THERE'S plenty you might dislike about The Dexter. This was once a perfectly serviceable old village local, long a jewel in the old Tetley crown, steeped in the traditions of the city brewery from an age when that actually meant something.
And now look at it. All curtains and cushions, fireplaces and furnishings, fine white wines and red Thai curries. All that old Tetley character has been ripped clean out of the place.
There's plenty to make you think they should just rename it the Sinister and have done with it.
Part of me is inclined to continue in the same vein, to mourn across a complete tabloid page the passing of the past, to voice for the people of Shadwell their heartfelt dismay at the loss of their village inn and its replacement by a poor facsimile. It's a grief they would share with many whose regular haunts have been exorcised of any spectre of the past, their spirit blown out by the cool clean lines of Ember Inns and Vintage Inns.
It feels a little like a showhome on some smart new housing estate – decorated for style and impact if not actual practicality.
There's an imposing fireplace flanked by racks of logs, which appear ready for the burning, but prove on closer inspection to be just stumps of wood, nailed to the wall for effect. There are modern art prints and assorted sculpture and objets d'art and a colour scheme which mixes creams and burgundies with exposed brickwork.
It's all comfortable enough and easy on the eye, but like the showhome, you'd probably want to redecorate the minute you moved in.
It's a 180-degree change from its previous incarnation as a youth-centred Mr Q's pub, completely focused on the pool tables and the big screen sport. It was a theme which never really seemed to fit the locality – and if anyone is really to blame for the Dexter's loss of personality it's the people behind Mr Q's, rather than current owners Mitchell's and Butler's, who had a good deal less to work with.
Cecil Tetley would hate this cycle of changes, I'm sure. Cecil was a member of the city's brewing dynasty and property director at Tetley's for three decades. He also had a passion for Dexters, the smallest breed of cattle native to the British Isles, farming them here in Shadwell and lending their name to the local pub too.
But – and this kind of takes the wind out of my sails – the village does seem to have taken to the new-look Dexter. And when I called in for a pint and something to eat this week, I found it pretty well populated, its apparent demographic of impeccably-mannered, comfortably-off, over-30s perfectly matching that of the village as a whole.
At the table next to ours, two ladies of a certain age were talking about their families over a bottle of Chardonnay, around the corner two couples were enjoying an evening meal together, three chaps in suits were engaged in business conversation over a pint at the bar.
What draws them in, I'm sure, aside from the comfortable surroundings and friendly, welcoming atmosphere, is the guarantee of good beer and decent food at thoroughly competitive prices. Not that your average Shadwell Joe is short of a bob or two, but when you've paid 3.30 a pint at the scandalously overpriced Mustard Pot beer festival in Chapel Allerton, it's nice to give your wallet a bit of a respite.
Besides, Wigton Lane, which runs from the Dexter to Harrogate Road, may boast some of the most expensive properties in the city, but if you stop your engine, wind your window down and listen really hard, you can hear the property prices falling.
What's also great to note in these straitened times is that beer prices are actually coming down – well at the Dexter they are, if not a couple of miles down the road at the Mustard Pot.
The last time I called in my notes had the Dexter's cheapest bitter as Tetley's at 2.05, their cheapest lager at 2.20, and the cheapest wine at 2 a glass. All three can now be had for under 2.
I went instead for the Timothy Taylor Landlord, which is worth paying that little bit extra for, but given that the YEP accountant was watching carefully, scrutinizing my expenses with all the enthusiasm of a Daily Telegraph reporter, I bought Mrs Taverner a glass of Carlsberg and convinced her it was Grolsch.
But the real value here is on the menu, where a cut-price menu perfectly accords with the spirit of the recession. Main courses such as beef and onion pie, lasagne, chicken burger, macaroni cheese can all be had for under a fiver, and if you eat before 5pm, you can get two meals for 7. There's plenty more, like steaks (from 6.45), sea bass
(7.75) and salmon caesar salad (6.25), though the special nights – grill on Tuesday, curry on Thursday – offer better value with a meal and a pint for a fiver.
Host: Jason Coen
Type: Adult-oriented pub-restaurant
Opening Hours: 11.30am-12.30am Thur-Sat; 11.30am-11.30pm Sun-Wed.
Beers: Tetley bitter (1.89), Timothy Taylor Landlord (2.27), changing range of guest real ales (2.50 to 2.65), Carlsberg (1.99), Carling (2.35), Grolsch (2.70), Stella Artois (2.70), Coors (2.90), Foster's (2.25), Guinness (2.57)
Wine: Good selection from 1.89-glass and 7.49-bottle
Food: Quality restaurant menu served until 9pm daily
Children: Over-14s only when dining with an adult
Disabled: Easy access to ground floor bar area, disabled toilet facilities Beer Garden: Some outdoor tables
Entertainment: Quiz nights Mon and Weds, fruit machines, quiz and games machines
Parking: Large area
Telephone: 0113 2034991
APPEARED IN EP 11th JULY 2009