Becketts Bank on Park Row screams chain pub from the moment you walk in.
The interior sprawls, the ceilings yawn, sunshine gushes in through the tall windows and some of the cornicing looks like it belongs in Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s library. The aroma of pigeon-holed efficiency hangs in the air.
When I enter, around lunchtime on a Tuesday, the forest of high-seated tables and chairs which rises from the ubiquitous carpeted area (separated from the bar by the equally ubiquitous wooden strip) is all but empty but there are people, couples and foursomes, hiding in the booths which line the edge of the room, eating, chatting.
Like many Wetherspoon pubs, I imagine Becketts Bank leads a dual life - by day, a pleasantly sedate, sunshine-drenched pitstop for the crossword-solving over-50s, when it serves as much (or more) coffee as it does ale and wine. And by night, I am guessing it’s three-deep at the bar, you can’t hear yourself think and if you might get mildly drunk just from the air.
None of which is a bad thing. This is, after all, bang slap in the centre of Leeds. And while the building may no longer be a bank, it’s retained its sense of purpose.
Service is brisk enough and with a genuine smile. Staff couldn’t be more helpful or knowledgeable.
The bar has about half a dozen real ales on rotation, including Pommie’s Revent (5.2 per cent), and Barcelon Session Ale (5 perr cent), which I try and at £2.85 a pint, you can’t really go wrong with it.
The pint has a reassuring woody core with a light varnishing of hops, which to begin with, feels a touch too acrid but by the time half a pint has gone down, more subtle flavours of rose and charcoal begin to develop.
Becketts Bank also has four or five regular real ales, including the likes of Abbot Ale, Doombar and Kelham Island’s Riders on the Storm, not to mention a fridge stocked to the gills with bottled craft lagers. So, plenty for your real ale fan.
Still, I can’t help thinking more could be made of this wonderful space. The problem is one of functionality. This is a chain pub, it conforms to a formula and it works. Fair enough.
However, it lacks the character one might find in, say Tapped, or Bundobust or any number of other independent bars.
And while there are probably silly rules preventing the owners from drilling holes in the wall without getting planning permission, with a few minor touches, such as some new tables, a solid wood floor and maybe hanging the old bank vault door on the wall somewhere (or maybe a million pounds?), interest rates could climb even higher.
Address: Park Row, Leeds