THE PUN’S a good one, but Ilkley’s Bar T’at got there first, neatly harnessing the famous Yorkshire anthem into the name of a pub.
Even so, the change of signage here was more than mere idle punnery, it was a statement that a £145,000 refit marked a complete break with the past, after years of ups and downs at the famous old Prince of Wales which has served drinkers at this slightly down-at-heel location for decades.
“It was in a terrible state,” says licensee Gary Lawrence, joining me for a drink. “The cellars were disgusting and the accommodation upstairs was not good at all.” The pub was closed altogether for months before owners Enterprise Inns embarked on an eight-week refit, which saw it rebranded just in time to catch the Christmas trade. “I think £100,000 was spent on clearing out the old place and £45,000 putting in the new one,” Gary jokes.
Its essential shape has remained the same, though new furniture, a smart grey and cream paint job, modern chandeliers and lots of prints and photographs illustrating the history of the brewing industry have between them given a stylish feel to these once-neglected premises. The removal of a second bar from the rear room makes much better use of the space and opens it up as an area suitable for hire by private groups and office parties. Shiny sage green tiles complete the new look back here.
Food is served all sessions. The temporary menu offers cheese and meat plates and Wilson’s pork pies. A few years ago, if anyone had suggested a charcuterie platter would soon be a staple offering at the Prince of Wales, they’d have been declared clinically insane. Local street food vendors Diamond Dogs are coming in soon to add their gourmet hotdogs to the mix.
Though the Prince could generally be relied on to serve at least one handpulled real ale, the Baht’ap seizes the spirit of the times by having no less than five – a rotating roster of Yorkshire ales which on this lunchtime visit include choices from Black Sheep, Theakston, Ossett, Timothy Taylor and Saltaire. Roosters and Leeds Brewery beers are waiting in the wings. It’s a fine choice, though given the prevalence of smaller craft breweries in the area it would be nice to see one of these big boys giving way to the likes of Sunbeam, Whippet or Northern Monk from time to time.
Craft ale fonts offer some less familiar alternatives, with choices from the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, while Sam Adams and Moretti furnish lager drinkers with something more interesting than the basic Amstel. The Baht’Ap is the only Leeds bar selling Guinness London Porter on draught too.
A ‘War of the Roses’ beer festival across the Easter weekend will allow drinkers to choose between ten cask ales, five from either side of the Pennines.
From the name of the pub to the regular choice of beers here, it’s clear which side of the argument Gary’s on.
“Even our coffee beans are ground in Yorkshire,” he tells me.
He’s hardly dyed-in-the-wool Yorkshire himself, mind. Gary was born in Luton, but grew up in South Africa and before going into the pub game worked as a chemical engineer – an expertise he shares with neighbouring landlord Toby Flint of the Scarbrough. And together they have found a winning formula for a new city centre pub crawl, a chain reaction catalysed by the opening of the Head of Steam across the road 18 months ago.
“The wrong element used to come to this end of town,” says Gary. “But we’re seeing a completely different type of clientele now, and that’s great.”
Address: Mill Hill, Leeds, LS1 5DQ
Type: Resurgent alehouse
Host: Gary Lawrence
Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Thur, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat, noon-6pm Sun
Beers: Rotating choice of five real ales with choices such as Black Sheep (£3.40), Landlord (£3.90), Silver King (£3.80), Saltaire Blonde (£3.40), Theakston XB (£3.80) and Roosters Yankee (£3.70). Plus Meantime Yakima Red (£4.70), Meantime Pale (£4.60), Moretti (£4.40), Amstel (£4), Samuel Adams (£4.60), Guinness London Porter (£4.20) and Symonds Cider (£3.85)
Wine: Good choice from £2.35-glass and £14-bottle
Food: Meat and cheese platters and pies served all day – with street hotdogs coming soon
Children: No special facilities
Disabled: Slightly tricky access, but all on one level
Functions: Room to rear available for private parties
Beer Garden: Street tables coming in the summer, license permitting
Parking: City centre car parks nearby
Telephone: 0113 245 6540