THEY’VE called it The Phoenix, but the “gastro bar” experience now offered by the old Central seems an altogether slicker operation than the one run by Brian Potter.
Like Peter Kay’s fictional club, this one has very much risen from the ashes. A devastating fire at the lovely old Fleece at Addingham has put that famous dales dining pub completely out of action for months, prompting bosses at the Well Fed Pub Company to turn their attentions towards the city’s suits and office staff – at least while repairs continue.
So having taken over the lease a short while ago, and treated the pub to some new furniture and a sober lick of mustard and grey paint, they opened up on Wellington Street last week. The new look provides a few smoke-damaged reminders of the Fleece: some salvaged timbers are displayed as rustic art on one wall, on another, a local sculptor has made an arresting display of the chef’s twisted and blackened knives, melted beyond use. The blaze must have been ferocious.
Yet even without the fire, Phoenix seems something of an apt title for a bar breathing fresh life into the famous old Central, which has been a fixture on Wellington Street for decades, amid a bewildering stream of changes in both ownership and direction.
In the 40 years Wellington Street was home to Yorkshire Post Newspapers, this place had a ready clientele in the journalists, printers and advertising staff who would frequently, perhaps habitually, end their day with a pint here. It was the first licensed premises between the office and the station; leaving parties were held here; union members met on chapel business upstairs.
And despite the numerous changes and refits, one thing which rarely wavered was the pub’s commitment to great beer, and it’s reassuring to see that in its latest incarnation, real ale remains right at the heart of the operation. Four real ale handpulls dominate the centre of the bar, with Yorkshire favourites Black Sheep, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Saltaire Blonde competing for attention when I call in on Monday.
The first two are likely to become regulars, the company’s Josh Stephenson tells me over a convivial lunchtime pint. He talks a good game, using the opportunity to promote the pub’s breakfasts, its deli bar, its take-out sandwiches and its “bottomless brunch”. The latter is a pretty neat idea, a two-course lunch with unlimited refills of prosecco for £15.
The deal is available on Thursday and Friday lunchtimes, and – perhaps mindful of the drinking habits of the female journalists who work nearby – is limited to 90 minutes.
“They have had a lot of different owners here,” he tells me – prompting me to apologise for the fact that the Central was an omission from my new edition of The Great Leeds Pub Crawl. Fact is, it was closed when I went to print!
But it’s back in the land of the living now and certainly worth a visit. “We are targeting the office people from Wellington Place,” says Josh, keen to tap me for information on how to persuade Yorkshire Post Newspapers staff to visiot here from their new home on Whitehall Road.
“We want people to be able to come in for a meal, or just grab a sandwich and go.” So whether you fancy soup and roll, a selection from the deli – or something more substantial like haddock and chips (£9), steak and kidney pudding (£12) or a veggie risotto (£9) – this could be the place to go.
I quibble about the name change though, which ends a connection to the city’s Central Station, now the site of those flash new office blocks. “We hated the name,” Josh admits. “It’s hardly central, is it?”
Address: Wellington Street, Leeds, LS1 4LT
Type: Food-led pub
Host: Manager Laura Cattrall
Opening Hours: From 8am until around 8pm daily
Beers: Black Sheep (£3.50), Timothy Taylor Landlord (£3.50) plus two other guest beers plus Carling (£3.50), Amstel (£3.50), Heineken (£3.50), San Miguel (£4.15)
Wine: Good choice from £2.95-glass and £14.95-bottle
Food: Wide-ranging choice of dishes available daily
Disabled: Straightforward access, but some split-level areas inside
Entertainment: Occasional live music
Beer Garden: None
Parking: On-street parking nearby
Telephone: 0113 242 4434