Situated right down from the station and not too far away from the beach, this spacious venue is popular with the post-work and student crowds alike.
While a lot of people come to the Hope & Ruin for the friendly, laid-back attitude and the fact that it stays open nice and late, the rest arrive for the music. The bar’s outdoor sign, which features a logo of a retro Orange amp, should set the evening’s tone well.
Upstairs you’ll find a 100-capacity venue, Hope Live, where the venue hosts four or five gigs and club nights a week. It is here that you can catch both local indie types as well as touring acts from around the world. Downstairs, expect an assortment of old but comfy sofas, a jukebox, a pint or four of something cold and a good playlist soundtracking the night. If you fancy a bite to eat, then the bar’s tapas and pizza menus should do the trick.
Best Bars tip: The Strokes, Adele and The White Stripes have all played at The Hope over the years. We suggest catching an up-and-coming band here while they’re still up-and-coming. You never know…
– Heather Steele, @steeleheather
Leeds’ north quarter channels east London vibes with this trendy, bustling venue. Across Belgrave Music Hall’s three floors you’ll find food, live music, an art market, film screenings, a token french bulldog or two (of course) and the city’s most impressive roof terrace.
Serving a wide selection of cask ales, premium lagers and craft brews (including the venue’s own craft beer made with Northern Monk Brew Company), this is the ideal drinking spot for beer lovers. If you’re not into hops you can choose from straight up mixers, no-fuss slushy cocktails, a short wine list or get a caffeine fix with fresh coffee courtesy of Laynes Espresso. Canteen-style street food is served up by Dough Boys, the in-house “pizza pilgrims” who deliver a constantly changing menu of locally sourced products and vegan and gluten-free options. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love Belgrave Feast which takes over the venue every second Saturday of the month to showcase independent food vendors from all around the country.
It’s easy to see Belgrave Music Hall as one of the most exciting spaces on the Leeds scene. Its east London-inspired décor with industrial touches and minimalist bold designs make the perfect backdrop for the eclectic roster of music, arts and film performances. The large roof terrace itself is enough to draw a crowd, decked out with fake grass, quirky heated huts, deck chairs and its own mini bar. Whether you’re up for food, booze or art, this is the ultimate year-round hangout for any culture vultures, foodies and beer enthusiasts.
Best Bars tip: Love dough? Pizza slices are half price until 7pm, Sunday – Thursday and 5pm Friday and Saturday.
— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu
Popular with the post-work crowd, neighbourhood boozer The Prince George — located on bustling Trafalgar Street — is a mix of both traditional pub and boutique bar. Case in point: there are lots of cosy nooks and crannies (surrounded by the type of framed posters and paintings you’d expect to find in an old timer) merged with pendant lamps and exposed brick walls alongside fancy wallpaper. It’s this, plus the lovely little garden – replete with plenty of plants, plus heaters and big brollies in the evenings – which brings the crowds.
Its main draw, however, is its restaurant Veggie-Veggie. As its name suggests, the entire menu is dedicated to herbivores, and it’s been voted as one of PETA’s top 10 veggie restaurants in the UK. With the likes of ginger beer-battered halloumi with chips and mushy peas as well as chestnut mushroom ravioli with blue cheese sauce on head chef Malcolm Ingram’s menu, we’re not surprised.
If you’re just after a bevvie, then the selection of local ales here is almost second-to-none. There’s a range on offer from the 1648 Brewing Co, Dark Star, Langham, Kissingate and Hepworth & Co. We make ours a pint of Dark Star IPA every time.
Best Bars tip: For the serious vegetarians, there’s a meat-free wine and beer list. Very virtuous.
— Heather Steele, @steeleheather
Located in a corner of Brunswick, this Hove establishment stands out from the crowd of high street chains and local shops with its striking Grade-II listed exterior. Trust us, Freemasons Tavern is stunning: picture a tiled mosaic front and two storeys of art deco windows and imposing glass doors. 1930s heaven.
Inside, this splendor isn’t quite echoed, except for the bar, which has a gold tiled ceiling. Instead you’re greeted with the kind of interior that wouldn’t look out of place in a more modern joint: exposed brick walls, tables and benches made of reclaimed wood and a variety of art – mostly of pop culture icons – all feature here.
The bar’s biggest draw is its affordability: a bottle of house wine costs under £12, while a classic cocktail is £6.50. In terms of food, expect to find pub grub staples such as burgers, fish & chips and roast dinners on a Sunday.
Best Bars tip: This laid-back spot is the perfect place for hanging out with friends away from much busier, louder establishments. It also stays open until 1am on a week night and 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. That’s a lot of time for catching up.
— Heather Steele, @steeleheather
Paradise Palms is a little bit of the Vegas Sunset Strip dropped into the centre of Edinburgh’s Potterrow area. The décor is a mixture which goes beyond the eclectic into the downright fun: neon, green foliage, disco balls, cabaret club velvet and a huge stuffed boar’s head above the bar to complete the theme of having almost no theme. Somehow it all gels into an environment which is unique yet comfortable.
The Palms have teamed up with local street food mercenaries Ninja Buns who have committed a full kitchen takeover. We tried one of their signature efforts, a Taiwanese steamed bun packed full of Aberdeenshire pulled pork marinated in soy, ginger, garlic and star anise – those sneaky Ninjas know their buns! The bar team have put a big focus on tequila and mezcal – so the Paloma, a thirst quenching mix of tequila, fresh grapefruit and Caribbean soda Ting, was their recommendation. But there’s a great selection of beers too if that’s your thing.
The Potterrow area is the heart of the local university district and students and locals alike flock here for a great mix of music, killer cocktails and gourmet street food. The entertainment on offer is a mix of fresh local bands, DJs and cabaret nights.
Best Bars tip: Check in and chill out. The Best Bars team could have spent all night here and will the next time. Enjoy the atmosphere and ask the guys what’s going on later at night as that’s when the stage comes to life.
— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks
We love Kemptown hot spot Sidewinder. Distinctive from its big one-eyed crab mural on its exterior, this large pub has not one but two of the best beer gardens in town – think wooden booths complete with their own heaters for when the night draws in.
While we’ve always been fans, we’ve been making more frequent visits since it transformed its menu from pub grub to meaty Mexicana. Named Smokin’ Gringo, the kitchen now serves up the likes of burritos, tacos and nachos. Alongside this, the drinks menu has expanded from your usual bar fare of beers, ciders and wines to some punchy Margaritas, Palomas and Mojitos.
Yet fear not traditionalists. On Sundays the joint still serves roast dinners, complete with a build-your-own Bloody Mary station. That’ll kill those inevitable hangovers.
Best Bars tip: Another of our favourite haunts, Brighton Flea Market, is just down the road. We say combine a jaunt over to the east side of town to pick up a bit of bargain taxidermy plus a pint or two of the good stuff.
— Heather Steele, @steeleheather
Located on George IV Bridge since it was opened back in 1993, Bar Kohl has seen in the changes well and kept its style in with the times. And it has always been a hot spot for those who enjoy a good drink.
We remember the days eons ago when the menu was comprised of 101 flavoured vodkas but that time is long gone and now the menu features a diverse selection of great drinks. The Barrel-Aged El Presidente is strong yet balanced and we probably finished it a bit too quickly; so when our tasty burger packed into a soft brioche bun arrived, we followed it up with the awesome gin-based Hoodoo Voodoo with a house-made strawberry shrub and Roots Hoodoo soda. If we had more time, we’d have had another.
Bar Kohl is a busy place especially at the weekend. That said there are two sides to it, so if you want to go for a date hit the left side, if you’re a big group then head to the right, and if you want a bit of space to dance the night away head to the back.
Best Bars tip: It’s not all about cocktails as the guys have sourced a wide selection of canned beers and matched them to different burgers. There’s just something about beer in a can which locks in a fresher taste and washes down those tasty packed burgers.
— Martin Duffy