IT’S becoming increasingly difficult to imagine now, but the floodwaters which closed over low-lying areas of the city around Christmas wreaked merry havoc with a number of our pubs and bars.
And unlike the lovely old King’s Arms beside the River Ouse in York, which floods on a fairly regular basis – and has a well-oiled plan for dealing with it – the Leeds pubs had never seen anything like it.
The light-hearted image of drinkers waist-deep in the inundated beer garden of the Kirkstall Bridge demonstrated a “grin and bear it” spirit, and the picture went around the world. But the truth was rather less like fun – cellars awash with stinking water, furniture wrecked and decor ruined – not to mention the significant loss of collective trade as these businesses struggled to clear up the damage to a point where they could re-open for trade.
A week on Saturday (April 16) the Leeds branch of the Campaign for Real Ale will be hosting a pub crawl around all of the real ale pubs which were hit by the floods. Starting at noon in the Adelphi on Hunslet Road, the drinkers will cross the road to the Old Red Lion and Sid’s Little Egg, before moving on to the Aire Bar in the Calls, Golf Bar in Little Neville Street, before heading west to the Kirkstall Bridge by way of the Phoenix in Wellington Street, the Cardigan Arms and the Bridgewater Arms.
For the pubs, it offers some valuable delayed compensation for their coffers. For CAMRA it probably forms a useful diversion from its recent activities which seem best designed to tear the organisation apart at the scenes. Ah well.
Towards the end of the trek is the Bridgewater Arms, which is perhaps better known as the Aire of the Dog, though the name changed some time ago. It sits at the far end of the Kirkstall Fields leisure park, beyond the cinema, the bowling alley and the big-chain restaurants. Its former name acknowledges its proximity to the river, and it was among the first to bear the brunt when the floodwaters rose. It became less of a Bridge and more of a Ford.
It is a pub entirely in keeping with its location, offering straightforward drinking and dining options for the bowlers and the cinemagoers, while the pool table, quiz night and Sky Sports programme maintain the entertainment theme. It is bright, lively and open plan, yet some attractive design features – a mosaic of tiles around the bar, some bare brick columns, a kaleidoscope of brightly-lit beer and spirit bottles behind the bar – lift it out of the everyday.
The three real ale handpulls are sufficient reason for the CAMRA diehards to make a beeline for here, though only the ubiquitous Greene King IPA and Leeds Pale were offer during my visit this week.
Inevitably the Bridgewater Arms is part of a chain. The Flaming Grills pub company seems to specialise in cavernous family-friendly venues. Others locally include The Angel in Rothwell, the Lupset in Walkefield and the Generous Pioneer in Burley in Wharfedale. Here, menus on each table offer the Flaming Grill menu of steaks, chicken, burritos and burgers. A signature of the brand is the hot iron skillets which keep the steaks sizzling all the way to the table.
For those who like to put their digestive system through various types of misery there are also a number of high-octane “Food Challenges” like the scorching hot Fire Extinguisher Wings, the gigantic 32oz steak, or the Trash Can Challenge which essentially puts every different food that the pub serves into a dustbin lid and dares you to eat the lot.
Successful challengers have their name and photograph added to a ‘Wall of Flame’. Before dashing for the Gaviscon, presumably.
Bridgewater Arms, Cardigan Fields, Leeds
Type: Bar and steakhouse
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm daily
Beers: Three handpulls offering a changing selection of real ales, plus Stella Artois, Fosters, Becks, San Miguel, Carling, Carlsberg, John Smith Smooth, Strongbow and Guinness
Wine: Good choice from £3.09-glass and £10.29-bottle
Food: Flaming grill menu served lunchtimes and evenings daily.
Children: Welcomed. Kids meals available.
Disabled: Straightforward access, some split-level areas, disabled toilets
Entertainment: Sports TV, games machines, pool table quiz night
Beer Garden: Covered patio area to the side
Parking: Large area of free parking for the retail park
Telephone: 0113 2038752
Reviewer: Simon Jenkins