There are some significant ones, just in Leeds – Woodies in Headingley, the Eldon in Woodhouse, the Regent in Chapel Allerton and the Devon in Cross Gates – each of them absolute pillars of their local community now colonised by this foreign power. Where once Tetley Bitter was King, now Old Speckled Hen, Abbott Ale and characterless Greene King IPA hold sway.
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Close to the toe-end of Roundhay Park, the vast imposing White House is another to have been given this alien treatment. Built for tiling magnate James Holroyd at around the time the Victorian era gave way to the Edwardian, this must have been a majestic family home.
Sad to say, I found in the White House no memorial to Mr Holroyd, nor even a scrap of the beautiful Burmantofts Faience on which his wealth was founded. In pubs such as Whitelocks and the Garden Gate, in County Arcade and the Great Hall of Leeds University, this local icon is thankfully preserved.
And I must confess to a slight sinking feeling as I cross the threshold to see the tell-tale GK pump clips on the bar.
As a waitress bearing the company menus escorts us to a table, I think “Perhaps we should go somewhere else,” hastily assembling a mental map of alternative venues.
And yet, here’s the thing. During an hour or so in this cavernous space, where I’m served with good beer and decent food, where the locals are clearly coming in good numbers – and where a great pub quiz is playing to that community atmosphere – I am struck by the sense of just why this all works.
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Being of a contrary nature, I choose the one cask ale not from the Greene King stable, and the first few sips of my Black Sheep Bitter ease me into conciliatory mood. That the supper menu is offering two courses for £13.99 provides further cause for optimism.
And the food’s all right. A Kilner jar of a rich, coarse, chicken liver pate is presented with doorsteps of farmhouse toast. A glazed flowerpot is brimful of juicy whitebait.
This confident start is maintained by the main courses. For me, there’s a chunky chicken and mushroom pie, its sturdy walls and lid a boon to those who object to pub pies being simply a swamp of stew with a flaky lid added. There’s a dollop of a creamy mash, and a slightly underwhelming mound of carrot, broccoli cabbage and peas – but a jug of luxurious dark gravy coaxes these to life.
Best of all is my partner’s seabass: two generous fillets of succulent white fish laid across risotto and crowned with two lovely scallops. If you can accept that plenty of what you are eating has been plucked from a fridge, and some of it prepared by microwave, you must also concede that this represents value for money.
This is Monday, yet a quiz has filled the place to the gunnels. Poring over the picture round, groups of eager eggheads crowd around tables and lounge on sofas in a comfortable, well-kept interior divided by columns of rough-hewn oak.
Though we’re not taking part, the questions seem pitched temptingly at my level. I know all the answers, but my partner, never a quizzer at the best of times, persuades me to sup up the dregs of my Black Sheep and leave.
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Address: 55 Wetherby Rd, Leeds LS8 2JU
Type: Suburban pub and restaurant
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri, 11am-11pm; Sat, 10am-11pm; Sun, 10am-10pm
Beers: Hand-pulled ales from Greene King stable, plus guests, Stella, Carling and Hophouse lagers, small choice of bottled beers
Wine: Good selection from £3.99 for a glass and £14.99 for a bottle
Food: Decent choice of traditional pub dining options, including fixed price menu
Children: Welcomed, children’s meals available
Disabled: Ramp access available
Entertainment: Mon, quiz night. Occasional live music and “Meet the Brewer” events
Beer Garden: Broad terrace to the front
Parking: Large area