FOR a pub with such a fine location, things haven’t always run smoothly at the Dyneley Arms.
I remember it many years ago being a lively wayside local with decent beer, unpretentious pub food and a sizeable rear concert room which played host to middle-of-the-road entertainment for people of a certain age.
Its position was crucial. Midway between Otley and Leeds, right beside a busy crossroads in equally easy reach of Bradford and Harrogate, close to Bramhope, Yeadon, Leeds-Bradford Airport and the centre of Pool, the Dyneley pulled in punters from miles around, and though what it did was neither unique or remarkable or even particularly special, it did it well enough to sustain a loyal clientele.
Things changed, and while I’m hazy about the timeframes or the sequence of events, slow decline, closure and a catastrophic fire, saw it fall into a sad dereliction. For more years than it should have done, the Dyneley stood lost, abandoned, empty and a very sad and visible blot on the landscape. Some pubs, those far from the beaten track, can decay quietly and barely remembered. The fate of the Dyneley was to fall to pieces in full public view.
It was revived a few years ago by Samuel Smith’s, the Tadcaster brewery investing a shedload of money – something like £3.5m if you believe the local gossip – on creating what is essentially a whole new pub. The new look is great, and if you had been unfamiliar with its recent troubled history you could easily imagine that its warren of rooms, its honeyed stone, its old fireplaces and and terraces are each survivors of the pub’s distant past, which is celebrated in prints and pictures around the walls.
Actually, very little is original, though some parts of the external walls do date back to the original Dyneley Arms, built in the 1850s.
The new look is based on Victorian photographs of the building, the sandstone newly quarried by nearby Mone Brothers.
After an 18-month rebuild, everything seemed well set when the pub reopened in 2008. A chef was hired to prepare quality home-cooked meals in what was for a while a wonderful resurgent 21st century pub and restaurant.
But Sam Smith’s decision to scrap the menu, and replace it with some centrally-produced simulacrum of family dining was at best capricious, at worst perverse. For this to happen in some of lesser pubs seemed hard enough, to impose it on the Dyneley felt like sacrilege. In a market place rich with competition from places like the Wharfedale at Arthington, the White Hart, Half Moon and Hunter’s at Pool, and a host of pubs in nearby Yeadon and Otley, it was easy for punters to vote with their feet.
I’m now delighted to report that the Dyneley’s airline food phase is over and when we called in for dinner a couple of weeks back we found it functioning as a proper dining pub once again, though perhaps chastened by experience and not with quite the confidence and chutzpah of its immediate post-rebuild years.
The style is similar to that of Victorian country house, with small rooms, slightly forbidding, dark and intimate, with colours drawn from a palette heavy-laden with chocolate browns, greys, beiges and blacks.
The small bar is dominated by Tadcaster products, from the Old Brewery Bitter and Stout to their Alpine and Purebrew lagers and wheat beer.
And manager Maurice Reynolds is hoping to get the Dyneley right back on the map, as well known for miles around for its good beer and fine food now as it was for its over-forties entertainment a couple of decades ago. As a chef by trade and someone who had his own catering business, quality food is a big part of the plan. “It’s better than at some of the other chains,” he tells me. “At some places you can get these two-meals-for-£10 deals – but you have to ask what are you really getting for that?”
He likes the good mix of customers which the pub is attracting: “You wouldn’t get this clientele in any other pub. They are nice and polite – and give me no grief.”
And he loves the location. “When you wake up on a morning, look out and see lambs running about, it makes your day.”
Name: The Dyneley Arms
Licensee: Maurice Reynolds
Type: Comfortable family-friendly inn
Opening Hours: Noon-2.30pm and 5.30-11pm Mon-Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Sam Smith’s products only including Old Brewery Bitter (£1.64), Old Brewery Stout (£2), Alpine lager (£1.95), Purebrew lager (£2.67), Wheat Beer (£2.97)
Wine: Small choice
Food: Good selection of pub meals available noon-2pm and 6-8pm Mon-Sat, noon-6pm Sun
Children: Welcomed. Kids meals available.
Disabled: Straightforward access, disabled toilets
Entertainment: Quiz on Sunday evenings
Beer Garden: Patio areas
Parking: Large areas to both front and back
Telephone: 0113 284 2887
Beer of the week
If I were the sort of person who watched cookery programmes I would probably know that Chalky is Rick Stein’s dog. Mind you, if I were a half-decent beer writer I might well read the label too, before pouring my ale with gay abandon, only to discover it is bottle conditioned, and my glassful now as cloudy as the sky over Old Trafford on Test Match Saturday.
No matter. The sediment won’t hurt you, in fact some prefer the extra oomph of flavour that it brings – which is fine with Chalky’s Bite, because even at a prodigious 6.8 per cent ABV it is not over-powerful.
The beer is brewed by Cornwall’s Sharp’s Brewery – and came about as a result of the TV chef challenging Sharps to produce a quintessentially English ale that would match up in taste, individuality and character with some of the Belgian greats.
If you were reading this column last week, you’ll be familiar with my love of Belgian beer, yet if I’d been served with a glass of Chalky’s Bite during my recent Flanders jaunt, I couldn’t have complained. Its aroma is all peaches and cream, and this fruitiness continues as it splashes across the palate, the tastebuds also picking out hints of ginger and spice, and the bitterness generated by its blend of three hops and long maturation process.
If I were the sort of person who knew what wild fennel tasted like I’d say that was in there too, because it is, apparently. But I’m not. If I were, I’d probably be writing for the Observer, or presenting some TV programme so loved by the public it allowed me to make a celebrity of my dog. Or something.
I don’t even have a dog.