TO drink in the Adelphi is to commune with history.
This lovely old alehouse, with its curved frontage, etched windows, arched and pillared doorways, and its ornate interior of lacquered wooden panelling, big fireplaces and red tiles, is the very epitome of the late Victorian drinking house, a comfortable, parloured haven from the world outside.
It was a time when design wasn’t simply about function, but more squarely about comfort and decoration and grandeur for their own sakes. For many who drank here in ages past, the comforts here would far outstrip those available in their own homes.
There were once many others like the Adelphi, but too few of these wonderfully evocative old places have survived. Many have been bulldozed in the name of progress, others have been simply refurbished and refitted into sad submission. The shell may be there but the character is lost forever. It’s sad to see similar examples standing empty and unloved – the Rising Sun on Kirkstall Road is a perfect example – and more should be done to preserve those few which remain. The Adelphi is stunning; The Cardigan Arms could be like this, if it tried.
For years this was the de facto brewery tap for Tetley’s next door. Generations of brewers and draymen and coopers would end their working day at the Adelphi, re-connecting with the fruits of their labours. That the local beer came under such expert scrutiny was a long-time guarantor of quality here. The brewery is long gone now, of course, though its brightly lit sign still stains the night sky red.
And its departure to Wolverhampton has seen the famous huntsman pumpclip removed from the Adelphi counter, where it has been replaced by a whole host of interesting alternatives from around the country.
It’s Saturday evening when we call in, and though the place is busy throughout, miraculously we find ourselves a table in the old public bar to the left of the front door, with sufficient room for us to be joined by friends from my early days in journalism at the Selby Times for a convivial evening of reminiscences.
Rather like the Cardigan, the pub has four separate high-ceilinged drinking spaces, each with its own ambience, but only two of which are served directly by the bar. Handily, we are in one of these, and in Position-A for spotting the opportunity for some quick service when there is a gap at the bar. Those in the two rooms to the right of the corridor have to take their chance.
The history, the architecture and the commitment to quality has made the Adelphi a favourite of local CAMRA members for decades. And it’s great to find that the beer remains in great form. Bath Ales have risen to prominence in recent years and a couple of their bottled products have scored highly in my beer of the week column. It’s rare to find them on draught, so when I spotted Forest Hare on the counter here it was an obvious choice. This seasonal beer packs lots of rich autumnal goodness into an attractive copper colour ale of real depth and character, though it is still at a very sessionable 3.9% ABV.
In recent years, the Adelphi has augmented its reputation for beer with much more foody credentials. The menu changes daily, but typically involves a high-end take on some familiar pub standards. At £10.75, the fish and chips might seem a little over-priced, but sometimes it is worth paying that extra – and here you get sustainably caught hake in a lovely cider and tarragon batter. Other choices from the list during our visit include: cherry orchard sausages with beer mustard mash (£9.50), pork and chorizo burger (£10.50) and salmon fishcake with paprika potato wedges (£9.50).
A blackboard on the wall advertises up-market bar snacks at three for £11 – breaded pig’s cheeks, mozzarella fondue and battered black pudding among them.
Upstairs, a large function room with its own separate bar is available for private hire, and was for many years the venue of choice for Yorkshire Evening Post staff leaving parties, a role which has in recent times been usurped by the excellent Midnight Bell, which is in comfortable walking distance from our new-ish offices, now that the old ones have been reduced to a sad heap of rubble.
Name: The Adelphi
Type: Traditional alehouse
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Sun-Thur; noon-12.30am Fri-Sat
Beers: Changing selection of real ales plus Becks, Guinness, Peroni, Veltins and good choice of bottled beers.
Wine: Good wine list.
Food: Great selection of modern bar food served noon-10pm Mon-Sat, noon-9pm Sun. Special Sunday and bar snacks menus
Children: Welcomed, though no special facilities
Disabled: Easy access and disabled toilet facilities
Functions: Function room with own bar upstairs.
Beer Garden: Patio-heated courtyard with smoking area to the rear
Parking: None. On-street and pay and display areas nearby
Telephone: 0113 2456377