THE story of how Edward of Woodstock – who never came to Leeds and spent most of his life in Oxfordshire and France – came to dominate the heart of the city’s most prominent location is an interesting one.
Unveiled in 1903, the statue of the Black Prince was commissioned by one Colonel Harding, who said the hero of Crecy and Poitiers was “the flower of English chivalry, the upholder of the liberties of the English people and an emblem of manly and unselfish virtues.”
Now that a pub bears his name, it’s surely only a matter of time before Nigel Farage calls in for a drink.
It occupies one of the prized locations in the city centre, on the corner of City Square, midway between the railway station and Trinity Quarter. Built in 1843, this Grade II listed building with its wonderful stone-columned exterior was originally a Yorkshire Bank, but most recently has been Flares nightclub, where those of us of a certain age would enjoy dancing to the music of the Beegees and The Human League. I only went once, honest.
Now re-invented as a pub, the Black Prince makes much more of its wonderful original features, notably a broad balcony which stretches around above the main drinking space offering views through the tall windows over the square, and its wonderful domed roof, three storeys above the broad, curving, street-level drinking space, tastefully decorated in grey, white and a deep blue-green.
It’s here that you enter as you step up beneath a brass lantern and dazzling chandelier from City Square.
It’s Saturday evening when we call in, and the long bar, dead ahead, is doing a roaring trade. I soon find a spot at the counter, and the short wait to be served offers a welcome moment to scan the handpumps for the choice of real ale.
Greene King IPA, once found only in Suffolk, has become Britain’s go-to entry-level bitter, and at £2.40 a pint is the cheapest on offer here, but I fork out an extra 50p for Deuchars from Caledonian Brewery in Edinburgh. Hobgoblin from Wychwood in Oxfordshire and Rev James from Cardiff complete the selection in my eyeline, though I’m told there are six real ales on offer here and the range changes regularly.
It’s a mark of how times have changed that a mass-market city centre pub now places real ale right at the heart of what it does.
Compare this with the soulless Square On The Lane, which dominated the Saturday night trade in this part of town for a decade, and where you would struggle to find any proper beer at all.
Its opening last month adds an extra dimension to the drinking circuit at this end of town.
Were I re-writing The Great Leeds Pub Crawl today – and I’m sure I will get round to it eventually – I might be tempted to include a “Railway Station” circuit spiralling upwards from the Prince of Wales to Wetherspoons and taking in the Scarbrough Taps, Black Prince, Tapp’d, Friends of Ham and the Brewery Tap.
Three of these are new arrivals since the first edition came out in 2011.
If you’re seeking out niche craft ales, or handpulled beers that you’ve never tried before, then a couple of others on this circuit would be your first choice, but for good value – in a magnificent old building – you would come here first.
Saturday night’s not the best time for it, but the Black Prince goes big on food, offering the same Sizzling Pubs menu which will be familiar to those who have tried the True Britain in Meanwood, Barley Mow in Bramley or Vesper Gate in Kirkstall.
The stock-in-trade is red-hot skillets of chicken, steak and ribs, but the menu covers most of the major bases.
Its commitment to value is best illustrated by its “two for £7.50” deal on pub favourites such as steak pie, fish and chips, sausage and mash or gammon.
The trick is to make sure you always dine out in even numbers.
Boss Richard Mollitt is proud of what’s happening here:“ It’s a great location, perfect for coffee after a day’s shopping or to enjoy a beer and watch the football.
“Our extensive menu, the quality of the meals and affordable prices are hard to find in one place.”
You can’t really argue with that.
Name: The Black Prince
Opening hours: 7am-midnight Mon-Thurs, 7am-1am Fri, 8am-1am Sat, 9am-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Changing choice of six real ales, starting with Greene King IPA (£2.40). Lagers include Carling (£3.03) and Stella Artois (£3.38)
Wines: Good selection available from £2.89-glass and £9.99-bottle
Food: Good value pub meals served every session, with daily offers
Entertainment: Games machine, Sky Sport and BT Sports
Functions: Separate function room available for hire
Children: Welcomed, children’s meals available
Disabled: Stepped access to the front
Parking: On-street areas and town centre car parks nearby
contact: 0113 2458063