Pub review: The Horsforth, Leeds

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“It’s the only proper community pub left around here.” That’s the verdict from one of the locals who I bump into in The Horsforth on Monday afternoon.

The talk around the bar is all Brian McDermott – and when Sky TV screens a press conference from Elland Road, the conversation stops dead so that everyone can catch up with the very latest madness from this evolving saga.

The pub’s credentials as a locals’ hang-out is perhaps most visible on matchdays when United or the Rhinos are on TV and a partisan crowd gathers around the various big screens to cheer them on. The away game at Yeovil this weekend is a case in point.

Mind you, it’s not rocket science – get Sky, serve decent beer, and if their team is on TV, they will come. What is much harder to achieve is to have that same popular appeal day-in, day-out. And according to the regulars who I chat to on this brief visit, The Horsforth has pretty much nailed this too.

There are quizzes three nights a week, poker on Wednesday, karaoke on Monday, a pool table, a dart board and reliable, keenly-priced pub grub seven nights a week.

The community spirit in these parts is perhaps best illustrated by the ‘Macmillan Mash-Up’ staged here last May. There were four live bands playing from the back of a truck in the car park, fun for the kids and more Nando’s chicken than you could shake a stick at. The event commemorated two much-loved customers who had succumbed to cancer and raised £12,000 for the Macmillan Nurses. The pub took twice that over the bar too – happy days!

It’s not always the weather for al fresco rock and roll, but the pool room at one end of the pub doubles as a stage when The Horsforth puts on live music. This room used to be a Post Office years ago before the two properties were knocked into one, creating the cavernous pub of today.

It’s one of an increasing number of Yorkshire houses now owned by Suffolk’s Greene King brewery, which is why you find the three handpulls on the bar dominated by southern beers. Greene King’s IPA is the only regular here, the current specials are Olde Trip and the excellent St Edmund. The brewery tie doesn’t allow manager Steven Lingard to source his beers from outside the company, though he’s hoping to put on a number of Yorkshire ales when he hosts a beer festival here later this year.

“Meet and Eat” is the GK community pub brand, and with its Sports TV, community feel and its day-long food service, this one ticks all the boxes. It might never win any haute cuisine prizes, but the menu covers most of the straightforward pub dining bases, and does it at no-nonsense prices too. Choices include sausage and mash (£3.49), beef and ale pie (£4.29), and fish and chips (£4.79), and even if you push the boat out far enough to go for the 14oz rump steak, it will still cost you less than a tenner. Dinner and drink deals, available on various days during the week, reduce the prices still further.

Horsforth has always been well served by its pubs – and in places like the Brownlee Arms and the Town Street Tavern it has one or two which are worth driving across the city to try out. The Horsforth isn’t quite like that. It’s a locals’ pub, pure and simple; but there are plenty of communities around this great city which do with one, just like this.

I called in briefly at The Shed in Trevelyan Square last week. Very briefly as it happens. Seduced by website photographs of a bar which apparently combines the cool of Mojo with some good hand-pulled beer, a colleague and I wandered in for a drink after work and found the place in total silence and utterly uncontaminated by other customers. No sooner had we taken three paces inside, but a barman cranked up the sound system to 11, doubtless for our entertainment. “Can you turn it down a bit so we can have a chat?” I asked, not unreasonably. “No, it’s not our policy,” he replied, so we left, somewhat bemused at a bar whose policy clearly favours volume of noise over volume of trade.

Any trade at all.

FACTFILE

Name: The Horsforth

Host: Steven and Pauline Lingard

Type: Proper community local

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Sun-Thur, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat

Beers: Greene King IPA (£2.45) plus two other handpulled ales. Also John Smith Smooth (£2.64), Carling (£2.89), Becks (£2.94), Carlsberg (£2.28), Guinnes (£3.10), Strongbow (£3.10). Prices reduced during live football.

Wine: Small wine list.

Food: Good selection of no-nonsense pub meals served noon-9pm daily

Children: Welcomed, but no special facilities

Disabled: Ramp access and disabled toilets

Entertainment: Sky Sports, Quiz Tues, Thurs and Sun, poker Wed, karaoke, Monday, pool table, dartboard, games machines and free Wifi

Beer Garden: Yes, large area to rear

Parking: Large car park

Telephone: 0113 2581152

Website: www.gkmeetandeat.co.uk

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