YOU know where you are with a ‘Spoons.
Of course, there are those who decry this giant pub company’s “pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap” philosophy, but it’s a winning combination for an outfit which knows its market inside-out and works very hard to keep it.
So whether you pitch up at JD Wetherspoon’s on city station, at the Six Chimneys in Wakefield, the Clothiers at Yeadon, the Crown in Knaresborough – or wherever, and let’s face it, they are everywhere – you can be sure that there will be real ale, a good few pence cheaper than in the Punch Tavern or Enterprise Inn around the corner, and that there will be sturdy pub food available, whether you’re here for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea of course; the cheap booze inevitably attracts a certain kind of drinker. I called in at my local ‘Spoons, the Three Hulats in Chapel Allerton a few Saturday mornings ago, before heading off for a walk in the Peak District. Even at 8.30am, there were a couple of guys having an early beer – which always seems wrong at that time of day – but our strong coffees and cheap-and-cheerful full English certainly kept the hunger pangs at bay as we traipsed through the Derbyshire countryside.
But this was my first visit to the Crossed Shuttle, the Pudsey end of the chain, though I remember writing a review after watching a Leeds United game here, years ago, when it was known as the Black Bull.
It has certainly smartened up its act since that previous incarnation. My guess is that Wetherspoon’s employ a crack team of handymen who keep up with the decor and fittings on all their pubs, so that years after a refit and well before the next one, they are still kept smart, bright and well looked-after.
Walking into the Crossed Shuttle, you arrive beside a long, wood-panelled bar topped with the impressive line of hand pulls that is very much a Wetherspoon trademark. The range of real ales changes almost daily; Bridgehouse, Phoenix, Adnams, Saltaire and Greene King were among the marques represented during this visit. And when they start at £1.95 a pint, you have every good reason to sample one or two.
Although effectively open plan, the use of pillars and false walls creates a series of separate drinking spaces wrapped around this central bar. Posters advertising beer and food promotions compete for wall space with some attractive oil paintings, commissioned specially for the pub. As though to underline the real ale theme, one poster is advertising a “meet the brewer” event on September 29 with Daleside brewer Craig Witty.
A number of interesting displays show aspects of local history. There are panels dedicated to the cricketer Len Hutton, the Moravian settlement at nearby Fulneck and to locally-born Benjamin Latrobe, the founding father of American architecture. The crossed shuttle, it turns out, was an emblem used by the local weavers.
We find a table in the slightly austere dining room to the rear, with dark panelling, high-backed oak settles, oil paintings, subdued lighting and a colour scheme of coffee and terracotta.
The food soon adds some colour. We try the budget “meal and a drink” option and find that – though there are no frills and no surprises – this ‘Spoons really does the business. I go for the Mexican hotdog, a giant pork sausage topped with cheese, guacamole and dangerously hot chilli peppers. My partner has the Tennessee burger, which teams a honey-glazed burger with rich, sweet Jack Daniels sauce.
Both come with chips and a pint, the service is friendly and swift – and I get change from £14. Say what you like about these places, that’s great value.
Tomorrow would have been the 48th birthday of Ridgeside Brewery founder Simon Bolderson’s – had a cruel brain cancer not robbed us of this funny, talented, dedicated man. His friends and the brewery ask that all who knew him, or simply loved his beer, should #RaiseAPintToSimon in his memory. It’s more fun than an ice bucket challenge.
Opening Hours: 8am-11pm Mon-Thur; 8am-midnight Fri-Sat; 8am-11pm Sun
Beers: Ruddles Best (£1.95), Abbot Ale (£2.35) plus great range of real ales from £2.35 with choice changing daily. Also John Smith’s Smooth (£2.29), Carling lager (£2.95), Fosters (£2.85), Carlsberg (£2.29) Amstel (£2.95) Kronenbourg (£2.95), Strongbow (£2.35), Guinness (£2.99).
Wines: Small selection available from £2.40-glass and £8.19-bottle
Food: Good value pub meals served every session until 11pm with changing deals and regular themed nights
Children: Welcomed; high chairs and baby-changing facilities available
Disabled: Easy access, all on one level – disabled toilets
Beer garden: Patio area to front
Parking: None. On-street and local short-stay car parking available
Telephone: 0113 290 9620