A DISPLAY of sumptuous monochrome images of our city’s most majestic buildings is one of the chief attractions of this no-nonsense city boozer.
It has endured a troubled past and I’m sure had a spell closed down altogether not that long ago. But now a bold blue paint job has smartened up the frontage and given an unmistakable message that the Regent has upped its game.
It’s a very common pub name nationally, and most refer to the Prince Regent, the future King George IV. The time was when there were three of them in Leeds alone, though the famous Irish pub just outside the city centre was latterly known as Maguire’s until its demolition some years ago.
The Chapel Allerton one was the focus of some lively activity at the weekend. Just a stone’s throw from the main stage, it sits right at the heart of the suburb’s annual arts festival. On a warm sunny afternoon and a busy evening when the street was packed and the amps were cranked up to 11, it did a roaring trade.
But I digress. Back to Kirkgate, where directly opposite the famous Edwardian market’s side entrance, you step into a small area of blue banquettes and a mosaic tiled floor, from where a couple of shallow steps lead up towards the rear of the room.
Here a long bar of dark lacquered wood is topped by a row of shiny beer fonts dispensing an unsurprising selection of keg beers – Tetley, John Smith Smooth, Carlsberg, Carling and Strongbow, you know the kind of thing. There are four polished brass handpumps but sadly they don’t appear to be connected to anything interesting down in the cellars. CAMRA lists it as serving handpulled Tetley, so perhaps it does sometimes.
The walls are painted in shades of grey, while facing the bar is a huge mirror advertising Tetley ales. No doubt this is a hangover from the time when this and most of Leeds’s other straight-up working men’s taverns were part of the great city brewery’s vast pub empire. It is now aowned by giant pubco Punch.
Beyond the bar, the space narrows into a small snug with wooden panelled walls, smaller and less impressive but nonetheless reminiscent of the back room of the lovely old Templar, a few hundred yards north of here.
Through a door to the side you reach the narrow back yard complete with picnic tables which offers a surprisingly serene outdoor drinking space where a convenient gap between two tall buildings allows the sunshine to flood in.
The gents toilets are out the back too, another curious throwback to a time when this rudimentary plumbing arrangement was common.
It’s Saturday afternoon when I call in. Country and western standards are pulsing urgently from the sound system, while gents of a certain age are gathered amiably around the bar, enjoying the conversation and the keenly-priced beer. In a corner beside the door, the well-oiled members of a middle-aged hen party from Tyneside are clucking and cackling.
It’s that kind of a pub really. Essentially friendly and mundane, yet attracting a lively, noisy, occasionally drunken and boisterous crowd. It’s hugely popular with the market traders and its karaoke sessions are the stuff of legend.
Perhaps The Regent is not for the faint of heart, but give it a try.
Kirkgate, Leeds, LS1 6DP
Telephone: 0113 245 6040
Type: Lively city centre alehouse
Opening Hours: 11am-11pm daily
Beers: John Smiths (£2.40) plus Tetley Smooth; Carlsberg (£2.50) plus Carling and Strongbow
Wine: Small selection
Children: Not suitable, no special facilities
Disabled: Some split-level areas inside
Entertainment: Karaoke nights, plus games machines
Beer Garden: Sunlit yard area to the rear
Parking: City centre car parks nearby
Reviewer: Simon Jenkins