IN THE quarter century since I first walked into this pub as an impressionable young journalist newly arrived at the YEP, I’ve seen it endure myriad changes of name and direction, rarely for the better.
It’s been the Wellington and Scruffy Murphy’s and the Phoenix, and at least twice has reverted to its historic name of The Central.
The latter is a contraction of the Central Station Hotel, though a grimy brick goods hoist is all that remains to remind us that Leeds Central Station once existed just across the road, before rail traffic was concentrated into the newly-builty City station in the 1960s.
In its most recent guise, the pub was known as the Phoenix, a reference to the fact that the Fleece at Addingham had relocated its business here, following a disastrous fire at those lovely premises. Their lease expired in October and it has now been taken on by the giant Stonegate pub company. And it’s curious that a pub once named after a station that closed decades before, should now be renamed in honour of a newspaper which too has moved away.
And in renaming the pub the Editor’s Draught, Stonegate have wrought a series of key changes.
“It used to be very dark in here,” says manager Wayne Ince, joining me for a drink. “We’ve lightened it up and removed some of the high seating and tried to give it the feeling of an independent bar.”
Typewriters in the window, and a huge mural of hot metal printing blocks play to the newspaper theme, as do a cocktail bar named Writer’s Block; a large function room upstairs where the NUJ once held chapel meetings has been renamed the Press Box.
It has retained some of its time-honoured topography. As you turn your back on the relentless traffic to walk through the front door, you find the bar in its familiar position on the right. Here four real ale handpulls are flanked by two sizeable banks of bronze taps, where big-name lager brands compete for attention with the changing choice of six craft keg ales served from taps in the wall of the back bar.
Turn left and you come to a drinking area; beyond the bar a broad space with a few tables provides an ideal spot for watching sport on the giant screen.
The house beer, the pale gold Editor’s Draught, is made specially by those nice folk at Naylor’s Brewery in Crosshills, and strikes a careful balance between some zesty hop character and some sturdy maltiness in a dry but gentle refresher. Big-selling local beers Leeds Pale and Ilkley Mary Jane will alternate on the bar, while the other real ales will regularly rotate. Daily offers such as any three third-pints for £3 keep it interesting too.
There’s plenty worth exploring in the fridges too with a quality choice of bottled craft beers which visits all the major bases – hop-loaded American IPA, clovey German wheat beer, artisan English cider – as well as some less familiar alternatives such as an Icelandic pale ale and a Mexican Hefeweizen. A good list of gins, a funky choice of cocktails and a quality wine list cater for those for whom beer is not the automatic choice.
From breakfast through to suppertime, the kitchens dispenses a host of hearty meals, though the menu makes a big play of their stone-baked, hand-stretched pizzas (from £7). Other choices include tapas dishes (from £3.50), burgers (from £7.75), steaks (from £8.25) and sandwiches (from £4.75). There are daily deals, while a special Sunday menu offers a traditional roast dinner.
The brickwork behind the bar is chalked up with all the latest offers. beside it, the mural of a slimy salamander reminds me strangely of a few editors I’ve worked for in the past…
The Editor’s Draught
Address: Wellington Street, Leeds
Type: City centre alehouse and restaurant
Host: Wayne Ince
Opening Hours: 8am-11pm Mon-Thurs; 8am-midnight Fri; 10.30am-midnight Sat; 10.30am-11pm Sun
Beers: Editor’s Draught (£3.50) plus three other real ales, Camden Pale (£4.55) and changing choice of craft beers, Amstel (£3.55), Heineken (£4.15), Guinness (£3.55), Rekorderlig and Symonds ciders (£3.70). Great choice of bottled beers
Wine: Good selection from £3.60-glass and £12.75-bottle
Food: Wide-ranging menus, with food served until
Disabled: Most straightforward access is through side door and most of the pub is on one level, though function rooms are upstairs
Children: Not especially suitable
Entertainment: Acoustic night Weds and Sat, Sky and BT Sports TV, games machines, board games
Functions: Areas available for private hire
Beer garden: None
Parking: On-street pay-and-display parking nearby
Telephone: 0113 8871 829