Angel Inn, Briggate review - Reassuring consistency in Leeds city centre Samuel Smith’s pub

In these shifting and uncertain times, it is sometimes reassuring to spend time in a place of consistency and perpetuity.

Sunday, 2nd February 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 4:06 pm

As you divert from busy Briggate or Lands Lane and slip into gloomy and forbidding Angel Inn Yard, much is already set in stone.

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This is a Samuel Smith’s pub, so here – and at each of their others, whether across their northern heartland, or in London where they own several fine ones – you know you will only find their own products.

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The Angel Inn in Leeds city centre. Picture: Mark Bickerdike

A further certainty is that you will find your fellow drinkers engaged in sociable conversation or reading quietly with a pint.

That boss, Humphrey Smith, has banned mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and other electronic gadgetry across his vast pub estate may be characteristically controversial, but does at least play to the sense of a brewery which is – in its own distinctive way – fiercely protective of all things traditional.

The ban on electronics seemingly extends to payment methods too – thankfully there are cash machines at either end of the alleyway – though curiously not to the games machines. A bandit flashes and buzzes to itself in one corner, tempting the unwary to hazard some small change on satisfying their fix of electronica.

On the squat little beer fonts which line the counter of the bar, small notices remind customers of the rule. These offer all manner of own-brew products – numerous lagers, an India Ale, a wheat beer and a stout. But the handpulls in between connect drinkers to a product which has been brewed for generations.

Deep amber Old Brewery Bitter is now Sam Smith’s single cask-conditioned ale; perfectly presented here it is a malty, toffee-ish, refreshing antidote to a fast-changing world. Its tight creamy head retains its shape as the level falls.

The bar forms one side of a cosy snug. Here, tall sash windows look out onto the long yard, where a series of picnic tables offers welcome outdoor drinking space in summer.

But not today, when most of the customers, even those who are sitting close to the roaring coal fire, are still in their jackets.

Drinkers perch on comfortable stools and L-shaped banquettes and the conversation is flowing as freely as the Alpine lager.

I head upstairs, past fading photographs of old Leeds and maps showing the tightly-packed terraced streets which were long ago cleared as the city grew and housing was pushed slowly outwards.

Up here, across the landing from another small bar, a grand room of crimson walls and tartan carpets pays homage to the grandees of that growing city ­– engineers and industrialists, architects, councillors and magistrates.

There are images of our grand buildings – the Town Hall and Civic Hall, Kirkstall Abbey, the Corn Exchange, the Gothic frontage of the Infirmary and the sombre, brooding cityscapes of Atkinson Grimshaw.

Drinkers from those times – long before the age of the email or the text message – would surely recognise much that goes on in the Angel, and find re-assurance in the fact that some simple pleasures survive.

Something else never changes – the seductive power of pie and peas. And though I came out only for a pint, I am soon tempted by this most Yorkshire of delicacies, a perfect way to round off an hour communing with the history and beauty of the Angel.

Factfile

Address: Angel Inn Yard, Briggate, LS1 6LN

Type: Traditional city tavern

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-11pm; Sun, noon-10.30pm

Beers: Old Brewery Bitter (£2) plus other Sam Smiths products including Alpine, Double Four and Taddy lagers, wheat beer and dark mild

Wine: Small selection

Food: Decent choice of traditional pub dining options such as pies, fish and chips

Children: Not especially suitable

Disabled: Slightly tricky access along the narrow yards from Briggate and Lands Lane

Entertainment: Games machine

Beer Garden: Yard area to rear

Parking: City centre car parks nearby

Telephone: 0113 245 3980