The Templar, Templar Street review - Step into a Leeds city centre pub where traditional beer is still king
Call me old fashioned, but I’ve never really gone in for public displays of my genitalia. So I am alarmed to discover, while innocently using the gents’ toilets at the Templar, that I am doing so in full view of anyone standing at the bar.
There are three of them, urinals I mean. Two of them are against one wall, hidden from view; the third – which I inadvertently choose – is in so exposed a position that when the door to the toilets is opened, anyone using it is in full view.
As one chap washes his hands and returns to the bar, I glance over my shoulder and make eye-contact with one of the barmen who might have looked startled were this not a regular occurrence.
All this makes for a slightly disturbing coda to an enjoyable lunchtime visit to this famous old pub which continues to serve an older demographic through times when the needs of the younger drinkers seem increasingly prioritised.
The Templar is certainly a survivor. For almost as long as I can remember, people have warned that it might be bulldozed as part of some development or other, or simply shut down and left to rot.
And yet, stepping inside on a Monday lunchtime to find it crowded with drinkers and teeming with conversation, with the TVs showing a host of sports channels, and quality hand-pulled beer being served at a shade over £2 a pint, it is easy to see why it continues to thrive.
But before we step inside, let’s take a wander around the outside, from the narrow Vicar Lane frontage, and down Templar Street to the side, where the elaborate tilework of bottle green and pale cream tiles is sufficient to transport the drinker back into a simpler age, where such a design – now sadly quite rare – would be common to many pubs across Leeds.
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This impression of stepping into the past is maintained as you cross the threshold, and into a pub where traditional beer is still king.
The long bars offers plenty – locals such as Three Swords from Kirkstall and Farmer’s Blonde from Bradfield.
But Tetley Bitter has long been the mainstay of trade here, at least since this old Melbourne Ales house became part of the Leeds brewery’s empire in the 1960s, so I opt for a pint of the city’s most famous beer – and find it at its crisp, nutty, refreshing best, still on fine form, despite now being brewed in the Black Country.
I linger in the narrow corridor which links the Templar’s main room at the front with a cosy snug at the rear. Here framed documents tell the long history of the pub and of the Knights Templar.
Flags of the home nations herald the Six Nations coverage; in one corner, a little nest of silver trophies surrounded by spotlight seems almost a shrine to sporting triumphs long past.
Close by are fading pictures of ancient scenes – terraced houses and factories, grimy canals and smoky alleyways, scenes of commerce, scenes of dereliction.
Plenty more speaks of the past. Through the lanterns above the bar, the black oak beams which cross the ceiling, the green leather banquettes, in the acres of wooden panelling, and the lanterns over the bar, you get a clear sense of a pub which has survived through the lean years and the fat, and will hopefully remain a beacon for traditional city drinking for many years to come.
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The Templar factfile
Address: Templar Street, Leeds, LS2 7NU
Type: A traditional local for the city centre
Opening Hours: Sun-Thur, 11am-11pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-midnight
Beers: Great choice of real ales, including Greene King IPA, Tetley Bitter and changing range of guests. Plus Peroni, Coors, Carling, Guinness and John Smith’s Smooth
Wine: Small selection
Beer garden: None
Children: Not particularly suitable
Disabled: Straightforward access
Entertainment: Games machines, Sky Sport. Drinks promotions during live sport
Parking: Car parks nearby
Telephone: 0113 2430318