Leeds boasts some fine higher education establishments, but ask the tens of thousands of students that pour into the city each year why they chose us and nightlife would be high on the list. The BBC cites it at the top of their ten reasons to study in Leeds – I don't know whether the universities would be too pleased about this but we can pat ourselves on the back for having an attractive bar and club scene. For anyone in doubt, here's a Confidential round-up of the star bars in the city.
Tucked in a less than glamorous pocket of the city centre, Mojo are the original pioneers of an unlikely blend of indie rock sensibilities, shabby chic and creative cocktails. Rough enough around the edges, Mojo has an authentic integrity when it comes to their music and drinks. The blazing neon 'Music for the People' sign above a glass bottle army of spirits and liqueurs on the back bar says it all.
Another venue with a musical bent is The Wardrobe. Where some in the city try too hard with trendy drinks and a pumping pretension, The Wardrobe is a relaxed speakeasy with a lazy charm. Combining bar, restaurant and live jazz, it sprawls across two floors with worn leather couches, laid-back bartenders and a lilting blues soundtrack. It's a haven for those that like their beats shuffling and their bourbon without coke.
On the other hand, you've got Bar Fibre. Positively pulsing with a glittering hedonism, this gay friendly hotspot has long been where the bold and the beautiful of Leeds come out to play. A central character in both the gay and dance scenes in the city, Fibre's reputation for flamboyance and fun is well-earned. Opulent design expands over two floors with a chilled-out terrace and a dance floor that buzzes with the glitzy energy of weekend revelry.
Round the corner on Hirst's Yard is one we've mentioned before. Boutique's cocktails are bloody good. Award-winning mixologist Gary Haywood's drinks menu satisfies the discerning cocktail adventurer with its spiced apple and islay collins, sensual damas and raspberry lageritas. The handsome bartenders flairing on a Saturday night is like cocktail performance art to be viewed and then sampled on the plant-lined cobbled terrace outside.
Another place to find sheer cocktail excellence is Chino Latino. On the face of it, the place is a puzzling proposition. The first floor bar of the Park Plaza Hotel is one part pan-Asian restaurant and one part Latin American cocktail bar, yet with a dark, sleek glamour fusing the two it somehow works. The restaurant is lauded for its take on modern Japanese and Chinese cuisine, but it's the samba-inflected house beats and Latin-inspired cocktails that excite at night. Attracting a sophisticated crowd with a penchant for decadence, it's got a subtle sexiness all of its own. The only place to lounge with a cool caipirinha and enjoy floor to ceiling views overlooking City Square. <</p>
From high up to underground, the Hifi Club is a lesson in casual cool. A funky soul vibe emanates from this cosy den discreetly located off Boar Lane. Brown leather booths and bare brickwork provide the backdrop for their signature rare grooves and laid-back, cool crowd. Live music from international soulsters and jazz electronica maestros plays most nights, save for comedy on Fridays and their genre-hopping Saturday night Boogaloo. Their sister venue, Wire on Call Lane, ventures into darker, dirtier dance territory with regular indie, dubstep and techno nights.
Sometimes though, all you want is a good pint which is where North comes in. A burning passion for the international world of beer is in evidence here. It's a simple bar in the north area of the city centre which provides an oft welcome antidote to the overt flashiness found elsewhere. The warm, friendly staff enthuse about their extensive and somewhat baffling selection of ales, stouts and lagers from around the world. Popular with the local creatives, the aesthetics are pretty plain but augmented with a changing contemporary art exhibition and their immense beer menu on the walls. The only place to sample a Sri Lankan stout or other such obscure beers.
So there you have it. A stumble around that lot and you experience the full quality and diversity of the city's musical and drinking den offerings, although whether you'd remember it all is another matter. But have we missed anywhere out? If you think we have or disagree with any of our choices, have your say by ranting below.
18 Merrion Street
Tel: 244 6387
6 St Peters Square
Tel: 383 8800
11-15 Hirst's Yard
Tel: 245 6595
Park Plaza Hotel, Boar Lane
Tel: 380 4080
168 Lower Briggate
Tel: 08701 200 888
2 Central Road
Tel: 242 7353
24 New Briggate
Tel: 0113 242 4540