FOOTBALL tournaments generally prove to be good business for the pubs, especially throughout that luxurious little window while the England team is still involved.
So far I have watched France and Romania in The Pit at Chapel Allerton; Ireland v Spain in the fiercely partisan surroundings of the Harp at Burmantofts, and Spain against the Czech Republic at the Dexter in Shadwell. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
The Dexter makes great play of the fact it is showing every game; it’s reference on the website and a smattering of England flags pander to the home crowd. But, unlike at, say, the Pit, the venue hasn’t been totally given over to sport for the duration. Here, one snug with a big screen TV and high tables has been devoted to the football, but it would be entirely possible to visit here, sit somewhere else and be quite oblivious to the sport.
Besides, there is plenty more to enjoy here, not least on the bar, where a row of real ale handpumps is lined up, dead ahead, when you walk in through the canopied doorway, angled to face both Shadwell Lane and Wike Ridge Lane.
There are around seven real ales and the choice changes regularly, though you can usually rely on finding Tetley Bitter on the bar, a hangover from the time when the Dexter was one of the suburban jewels in the Tetley pub chain. It is named after a breed of miniature cattle which was once farmed by a scion of the brewing dynasty.
Another fixture on the bar is the Ember pale ale, specially brewed for the chain by Black Sheep in Masham. The pump clip bears the signature of founder Paul Theakston; the beer is a golden, gently bitter, malty session ale, with a white head that clings determinedly to the sides of the glass.
Now part of the massive Ember Inns chain, the Dexter has a major emphasis on food. What has changed markedly since I was last here is that diners are encouraged to drink beer alongside their food. Leaflets recommend some enticing combinations – Brewdog’s Dead Pony Club with the Thai Green Curry, Fuller’s London Pride with the steak pie.
The pub is comfortable and welcoming and though essentially open plan, pillars, half-walls and fireplaces create little intimacy. Sepia and monochrome images show scenes from the city’s past: tugs and flyboats plying their trade below Leeds Bridge, trolleybuses trundling along Boar Lane.
It is a popular meeting place, restaurant and community venue for this leafy suburb between the busy hubbub of the ring road and the fertile rolling countryside north of the city.
The city’s most inappropriately-named bar has launched an impressive new summer menu. With a name like The New Conservatory, you’d expect it to have a vast glass roof, with the sunshine streaming in onto wicker chairs and potted palms. But it’s not, it’s wholly underground, a storey below Albion Place.
Even so, it’s well worth a visit for its quality beer range and an imaginative menu which combines pub favourites like gammon (£10.95) and lasagne (£9.95) with some suprising alternatives such as a tempura battered halloumi burger (£7.95) and the whole lobster (£19.95).
Another bar doing cracking food is The Cat’s Pyjamas in Headingley where I spent an enjoyable slice of Saturday afternoon. It brings to the suburbs the fabulous, dazzling combination of great beer and Indian street food, which has proved such a winner at Bundobust in the city centre.
The kheema matar, sliced lamb with ginger and tomatoes, was a real winner on this visit.
Address: Wigton Lane, Shadwell, Leeds
Type: Community pub and destination house
Opening Hours: 11.30am-midnight Mon-Fri;10am-midnight Sat-Sun
Beers: Good choice of real ales starting from the Ember Pale Ale (£2.49) plus Tetley’s and a changing selection of alternatives. Also Carling, Peroni, Coors, San Miguel, Guinness, John Smith’s Smooth.
Wine: Good choice
Food: Reliable quality food from the Ember Inns menu is served from opening until 10pm daily
Children: Welcomed, but no special facilities
Disabled: Ramp access and disabled toilets
Entertainment: Games machines, TV, quiz Monday and Wednesday, free WiFi throughout
Beer Garden: Patio area to the front
Parking: Large area to the side
Telephone: 0113 2034991