Already a beloved cocktail hotspot, The Maven have now opened a brand new restaurant upstairs…
There’s change a-brewing at The Maven. For the past seven years, this stylish speakeasy has been hidden away behind an unmarked doorway on Call Lane, accessible only to those in the know. In that time, it’s developed a cast-iron reputation for serving the best signature cocktails in Leeds, as well as whipping up boozy requests on the spot.
But now, it’s time for something completely new, as they’ve opened a restaurant on the second floor and it has a distinctly different feel to the bar below. “The decor is like night and day between the bar and restaurant,” Owner Nino Lopes told us. “The restaurant is much brighter, more suited to people eating rather drinking. It’s got lots of natural light and comfortable seating.”
If you’ve ever been in The Maven, you’ll know that it’s a secret Prohibition-era drinking den, so it makes sense that the style carries through to upstairs. Wood floors, vintage wallpaper and deep blue walls lend a classic air, with a quirky edge thanks to the oil paintings, a large stuffed bear and an eye-catching chandelier made of antler horns.
This is a passion project that Nino has been working towards for at least five years, and of course, the food is key to the experience. “The food is Mediterranean with a twist, it’s got other global influences like Asia and Africa,” Nino explained. “The whole idea of the menu is to incorporate flavours from countries that I have lived and travelled to through work, like Asia and the Americas. It’s like a travelling history.”
Inspired by Nino’s travels, and his Portuguese family heritage, they’re serving a menu of small plates, with plenty of variety. From classic bread and tapenade all the way to braised chorizo in white wine, their bar nibbles double as appetisers to get you in mood.
You can choose from a whole slew of fish and seafood dishes – including Nino’s personal favourite, the traditional seafood cataplana. Designed for two to share, the cataplana is a copper steamer filled with everything from razor clams to prawns and even English lobster when it’s in season, along with onions, garlic and herbs. “It’s quite unique,” Nino offered, “I haven’t seen it anywhere else. As soon as you open the steamer you get hit with the smells and flavours of the sea.”
Seafood not your style? Carnivores are well served by a hefty meat section. It’s a fusion of Portuguese and British cuisine, as Merguez sausage and butter bean broth share space with tender rump steak, served hot pink in a peri glaze with chargrilled sweetcorn. But it’s the roasted duck breast that’s the real star of the show here, paired with olives and charred spring onions, with a rich Madeira sauce poured over the top.
Don’t worry if you’re not a meat eater, there are plenty of options for veggies and vegans. With six dishes to choose from, it’s the biggest menu of the lot – there’s delicate orzo pasta, tenderstem broccoli on cornbread and even marinated kale-whipped, truffled white beans. That’s without even mentioning dessert, but make sure you try the warm fig cake and the silky smooth custard tart.
It’s easy to assume that the drinks menu will be passed from bar to restaurant, but it’s not. The restaurant will have six wines to choose from, three house and three rotating guest wines, including an organic Sicilian Pinot Grigio. But if you want to see their mixologists do their thing, try The Zombie King, a Walking Dead-inspired rum cocktail served in a skull glass. The Truffle Shuffle is just as good, it’s a mix of citrus vodka, fresh lemon juice, fino sherry and truffle oil that’s sure to delight Goonies-fans and newcomers alike.
Already a Leeds institution, The Maven’s new restaurant is as unique as the bar itself. “We aren’t a tapas place, but we aren’t a fine dining place either – it’s social dining,” Nino told us. “The dishes aren’t expensive, they’re well presented and affordable. For Leeds city centre, I haven’t seen anyone else doing what we are doing.” And that’s why you have to try it.
The Maven, 1 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7DH. Open 5pm till midnight on weekdays, 12pm to midnight on Saturdays and 12pm to 5pm on Sundays.