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Pub review: The Royalty, Otley Chevin

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THIS famous old pub enjoys one of the most spectacular views of any with an LS postcode.

It may not have the rugged beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, but the view from the Royalty’s beer garden, south-east towards Leeds and west toward Bradford, makes this a splendid place to sit with a pint and just take in the scenery. It’s also slightly unnerving to sit here, way above Yeadon, and watch aeroplanes taking off towards you from the western end of Leeds-Bradford’s runway.

We may be a few miles outside the national park, but this is the edge of Wharfedale, the name “Chevin” meaning ridge, denoting this steep sided escarpment which rises over Otley.

There has been a pub here for at least 100 years, but the building is much older than that. A framed history in its rear corridor tells of some dubious shenanigans around its ownership in the distant past.

Sad to say, its recent history has been a chequered one too. For a pub with such a wonderful location – close to two big cities and with a ready-made catchment among the walkers and cyclists, it has sometimes struggled to thrive.

My last visit here, perhaps four years ago, found a careless attitude towards customer service and the unpleasant smoky fug of chip-pan fat. I’ve been in enough pubs over my 20-odd years of writing this column to recognise the signs of decline, and I said it needed to sharpen up its act. It came as little surprise that this very obvious malaise had mutated into an actual closure some time later.

The Royalty actually remained closed for two and a half years, making it a rather sad and lonely sight for those who were crossing the Chevin by car, bike or foot. For a while it seemed possible that it would never trade again.

But the small, London-based Mornington Pub Company has now stepped in to give the Royalty a much-needed revamp. It reopened in March, and judging by my visit on Sunday evening, it is already proving a hit.

If you enter from the car park, as most visitors do, then you miss the pub’s traditional tap room, which is more easily found from the front door. With its north-facing windows, its stonework, fireplace and fruit machine, it’s quite a contrast to the light and airy, family-centric areas to the rear.

Having said that, we headed for the conservatory, which offers those great views south, and seems to be the focal point of the pub’s dining operation. Efficient waiters in plain black livery flit along the tartan carpet, delivering generously-portioned Sunday roasts to a cross-generational clientele. The background music is exclusively Oasis, for no reason that I can immediately fathom.

There are plenty of families in and aside from a few moments of high drama, all seem well-behaved, even the grandparents.

I’m soon nursing a pint of the zesty, refreshing Ossett Pale Gold, while working my way through the menu. There are usually two real ales, but I’m told the weekend rush has reduced the choice to just one. No matter, this great Yorkshire beer was on fine form.

The menu offers plenty of pub standards like chicken and ham pie (£9.49), sausage and mash (£8.49) and a ploughman’s lunch (£8.25), but this being a Sunday, my wife opts for a traditional roast – slices of beef with Yorkshire pudding, potatoes, lashings of gravy, and a good choice of vegetables (£10.50). It’s testament to the Royalty’s popularity that the roast lamb is already sold out.

I’ve gone for a less predictable choice. The seabass (£11.59) is excellent – four generous slabs of fish, imaginatively teamed with sauteed potatoes, al dente mange tout and green beans and a delicious pea puree.

Manager Michael Adams is delighted with how it’s gone since re-opening. “We had a few inevitable teething problems at first, but word has started to get round and we’re already well ahead of our targets.”

With a new menu from May 19, a barbecue being built out back and live music events planned for the summer, let’s hope that this time the Royalty is here to stay.

FACTFILE

Hosts: Michael Adams and Laura Irvine

Opening Hours: noon-11pm daily

Beers: Changing choice of real ales (£2.85-£3.30) plus Fosters (£3.10), Heineken (£3.20), Kronenbourg (£3.30), Guinness (3.50), Strongbow (£3.30)

Wine: Decent choice from £3.50-glass

Food: Good selection of pub meals served noon-10pm Mon-Sat and noon-8pm Sun

Disabled: Straightforward access but some split-level areas inside

Children: Welcomed

Functions: Areas available for private hire

Beer garden: Attractive area to the rear with spectacular views over Leeds

Entertainment: Summer barbecues and live music planned

Parking: Large area to rear

Telephone: 01943 463732

Website: www.royaltyotleychevin.com

 

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