a Remedy for jazz, food and life in Leeds


Words: Charly Bowen
Photos: Lauren Hockney
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Nestled among a string of bars and takeaways on New Briggate, sits Remedy; an oasis of jazz, liquor and well-kempt facial hair. Signified primarily by the dancing of candlelight through the steamed-up windows, the facade of Remedy possesses a certain discreteness, reminiscent of a speakeasy and far removed from the city centre bars, where the roar of Friday night drinkers can be heard with each swinging door.

Inside, the bar is lit by candlelight, dotted with couples drinking large red wines and sharing cheese boards. The walls are busy with the tasteful chaos of well-placed art, a rustic wine list, and a dog-eared vinyl collection that looks both extensive and well loved. ________________________________________________________________________________________

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The owner, Simon Hunter, tells me about his interior choices, “I was inspired by Parisian and Italian café bars. I designed everything here, contrary to what people might think.” Like the discordant tones of a seasoned sax, every outlying picture frame and vintage furniture has a place in the artful improvisation of Remedy’s interior. Si conducts the visual symphony of his beloved bar with verve and spontaneity, every corner of the room considered, showing that he is a man with a passion for doing things with aplomb. “I wanted to create a place for people who want to escape the noisiness of the city” he reflects. Some place where “it’s just a little bit quieter.”

Later, I learn that Remedy’s intimate feel and low key setting is no coincidence. Little more than a year ago, it was an invite only affair, where if you knew, you knew. Those who wanted to dance, drink and jam in Si’s basement would have to stand by the shutters, look through a lens and buzz up. “Dead, fucking cool” Si reminisces, “but short lived”.

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Now of course, Remedy, which opened 12 years ago as a Barbershop, is a fully licensed bar and hairdressers. The two businesses are separated only by a set of stairs, and Si’s barbering roots are embraced in the bar below, not least by the glorious vintage hairdressing chair in the front window.

“I started cutting hair in 1989 and only stopped cutting doing so myself three years ago. Now I’ve got a genuine jazz bar: It’s always been a dream, to have somewhere we can just sit, drink beer and listen to jazz.”

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Jazz and live music have been integral to Si’s life, him having spent the lionshare of his youth in marching bands, playing in the Salvation Army. “I had a musical upbringing. I’ve always played the tuba, and still do now. I’m a championship player, and I’m part of the City of Bradford Brass Band”, he tells me, proudly. Not only then can we trust that the live music choices at Remedy will be well informed, since Si is both an avid listener and musician himself, but also that every aspect of this bar, from the beer selection to the seating arrangement, has been designed with the free-form spirit of jazz at its core.

As the evening grows darker and the band start setting up for the evening, people begin to pour in: friends, families and a few aficionados who sit alone, listening intently. When I asked Si, ‘why jazz?’ he told me that it’s because it’s both accessible and broad, and when the unique mix of people settle down to listen to the band, his point is proven rather aptly.  Nothing about Remedy’s atmosphere is stuffy or pretentious, instead, we’re presented with an almost transcendent sense of musical embrace: people reveling in the awkward clink of glass on crowded table-tops and over-sensitive notions of ‘personal space’ dissolved by the tones of bass and brass.

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It’s not simply the music that’s accessible at Remedy, Si points out how the food and wine are affordable, because, “everyone should be able to listen to jazz on a budget.” The wine list, for example, is impressive and extensive, but even the most expensive bottle on the menu is still modestly priced. “I know about wine and I care about wine, everything on our list is beautiful, quality and genuinely good.Si has a rare attribute for truly listening to what his customers want, which is why the existing wine list is growing from twelve to thirty bottles very soon.

It’s also why a cocktail bar is due to open in a few weeks beneath Remedy, “we’re just responding to demand, people want a cocktail bar downstairs.” Like all of Si’s pursuits, rest assured, it will be done properly- there will be no murky espresso martinis in sight. “I know my wines and I know how to serve, but I’m no cocktail maker- I will have professional cocktail makers come and mix, because it’s a real skill.”

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In addition to an extended wine list and cocktail bar, Si will be developing the food menu. He describes the offering as “simple, good food with a Mediterranean feel, we will serve clean food, to accompany the good booze”. He tells me, in between serving and greeting customers, how there will be something for everyone on the new menu and assures me that vegetarian and vegan options have been explored.

As the bar gets busier and jazz envelopes the room, Si is rushed off his feet, greeting each customer by name or with a silent, familiar smile. “That’s the difference between us and other bars- we don’t just pour drinks, we speak to everyone. If you come in here, you’re family.” Si’s commitment to his customers, to serving and to music is truly something to be admired.

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Si told me at the beginning of the night that he wanted to create a place where people walk in and don’t want to leave, and as I settle down for my third gin and tonic, I realise he’s done it.

Leeds is lively, but just as there’s a time and a place for bright lights and wild nights, everyone, at some point, needs an elixir to combat our metropolitan apathy; a Remedy for life in our gloriously flawed city.