VISIT the beautiful old Mustard Pot on a busy day and you’ll witness a phenomenon rare, perhaps even unique, in Britain’s licensed trade.
The bar is broad: room enough for ten or twelve customers to jostle shoulder-to-shoulder, seeking out the attention of the busy bar staff. It could easily be one of those places where you are ignored if you fail to make eye contact at the crucial moment.
But none of that happens here, because – for reasons which even the staff seem at a loss to explain – people queue.
So if you walk in through the storm porch on a Friday night or a sunny Saturday afternoon, you find yourself joining the back of a long, straight and very orderly line. There are no signs to enforce this curious behaviour; it just happens on its own
And so it should. It’s strangely fitting that visitors to this lovely old red brick and Yorkshire stone pub should observe these civilised social niceties. The Mustard Pot is the grand old lady of Chapel Allerton, slightly raised, slightly aloof, slightly detached from the suburb’s main strip of bars and restaurants. Coming here, you almost feel like you need to be on your best behaviour.
With its hushed tones, well-kept garden, lovely food and well-to-do atmosphere, it’s almost like a fine old Yorkshire village inn has been replanted into suburbia. Except, of course, that the opposite thing has happened. When Clough House was built as a desirable residence in the 17th century, it occupied a remote rural spot with south-facing views over the distant nascent city.
A map of 1767 names its inhabitant as a Mrs Marrow, and she had few close neighbours. It also shows where the local gallows stood, on a site close to the current Chapel Allerton school; three republicans were hung here in 1664 for plotting to overthrow Charles II.
It’s still where it always was, yet 400 years of sprawl have seen it subsumed into the conurbation. And from the sloping beer garden, you can imagine how this was once a rather grand house, a hundred yards from the turnpike.
And so it remained until the late 1970s and despite several refits since then, it retains much of that country house character, a fact underlined by a photograph over the fireplace which shows how little has changed.
A party over the Bank Holiday will celebrate seven years of the current regime, which is led by Nicola Storey, though she’s currently enjoying whatever kind of rest can be derived from maternity leave.
The pub is owned by Marston’s which strongly influences the choice of ales on the bar, not least the Oyster Stout which has supplanted Guinness’s position on the bar. Easy-going EPA (3.6%) is the entry-level cask but I go for the slightly stronger New World IPA which proves an ideal accompaniment to an after-work interlude in the sunshine.
Here is a broad patio of stone flags and chunky pine furniture crowned by a pergola, onto which roses are being encouraged to grow. Beyond this, a long grassed beer garden packed with picnic tables meanders down towards the main road; beyond that is a vegetable patch where chef grows some of the produce for the kitchen.
Food is served here from noon until the evening and, as with the beers, you pay a little extra for the undoubted quality, both of the fare and of the surroundings. Pub grub standards such as sausage and mash (£10.50) and fish and chips (£11.50) are augmented by some more foody alternatives like the confit duck leg (£12.95) and pan-fried sea trout (£13.25).
A Sunday quiz and regular community events sustain the Mustard Pot’s place as the traditional heart of the village.
Address: Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton, LS7 3QY
Telephone: 0113 269 5699
Type: Well-kept pub and restaurant
Host: Manager Ben Stickland
Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Sun-Wed, 11am-midnight Thurs, 11am-1pm Fri-Sat
Beers: Changing choice of four real ales, all £3.70, plus Shipyard Pale (£4.50), Carlsberg (£4), Kronenbourg (£4.50), Budvar (£4.30), Hoegaarden (£5.20), Thatcher’s Gold (£4), Marston’s Oyster Stout (£4).
Wines: Very good choice from £4-glass and £16-bottle
Food: Quality food served noon-4pm and 5-9pm Mon-Sat, noon-8pm Sun
Disabled: Easy access and disabled toilets
Children: Welcomed. Kids’ meals available.
Entertainment: Quiz Sun, occasional special events
Beer garden: Large grassed area to the front
Parking: Large area to side