TWO pubs, some mile and a half apart, provide contrasting experiences during a short excursion on a Sunday lunchtime.
It’s one of those days when I drive aimlessly in the hope of finding somewhere interesting to write about, and I first chance upon the Queens at Stourton because the back road to Wakefield is blocked, presumably by flooding.
This is an odd place – well-kept and friendly from the outside, yet with a brooding, slightly neglected look inside, that contrasts massively to the accessible community pub I found when I reviewed it last, a decade or so ago.
Its three drinking spaces, arranged around a central bar, have just five tables between them, which may suit the customers here but when you’re trying to sit somewhere and write your little notes, all anonymous-like, you stand out like a sore thumb.
Three of these tables are in the space to the right of the front door, where steps inset with spotlights lead up to a stage, dance floor and DJ booth. A slogan on one wall exhorts customers to dance, though on this lazy Sunday afternoon most seem content to lean on the counter, arguing gently.
The room to the left has a sweep of banquette around a red-baize pool table which matches the rest of the colour scheme - terracotta upholstery, red walls and pillars and stylised poppy wallpaper.
There is no real ale, the black-fronted bar seems bare and neglected with its modest little bank of beer fonts proffering John Smiths Smooth, Carling, Fosters and Guinness. And at £2.70 a pint I have to wonder quite what I’m paying for; it’s not as if the takings are being reinvested in decor and furniture.
So I sup up and press on south, eventually pitching up at the Angel in Wakefield Road at Rothwell. Walking in from the car park I immediately get a sense of everything that was missing from the Queens. This is a proper community pub – lively, welcoming with a benign atmosphere and a Timothy Taylor real ale pump clip on the bar. The fact I struggle to find a seat is perhaps the biggest tribute to its success.
In a very obvious way, the Angel is going Brazil crazy. Still two weeks ahead of the tournament it is already decked out in gaudy bunting and the flags of all nations. If you’re sensitive to bright colours, or feeling a little fragile from the night before, this may not be the place to come.
TV screens, one the size of a snooker table, will make this a great place for watching the World Cup, but today it’s all about the League One play-offs, and there seems to be a fair Rotherham contingent in. Interestingly, the commentary is switched off, and instead the sound is juke box jazz and rhythm and blues standards. They do this at one of my locals, the Pit in Chapel Allerton, and though you do miss a little something without the punditry, it does mean that the pub’s entire ambience is not given over to football. With music in the background, rather than Jonathan Pearce rambling on in, it does lend itself rather more easily to conversation.
So it should, because the Angel does plenty more than the sport, as any good locals’ house should do. The low-slung far end of the pub, to the left of the front door, is well-populated with diners enjoying their Sunday lunch, though food is served every day and the menu covers all the significant bases from fried fish to fajitas.
There are special offers, a quiz night, a pool table, a beer garden - and evidence of this being a proper pub, aimed squarely at the locals, but equally accepting of those occasional callers who happen to be driving past.
It’s owned by the John Barras Pub Company, and my convivial afternoon here has persuaded me to soon visit some of the others in the chain, the Malt Shovel at Shipley, the Station at Cross Gates and, would you believe, Hoagy’s Bar in Eastgate.
I haven’t been there since I was a teenager.
Name: The Angel, Rothwell
Type: Lively community inn with a good atmosphere and a perfect spot to watch sports
Opening Hours: 11.30am-11pm Monday-Saturday, noon-10.30pm Sunday
Beers: Two real ales available here plus good choice of lagers
Food: Good choice of pub food served until 9pm every day
Children: Welcomed, there is also a children’s menu
Disabled: Easy access and disabled toilet facilities available
Entertainment: Games machines, big screen Sky and BT sport, quiz Thurs, pool table
Beer Garden: Yes
Parking: Large area to rear
Telephone: 0113 2822202