Bar review: Arcadia, Headingley, Leeds

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PERHAPS my memory is playing tricks, but the wedge-shaped, wooden-panelled snug off to one side of the front door seems a new addition since my last visit to Arcadia.

And it’s here that I spend a rather convivial hour on Monday evening, among a bunch of noisy Yorkshire cricket fans, who have headed here at stumps in search of a pint or two and a forum to voice their strident opinions on the state of the game.

It’s an interesting space with its bare floorboards, chunky oak rafters and long comfortable sofas whose upholstery has been imaginatively studded with buttons crafted from bottle tops. Tall windows look out across busy Otley Road; sturdy steel casks have been pressed into service as bar stools; crushed beer cans framed into interesting artwork.

If this room has been here since Arcadia first muscled in on premises previously occupied by Lloyds Bank in 2004, then I apologise, but I’ve certainly never found it before. And it’s here that the cricket fans are picking through the remains of a day on which Yorkshire were bowled out for next to nothing and handed the initiative in the county championship back to Middlesex, which isn’t even a county any more.

Aside from this, much of the place remains recognisably the same, The bar is dead ahead as you step across the threshold. A set of shiny chrome fonts serving eight lagers, ciders and craft beers is flanked by two banks of eight real ale handpumps, which dispense a fabulous selection of traditional cask beers. Of these, I’m drawn immediately to Boltmaker, Keighley’s straightforward easy-going bitter which won for Timothy Taylor’s the prized accolade of Champion Beer of Britain award in 2014.

The choice on draught is augmented by a good selection of bottled beers which start with Brewdog’s sessionable Dead Pony Club (3.8%) and head off into the realms of the dark and dangerous with American Black IPA Wookey Jack (8.3%) and the Belgian classic Duvel (8.5%).

Boltmaker proves a refreshing, thirst-quenching opener, but soon my palate is persuading me of the need to taste something more characterful. So I ask for advice at the bar and am soon pointed toward the 5% Viking Dark Porter from Brew York. This is my first encounter with this smoky, almost chewy ale, which is rich and substantial on the palate, almost jet black with an ivory head and with a long dry aftertaste, as though you’ve swallowed a dusty old copy of Wisden.

For its first decade, Arcadia was recognisably a part of the Market Town Taverns empire, sharing with stablemates such as Veritas in the city centre, Town Street Tavern in Horsforth and others like the Bar T’At at Ilkley and Old Bell in Harrogate a trademark scheme of bottle greens and creams, quaint calligraphy and framed art deco posters.

The pub group moved a couple of years ago into new ownership and some quirky changes of decor have seen Arcadia gain a little individuality. It’s certainly the first pub I’ve seen where a nest of colourful beer crates have been hung from the ceiling as a post-modern chandelier.

A wooden staircase leads up to a mezzanine floor, which is playing host to quiz night on this occasion, but can also be hired for private parties.

The name comes from Greece, where the unsophisticated people of Arcadia came to represent simplicity and innocence. The name was much used in literature as a place of idyllic paradise. And in a suburb where many of the bars seem primarily geared to filling under-25s with cheap lager as quickly and efficiently as possible, it seems curiously apt.

FACTFILE

Arcadia

Address: Otley Road, Headingley

Type: Quality ale and wine bar

Opening Hours: Noon-11pm daily

Beers: Changing selection of eight real ales, with a focus on Yorkshire breweries (from £3.30 a pint). Veltins (£3.95), Pravha (£3.50) lagers plus choice of fruit and wheat beers. Paddles of three third-pint glasses available

Wine: Some interesting choices available from £3.75-glass and £14.75-bottle

Food: None - crisps and snacks only

Children: Not especially suitable

Disabled: Straightforward access but some split-level areas inside

Entertainment: Quiz night Monday

Functions: Mezzanine floor available for private hire

Beer Garden: None

Parking: On-street and Arndale Centre parking nearby

Telephone: 0113 274 5599

Website: www.markettowntaverns.co.uk

PIC: Simon Hulme

Bar review: 166 Bar and Bistro, Horsforth, Leeds