A VIBRANT sky blue paint scheme on the panelled bar front has added fresh colour and brightness to this long-standing student favourite.
It’s more than two decades since a low-loader rumbled through central Leeds to discharge a disused canal barge close to one of the city’s busiest road junctions.
To those who pass this way regularly it’s as mundane a landmark as the multi-storey car park or the Merrion Centre. But for those new in town this narrowboat apparently washed up between two lanes of traffic must still make for an arresting sight.
Yet to me, the greater surprise when I walked in on a sunny afternoon this week was the sight of a Cask Marque plaque displayed proudly beside the entrance.
This is very much a student pub – a stone’s throw from the city’s two main universities and it is part of the “Scream” chain that is entirely tailored for that lucrative market. That it is also the last port of call on the infamous Otley Run pub crawl probably makes this the most studenty pub in town. And perhaps, on Saturday nights, the sort of place I might normally avoid.
So I’d foolishly imagined there would be little call for real ale in a place like this. The accreditation denoted by the plaque demonstrates a commitment to this quality British product; it was a welcome sight indeed.
Stepping in to the surprisingly spacious interior, I found this commitment confirmed by the three handpulls given prominent place on the bar. During this vacation downtime I can certainly excuse the fact that only two of them were connected – one to the fiercely potent Old Rosie cider, the other to the soft and easy-going Black Sheep from Masham.
It’s the latter that I opted for and it delivered sufficient of that gentle, refreshing North Yorkshire bitterness to assure me that the Cask Marque status is deserved, not just something which the Dry Dock wears for show.
Further along the bar, past the big brand lagers that are the stock-in-trade of student land, two more silvery fonts offer two fine craft beers: Punk IPA from Scotland’s Brewdog and clovey Blue Moon from Colorado. The drinks menu reveals plenty more with some really interesting cosmopolitan choices in the fridges – Bellerose from northern France, Goose Island and Sierra Nevada from the US, Innis and Gunn from Scoptland, Liefman’s from Belgium. There’s even the rich, dark and dangerous Old Engine Oil from Harviestoun Brewery, just north of Edinburgh.
The barge itself is just a half of the structure, its starboard side having been cut away to open onto a long, low-ceilinged bar area, as though it had simply moored up alongside a conveniently-placed pub. A glass roof creates its light and airy feel, while up on deck is a fabulous beer garden with some great views over urban Leeds.
Food is served until late, every day. It starts with a prodigious £5.25 big breakfast and proceeds by way of burgers (from £5.95), salads (from £5.95) and hotdogs (from £4.95).
The innovative Greenhouse menu offers a cosmopolitan choice of vegetarian dishes such as the grilled halloumi and mushrom burger (£5.95), a Lebanese aubergine crumble (£6.25) and an intriguing Asian-influenced curried cauliflower Khichdi (£5.95).
I guess that when term starts and the volume is cranked up, it’s all about the ribs, the burgers and the fries and the sharing plates of nachos and wings.
But I like it best right now, before the full flood tide of students returns to rock the barge once more.
Type: Lively student pub with good choice of beers
Opening Hours: 11am-midnight Mon; 11am-2am Tues and Fri; 11am-1am Wed-Thurs; 10am-2am Sat; 10am-midnight Sun
Beers: Black Sheep (£3.25) plus one other real ale, Old Rosie cider (£3.50), Punk IPA (£3.65), Blue Moon (£3.90) plus Coors Light, Stella Artois, Carlsberg, Amstel, Guinness, Strongbow and Magners
Wine: Reasonable choice from £2.30-glass and £8.50-bottle
Food: Great selection of keenly-priced burgers, pastas, sandwiches, salads and steaks served until 10pm daily
Children: Not especially suitable
Disabled: Easy access to ground floor
Entertainment: Quiz Thurs plus regular events and promotions. Games machines and pool table. Sky Sports is coming soon
Beer Garden: Large area above the pub
Parking: City centre car parks nearby