SATURDAY afternoon live music is a recent addition to the attractions offered by this bar which has endured numerous changes of ownership, direction and nomenclature – but finally seems to be getting things right.
I called in on Saturday at the invitation of my mate Mike who plays a mean guitar with The Brilliant Readers, Yorkshire’s leading middle-aged, mixed-race, legally-qualified rock duo. And on an afternoon when Leeds United were playing at home and the Six Nations was on the telly, they drew a pretty impressive crowd to the ground floor of the Woods, where some craft beer and a welcoming family-friendly atmosphere made for a genuine and surprising alternative to the sport.
I’m old enough to remember when this was a rather run down used car lot, something of a tick on the smooth skin of aspirant, affluent Chapel Allerton. The tight space dictated the curious asymmetric geometry of the three-storey bar here, which opened to great acclaim as the Angel’s Share.
But the suburb’s star was on the rise, and competition from bars and restaurants on all sides made life difficult for the newcomer, which never seemed entirely comfortable with its own identity – was it a bar, a restaurant, a creche, a social club, a party venue? In truth it has tried to be all of these things, both as Angel’s Share and in its subsequent guise as Hummingbird – yet it never really became the automatic draw for people that it perhaps should have been.
Now as the Woods it’s displaying some funky attitude, not least with the Saturday afternoon live acts. From the ceilings hang a modern art display of woolly hats; on each tables are little tealights and beer bottles re-purposed as vases for single-stem daffodils; a blackboard sloping diagonally beneath the stairs is chalked up with the real ale choices and perhaps best read by a limbo dancer. On this occasion the five handpulls include Theakston’s Best and Kirkstall’s Three Swords, but I opt for the punchy, grapefruity dry-hopped Bread & Butter (3.9%) from Hebden Bridge’s Vocation Brewery.
Food is served most sessions. The wide-ranging menu includes giant pizzas (from £7.50), beef brisket (£9.80) and sausages and mash (£7.50). This being half term in Chapel Allerton, the Woods has played to its constituency by introducing its Woodski menu of Alpine-themed dishes including an Austrian Gulasch (£7.50), Bratwurst (£5.50) and Apfelstrudel (£4.50). For those of us of less disposable income, it merely confirms our woefully shrivelled sense of self-esteem.
Fancy helping to grow your own beer? Well the Leeds Hop Growers group is giving you the opportunity to grow a plant in your garden, yard – or even on your roof – and contributing to a special beer which will be brewed this autumn.
Keen home brewer and fruit grower Alan Thornton, tells me: “Hops aren’t difficult to grow, and by lots of us growing the same variety all over the city we can come together to make our own special beer.”
Through the website leedshops.wordpress.com anyone with space for just a large pot can pre-order one or more hop plants to pick up at the Leeds Beer Festival. It’s £20 for the starter pack and then £10 for extra plants. The pack will include the root, compost and string for it to grow up. Hops will need to be planted out straight away and will grow quite high, with the cones ready to be harvested in September.
At that point they will go straight into a special Leeds ale being brewed by that nice Nigel Poustie at city microbrewery Sunbeam Ales. Growers will keep in touch over the summer - the fact hops are perennial means there’s a good chance of another brew next autumn too.
Address: Stainbeck Corner, Chapel Allerton.
Type: Traditional real ale and live music venue
Opening hours: 5-11pm Mon-Wed, 5pm-midnight Thurs; noon-1am Fr-Sat, noon-11pm Sun
Beers: Changing choice of five cask ales plus range of craft ales, lagers and bottled beers
Wine: Decent selection available from £3-glass and £15.50-bottle
Food: Good choice of quality pub meals served 5-10pm Mon-Thurs, noon-10pm Fri-Sat, noon-9pm Sun.
Entertainment: Occasional live music and special events. Upcoming acts include the Dana Ali Band (this Sat) and Louis Louis Louis (Sat 25th)
Functions: Upstairs room is available for private parties
Disabled: Straightforward access to ground floor
Beer Garden: Large covered patio area to the front, outdoor balcony upstairs
Parking: On-street parking nearby
Telephone: Tel 0113 307 0111