Pub review: The Lamb & Flag, Leeds

SERIOUS ALEHOUSE: Matt Jaques outside the Lamb and Flag.
SERIOUS ALEHOUSE: Matt Jaques outside the Lamb and Flag.
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“I HAVE no idea why they came up with the name, or why they’ve put speech marks around it,” admits refreshingly-honest manager Matt Jaques, standing proudly in front of this new red-brick pub, which is just a stone’s throw from Leeds Minster.

This ecclesiastical connection is clearly relevant – a lamb holding a flag has been a Christian symbol for centuries, adopted as an emblem by groups as diverse as the KnightsTemplar, the Redruth tin miners and Preston North End.

There are a couple of other pubs with the name, including a rather splendid one in Oxford, but Matt had no clear idea why Leeds Brewery had chosen to adopt it here. “And they had a whole meeting about the punctuation,” he says.

It seems he wasn’t invited. No matter, the fact is that the brewery has wrought a fabulous conversion on a crumbling 19th century building which was once a signwriter’s store, where the Lay Verger used to also have first-floor lodgings. It has stood empty for at least 20 years.

It is somewhere I must have driven past a thousand times and never really noticed. Tarting up the paintwork and freeing the bricks from two centuries’ grime have made it stand proud of its background at last. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was newly built.

The six-figure refit has seen the building gutted and brought back to life as a serious alehouse, with eight cask beers and some quality food, filling a gap in an east-of- the-city pub crawl between the Crowd of Favours, Duck and Drake and Brewdog on one side, the lovely old Palace on the other.

“This end of town is really up and coming now,” says Matt. “I’d say it’s almost there and as they develop Kirkgate it’s only going to get better.”

Stepping in from the busy street you enter a stylish, airy, flag-floored bar, whose picture windows and gleaming white walls accentuate the feeling of space. There’s a beer garden out at the back, and a stripped wooden staircase leads up to a more intimate balcony space.

The curving darkwood sideboard of a bar is dead ahead, invitingly crowned with two banks of four real ale hand pumps. Naturally Leeds Brewery’s flagship products dominate the range and on this warm summer afternoon, cool, crisp and refreshing Leeds Pale is my obvious choice.

The selection is augmented by two beers from the Ridgeside Brewery and Matt is quick to sing the praises of the new regime which has got the Meanwood brewer back on its feet following the death of much-loved founder Simon Bolderson. You can also expect to find some other locals – Great Heck and Rooster’s for example ­– on the bar here in the coming months.

The menu offers classic pub meals – fish and chips (£10.50), sirloin steak (£16.95) and the ploughman’s lunch (£9.95) – while a specials board allows the chef to stretch out into less well-trodden territory. Matt has come here directly from sister pub the White Swan, and has watched from afar as the painstaking plan to open the Lamb and Flag slowly came together.

“Originally they said it would be open up Christmas, but inevitably there were delays and obviously it’s a listed building so that slowed us down.”

But now the pub is up and running, he’s delighted with the new look - and the quality of the build: “Everything just works. Believe me, that’s not always the case!”

He’s clearly very proud of the place, but our conversation ends pretty much the way it had begun: “If you bump into Sam or Michael from the brewery, please ask them about the punctuation.” I will Matt, I promise.

FACTFILE

Address: 1 Church Row, Leeds, LS2 7HD

Host: Matt Jaques

Type: Contemporary bar in an historic setting

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Thur, 11am-midnight, Fri-Sat, 11am-10.30pm Sun

Beers: Leeds Pale (£3.20), Yorkshire Gold (£3.30), Leeds Best (£3.40), Midnight Bell (£3.50) plus good choice of guest ales. Also Leodis lager (£4.10), Gathering Storm stout (£3.90) and Monsoon IPA (£4.20)

Wine: Decent selection from £4.25-glass and £15.95-bottle

Food: Good value pub meals served noon-9pm Mon-Sat and noon-7pm Sun

Disabled: Straightforward access, disabled toilets

Children: Welcomed

Beer garden: Yes to rear

Parking: On-street and multi-storey paring available nearby

Telephone: 0113 2431255

Website: www.lambandflagleeds.co.uk

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