Finding that balance between a warm, homely pub and contemporary, fashionable bar is really hard to achieve.
Managing that at a 200-year-old institution of a pub, famed for its role as the second stop of the Otley Run pub crawl, is doubly difficult.
Admittedly the revamp of The Three Horseshoes, in Headingley, didn’t get off to the best of starts when new owners Spirit Leased were forced to revise their plans after an attempt to rebrand the old pub as ‘The Industrialist’ sparked uproar among locals.
It’s always been a popular venue with a mix of student and traditional punters, but refurbishing it through modern bar styling with a rustic edge was a risk.
But it’s one that seems to have paid off. The Three Horseshoes is no longer a typical tavern-like pub, it doesn’t feel like a ‘locals-only’ establishment and there seems to be a generally positive opinion of the new look.
On our visit there were older regulars at the bar, groups of lads watching the football and couples sitting down for a taster of the new food menu, which is less than traditional thanks to the venue’s new pizza oven, nachos and gourmet hot dog selection but also caters to your pub staples like pies and cooked breakfasts.
Inside there are no tired-looking carpets, brewing or sporting memorabilia or wood cladding. Instead, it’s a neutral grey and white painted space with some bare brick walls, gleaming cream tiles and rustic wooden flooring.
There are plasma screens on the walls showing sport and an eclectic soundtrack featuring everything from James Brown to Jack Johnson and Ed Sheeran that blends into the background.
It’s far more like stripped back bars The Pit or Roxy Ballroom than a throwback heritage pub yet The Three Horseshoes doesn’t alienate the more traditional punters.
There are no cocktails on offer but the menu boasts a broad array of spirits and mixers as well as a dedicated craft beer menu and a number of varieties of white, red, rose and sparkling wines and champagnes. You can also choose from more than half a dozen draught beers and ciders including San Miguel, Estrella Damm and Guinness as well as cask ales.
We went for pints of Strongbow cider and Brooklyn lager before bottles of Corona and Desperados, which brought the bill to a relatively reasonable £14.50.
The Three Horseshoes is a well-liked pub that has been given a tasteful and really accessible revamp.
Considering the unfortunate demise of some of Leeds’s more famous watering holes in recent years, this place looks well placed to attract the next generation of punters without cutting ties with its past.