THE closure of the junction between Parkside Road and the ring road a few years ago could have been the death of the Myrtle.
Out on a limb, accessed only through a tricky chicane, it was cut off at a stroke from the passing trade which was once the backbone of the business. The shift of Meanwood social life’s centre of gravity towards East and Alfred, the other side of the park, could have been the final death knell; when the Myrtle fell prey to the drug scene, there were many here who wanted it gone.
But four years ago, Scott Westlake took over the lease and has dedicated that time to putting this famous old suburban pub back on the map.
The beer festival he’s hosting this weekend is just the latest sign of a pub which has reinvented itself by rediscovering its community roots.
Once a handy rat-run, Parkside Road is now but a ribbon of housing between the north end of the park and the new homes which have sprung up on the old hospital site.
The Myrtle has an imposing stone frontage, set at right angles to the road, alongside the green pocket handkerchief of Meanwood cricket club’s home ground.
The boundary looks quite short, making vehicles in the pub car park vulnerable to a powerful six-hitter.
A high mesh fence protects the small row of stone cottages opposite.
Stepping inside, you pass through one of four stone arches which divide the room in two, and down a couple of stairs to reach the bar. Further drinking space is down to your right.
Around the walls, competing for space with the multiple TV screens, black and white images show off the history of Meanwood.
The Myrtle once traded high on the grey pound, with cut-price lunches attracting a good following among the pensioners who lived nearby. Those days are gone: “I went to all their funerals so I know they’re not coming back,” says Scott.
Food now is just restricted to weekend lunchtimes, when a popular menu of hearty pub favourites kicks in. Choices include steak and Guinness pie (£7.50), sausage and mash (£7.95), lasagne (£6.95), burgers (from £5.95) and giant Yorkshire puddings (£4.50).
Losing the pensioners obliged Scott to work hard to bring in new customers, and in doing so, the Myrtle now attracts couples and families, a lively after-work crowd, and those drawn by the live sport, the quiz nights and, of course, the beer. This former John Smith’s house now sells a succession of real ales.
Their house beer, the easy-going, well-balanced Myrtale comes from Meanwood’s own Ridgeside brewery; Leeds Pale is another regular on the bar, and Scott ensures there’s always a decent choice on the other two handpumps.
He went on: “We try to have a good mix of light and dark beers – and most of them are from Yorkshire.”
I try the Black Bull from Theakston’s Brewery in Masham – a malty beer, rich with dark fruits, and a less alcoholic alternative to the brewery’s more famous brand which is also popular here: “We try to get Old Peculier on at the weekend,” says Scott.
“It’s quite strong, so people don’t want it quite so much during the week.”
The Meanwood Beer Festival, to be hosted in a giant marquee, widens the choice still further.
It starts at 4pm on Friday and runs all day on Saturday, and features beers from Ilkley, Kirkstall, Roosters, Northern Monk and Golden Owl breweries - among others. Admission is just £3.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; @jenkolovesbeer
Name: The Myrtle Tavern
Type: Popular community pub
Host: Scott Westlake
Opening hours: 2-11pm Mon, noon-11pm Tues-Sun
Beers: Myrtale (£3.30), Leeds Pale (£3.30) plus three guest beers (from £3.20), also John Smith’s Smooth (£3.05) and Worthington (£3.05) plus Groslch (£3.65), Coors (£3.65), Carling (£3.50), Fosters (£3.30), Guinness (£3.60)
Wines: Good choice
Food: Good choice of pub meals served weekends only until 4pm
Disabled: Split levels inside, though perhaps easier access from the rear door. No special facilities.
Children: Welcomed. Kids’ meals and high chairs available.
Beer garden: Large grassed area on the edge of the woods with newly refurbished children’s play area
Entertainment: Quizzed Mon and Tues, regular Saturday evening events, games machines, Sky and BT Sports TV, beer festival this Fri and Sat (April 3-4)
Parking: Large area to the front
Telephone: 0113 275 2101