THE stack of heavy glass steins in its high arched windows is a sign that this former real ale haven has lurched suddenly towards Bavaria.
The imposing Atlas premises on the corner of King Street and St Paul’s Street were once occupied by the Bank of Ireland and, not so long ago, the Create restaurant, until they were put into new use as the Atlas Pub in 2013, tapping into the city’s resurgent love of cask beer.
I assumed it would thrive, not least because its line of real ale handpumps was targeted squarely at this thirsty marketplace and, unlike some which are not so choosy, was making a real play of concentrating on beers brewed in the city. Close by are the offices, banks and the legal heartland of Park Square, a perfect heartland for the kind of movers, shakers, hipsters and ale-lovers at whose disposable income the Atlas was surely pointed.
So I was surprised a few months ago to see that after just three years, it had closed down.
But now Atlas is back in business, having appended Brauhaus to its name in a re-branding exercise which has seen most of those handpulls swept away in favour of a more continental feel. Instead, the counter is now dominated by a row of extravagant sculpted beer fonts, like a clutch of samovars, ready to dispense a host of big name German beers like Paulaner, Krombacher and Lowenbrau. The menu is the wurst, of course.
I’m not sure how this move will go down with the Brexiteers, but – despite the sad loss of its focus on fine Yorkshire ale – I personally find it re-assuring that one business at least is determined to fix itself to a future based on European trade.
Stepping in from the busy junction you emerge into a high-ceilinged, dimly-lit saloon in sober shades of brown and tan. The pub has retained its essential shape, with its long bar in front of the windows on the King Street side and the area alongside St Paul’s Street divided in two, drinkers on one side, diners on the other. A spiral staircase sweeps towards the more intimate drinking space overhead.
Several walls have been stuckled up with gaudy vintage posters for films, beer brands, motor sports and ski resorts. I can only imagine the designer misread “brauhaus” for “bauhaus” because these splashes of colour seem rather out of keeping with a bar whose new focus seems to be on the altogether more serious business of quality beer, pickles, schnitzels and cabbage.
A long list of beers is chalked up on the long blackboard behind the bar, with robust Belgian ale Vedett managing to muscle its way into the roster of sturdy Germans. Thankfully there are still some British beers including Mary Jane from Ilkley, Kirkstall’s Framboise and the Brauhaus’ own ale which is made specially by Stodfold Brewery in Halifax.
In the interests of maintaining strong relations with our European partners, I opt for Krombacher Dark, a dry, smoky, slightly thin and flat beer, which I suspect would go well as a foil for the rich, salty pork knuckle (£12.75), a southern German favourite.
The menu also features a choice of sausages with sauerkraut and fries (£13), pork schnitzel with rosti and spinach (£9.50), as well as cold sharing plates (from £16) and a host of sizeable sandwiches. And for anyone who thought the Bavarians were unreconstituted carnivores, there is baked asparagaus with fried egg and gruyere (£12).
They also do something called Hasselhock, which I can only assume is a slab of muscled Baywatch actor, smothered in red cabbage. I’ll leave you with that thought; I do hope it hasn’t put you off your beer.
The Atlas Brauhaus
Address: King Street, Leeds
Type: German bierkeller meets city restaurant
Opening Hours: 11.30am-11pm Mon-Thurs; 11.30am-midnight Fri-Sat; Closed Sun
Beers: Stodfold Brauhaus (£3.50) plus two other real ales, plus Paulaner, Krombacher Pilsner, Dark and Wheat, Vedett and Spaten Munchen (all £5), Lowenbrau (£4.50) and Kirkstall Framboise (£5.50)
Wine: Good selection
Food: German menu served daily
Disabled: One-step access and split level inside
Children: Not suitable
Functions: Areas available for private hire
Beer garden: None
Parking: On-street parking nearby
Telephone: 0113 244 2906