“ Address: 24 New Briggate / Leeds / Tel 0113 242 4540 „
For a fantastic range of beers from all over the world and knowledgeable staff to take you through them as well as simple but funky surroundings, Leeds's North Bar is the very best the city has to offer. Since it opened in 1997 it's received nothing but highly positive reviews and even won the Best Bar Award in the Observer Food Awards a couple of years back. Four years on it is a mini chain with a total of four pubs around the city though each one is quite distinctive and except for the fact that all of them serve great beers, you'd hardly recognise them as a chain at all.
North is situated next to the Leeds Grand Theatre which may partly explain why they are able to boast some famous names as visitors to the bar. It's nothing startling from the outside and you could almost miss it because the premises it occupies is long and narrow and therefore doesn't have much of a frontage on the street.Most of the seating is at the front of the pub, the bar is at the back. It's a long bar and it needs to be because there are so many beers to cram in. North highlights that all the beers on draught are imported; nothing is brewed in the UK under licence so it's always the genuine thing.
The first time I visited I had no idea where to start so the friendly staff member on duty asked what sort of thing I normally like and, judging from this, she suggested a koeslch, a light beer from Cologne. She poured some into a very small glass for me to try first. I'd not tried koelsch before but it was the perfect recommendation and I'm a big fan now.
North has both beers on tap and bottled beers. Beers on tap do vary but usually include a mix of continental beers including Trappist beers from Belgium, a choice of lights, bitters and darks ales such as a stout or a porter and something from a local microbrewery. There's always a fruit beer on tap, the last time we were there in December 2011 it was raspberry Kriek which I love to drink.
Tasting glasses (one third of a pint) are available so you can try lots of different beers without drinking too much. These are not the same as getting a sample to try: samples are just a small amount of beer to give you an idea of what to expect. The tasting glasses are ideal for people who can't choose, or simply want to try everything. I'm not going to mention any prices as they do vary from beer to beer. You do pay a little bit more than for a pint of standard lager in a run of the mill pub, but you are getting something infinitely superior.
Bottled beers are too numerous to mention but it should be noted that there are beers from Kenya, Belgium, the USA, Mexico, Germany and even as far as Tasmania! There's a good choice with light, dark, blonde and wheat beers all being included in the selection. Beers from the United States feature extensively and include a selection from the Goose Island brewery among which is the very good IPA (India Pale Ale).
Not a beer drinker? Well there are soft drinks and coffee of course but more interestingly they serve a good range of "genevers" that Dutch spirit on which gin is based. As I don't like to mix beer and spirits I haven't tried the genevers but I will the next time we're in Leeds for an overnight stay.
The food menu is limited but that doesn't mean it's not good. Locally made pies are the dish of the day and the choice of fillings is mouth-watering. Do yourself a favour and try the Balsamic Beef and Potato with Caramelised Onions which is a taste sensation! There are meatless pies too and veggies should try the Beetroot with Horseradish and Mature Wensleydale. The pies are cooked and served in simple metal camping tins, which is a nice quirky touch. For something a bit lighter, and perhaps more conducive to beer tasting, you can graze tapas style on crusty bread and meat or cheese.
North is a good supporter of local artists and works are exhibited on the walls and are for often sale. The emphasis is on contemporary work but the pieces are quite eclectic and suit the simple decor well. The decor is very simple with wooden floor, wooden tables and simple wooden chairs. This is not your old-fashioned Yorkshire pub with comfy seats and a roaring fire but it's fine for a contemporary bar. The music played here is hugely eclectic and rather than me list lots of artists you might here why not look at the link below which tells you what's being played there.
A brilliant choice for beer lovers and their friends.
24 New Briggate, Leeds
Monday - Tuesday: 12.00 - 01.00
Wednesday - Saturday: 12.00 - 02.00
Sunday: 12.00 - 12.00
For the locations and openning hours for the other pubs see http://www.northbar.com/
Music - www.last.fm/user/NorthBarLeeds.
Note - the toilets are downstairs and the stairs are steep.