Pub review: The Pit, Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton

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Nice bar, shame about the name. For some years now, Hub has been one of the cornerstones of the Chapel Allerton drinking scene.

All within a stone’s throw of here are Zed Bar, the Manor and Hummingbird, creating a lively little circuit where once just the Mustard Pot held sway.

Though – unlike the others – there was never any real ale served here, if push came to shove I would always have chosen Hub as my favourite. I loved the atmosphere, the comfy booths and the big screen plasma TVs which made this an ideal place for sports viewing, particularly when Leeds United or the Rhinos were involved.

But Hub is no more, as the bar’s owners Arc Inspirations have splashed £450,000 on a refit which has tripled its size and created a venue which will have those other three bars similarly wondering if they now need to up their game.

The press release which accompanied opening night says the bar “is built partly underground” and when I called in I was keen for manager Holly Barzey to take me down into these alleged depths. It didn’t happen, because Holly had to explain that the press release simply isn’t true and that the new name merely reflects the fact that its layout follows the style of the company’s new underground Pit in Merrion Street.

Mind you, this is the same press release which promised me “fizz and canapés” at the opening night. I’m sure these elements were present, but they didn’t come in my direction. And I can’t help thinking that Hub was a more appropriate title for a bar which stands right at the heart of this community, rather than Pit, which suggests some rather un-Chapel-Allerton-like den of iniquity. Either that or lots of people playing a very loud trading-based card game, and shouting “Three! Three! Three!” at the top of their voices, before someone shouts a gleeful “Corner!” and there is a minute’s peace before the noisy nonsense starts again.

I digress.

From the front the new bar looks much the same. A canopied corral of outside tables makes good use of the broad pavement, just as it does at Zed and at Casa Mia in between. I assume that the fire-eater who was lighting up this area when I called in was just a special feature for opening night, after which they will revert to giant patio heaters to keep their customers warm.

And stepping through the front door you might easily think that nothing has changed, save for the giant table football game (“lovingly built”, according to the press release) to the right of the front door. The TVs are still there, the bar is in the same place and there is still no hand-pulled beer, more’s the pity.

There are some great craft beers instead but the prices remain high. £3.85 for lovely Jaipur from Thornbridge, £3.90 for Brooklyn, £4.50 for Flying Dog - and all these for two-thirds-pint Schooners. The cheapest actual pint is Coors at £3.70, so if you’re coming here for a couple of hours to watch the game, you should check your bank balance first.

And it’s only once you part with an uncomfortable amount of cash for your drinks and move deeper into the bar that you understand where all this money has been spent. What was once a long room whose side seating, central aisle and barrel ceiling made for a slight railway carriage feel, now doglegs left and opens onto a much larger, less claustrophobic space. Apparently Hub wanted to expand, the coffee bar next door had storage space which it didn’t need, and a clever deal was done to suit all parties.

The press release, whose veracity you might be doubting a little by now, talks of “state of the art urban architectural features” but it’s this lovely area to the rear, all red leather couches, stripped pine, intimate booths and bare brick, that I think will make Pit stand out from the competition in this crowded market place.

A servery counter opens onto a busy, brightly-lit kitchen. The Hub always served food, but the refit has given the Pit the opportunity to expand and improve what it serves. There are some vegetarian choices, but the main courses go heavy on the meat which go from banger and beans (£9.95) to Porterhouse steak (£29.95) by way of smoked pork shoulder (£11.95), half a chicken (£15.95) and ribs and lobster (£27.95).

One nice touch is that 25p from the sale of their Lighthouse Burger (£8.25) goes towards supporting the city’s Lighthouse School – Britain’s first special free school for children with autism. I reckon they have sufficient profit margin to do something similar with one of the beers too.

Factfile

Name: Pit

Type: Lively sports-themed bar

Host: Ash Brown

Opening Hours: 11am-1am Mon-Fri, 10am-1am Sat, 10am-12.30am Sun

Beers: Pit Canary (£4.25), Doggie Style (£4.50*), Jaipur (£3.85*), Blue Moon (£4*), Brooklyn (£3.90*), Peroni (£4.40), Coors (£3.70), Vedett (£4*) (Asterisk denotes two-thirds pint measures)

Wine: Good choice from £3.70-glass and £14.95-bottle

Food: Good choice available until 10pm daily

Children: Not especially suitable

Disabled: Easy access and disabled toilet facilities – but lots of high tables and split levels inside

Entertainment: Live sport on 10 HD plasma screens

Beer Garden: Patio area to the front

Parking: On-street only, though supermarket opposite offers two hours free parking

Telephone: 0113 2698666

Website: http://arcinspirations.com/pit-chapel-allerton

Beer of the Week

Pit Canary

Brewed specially for the Pit by Pool-in-Wharfedale’s Wharfebank Brewery, Pit Canary styles itself an American pilsner and is typical of the kind of interesting, slightly niche, craft keg beers which have emerged in recent years.

The name is inspired by the old mining days when a canary was carried into the pit to check it was safe to enter. Here, you don’t so much need a Canary as a calculator, when you’re being charged £4.25 a pint.

If you’re prepared to overlook this scandalous lack of value for money, it’s a good beer – dry, fruity, well-balanced, refreshing beer with some interesting effervescence, a suggestion of raspberries on the palate, and a nice warming finish.

EASTERN PROMISE: The rooftop terrace at the Kori bar, Victoria Gate.

Bar review; Kori, Victoria Gate, Leeds