“IT’S exciting to think about the future here. We want this to be the location that people are talking about.”
Assistant manager Millie Copestake-Edwards is passionate about the challenge of making a success of a bar which, in several different guises, has failed to catch on.
It’s a tough gig. Clustered around Chapel Allerton’s central triangle are enough bars, pubs and restaurants to guarantee the weakest will always suffer. Whether as Angel’s Share, Hummingbird or the Woods this place has usually been the fall guy.
Perhaps it’s the shape, with its awkward irregular footprint spread across three floors. Perhaps it’s that it never quite knew which market to go for – should it be a restaurant, fighting for trade with established locals like Casa Mia and Sukhothai, or should it go down the lively nightspot route of Zed or Pit?
But in Millie and equally passionate manager Carl Sanders, it’s just possible that The Woods at last has a team which will make it work. I hope so, because their renewed commitment to great beer certainly deserves admiration.
“We’re not a restaurant,” says Millie. “We’re a bar which serves food.” In truth they’re still experimenting with both menu and format. “We’re changing the menu every week. We’re going towards healthier options and in the new year we’re looking at starting a beer and taps menu.”
She admits that the middle floor, with its high dining tables and slightly clinical ambience isn’t really working, so comfy sofas and coffee tables will be coming soon to soften the feel. They hope to make more of the attractive terraced area to the front, while the top floor is already busy with party bookings.
But as Millie proudly shows off the great selection of cask and craft keg beers on offer here, it becomes clear where her own priorities lie.
It was during an 18-month spell with North Bar group that Millie developed her love of beer. “I always used to drink wine or pastis,” she says. “That’s the French influence in the family.”
But working at Alfred and Further North not only offered the chance to try different beers, but also an opportunity to try her hand brewing it, during North’s fruitful partnership with Kirkstall Brewery. “I think the first beer I ever tried was Jaipur,” she says. “I liked it, but I didn’t know anything about it. Beer is all I drink now.” Not yet 20, she’s already a connoisseur.
Cool jazz thrums away in the background as she talks me through the range. “I’m trying to make sure we have beers from lots of different brewers, some local and some from further afield.” The five handpulls will always include Theakston’s Best, at least one from Ridgeside in Meanwood and one craft cider. Jaipur and Beavertown’s Gamma Ray are among the regular craft beers on tap, while the fridges are stocked with a host of bottled choices.
Millie is keen to introduce me to Vocation Brewery at Hebden Bridge, which is also going to feature regularly here; Magic Rock’s Chiptole Stout is another of her favourites.
“Whenever I go out I drink halves of lots of different stuff,” she says. “The last time we ended up in the Brunswick where I had an 8% Custard Porter, which was lovely, with just a hint of vanilla in the finish. I don’t like it when you have a raspberry beer, for example, and all it tastes of is raspberry. It should be more subtle than that.”
She’s loving the job. “It’s great. Even last Saturday when we were packed, we had a power failure, and the glass washer wasn’t working!”
Never mind Chapel Allerton, if this is the future of drinking in Britain then, crikey, it’s in good hands.
Stainbeck Corner, Leeds LS7 3PG
Hosts: Carl Sanders and Millie Copestake-Edwards
Type: New age alehouse
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Sun-Wed, noon-midnight Thurs, noon-1am Fri-Sat
Beers: Theakston’s Best (£3.40) plus four other handpulls including one Ridgeside ale and one craft cider. Thornbridge Jaipur (£5.30), Beavertown Gamma Ray (£5.90) plus good choice of craft beers. Moretti (£4.10), Amstel (£3.70), Sagres (£3.90), Symonds Cider (3.60).
Wine: Good choice
Food: Changing menu of lunchtime and evening meals. Beer and tapas menu coming soon
Entertainment: Tuesday quiz, occasional comedy nights and spirit tasting events.
Disabled: Straightforward access, but slightly tricky navigation inside
Events: Upstairs function room available for hire. New Year’s Eve event planned
Children: Welcomed, no special facilities
Beer garden: Outdoor terrace area to the front, plus second floor balcony
Parking: On-street parking nearby, plus limited supermarket parking to the rear and pay and display at the Mustard Pot opposite.
Telephone: 0113 307 0111