Pub review: The Podger, Garforth, Leeds

The Podger.

The Podger.

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IT’S almost 50 years now since Archibald’s small engineering plant was closed, the land having been bought by Tetley’s to create a new pub for the rapidly-expanding village of Garforth.

The Leeds brewery had the good grace to ask Mr Archibald to suggest a name – and these low-slung, utilitarian premises were soon named The Podger, after a tool which was once one of the products created here. The name remains, and the spanner on the inn sign also recall this location’s industrial heritage.

If you didn’t know this, you might easily wonder if the name simply honoured an overweight landlord or a customer whose girth expanded through the prodigious intake of Tetley Bitter and steak pies.

I’m guessing that the exterior has changed very little since it was built in the 1960s, save for the lean-to shelter which has been provided for the smokers on the decking across the front. By contrast, I’m sure that the signage will have changed frequently, matching a few changes of ownership since the Tetley empire was broken up.

The Podger is now part of the growing Pizza Kitchen Bar chain, which seems to be concentrated on large community pubs, an area of the market which has been crying out for innovation and investment for decades. The Station at Guiseley and the Old Ball at Horsforth are others which have been given the same treatment – which is all about serving keenly-priced freshly-made pizzas and good beer in a lively, family-friendly atmosphere.

Live sport is also a huge part of the mix here. To the right of the main entrance, a knot of tables and some comfortable leather chairs are arranged in front of a close display of five plasma screens, rather like you might have found in a TV showroom in the days before electrical devices were fought over in supermarkets on the first shopping day after Thanksgiving.

With five screens to choose from, it’s like sitting in the control gallery of a TV studio, except that the largest of the screens is set into an ornate gilt frame, as though it were some priceless oil landscape, the whole focus of attention in the drawing room of a grand country house.

When I call in, the drinkers are concentrated in this end of the room, watching three separate games of football, though TV screens around the walls ensure that those spread out into other areas of this long open-plan pub still have a good view of the action. I persuade a couple of locals to let me share their table to write my surreptitious little notes while keeping a watching brief on the game.

Although Tetley’s is still available here, Greene King IPA seems to be the mainstay of the real ale trade, and at £2.30 a pint represents decent value for money. Similarly the food menu needn’t break the bank; the pizzas start at £5.95 for a simple margherita and gradually increase in price depending on the size and shape of the base and the weight of the inappropriate toppings piled on top.

I do wonder how tired one would have to be of life to order an oval pizza topped with crispy duck, pulled pork or peri-peri chicken. But if these float your boat, then the Podger might just be the place for you.

If you’re looking for the ideal Christmas present for the beer lover in your family, then you might want to check out Great Yorkshire Bottled Beer, a new book by Leigh Linley, who combines his passion for writing with his day job as general manager of Wharfe Bank Brewery, based in Pool-in-Wharfedale.

Wharfe Bank beers feature, naturally, but – given that they are arranged alphabetically in the book – you won’t reach them until Leigh’s interesting, elegant prose has taken you to more than 60 other breweries across the county, with tasting notes for hundreds of their beers.

It’s a comprehensive guide but Leigh also manages to throw in some interesting turns of phrase – Black Sheep Riggwelter is “plummy dark fruit with an interesting whisper of banana”; Kirkstall’s Dissolution IPA has a “muscular snarl of alcoholic warmth” – and he suggests some interesting food matches too: Rudgate’s Chocolate Stout with peanut cookies, Ilkley’s Siberia Saison with black pudding.

It’s a great read, and in local bookshops now, priced £9.99.

FACTFILE

Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Mon-Thurs, noon-midnight Fri-Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun

Beers: Greene King IPA (£2.30) and Tetley Bitter, plus Carlsberg, Carling, San Miguel, Guinness, Tetley Smooth and Somersby Cider. Good choice of bottled beers

Wine: Good wine list with choices from £3.25-glass and £13.50-bottle

Food: Pizza kitchen menu served until 9pm daily

Children: Welcomed, kids’ meals available

Disabled: Ramp access

Entertainment: Multi-channel Sky Sports TV, quiz Weds and Sun, plus regular programme of live music. Games machines and free Wifi.

Functions: Areas available for private hire

Beer Garden: Large area to the rear

Parking: Large car park to the front and side

Tele: 0113 2864796

Website: www.pizzakitchenbars.co.uk

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