Rachel Jenkinson first came to the Bridge to work a single shift as a favour for a friend.
Sixteen years on, she’s still here, and as licensee for the last nine of them, has built this up into the very model of a community pub which is right at the heart of local life.
Rachel still has a distinctive north east accent, but admits that Leeds is now home. She first came as a student and worked regularly at the Original Oak in Headingley, before that fateful favour brought her to Horsforth. “It really was supposed to be a temporary thing, but I love it here now. I always look at home through rose-tinted glasses but it’s not the same any more. Why would I want to be anywhere but here?”
While they might not always appreciate the sheer number of hours that she puts in, there are plenty of regulars here who have reason to be thankful for her long-standing commitment to the pub. Being a little detached from Horsforth’s main drag of bars and restaurants and from the steady passing trade enjoyed by those beside the ring road, the Bridge has to work that bit harder to bring in the customers. But with a whole host of pool, darts and football teams, live music and a full-on programme on Sky and BT sports, Rachel has developed a friendly, social club vibe to bring in the locals, night after night.
And with some quality food and drink she is also attracting a steady stream of customers from further afield.
If you are eating here, you should first linger at the bar where there are always plenty of beers to choose from. There are eight handpulls in all, and though the choice is rotated from time to time, most of the beers have landed a permanent spot on the bar, their quality underlined by the pub’s Cask Marque status. They include Tetley Bitter and Tetley Mild, as well as the lovely dark Midnight Bell from Leeds Brewery. On numerous visits I’ve never had a bad pint here, and this time clean, golden Yorkshire Sparkle from York’s Treboom Brewery, at a good-value £2.40 a pint, proves a refreshing counterpoint to my night of hearty dining.
It starts with thin crispy Thai fishcakes served with a devilishly spicy red chilli dip, while my partner’s prawn cocktail is all you’d expect of this seventies dining favourite.
Main courses soon follow: for my partner a dangerously hot lamb rogan josh, studded with green bullet chillies; for me a Herculean wedge of deep-filled steak and kidney pie with chips and mushy peas. Pies are a big thing here, with a big choice of fillings and a two-for-one deal on Thursdays.
This proves more than enough to leave us properly full up, but for those of still greater appetites, old school desserts like the syrup sponge, sticky toffee pudding and chocolate fudge cake would round off a night of sizeable portions and generous hospitality in belt-loosening style.
Bookings are already coming in for the pub’s popular traditional turkey dinners throughout December. And Christmas Day is already fully booked: “We could have sold out three times over,” says Rachel.
She admits to working hard to make a success of the Bridge: “It’s 24/7. You really can’t do it if you don’t love it.” And she has achieved this alongside raising a family - her children are six, 12 and 15. “They’ve grown up here. It’s home to them.”
She praises the pub’s owners, the Warm and Friendly Pub Company, for their constant re-investment in the site, the latest being to add roofs to the gazebos in the lovely beer garden out back.
“It’s really paying off now and getting bigger and bigger,” says Rachel. “We have a long way to go but we are definitely moving in the right direction.”
The Bridge Inn
Address: Low Lane, Horsforth, Leeds
Host: Rachel Jenkinson
Type: Community local
Opening Hours: 11am-midnight Sun-Thurs, 11am-1am Fri Sat
Beers: Eight real ale handpulls, currently including Leeds Pale (£2.60), Tetley Bitter (£2.60), Tetley Mild (£2.50), Treboom Yorkshire Sparkle (£2.40), Doom Bar (£2.95), Golden Pippin (£2.85), Midnight Bell (£3) plus Carlsberg (£3.05), Carling (£3.30), Becks (£3.40), Coors Lite (£3.45), Stella Artois (£3.75), Peroni (£4.50), Guinness (£3.50)
Wine: Good selection from £3.10-glass and £10.95-bottle
Food: Huge choice of good value pub meals served noon-9pm daily
Entertainment: Quizzes Thursday and Sunday, pool table and dart board, occasional live music, Sky and BT sports TV
Disabled: Reasonable access, slightly cramped inside
Children: Welcomed, kids’ meals available
Beer garden: Large area to the rear
Parking: Small area beside the pub plus on-street parking
Telephone: 0113 258 7339