Pub review: The Parkside Tavern, Merrion Street, Leeds

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A PUB called the Parkside really ought to be in Hunslet, the name synonymous with the rise and fall of one of the early powerhouses of rugby league.

Playing at Parkside Stadium, in 1908 Hunslet became the first club to achieve the holy grail of the sport – winning the Championship, Challenge Cup, County Cup and County League all in the same season.

But this Parkside is right in the city centre, and cheek-by-jowl with another site that is steeped in history, the grounds of the oldest church in the city centre, St John’s, which was built in 1634.

At first glance, you might think that the pub itself, and the Social Bar next door are housed in buildings just as old. Their dramatic timber frontage and leaded windows wouldn’t look out of place in the chocolate box villages of the Cotswolds or tourist-laden Stratford on Avon. But the wooden sign in an ancient script naming this as St John’s House, is merely maintaining a convenient fiction; these properties were actually built between the wars in the Mock Tudor style which was very popular at the time.

Perhaps if the building did have a genuine claim to antiquity, it might have been treated better down the years, rather than passing through the hands of a number of different owners, and being re-invented in a series of styles, none of which quite nailed it. The last time I was here this was the Slate, but now it has been given a makeover entirely in keeping with a city in the vanguard of the ale revolution.

Mind you, stepping in from busy Merrion Centre, you arrive at a tile fronted bar almost totally devoid of anything to drink. Four real ale handpumps look rather lost on the expanse of the counter, and if you’re searching for lager or stout, you might feel a little bewildered.

It’s only after I’ve ordered my pint of Theakston’s Black Bull that I finally spot the row of 16 beer fonts ranged across the back bar. High above, over a long line of spirit bottles, a blackboard has been chalked up with the latest choices – Brooklyn, Beavertown, Schneider, Vedett and Asahi all feature.

From here we head to one of the intimate leather-backed booths beside the windows, where I begin to re-acquaint myself with dry, fruity, slight toffee-ish Black Bull, which at 3.9% is a touch more potent than the Masham brewery’s Best Bitter. Other choices on handpull include Caledonian Deuchars and Kirkstall Pale; beers from Rooster’s, Ilkley and Magic Rock can also be regularly found here.

There’s plenty more of interest, including a selection of vintage rock posters featuring the likes of Cream, Muddy Waters and the Stones. One end of the bar is given over to two pool tables while a further upstairs drinking space, along with an attractive outdoor terrace, make this a popular nightspot, particularly in summer.

A good cocktail list and a choice of pizzas, burgers and flatbreads completes the picture here. Let’s hope the owners can finally make this new direction stick.

(BLOB) Ridgeside Brewery’s beers could prove the popular choice for drinkers at Meanwood Beer Festival this weekend. The event, which opens at 4pm tomorrow at Meanwood Cricket Club in Parkside Road, features four ales from the local brewery, just a couple of miles or so away. They include the excellent oatmeal stout Black Knight, which has long been one of my favourites from their range.

But with 24 beers from breweries including Whippet, Revolutions and Geeves from Barnsley, there should be something for everyone. The festival continues on Saturday; there’s live music, gin and prosecco bars, and food from Zorba’s Bar and Grill.

FACTFILE

The Parkside Tavern

Address: Merrion Street, Leeds

Type: Lively modern alehouse

Opening times: 3pm-midnight Mon-Thurs; noon-midnight Fri-Sat

Beers: Four real ales (from around £2.50) plus interesting choice of lagers and craft ales

Wine: Reasonable choice

Food: Good selection of pizzas, burgers and flatbreads

Children: Not especially suitable

Disabled: Straightforward access to ground floor bar, but no special facilities

Entertainment: Pool tables and occasional cocktail masterclasses

Beer Garden: Outdoor drinking area to the front and first floor terrace overlooking Merrion Gardens.

Functions: Areas area available for hire for private parties

Parking: Pay and display areas and multi-storey car parks nearby

Website: http://parksidetavern.co.uk

Email: mail@parksidetavern.co.uk

Phone: 0113 467 2005