New to the Leeds dining scene, Smokin’ Bar has just opened its doors on Park Row, just off the Headrow across in Leeds. It’s aiming to be a casual dining destination that provides a fun space for “great food, watching sports, playing games and drinks with pals”. I wasn’t able to attend the opening party, but instead was invited to pop in the following week for dinner to see what it’s all about. As one might suspect, the food is all about smoking with the menu featuring short rib and chicken wings alongside staples such as burgers and selection platters.
I didn’t fancy dining alone given the likely portion size from this sort of dining experience, so quickly grabbed a friend who was finishing work in Leeds at about the right time and made tracks with them to settle in for feeding. The bar was as spotless as one might expect a venue only a few weeks into its life to be and the friendly front of house guys quickly had us seated in a booth to one side of the main bar area with menus in hand.
We grabbed some onion rings to pick at while waiting for mains of the beef rib and a smokin’ platter that featured smoked wings, tortillas, crab taquito, beef empanadas and breaded shrimp with mango puree and sweet chilli to dip everything in. Before the server left, we exhibited no restraint at all by also ordering some grilled corn to have on the side. The onion rings arrived almost instantly along with a couple of beers from the broad selection on offer and it was very satisfying to dredge the crisp batter through some mayonnaise which didn’t leave one’s hands unpleasantly greasy.
Our chosen meats arrived after a similarly brief pause, unfussily presented on a mixture of plates and slates. We worked through a few bits from the sharing platter first, enjoying the chicken wings and breaded shrimp with the mango puree. The tortilla bites let out a pleasing crunch while the beef empanadas and crab taquitos were less successful, not letting the main ingredients reach full potential, the crab in particular struggling to fight its way past the sweetcorn it shared space with. The beef rib, scattered with sliced chilli, had been well cooked and didn’t require too much effort to separate into bite sized chunks that packed in plenty of the promised smokiness. Having been lucky enough to enjoy some really special beef rib in my time this was always going to suffer a little by comparison, but there’s little to be disappointed in here for £12.95 in a buzzing bar centrally located in Leeds. Corn on the cob came with a very well judged hint of char and was a welcome note of sweetness at the side of the meal.
As seems to be inevitable when eating anywhere that trades on the promise of good smoked meats, we exited with a good amount of leftovers ready to see my friend and his partner through a hearty lunch the following day. It’s not unfair to say that Smokin’ Bar isn’t the kind of dining experience I go out of my way to enjoy, but that’s not to say it fails to hit its mark. I was impressed by the service, sensibly priced and broad drinks list and lively atmosphere. For a beer each and all that food, we’d have seen a little bit of change from fifty quid, which seems like a fair deal for dinner for two in the centre of Leeds. Smokin’ Bar is set to be a buzzing place to hit for after work or weekend drinks.
Disclaimer: This is an impartial review of a complimentary meal.