For almost two centuries, Tetley’s beer was brewed in Leeds.
Today, an illuminated sign still proclaims the former headquarters on the edge of the city centre is “The home of Tetley’s, established 1922”.
In reality, the Art Deco building is now home to something very different than the nerve centre of this manufacturing giant.
The closure of the brewery in 2011 was the end of an era for the city – but the handsome 1931 building on top of which that landmark red sign sits has been given a new lease of life.
Late last year The Tetley reopened, this time as a “new centre for contemporary art and learning”.
Run by arts and education charity Project Space Leeds, the facility houses exhibitions and runs workshops and other events, including those inspired by the history of the company which was such an integral part of Leeds.
An integral part of the centre’s new incarnation is the bar and kitchen.
Both are located on the ground floor, after you’ve entered through the imposing original wooden revolving doors.
It’s through these that me and my dining partner entered on a wet, blustery winter’s night, looking a bit bedraggled.
On arrival, the bar area is on the left and is unexpectedly open plan and rather roomy. As we’d gone for an early weekend dinner, we were concerned the place may be deserted and lacking in atmosphere but there were quite a few other customers.
We headed into the dining room proper, where a few tables of diners were already seated, despite the early hour.
The Tetley is open all day, a great idea for somewhere which is a destination rather than a spot for passers-by to drop into.
We were instantly greeted and shown to a table, though an extra chair had to be produced – a large party were just leaving and the staff were in the process of clearing their tables.
Decor can best be described as retro industrial. Much of the furniture has been recycled from the building’s original use, meaning 1970s-style chairs and tabletops fashioned from reclaimed timber from the site.
It’s well done, without being overdone – although the room still had a functional, rather than a convivial air and could have been a little warmer.
We were quickly brought menus, which we were delighted to see contained an array of traditional comfort food perfect for warming us up on such a foul night.
Apart from brunch, which is served until noon, the menu options remain the same throughout the day.
But in meeting this requirement, there’s a nice mix of meals which could suit either lunch or dinner. We were tempted by the jars to share, especially warm potted shrimps with toast, and the platters sounded delicious – but cold meals weren’t going to cut it on a January evening.
Among the mains, the grills caught our eye, as did the ale and beef stew with dumplings , made with Tetley’s of course.
However as we could see the dessert offerings too, which pleased us, we knew we’d have to leave room for one.
After our orders were taken swiftly, drinks arrived equally speedily – an efficiency reflected throughout the meal as the wait for our food wasn’t long.
I’d gone for a true British classic, the toad in the hole with gravy (£8.95). It came piping hot and with a warning not to touch the ceramic dish it sat in.
One large sausage was encased in a batter that was crispy round the edges and soft within. Gravy filled with tiny whole baby onions had already been poured into the dish, which was great for a gravy-lover like me, but over time did make the less-cooked batter beneath the sausage a little soggy.
However the flavours couldn’t be faulted, from the high-quality sausage to the rich, meaty gravy.
Side dishes are extra, and I’d chosen the cabbage with bacon and maple syrup, which was delicious. Savoy cabbage was perfectly cooked and mixed with sizeable crispy bacon bits and a hint of syrup, was pleasingly smokey and sweet.
My companion had gone for a lighter option, the sea bass with shrimps and kale (£14.50).
The piece of fish was crispy-skinned and was surrounded by a generous serving of tiny shrimps, as well as the green vegetable and small pickles.
She enjoyed the dish, saying its flavours were well balanced and again the quality of the ingredients shone through.
Though one of the costlier main courses, it seemed reasonable on its own – though with the additional side dish, it was pushed up a little.
The combination of green beans and chestnuts (£3) worked well together though.
We didn’t need to be asked if we wanted dessert. In fact my dining partner was on a rather tight timetable so we’d had to explain to the restaurant manager when our main courses arrived that we’d need our pudding soon after.
She couldn’t have been more accommodating and ensured that our shared rhubarb crumble with custard (£4.50) arrived quickly once our mains had been cleared.
We were pleased we’d left room for it. The generous portion in an individual dish was topped with a gingery crumble which was more like broken pieces of biscuit than a traditional version.
It still worked well though, and was a perfect foil for the enjoyably sharp rhubarb beneath, which was also a stunning shade of pink.
The small jug of custard alongside was also very good, and authentically flecked with vanilla seeds.
With a peppermint tea and two soft drinks, our bill came to £40.95.
The Tetley brewery was once at the heart of Leeds and its closure left many dismayed.
But whatever you think about that, the site’s regeneration can only be a good thing – and the quality of cooking on offer shows this famous name can still make its mark in the hospitality field.
Address: Hunslet Road, Leeds, LS10 1JQ.
Ppening times: Mon - Fri 9am - 11pm, Saturday 10am - 11pm, Sunday 10am - 10pm.
Tel: 0113 320 2423.