The one thing I have always thought that was missing from the Leeds nightlife scene is a place that looks like the set for a contemporary Dickens fashion shoot, probably the kind that would be featured in Vogue or Tatler with moody dark lighting and copious amounts of smoky eyeshadow. Found just behind Whitelocks, The Turk’s Head takes its name from The Turk’s Yard that sits on its doorstep. As if serving alcohol since 1715 isn’t enough of a pedigree, upon walking in we were faced with bottles in glass cases that lined the bar and walls, sapphire blue, crystal clear and bottle green like cut gems, which were labelled as sodium, zinc oxide, deep ocean sediment or eucalyptus, like the kind you might have found in a perfumery in the 18th century, which drew me into fits of décor rhapsody (as I am sure you can tell). As we leant on the marble bar after having shouldered through the jostling crowd, my fellow editor deftly pointed out that the bartenders were using rose gold utensils to mix our cocktails, the ingredients of which were poured from heavy corked glass bottles devoid of any labels, instead embossed with leaves and fruit.
From the half-tiled walls to the deep blue velvet booths, The Turk’s Head is a masterclass in the potency of aesthetics and décor and the effect it can have on your night out. Presented with an embossed card for free drinks when we stepped through the door, we put it to liberal use and consulted the cocktail menu diligently. Priced from six to eight pounds, there were some old favourites, among them Negroni and a classic gin and hop tonic served with thyme, alongside cocktails I had never come across before: The Five Points Spritz, consisting of Aperol, a bitter orange aperitif, and pale ale; The Seasonal Shrub (which we had some difficulty with, as we couldn’t discern whether it was alcoholic or not); the Boulevardier, publicised as ‘the Negroni’s American cousin’ with bourbon instead of gin and lastly at the more expensive end of the spectrum, The Turk’s Head Old Fashioned, made from their own small batch bourbon.
Finding a seat was difficult as The Turk’s Head is quite an intimate, small venue, but whilst I was there I quickly found myself fantasising about what a perfect place it would be to host a birthday bash. The inside proving too cramped for us, we moved outside to the heated seating area where to our excitement we managed to snaffle some canapés from the rapidly-emptying silver platters that were being passed around. The Turk’s Head might not serve food, as it sits beside Whitelocks, but it sells itself not just as a bar but as a venue; this is the kind of place you go when you want to impress someone, or spend a very sophisticated night sipping cocktails.