THERE is something deliberately random to the furnishing of the Roundhay Fox.
It is almost as though the interior designer was taken to a giant flea market and given 20 minutes to fill his trolley with everything he could lay his hands on. While drunk. And blindfolded. And while a coterie of demons prodded him with pointed sticks.
What he came out with was then somehow shoehorned into the design – whether it’s line drawings of stopwatches, coats of arms, theatrical prints, plaster mouldings or gaudy floral tiles.
One wall shows a display of 1950s domestic mirrors, the kind that would have hung proudly over parlour fireplaces in aspirant post-war homes. On another is a line-up of bearded sword-bearing thanes.
There is no discernible theme, nothing which draws this mis-match together or connects to its notable location alongside one of Europe’s largest city parks. At least the woodcuts of ancient golfers echo the proximity to Roundhay’s two fine courses.
The furniture is similarly mismatched, providing customers with a seemingly endless choice of settings, high or low, comfortable or austere, chunky oak or polished veneer, tartan carpet or bare floorboard. Spaces are divided by the distressed brickwork of the fireplace and gnarled wooden pillars seemingly salvaged from some sad Tudor shipwreck.
The pub’s website says that this look “oozes charm and rural character”, as though drinkers could be entranced into believing the pub simply evolved from a stone-built farmhouse which had stood guard beside the turnpike since long before the hunting lands of the De Lacys were laid out as a municipal pleasure zone by the enlightened city fathers of Victorian Leeds.
It’s fooling no-one. Even if you knew nothing of local history – that the Roundhay Fox was newly-built something like 20 years ago, on a site which has seen wine bars, coffee shops and continental restaurants come and go – you would never imagine that any self-respecting farmer’s wife would have allowed her home to be laid out in so perverse a fashion. Well, not unless she fancied a spell in the stocks or being taken for a witch.
It all makes for an interesting place to eat and drink, particularly if you have an inclination to wander around and look the pictures and the artefacts, as I do.
But perhaps the Roundhay Fox’s most arresting sight is the one facing you on the angle of the bar as you walk through the door. Here are five real ale handpumps, three of them hooked up to local favourites Black Sheep, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Leeds Pale, and two of them to guest beers. It’s a fabulous sign of these heady times that a pub with so captive a clientele, folk who are drawn here by the twin attractions of the park on one side and Tropical World on the other, should still make such a commitment to real ale.
I choose one of the guests, the pale and zesty Thin Ice (4.5% ABV) from Sadler’s Brewery in the West Midlands, which proves to be a rather perfect accompaniment for the chicken pie – chunks of lean chicken breast, in a sauce of leek and mushrooms under an extravagant flaky pastry top.
At least the pie would have been out of place in a farmhouse kitchen, unlike my wife’s thin crusty oblong of chicken and mushroom pizza, served on a slab of wood.
None of this is high-end dining, not by any means, but – unlike the design – nor does it have any pretentions to be so. This is just decent wholesome food, as reliable as you will find in any Vintage Inn, which makes the Roundhay Fox a popular destination for allcomers, all year round.
The Roundhay Fox
Princes Avenue, Leeds, LS8 2EP
Type: Family-friendly dining house
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Mon-Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Five real ales from around £3.50-pint plus Carling, Peroni, Guinness
Wine: Great selection from £3.85-glass and £12.95-bottle
Food: Decent quality fare from the Vintage Inns menu
Children: Very welcome
Disabled: Straightforward access but some split-level areas inside. Disabled toilets and parking.
Entertainment: Games machine
Beer Garden: Outdoor tables to front and side
Parking: Large area to rear
Telephone: 0113 269 3352