern cocktail lounge. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day at work, but if you’re after something a little more lively, look out for their themed nights – The Funk & Soul Disco is guaranteed to get you on the dance floor.
When it comes to drinks, they keep things simple – the menu has been honed to a small but exceptional selection. You can get wines, spirits and beers, but cocktails are their speciality. Try the Grapefruit Margarita, a mix of El Jimador reposado, apricot brandy liqueur, fresh lime, grapefruit and sugar. If you love a bottomless brunch, they serve theirs all day, every day, with cheeseboards to boot.
Hardy’s Bar, 52 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
The Wrens isn’t like the other bars around Merrion Street. It’s a traditional pub with snug rooms, wood-panelled walls and proper fireplaces. You’ll get a warm welcome as you take a seat in one of their long leather booths or hideaway in one of the many nooks and crannies. Want to make a night of it? The Wrens doubles, as a hotel so you can book a room upstairs.
To keep the thirst at bay, you can work your way through their ever-changing selection of local real ales, with brews from Saltaire, Ilkley and Slightly Foxed, to name but a few. They serve a delicious menu of cocktails too, but gin is their speciality, so why not order a G&T? They have tipples from local distilleries like Mason’s, Death’s Door and Aviation, alongside a handpicked collection of gins from around the world.
The Wrens, 61a New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JD.
Vice & Virtue
Vice & Virtue is a cool, Prohibition-era inspired venue that combines experimental cocktails and fine dining. Take a seat in the luxurious first floor bar, where you can enjoy their latest concoctions surrounded by dark distinctive walls, leather furnishings and atmospheric lighting. They apply the same level of culinary artistry to their drinks as they do their food, so expect incredible, Insta-worthy drinks like the Brexican, a fruity combination of Espolon Anejo Beefeater 24 gin, Briottet framboise, raspberries, tarragon and lemon.
Upstairs, their elegant art deco dining room awaits. The food is nothing short of exquisite, whether you go for their a la carte menu or the monthly-changing tasting menu. Both use locally-sourced ingredients to create awe-inspiring dishes, like the Masterstock Gressingham Duck, which comes with shiitake, furikake rice and daikon. To go with your food, you can get one of their wine or cocktail packages, handpicked to complement your food.
Vice & Virtue, 68 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
Feed is an all-day bar and restaurant, nestled underneath sister venue Vice & Virtue. It has a laid-back vibe and a welcoming feel, taking its design cues from the eclectic spirit of New York – think industrial fixtures and fittings complemented by neon signs, exposed brickwork and wooden furniture.
Thirsty? There are 12 draught lines of craft beer on the bar or you can go for one of their unusual cocktails – they put their own spin on turbo shandies and espresso martinis. Fancy a bite? Pop in for lunch and tuck into dishes like Fried Chicken Belgian Waffles and Cheeseburger Spring Rolls. Come the evening, the menu changes to offer more of a more refined dining experience – anyone for Maple Pork Belly with pickled rhubarb, elderflower vinegar and savoy slaw?
Feed, 72 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6NU.
Rum & Reason
Rum & Reason is known for its love of two things – rum and reggae music. It’s an atmospheric party bar decked out in graffiti murals, neon signs and industrial lighting. During the week, you can enjoy a few drinks or a bite to eat during the day, but at the weekend, the place comes alive to the sound of reggae, dancehall and hip-hop tunes when DJs take to the decks.
They have over 40 different rums for you to choose froom, including Havana Club, Diplomatico and Wray & Nephew. If that’s not your bag, you can dip into their vast selection of premium spirits or try their craft beers. Upstairs, their colourful Caribbean restaurant serves classic dishes like Jerk Chicken and Curried Goat. Keep your eyes peeled for their regular Rum & Reggae Brunch, which gives you the best of everything they do in one sitting.
Rum & Reason, 59-61 New Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JD.
Just off Merrion Street, along the side of the Merrion Centre, you’ll find a trio of restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat before your night on the town.
When you step into My Thai, it’s like you step into a hidden corner of Bangkok. This is a charming little restaurant where traditional Asian trinkets adorn the walls and amazing smells shimmy out of the open kitchen as they whip up amazing plates of Thai food, as quick as a flash.
They’ve got a big menu, but none of it will break the bank and there’s always a speedy turnaround so you can be in and out in a flash. It’s inspired by dishes you’ll find walking around the streets of Bangkok so you can expect familiar favourites like Tom Yum Soup and Thai Green Curry, alongside signature plates like Kow Moo Dang, a five spice roast pork belly with boiled eggs and a ginger sauce.
My Thai, 43 Wade Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8NJ.
Arnold’s is a stylish all-day restaurant that celebrates all things Yorkshire. It has a light and airy dining room decorated with artwork that pays homage to God’s Own Country, from record sleeves by Yorkshire bands to prints of local landmarks by Yorkshire artists.
The menu has been carefully curated to suit all tastes, particularly families. Start with Loaded Nachos and Chicken Yakitori before you move on to mains like Mac ’n’ Cheese, Kashmiri Lamb and Butterflied Grilled Chicken. The kids have their own menu of favourites like Fish Fingers and you can all get the Warm Chocolate Brownie for dessert. Just want a few drinks? They have a separate bar for pre-dinner beers, cocktails and bubbles.
Arnold’s Restaurant and Bar, Wade Lane, Merrion Centre, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8NJ.
What Fuji Hiro lacks in style, it certainly makes up for in substance. This small, understated restaurant has been a mainstay in Leeds for over 20 years and they’ve built up an enviable reputation as diners keep coming back for their exquisite Japanese food.
The menu is big and full of traditional dishes. Their yakisoba noodles are a joy, their katsu curry hits the spot and the gyozas are delightfully soft, but it’s the ramen that stands out – you can choose the broth, the meat and the veggies to suit your tastes. You’ll leave sated and you’ll leave full – their portion sizes are the definition of generous. Couple your dinner with a glass of imported Japanese beer or a traditional plum wine.
Fuji Hiro, 45 Wade Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8NJ.
Cross Belgrave Street & North Street
From Belgrave all the way to the very tip of the city centre, you’ll find some great bars and restaurants on Cross Belgrave Street and North Street.
Belgrave Music Hall
Belgrave Music Hall is more than just a bar, it’s a venue you can spend all day and night in. The ground floor is a spacious multi-level bar with loads of vintage tables, chairs and benches. Head to the bar where you can choose from an eclectic array of craft beers, real ales and spirits. Hungry? Patty Smith’s burgers and Dough Boys’ pizza will go perfectly with your pint – and it’s half price slices before 7pm during the week or 5pm on weekends.
They have DJs spinning tunes downstairs on Friday and Saturday nights, but if you head upstairs, you’ll find one of the best gig venues in Leeds, where you can see a host of top local and international bands. The pièce de résistance, however, is up on the roof. Their leafy terrace has plenty of covered areas and heaters, so it’s a great spot to catch up with friends whatever the weather. Oh and don’t forget about the Belgrave Feast, every second Saturday of the month.
Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, 1a Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JP.
Just next door to Belgrave, The Watermark is a down-to-earth bar from Dariush Afshar Haghighi and Filippos Filippopoulous, two experienced mixologists who wanted make their mark on the city. It’s a laidback venue, designed to make you feel like you could be in someone’s living room, with a blend of mahogany furniture, bookcases and leather booths.
When it comes to drinks, you can get craft beer and wine, but their experimental cocktails rule the roost. Designed and created by the owners, they turn classics on their head and dare you to try something new. Try the Aegean Breeze, a hard-hitting blend of Metaxa 12 Star Brandy, Amato Montenegro, fig liqueur and cold brew coffee. If you get the late-night munchies, they serve small plates like whiskey-washed butter crumpets and cheese boards until 4am.
The Watermark, 3 Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JP.
Tobacco Rd is a good time bar that takes inspiration from the other side of the Atlantic. It’s got a rustic dive bar feel, brought to life by the finished steel, real wood and exposed brickwork, which is complemented by the cool neon signs dotted around the venue.
Their custom-built steel bar is the centrepiece and this is where you can get a host of US beers on tap, like Beavertown, Two Roads and Anchor. They have a menu of classic cocktails too, all given a Tobacco Rd twist. Take the Grilled Pineapple Margarita, for example. It brings together blanco tequila, lime and grilled pineapple syrup. If you get hungry, Alley Cats run their pop-up kitchen, so you can tuck into grilled cheese sandwiches, sliders and mac ’n’ cheese.
Tobacco Rd, 5 Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JP.
Hidden behind an unassuming doorway between The Watermark and Tobacco Rd lies Blind Tyger, a refined speakeasy you need to try. It’s one of the coolest cocktails bars around Merrion Street and it’s all pre-Prohibition style. Expect big leather booths, statement wallpaper and a soundtrack of jazz, soul and blues.
All their cocktails are originals, expertly prepared by their rather dapper mixologists. Try the Popcorn Julep, a mix of Mellow Corn whiskey, popcorn syrup and sage-infused salt or go for a Japanese-inspired Yuzu Spritz, which brings together Cocchi Americans aperitif wine, candied lemon and Akashi-Tai yuzu and sparkling sakes.
Blind Tyger, 5a Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JP.
If you enjoy your dinner with a bit of theatre, head to Teppanyaki. It’s just a stone’s throw away from Merrion Street and it’s famed for its unique setup. You’ll sit around a huge cooking station, complete with teppan hot plates. Flames will rise as their expert chefs sizzle meat and veggies right in front of you, turning dinner into a performance and engaging you in the fun.
You can go for the Usuyaki, thinly sliced beef that’s rolled and stuffed with mushrooms, before finishing off with spring onions and garlic. Prefer fish? Try the King Prawns & Monkfish, which comes with fine green beans and covered with a soy butter. Whatever you choose, you can sit back and enjoy the culinary show while your food is prepared. This takes the open kitchen to another level.
Teppanyaki, Belgrave Hall, Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8DD.
BrewDog North Street
Split across two floors, you’ve got the best of both worlds at BrewDog North Street. The ground floor is a vast open-plan bar with huge floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can watch the world go by. At its centre, the feature bar is home to BrewDog’s own favourites, one-off brews you’ll only get in their bars and guest beers from their favourite local breweries.
You can take it easy on one of the many tables and booths, but if you want to add a dose of excitement into your night out, head downstairs with where you’ll find three 22-foot shuffleboard tables. Show your friends who’s boss as you battle it out for the title, before you enjoy a few games on their pinball and retro arcade machines.
BrewDog North Street, Crispin House, New York Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PF.
The Swine That Dines
The Swine That Dines offers a down-to-earth, Yorkshire take on fine dining – and you need to check it out. It’s one of the city’s finest institutions, an understated venue where you can enjoy refined lunches and suppers from local legends Jo and Stu Myers, formerly of The Greedy Pig.
From Wednesday to Saturday, they serve evening tasting menus that changes on a monthly basis. For three weeks of the month, they focus on ‘nose to tail’ dining, using every part of the animal in ways that you’ve probably never tried. For the fourth, it’s dedicated to ‘roots to shoots’ dining, giving you the chance to try a 100% vegetarian menu that’s just as delicious. You can also get a laid-back lunch menu on Fridays and Saturdays or book in for their famous Pie Sundays.
The Swine That Dines, 58 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.
Wen’s is a family-run Chinese restaurant that’s replaced the old Hansa’s on North Street. It’s a laidback, welcoming restaurant, with tables across two levels and big floor-to-ceiling windows. The venue is simple and unassuming, but you don’t go for the decor – you go for the food.
Their food is a little different to the norm. Yes, they have all the staples, from sweet and sour to black bean, but you can also try an incredible array of dishes that rarely make it to the UK. There’s Deep-fried Soft Shell Crab and Five Spice Beef Tendon to start, followed by mains like Pork in Sweet Vinegar Sauce and Slow-stewed Beef Belly.
Wen’s Restaurant, 72-74 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.
The Reliance is a bonafide Leeds legend. Just a few minutes from Merrion Street, it’s a laidback pub-cum-restaurant, with a charming, rustic decor. The front is a laidback bar where you can while away the hours with a drink or two. They have loads of quality real ales, alongside a decent wine list, so there’s something for everyone.
If you fancy a bite to eat, you can order in the bar or sneak off to their restaurant out back for a menu of refined British dishes. They use local produce to create delectable plates, like pheasant with squash, cider and pork and apple stuffing. If you don’t fancy cooking on a Sunday, their roast dinner is definitely worth leaving the house for.
The Reliance, 76-78 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.
A stripped back venue spread across three floors, The Brunswick is an absolute gem. Downstairs, there’s a narrow bar where you can choose from nine keg and five cask lines every day, usually from the likes of Ilkley, Nomadic or Mikkeller. Grab yours and take a seat in their small, but atmospheric ground floor space to while away the afternoon.
Upstairs, you’ll find a clean, white dining room where they serve brunch dishes like bacon sarnies and poached eggs on hash browns during the day, before switching to burgers and fried chicken in the evening. Need a Sunday roast to ease away your hangover? The Brunswick’s is one of the best in Leeds. The top floor is a dedicated events space for live music and art exhibitions, but keep an eye out for the DJs downstairs too.
The Brunswick, 82 North Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7PN.
North Brewing Co.
It’s right at the Northern tip of Leeds city centre, but North Brewing Co. is certainly worth the walk from Merrion Street. During the week, it’s a working brewery, where they make their famous brews, but on a Friday and Saturday, they open up the taproom, so you can try their beers mere metres from where they’re made.
Transmission, Sputnik and Herzog, you’ll find them all on the taps, but they also serve one-off brews you won’t find anywhere else and guest beers from their favourite contemporaries. If you get hungry, you can order in a takeaway, but you won’t need to during the summer, because they welcome a medley of street food vendors for Eat North.
North Brewing Co., Unit 6, Taverners Walk Industrial Estate, Sheepscar Grove, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 1AH.
You can find everything from old school pubs to Thai restaurants and alternative bars on Vicar Lane.
Thai Aroy Dee
Thai Aroy Dee is one of the best Thai restaurants in Leeds. It’s a no-frills, no-fuss canteen-style eatery where you can enjoy classic Thai cooking without breaking the bank. There’s no need to book, just rock up and bag one of their slightly ragged tables and set about choosing from an extensive menu of traditional favourites.
You can tuck into everything from Thai curries to Pad Thai, Weeping Tiger and Gang Panang, each dish is packed full of vibrant flavour. Want to try something a little different? Go for Goong Chae Nam Pla, which combines king prawns, garlic, chillies, fish sauce and lime juice. They now serve alcohol, but you can still bring your own bottle for a small corkage fee.
Thai Aroy Dee, 112 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.
The Templar is the very definition of an old school boozer. From the outside, it’s a truly eye-catching pub, with a Burmantofts tile facade jumping out at you and the vintage Melbourne Ales name adorning the side of the pub. Step inside, and you’ll find a friendly watering hole that’s popular with locals and shows all the big live sporting events.
In terms of decor, it’s everything you’d expect from a traditional pub. There’s a brass bar top, there’s dark mahogany furniture and there are loads of old beer mirrors. Once you’ve recalibrated and got used to walking back in time, head to the bar, where you’ll find an ever-changing selection of local real ales, alongside your usual cider, lager and spirits.
The Templar, Templar Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NU.
If you love pizza, you have to visit Pizza Fella. Just a stone’s throw from Merrion Street, it’s the perfect stomach-liner and a damned tasty one at that. Pizza Fella is a simple, straight-forward venue that’s filled with wooden tables, cork-board walls and industrial lighting. They keep it simple because the focus is firmly on the food.
The menu is simple too. You can choose from a small selection of starters, like olives and garlic bread, before you move onto their proper Neapolitan pizzas. You can enjoy classics like the Marinara and Margherita or go for one of their creative combos, like ‘nduja di spilinga with balsamic onions and calabrian chilli flakes.
Pizza Fella, 114-116 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.
A no-frills, rock & roll dive bar, Howl is the place where alternative music lovers will feel at home. Vintage Brooklyn Brewery and Sailor Jerry’s signs adorn the walls alongside Harley Davidson flags and vintage gig posters, so they really do live and breathe the rock & roll vibe.
Step inside and you’ll be met with a blend of punk, rock and goth tunes blaring out of the speakers, but if you’ve got a request, they rarely stick their nose up as long as it gets the clientele moving. The bar is well-stocked, with Tetley’s and Iron Maiden’s Trooper Ale on cask, alongside keg beers like Brooklyn, with plenty more cans and bottles in the fridge.
Howl Bar, 112 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.
The Old Red Bus Station
It wan’t meant to live past 2020, but The Old Red Bus Station is now here until at least 2025, which is great news because this cool-as-heck venue is a great night out. Downstairs, you’ll find a stripped back bar, where you can enjoy beers like Brooklyn, Nomadic and Guinness on tap. Prefer cocktails? They have a menu of twists on classics, like the Apple Cider Margarita.
Upstairs, you’ll find Cantina, a 100% vegan eatery that serves up hearty food without the meat. Try creations like the Faux Fish Butty, a battered tofish with lettuce and tartare sauce in a brioche bun. The Old Red Bus Station is also a prolific events space, with everything from club nights to art exhibitions for you to attend.
The Old Red Bus Station, 101 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.
Take a trip through Grand Arcade to discover underground jazz bars, Latin American cafes and a whiskey-loving rock joints.
Decked out in Thai relics, trinkets and knick-knacks, Zaap is packed full of the character. They’ve tried to recreate the atmosphere you’d find in Bangkok street market and it’s surprisingly effective. Take a pew in one of their old school tables or go all out in their converted tuk-tuks as you peruse a menu of Thai favourites.
You can choose from over 90 dishes, taking you from familiar classics to unusual dishes you might not have tried before. There’s Gai Satay, Pad Thai and Massaman Curry, but if you want to broaden your horizons, try the Hoy Tod, a crispy pan-fried mussel pancake. They also have whole roasted chickens and ducks, alongside grilled seafood, so you can try another side of Thai cuisine.
Zaap Thai, Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
Santiago is a local legend for fans of heavy music. It’s a good ol’ fashioned rock & roll bar. The decor pays homage to music legends, so cosy up in one of the leather sofas or grab a table to get a head start on your night. You better be ready to mosh, because everything from AC/DC to Bon Jovi and Slipknot blare out of the speakers.
If you want a few quiet beers during the day, it’s a great spot to while away the hours, but at night, it’s a wild party bar. You’ll find all your favourite beers behind the bar, from your standard lagers to more unusual craft beers. But Santiago is known for its love of whiskey, so it’s the perfect place to get a wee dram of Knob Creek, Laphroaig and more.
Santiago, 1-3 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
The Domino Club
From the outside, Lord’s Barbering looks like just another traditional barbershop, but it has a secret. At the back, there’s a door that leads you down to the coolest subterranean drinking den in Leeds. The Domino Club is an underground jazz bar just around the corner from Merrion Street. It’s decked in with parquet flooring, wood panelling and leather booths to create a truly sophisticated hideaway.
Head to the bar where you can peruse a cocktail menu full of weird and wonderful concoctions, like the Lord’s Above, a nod to their barbershop neighbours that brings together Courvoisier V.S.O.P. Cognac, figue liqueur, maraschino cherry liqueur, lemon juice and sugar. Once you’ve got your drink, head to one of their tables where you can watch the live music up on stage.
The Domino Club, 7 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
If you want to escape to warmer climes, head to Casa Colombiana. It’s a little slice of Latin America in the middle of Grand Arcade. The downstairs restaurant hits you between the eyes with its bright orange walls, while the upstairs bar is covered in leafy murals that will take you to another world.
They have an extensive menu of authentic Latin American eats for you to tuck into all day long. Start with Arepas or Croquetas before you move onto mains like Llapingacho, Langostinos al Ajillo and Sirloin Chimicurri. But it’s not just a restaurant, at the weekend, it’s open until 3am. DJs spin Latin beats and their bar serves rare beers like Águila, Devassa and Cubanisto alongside fruity cocktails like Mai Tais.
Casa Colombiana, 6 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.
A gentleman’s tailors by day, a 1920s gin joint at night, Tailors is an unusual find with a few surprises in store. Matthew Wignall creates smart suits from British fabrics until 6pm, then the bar opens and transforms the venue into a hidden speakeasy for those in-the-know.
Once inside, you can try their own brand of Tailors Gin, a perfect combination of lemon peel, chamomile and bergamot, best served neat with grapefruit and rosemary. They also serve a host of G&Ts and gin cocktails which you can enjoy in full 1920s get up – that’s right, they have their own dress-up box, where you can roll back the years as you don vintage costumes before you hit the floor to old dancehall tunes.
Tailors, 23-24 Grand Arcade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PG.Cover image credit: © Copyright Leeds-List 2019 by Max Wailes