It was no great surprise that the batter coating Little Oliver’s fish at East of Arcadia was cooked using Erdinger, the potent German wheat beer.
This Meanwood venue, part of the Market Town Taverns chain that includes its big brother Arcadia in Headingley and Town Street Tavern in Horsforth, is best known for its wide selection of beers and has been a favourite with real ale buffs since it opened two years ago.
Anyone conjuring up images of a dingy watering hole frequented exclusively by beardy booze aficionados discussing the relative merits of obscure specialist tipples, however, will be surprised.
While there are nods to the traditional tavern, like the beer barrel tables, it’s telling that the owners describe it as an ale and wine bar.
In truth, East of Arcadia is a modern, light, smart pub/bar/restaurant that’s as popular with young professionals and families as with discerning drinkers.
And, while it’s indisputable that the beers are the stars of the show, there’s a decent, homely food menu for anyone wanting something to soak up any of the vast array of cask conditioned ales.
The options include pie and chips, sausage and mash and cottage pie. Most main dishes are priced around the £10 mark.
My fish and chips with mushy peas were a traditional pub favourite elevated above average by the light crispiness of the batter – though the beer was barely tangible – and the moist tenderness of the really nicely cooked haddock.
The hand-cut chips were deliciously moreish and the quantity of food was certainly sufficient to have adequately lined my stomach had I been inclined to park myself at the bar later.
For my notoriously indecisive dining partner, the trio of burgers was an obvious choice.
Both the beef and the lamb with mint burgers were well cooked, although she would have favoured more distinctive seasoning in both. Her favourite was the falafel burger, a fabulously tasty little chick pea patty that was exceedingly well spiced.
They came served in ciabatta – presumably standard burger buns don’t cut the mustard in a venue that’s keen to provide a more upmarket continental experience – but she felt the heavyweight bread made the dish unnecessarily dense, especially given the absence of any dressing other than a side of coleslaw.
With a glass of wine and a soft drink, the bill came to about £25, which was about right.
A special mention should go to the solitary bar man-cum-waiter who did an admirable job of providing attentive service despite a perhaps surprising post-Christmas rush.
East of Arcadia will continue to attract predominantly those looking to wet their whistle. But the food options are appealing enough to whet the appetite too.