The Leeds pub scene has renewed vigour, as Yorkshire Evening Post beer writer Simon Jenkins points out in his new book, The Great Leeds Pub Crawl.
Here, he chooses six of the best new pubs in the city - the book, published by Scratching Shed, is priced £13.99, available online.
The Lamb and Flag
Church Row, LS2 7HD
One of the most recent acquisitions by Leeds Brewery, it’s name was inspired by an old cigarette card which was found in the rundown building by brewery partner Michael Brothwell - the symbol of the lamb and flag, which has for centuries been associated with Christianity and being in the shadow of Leeds Minster, as it is, it only seemed fitting.
What was a crumbling 19th Century building has been lovingly restored and given a new lease of life in what is bustling new bar circuit for the city. There’s a beer garden and a balcony inside, pub meals and great real ale.
Merrion Street, lS2 8JG
Two handpumps and fonts dispensing craftr ales and some non-standard lagers are the chief attractions of this lovely little bar close to the busy junction of Merrion Street and New Briggate.
But it’s rear beer garden provides a surprising suntrap, while its piano and football table offer further indoor attractions. The real ales change regularly.
Like the nearby Belgrave, the decor os post-industrial chic, with simple furniture: school chairs, pine tables and a brace of leather sofas - this was once an antique shop after all.
The Black Swan
Call Lane, LS1 7BT
For all its wonderful bars and restaurants, Call Lane has never really catered properly for the real ale drinker... until now.
Enter stage left, The Black Swan, which opened earlier this year as one of the city’s great ‘secret’ alehouses. It is deliberately understated, there’s no illuminated sign, it looks more office block or red brick warehouse than pub. Only a swan motif etched into the glass confirms you are in the right place. Two real ales, a fabulous selection of craft ales and copper-fronted pizza oven may keep you here longer than you expected.
Cross Belgrave Street
The ecclectic choice of beer came as the biggest surprise in what was an afternoon of epiphanies. A long bar topped with a great choice of craft and keg ales reaches down the right hand side.
Across the room, heavy steel-framed windows painted in battleship enamel, speak of this building’s industrial past. This building has lived other lives but in its most recent incarnation it has been stripped back to its barest essentials.
Walk through the double doors at the back and up three storeys of steps to discover the rooftop bar, a revelation.
The Head of Steam
Mill Hill, lS1 5DQ
The Head of Steam chain began in Newcastle, spreading to Huddersfield a decade or so ago. Following its takeover by north-east giant Cameron’s, the brand is being rolled out across their estate close enough to stations to justify the name.
This corner pub, formerly Spencers, has been given a fresh lease of life thanks to a six-figure refurb, making the most of its curved frontage. Inside, however, you will find the same intimate drinking and dining spaces clustered around a really beautiful central bar. Quality beers, decent food and a great atmosphere.
The Headrow, LS1 6PU
In the same cavernous building which was once home to the notorious Big Lil’s Saloon Bar, a great new bar has at last opened its doors, putting a much-loved Czech lager right at the heart of its business.
Just down from the wonderful Crash Records, a gap in the Headrow frontage opens into Bramleys Yard, and the entrance to Headrow House is dead ahead. Turning right you arrive in the ground floor bar, where four vast copper tanks dispense fresh, unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell. The beer is delivered weekly in tankers from the brewery in Plzen, the city which gave its name to a whole genre of golden lagers.