The Leeds scene changes faster than you can shake a Martini, but in its 18 months of existence Norman has stayed ahead in the style stakes and still looks fresh - if a little more lived-in. An abandoned betting shop, it's still the odds-on favourite for fashion-conscious under-30s to refresh themselves with a blast of colour, an eyeful of witty design and a sip of something strong and cool.
You needn't even go inside to get the picture - and on Saturday night, when the good-time crowd is queuing outside, you might think better of it. The large glass front gives a view of what's going down on the other side, but the crush could stop you seeing the orange pebble-shaped coffee tables; the stubby, plastic, Tom Dixon-designed tripod bar stools; the back door made from slices of toast embedded in wax; and the lights designed by Inflate.
A funky, retro riot of frivolous shapes and citrus colours conceived by some of the top names in contemporary design, Norman stands out from the now predictable roster of chain cafes and bars that populate most of Leeds - thanks to design co-ordinators JAM. Daytime's the right time to take in the decor in detail and try out Japanese and Thai-style food. On weekend evenings, the food's all gone by 8pm and DJs play almost anything except house or garage.
Bar staff are trained to disarm anyone suspicious of a place as image- aware as this; they're friendly, and can quickly fix a drink from a label- conscious list. Bottled beers like Chimay, Duvel, Warsteiner, Erdinger, Budweiser Budvar, Tiger, Sapporo and Steinlager are pounds 2.40 to pounds 3. They don't pull out the stops on cocktails, but a best-seller is the non-alcoholic Superjuice - concocted not behind the bar but in the kitchen - and it's as fun and fruity as Norman's colour-scheme.
Norman, 36 Call Lane, Leeds, (0113 234 3988). Mon-Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-10.30pm.
This Belgian beer is available on draught, but has to be kept at room temperature behind the bar - not in the cellar. It doesn't mean the beer's served warm. Branded goblets are provided for serving it in half pints and these are cooled by a blast of ice-cold water before the beer is poured. The beer itself can't be cooled because it goes too frothy, but is briefly chilled on the way from the barrel. The trick then, says bar manager James Walker, is to hold the chilled glass right up to the nozzle at 45, or the beer froths everywhere: "It's a knack, otherwise you waste half of it." Because all the bar staff have the hang of it, "it's like pulling a normal drink." The deliciously cold glass of Leffe Blond is placed on a plain bar napkin: "Nice and simple, that's our style." But remember - it must be in the right glass at the correct temperature, "otherwise it just doesn't taste as nice".
Equal parts of fresh peach, passion fruit, mango and apple blended with three teaspoons of Greens+, a powdered green vitamin supplement that includes liquorice root, barley powder, wheatgrass, vitamin E, green tea, grape extract, ginseng, apple fibre, brown rice germ, "different types of seaweed, and the rest of them I haven't even heard of," says James Walker, who is, after all, a bartender, not a nutritionist. Norman buys this substance direct from the US. It turns the fruit cocktail dark green, and the whole thing is served over ice in luminous green plastic beakers with two gold straws and a scoop of passion fruit floating on top.
Norman's Too Delicious
The bar staff won't thank you for ordering one of these on a Saturday night, but any other time they'll be flattered. To make two drinks, puree two peaches, or one tin of peaches in juice (not syrup). Blend with one shot of fresh cream and a double measure of Archers. Pour one measure of Chambord into a highball glass filled with ice. Gently add the pureed peaches and cream. Don't stir: drink from the middle with a straw, and the raspberry liqueur will create pink ripples as it filters up through the peachy creamy layer above.Reuse content