Think big, think The Box: more is more at this game-changing hangout.
The financial district of Leeds comes alive with the sound of thirsty nine to five-ers after dark and as such, there are fabulous and fancy restaurants and cocktail bars aplenty, just waiting to meet that demand: on one side of the street you have your baskets of posh chips and mouth-watering burger stacks, and on the other you have your dirty martinis. A quick walk in one direction gives you footy on the big screen, and around that corner you get the beer you’ve been thinking about since lunch.
… or you can pay a visit to The Box, which truly ticks them all. Right in the thick of it all is this post-work watering hole, wrapping itself around the corner of Infirmary Street, your one-stop shop to eat, drink, view, play and party.
I dropped by on Wednesday for a beer tasting masterclass with Kieran ‘beer guru’ Hartley, but before we got down to the business of brewing, I grabbed a G&T and gave this newbie a once over.
No detail has been spared here; you have it all under one rather magnificent roof. Shiny leather sofas, European-style beer benches, comfy booths, a myriad of colours, thanks to the bold lighting choices and a vast central space where all the must–see sporting events take place on huge screens offered at every vantage point.
Beer is a big deal at The Box, too – a fact made apparent by the famous Budvar tanks, adorning walls and taking centre stage behind a well-stocked bar. “Tank beer served here!” the signs tell me, and I soon learned that ‘here’ is the first bar in Leeds to sell Budvar from the tank.
It was soon time to learn a lesson on two on the brewing trade, and though a beer wouldn’t top my list of alcoholic drink choices, I was interested to find out more about the Czech beer that owns the heart of this new bar. Past the busy open kitchen I went, descending into the cleverly-lit basement area – where the Box offers two additional, sauvé, moody spaces: The Vault, available for private hire and boasting its own micro bar, and The Strong Room – offering a cosy space and a fancy screen – perfect for those Monday morning corporate presentations. In my case, The Strong Room was where we were met by the Daddy of Arc Inspirations, entrepreneur and all-round-funny man, Martin Wolstencroft who joined us in the masterclass and took the time to elaborate on the concept of his latest venture.
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty, Martin talked of the vision for his second Box offering, and his hopes to have developed a concept that is bigger and better than that of a typical sports bar. With a fine-tuned menu offering premium burgers sourced from the best butchers in lkley, triple-cooked chips and Authentic Napoli pizzas created on a speciality imported oven, he’s keen to highlight the fact that even the bar food basics can be truly delicious when quality isn’t compromised.
We moved from talk of food to talk of beer as the masterclass began and Kieran stepped in to offer his expertise on the matter. Amongst the tasting of various barleys and close inspection of hops and yeast, he tutored his way through lager and ales that varied wildly in strength, taste and appearance, answering our questions along the way. He talked about the beauty of Budvar – the king of the Box beers – a justified title thanks to a widely unmatched brewing time of 90 days.
I went into that room with quiet trepidation, knowing very little about beer other than the fact that I prefer mine in a pitcher or Stein, and left it feeling like the expert that I’m not. In fact, several times throughout the session I found myself staring into my glass of amber-coloured bubbly liquid, completely in awe of the science that actually goes into the process of brewing a decent beer.
It’s not just about freshly tanked European beer and high quality food here, either. In a fast-paced society where there’s a real need for speed, the Box offers the holy-grail of cocktails on tap –The Pornstar and the Espresso Martini, thus coining the phrase, “less mixing, more drinking”, which fits well.
Post-master class was spent in my element, taste-testing the moreish loaded nachos whilst trying my hand at shuffleboard in the designated Shuffle Box corner. Fear not, though – if competitively sliding weighted discs up and down a 21-feet-long glossy Maplewood table isn’t your bag, there’s a whole host of grown up fun on offer; big screens for big games, DJs for dancing and digital dart throwing to boot – in short, there’s a little something for everyone.
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