ONCE the run-down and disreputable Lendal Bridge Inn, this place has thrived for almost 25 years under the stewardship of Shaun and Maxine Collinge, who have created the very essence of a 21st century tavern.
The Maltings is a five minute walk from the railway station, roughly half way between there and the Minster, and makes an ideal first or last stop on any pub crawl of the city.
The signage outside might suggest that this is a Black Sheep pub, but it is actually a free house which has gained an enviable reputation for its beers, its food and its simple, genuine hospitality.
Stepping inside is almost like going back in time, to an age where the simple experience of enjoying a sociable drink and conversation wasn’t diluted by the questionable fripperies of a juke box, a fruit machine or television.
The Maltings retains its traditional unspoiled alehouse ambience. There’s basic wooden furniture, a tiled floor and subdued lighting. The display of mirrors and enamelled signs for products such as Hero Cycles, Royal Standard Lamp Oil and Black Cat Virginia Cigarettes wouldn’t be out of place at the nearby Castle Museum. Even the addition of a much-needed extension a few years ago didn’t detract from its simple pub feel.
Once you escape the busy traffic of Lendal Bridge and dive inside, the bar is dead ahead, its eight handpulls and four keg fonts connected to a host of kegs and casks stacked up in the narrow, claustrophobic cellars.
In the interests of consistency, three of the beers are permanent – Black Sheep Bitter, which has been sold here since day one, the pale Guzzler from York Brewery and the citrussy golden ale Yorkshire Sparkle from Treboom in Shipton-by-Beningborough. One pump is dedicated to Rooster’s Brewery, though the beer changes regularly – while the other four pumps and the keg lines present their customers with an ever-changing choice of beers. Leeds newcomer Wilde Child is one of the breweries that you can expect to find here, alongside more established new-wave brewers like Huddersfield’s Magic Rock and Tiny Rebel from South Wales. There can be as many as 40 different ones each month, with at least one mild, one stout and six still ciders on at all times.
To drink here is an opportunity to really acquaint yourself with some of the better new breweries on the scene. I’ve drunk here several times and never had a bad pint.
And with the absence of any alcopops or big-name lager brands, and with a pricing policy which reflects the quality of the product, Shaun and Maxine have deliberately targeted their pub at the over-25s. Live music on Mondays and a folk night on Tuesdays are their only concessions to the entertainment culture.
Helpful, knowledgeable staff ensure that customers can buy with confidence, as Shaun explains: “People want to know where a beer is from, is it dark or light, malty or bitter or suitable for vegans. If you can answer questions and give information and advice, it really makes you seem professional.
“We want customers to like what they’re drinking, so we’re always happy to offer them a sample first. It does two things – it means they have a good night, drinking a beer that they enjoy, but it also means that they go away feeling that they’ve been looked after.”
Those splendid chaps at Rooster’s Brewery have recycled some of our hard-spent beer money to become the new sponsor of Leeds Deaf FC, the city’s only deaf football club. The club folded four years ago but has recently reformed with the help of Farsley Celtic FC, and is looking to re-establish itself as an asset to the local deaf community.
Address: Tanner’s Moat, York, YO1 1HU
Host: Shaun Collinge
Type: No-nonsense drinkers’ paradise
Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun
Beers: Eight real ale handpulls including Black Sheep (£3.50) and Treboom Yorkshire Sparkle - plus four keg beers and various ciders
Wine: Great range of fruit and country wines
Food: Large selection of straightforward pub food available noon-2pm Mon-Fri and noon-4pm Sat-Sun. Takeaway meals also available.
Entertainment: Live music on Monday evening, Folk Night on Tuesdays
Disabled: Reasonable access, slightly cramped inside
Children: Welcomed, kids’ meals available
Beer garden: None
Parking: City centre pay and display areas nearby
Telephone: 01904 655387