IF YOU have a taste for the macabre, then the Town Hall Tavern is an interesting place to pass an hour or so.
Around the walls are pictures and cuttings on a legal theme, and I took this opportunity to read up on the trial of Victorian poisoner William Dove and his subsequent execution, watched by thousands.
Now almost 90 years old, the THT hasn’t been here quite so long, but its predominant subject matter reflects its traditional role as a watering hole for those engaged with the law – practicing it, reporting it, and feeling the long arm of it.
Its proximity to the courts and the legal practices of nearby Park Square and Great George Street provided a ready clientele; a division into two halves meant that the law could drink on one side, the accused on the other.
I’m just about old enough to remember those days. As a young weekly newspaper reporter I was brought here for lunch by a hardened YEP hack when we were both covering the same case, sometime in the mid-eighties.
But the nooks and crannies, screens and baffles which provided such handy intimacy back then have been long since stripped away, though I dare say it remains a popular local for the legal eagles.
Inevitably, the open-plan look took away some of the THT’s charm and character – but the line-up of Timothy Taylor products on the bar ensures it will always be worth a visit.
Regular readers will know of my penchant for Landlord; once my eyes are drawn to that distinctive cream and green oval pumpclip it’s hard to persuade myself to try anything else.
It’s the quintessential Yorkshire beer, and a case or two would probably be my Desert Island luxury, if Kirsty Young were ever to ask.
Here though, you get the chance to browse the rest of the famous Keighley brewery’s range – refreshing and sessionable Golden Best; creamy, gentle Dark Mild; rich and toffee-ish Ram Tam; and spicy, hoppy Boltmaker, which just happens to be the reigning Champion Beer of Britain, CAMRA’s highest accolade.
Along with the Old Unicorn at Bramley, the THT was once in the ownership of Dickensian-sounding pub company Musgrave and Sagar, but the pair were snapped up by the expanding Timothy Taylor pub group some years ago, which extended their empire significantly east of their heartland, which lies roughly on an axis between Skipton and Halifax.
The Unicorn has now been given the Wetherspoon treatment, leaving the THT as the only Taylor’s pub in the city – though their beers can often be found in the city’s better alehouses.
The floor is dark-lacquered parquet, the paintwork grey-green, ivory and deep navy blue, and makes interesting use of some stunning blue tiles.
Drinks menus on each table set out the pub’s impressive range – including long lists of wines, rums, vodkas, gins, and enough whiskies to keep a Scotch-lover entertained for weeks, especially those that might want to splash out £15 for a tot of the top-of-the-range Johnnie Walker Blue Label. There’s a cosmopolitan choice of bottled beers too.
Food is served from lunchtime through to the evening daily and the pub makes great play of its local provenance with “happy pigs” and free-range chickens. The menu changes regularly, but typically classics such as steak pie (£11.95) and hunter’s chicken (£9.95) are augmented by interesting diversions such as crispy duck with pine-nut salad (£9.50) or quail’s scotch egg (£6.25). The Yorkshire cheeseboard (£9.95 for five cheeses) sounds amazing.
Type: Interesting real ale bolthole
Hosts: Jon and Sam
Opening hours: 11.45am-10pm Mon, 11.45am-11pm Tue-Fri, noon-11pm Sat, noon-8pm Sun
Beers: Timothy Taylor’s handpulled ales: Landlord, Golden Best, Boltmaker, Ram Tam and Dark Mild (all £3.30) plus Amstel (£3.80), Carling (£3.70), Peroni (£4.30), Staropramen (£4.30), Guinness (£4) and Stowford Press cider (£3.70)
Wines: Great choice from £3.70-glass and £15.50-bottle
Food: Wide-ranging choice of dishes served 11.45am-9pm Mon-Fri, noon-9pm Sat and noon-7pm Sun
Entertainment: Areas available for private hire and special events
Children: Welcome, but no special facilities
Disabled: Straightfoward access
Beer garden: None
Parking: On-street and pay and display areas nearby
Telephone: 0113 244 0765