Pub review: Mr Foley’s, The Headrow, Leeds

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“We serve a bigger range of real ales than any other pub in the city centre,” says manager Jason Allison, waving a proud arm over his line of 12 handpumps when I catch up with him for lunchtime pint.

“Well, I think we do,” he adds, perhaps realising that falsely publicising the claim could lay him open to all kinds of counter-claim and retribution.

“I can’t think of anyone who has more, can you?” he asks, perhaps thinking I am some walking encyclopaedia of this kind of thing.

“What about the Scarb...”

“Ten,” he interrupts confidently.

At 12, he’s already two ahead of the pub’s own webpage, so I guess there must be some kind of expansion going on. No matter, let’s take it as read. Mr Foley’s has more real ale handpumps than any other pub in Leeds city centre.

Jason is in the happy position of running the only York Brewery pub outside its home city, meaning that he has more freedom to run it his own way than is afforded to those rather closer to base. “They pretty much let me get on and do what I want,” he tells me.

Jason has seen some very different aspects of the trade. He spent six years at pub giant Mitchells and Butlers, working in their strictly branded Vintage Inns; from there he moved to a small independent bar. At Foley’s he has found a happy medium: “I have the stability that I had when I worked for M&B, combined with the freedom I had at the bar. It’s a good mix.”

So while York beers remain the staple fare on the bar – their well known Guzzler and Terrier ales being both permanent fixtures – the other handpumps give him the opportunity to put on a whole range of beers from across the country, giving his customers a broad choice of strengths and styles.

One nice touch is that Jason displays small kilner jars of each beer beside its handpump, giving drinkers the chance to browse with their eyes and – for those who have an aversion to dark or really pale beers – the opportunity to rule out some of the selections straight away.

Every few weeks, half of the draught lines are given over to a particular brewery, and on this visit Pool-in-Wharfedale’s Wharfe Bank Brewery has staged a small coup at one end of the bar, with six of their beers lined up, tempting customers to graze the whole range.

After trying their fiercely bitter Furious IPA (see beer of the week) I take a diversion to the right-hand end of the bar, where I try Yorkshire Blackout, a lovely, rich and velvety, chocolate stout from the Great Yorkshire Brewery at Cropton.

If all these ales aren’t to your taste then you are a curious cove indeed. But you might be attracted by the 18 (count ‘em) real ciders arranged in boxes along the back bar, or around 100 different bottled beers in the fridges underneath.

A good choice of hearty pub meals is served lunchtimes and evenings daily, except on Sundays.

The pub is named after Patrick James Foley, the founder of the Pearl Assurance, and when this Portland Stone monument first opened its doors in 1911 it was the magnificent new company headquarters.

Unlike some rather crass remodelling jobs, Foley’s building was tastefully converted when it first became a pub maybe 15 years ago. From the busy Headrow you step into a central atrium, surrounded by plush balconied areas ahead and to the right, while the left wall is dominated by the long bar.

There is some ground-level drinking space, but to access the simple comforts of tables and chairs one must equally ascend to the multi-levelled balconies.

These in turn lead through to a quieter back room, which also benefits from wheelchair ramp access from the street behind.

From his perch atop the building, flanked by two griffins, Mr Foley continues to observe the changing world below.

FACTFILE

Name: Mr Foley’s

Opening hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Thur; noon-midnight Fri-Sat; noon-7pm Sun

Beers: York Guzzler (£3), Terrier (£3.10) plus changing choice of ten other real ales. Yorkshire Blackout stout (£4.20), up to 18 real ciders (around £4 a pint), plus

Carlsberg: (£3.30), San Miguel (£3.90), Peroni (£4.50), and Staropramen (£3.70).

Wine: Good choice available

Food: Keenly-priced quality pub meals available noon-2.30pm and 5-9pm weekdays and noon-9pm Saturday,

Children: Not particularly suitable

Disabled: Rear ramp access, disabled toilets

Parking: On-street and car parks available nearby

Telephone: 0113 2429674

Website: www.york-brewery.co.uk

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