I ALWAYS turn right when I enter the Village.
I dare say that if I went left I could easily end up in a restaurant, a top-end bedroom, or - heaven forbid - the gym. But these attractions have never held quite so much interest for me as a good sports bar with decent beer and TV screens the size of snooker tables.
Since before the tournament started, I had been planning to come here to watch at least one of the World Cup games and report on the whole cosmopolitan carnival atmosphere. Strangely, since the back end of last week, my interest in the whole Rio-fest has begun to dwindle. Can’t think why.
The England bunting is still hanging around the bar in the Victory, just as it is at thousands of other pubs around the country.
Licensees probably can’t believe how badly this has all turned out. I suppose they might still trade high on the World Cup, but the bonanza will be nothing to the one they would have expected if England had progressed into the later stages. Their customers’ interest in the tournament would have remained at fever pitch for another fortnight, pulling in the crowds of drinkers who like to watch the football in a lively, sociable environment.
Maybe these bars are a little bit in denial, perhaps hoping that by keeping the flags flying a little longer they can hoodwink their customers back into the feel-good mood they enjoyed before England kicked off.
The odds of them being fooled is roughly equal to the chances of those who wander into this bar with its rough-hewn beams and columns and think that this might have been here for centuries. As an attempt to fake farmhouse feel and genuine antiquity, then I have to say that I’ve certainly seen worse. But once you strip out the whole sporting theme, the overall impression is that you’re in the Disneyland branch of McDonalds.
In some ways, the Victory has more in common with Wetherspoons. Blackboards around the walls are chalked up with all the latest offers - cut-priced platters and wines, cheap beer, cheap vodka. Triangular “table talkers” promote food deals, loyalty cards and your chance to win a trip to Brazil. Oh the irony; I wonder if they’ll let you go in Olympic year instead.
It’s Monday night when I call in, and Brazil are in action as it goes, and the bar is well populated, mostly with 30 and 40-something guys who have hot-footed it in here straight from the Village’s gym and swimming pool and tennis courts and perhaps don’t mind paying £3.50 for a pint of bitter.
To be fair, the choice of beers here is pretty good actually – between two and four real ales, interesting imports like Leffe and Hoegaarden and a host of more workaday lagers. And as the football kicks off, they’re doing a roaring trade at the bar.
The food here is more or less everything you would expect of formula pub dining - main courses like chicken and chips (£9.95), barbecue pork ribs (£12.95) or a chilli hotdog (£7.95). Burgers start at £8.95 and don’t stop until you reach almost double that. So, it’s not cheap, but the guys around me are tucking in with gusto, perhaps cushioned by the illusion that the workout they lately enjoyed is more than counteracting their prodigious calorie intake.
An L-shaped verandah around one end of the bar offers great outdoor drinking and dining space, with sunlit booths providing a rare combination of fresh air and privacy. There’s a TV out here too, so you don’t have to miss out on a minute of the action.
As hotel bars go, the Victory is a not a bad one, particularly if you’re in the mood for some football. But for genuine pub quality, great beer, and lovely unspoiled atmosphere, the Stables, just up the Otley Road at the rival hotel, the older Weetwood Hall, shades it in my book.
Name: The Victory
Type: Well-kept hotel bar
Beers: Marston’s EPA and Marston’s Pedigree plus Budweiser, Stella Artois, Stella Black, Becks Vier, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Strongbow, Magners
Wine: Decent choice from £3.95-glass or £16.50-bottle
Food: Good choice of burgers, hotdogs and other meals
Children: Not especially suitable
Disabled: Easy ramp access and disabled toilets Beer garden: Large decking area to side and front.
Entertainment: Games machines, big-screen Sky Sports and BT Sport, pool table
Accommodation: The Victory is part of the Village hotel complex
Parking: Large car park to front and sides
Telephone: 0871 222 4594