IN THIS day and age of smartphones and tablets some would say the art of conversation is being lost. Take a look around you in a public place anywhere and people are glued to their screens. The opium of the masses no longer a description fitting only television.
And so the few bars and pubs that strip back the atmosphere, snubbing the temptation to inject ‘fun’ by pumping out music, provide an interesting social study. It would be rude to do anything else but to fill the void with conversation. In that vein, long may venues such as Arcadia in Headingley continue.
It is part of the Market Town Taverns chain - a cousin of The Old Bell in Harrogate and Veritas Ale and Wine Bar on Great George Street, Leeds, among others - and like those venues no music is played.
Set inside the ugly looking Arndale Centre on Otley Road, the interior of Arcadia has an almost barn-like charm. It has two rooms downstairs and two upstairs but its divided nature doesn’t feel so, the noise of chatter and the clinking of glasses carries throughout.
There are crushed beer cans framed on the walls - adding to the hill-billy feel - next to exposed light bulbs splaying illumination over wooden tables and chairs, wooden panelled walls and exposed floor boards.
As with every other Market Towns Tavern venues, there is no sense of pretentiousness here. It is a place to hole up to, principally, enjoy a beer. There were nine or ten on draught; Okell’s, Timothy Taylor’s and Freedom tipples caught the eye, but I tried Marynka, a single hopped pale ale by Two Roses Brewery (£3.28) that was light, crisp and went down smoothly - a good thirst quencher.
Extensive drinks menus are found on the tables and at the bar: four pages of beers and some ciders, and two pages of wine.
The Norwegian beer, Nogne Ø Saison, caught my eye (£6.75) but when I asked the barman for one he said they had run out which was disappointing, but more so to be told that many of the beers listed on the menu were no longer available and that I was best trying to correspond what was by looking at the fridges behind the bar. For a chain that prides itself on its wide ranging choice, this was not what I expected.
There were ample options in the fridges, if not quite as extensive as listed in the menu, and I tried a bottle of Leeds Brewery’s Hell Fire Pale Ale (£3.50). I asked the barman whether it was any good and he merely relayed the description on the front of the bottle. Again, in a place like this I expect a little more. I expect the bar staff to have sampled most, if not all, the drinks so that your choice at the bar is a little better informed.