Town Hall Tavern, Leeds review - Stalwart still worth a visit for pie and a pint

It’s late on Friday afternoon, and a thirsty crowd is keen to celebrate the start of the weekend at the famous old Town Hall Tavern.

By Simon Jenkins
Sunday, 15th March 2020, 11:45 am

The clock on Cuthbert Brodrick’s iconic tower across the way is nudging on towards six as I gently jostle my way through the throng and on towards the bar.

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Its proximity to the courts and the legal offices of Park Square have long made this a favourite with those who work in the law. And plenty here seem to be letting off steam after their busy week of injunctions, prosecutions, conveyances and the like.

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The Town Hall Tavern in Westgate, Leeds, has long been a favourite with those who work in the law thanks to its proximity to the city's courts.

Time was, before the nooks and crannies of this famous old pub were cleared out to create its current open plan feel, that this was the place where lawyers might meet their clients, where defendants might enjoy a stiffener before facing the judge, where journalists might pick up a juicy tip-off from the clerks or the police. It was a place of secrecy and discretion, the closest our city had to the pubs around Fleet Street and the Old Bailey.

Those bonds are weaker now. Even the collection of old cartoons of courtroom scenes and legal bon mots was swept away in a more recent refurbishment – all grey-greens and plain cream walls, to match the company branding of Timothy Taylor, for whom this is the single outpost in the city centre.

Once I ease into position at the bar, I can browse their full range – the gentle Dark Mild, easy-going session ale Boltmaker, zesty Knowle Spring Blonde, and more.

The busy barman is expertly dealing with multiple customers at once – taking the money for one order as he fills one glass and another pint settles before being topped up.

Inevitably I go for the classic Landlord, Taylor’s flagship product, a serial winner of the Champion Beer of Britain award, and the quintessential Yorkshire bitter. It is, for me, an automatic choice when I find it as a guest beer; not to drink it here would almost seem like sacrilege.

Nursing my pint, I squirrel myself off to a table in the corner to enjoy this singular pleasure while working my way through the dinner menu. We’re heading off to a night of stand-up at the Carriageworks, and the THT positions itself as the pre-show venue of choice by offering 10 per cent off food for those attending performances at any of the city’s theatre venues.

Remember to take your tickets as proof though – we have left ours for collection at the box office, so are unable to avail ourselves of the generous discount. Even so, the menu represents decent value and the brisk service ensures you are never in danger of missing ‘curtain-up’.

I go for the pie, lean chunks of steak in a rich gravy, wrapped in a proper shortcrust pastry casing and topped with an swirl of mashed potato like a Mister Whippy ice-cream.

Perhaps it gives her a sense of moral superiority, but my partner has gone for something less obviously calorific – a slab of juicy seabass fillet served on a mound of spinach and crushed potatoes, and paired with prawns in a white wine sauce. A glass of chardonnay helps this along.

We down a couple of strong coffees before settling the bill and heading across to the theatre.

The Town Hall Tavern may not be the same as it was in its glory days, but it has moved with the times. It’s still busy, always welcoming, and has a great atmosphere – particularly when Friday finally comes.

Town Hall Tavern factfile

Address: 17 Westgate, Leeds, LS1 2RA

Type: Traditional pub values in a modern setting

Opening times: Tues-Sat, noon-11pm; Sun, noon-8pm; Mon, noon-10pm.

Beers: Classic hand-pulled Landlord (£4.10), plus other cask ales from across the Timothy Taylor range

Wine: Decent selection from £4.75 per glass and £17.95 per bottle

Food: Hearty pub food is served daily noon-9pm (Sun, noon-7pm). Booking is recommended

Children: Welcomed - and kids’ menu available

Disabled: Straightforward access, but slightly cramped inside

Beer Garden: None

Parking: On-street parking is available nearby

Telephone: 0113 244 0765