Whitelock's Ale House: Meet the head chef behind the pub grub at the oldest boozer in Leeds

Whitelock’s Ale House is renowned for its real ales, craft beers and speciality ciders, but is quickly becoming a destination for Leeds foodies.
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With new monthly dinner clubs going beyond the pub classics and Whitelock’s favourites, head chef Nick Robertson is putting his own stamp on the oldest boozer in the city.

Nick grew up in Beeston and didn’t plan to become a chef, he fell into a role as a kitchen porter at the Metropolitan Hotel and 13 years later, he’s still in the industry.

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His repertoire includes the New Ellington, the Black Swan and Crafthouse.

Nick Robertson is the head chef at Whitelock's Ale House in Leeds (Photo: James Hardisty)Nick Robertson is the head chef at Whitelock's Ale House in Leeds (Photo: James Hardisty)
Nick Robertson is the head chef at Whitelock's Ale House in Leeds (Photo: James Hardisty)

When a stint as head chef at The Tetley didn’t work out, he joined the team at Whitelock’s in 2019 - initially as sous chef before being promoted in April last year.

Nick’s vision for Whitelock’s is a simple one; high-quality pub grub in the friendly setting that the pub is renowned for.

The 33-year-old told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The menu is very in keeping with Whitelock’s; the pub classics are there and they’re done very well.

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“The way I see Whitelock’s is that good, mid-week, bistro-style food - absolutely amazing quality and not too expensive.

Nick’s vision for Whitelock’s is a simple one; high-quality pub grub in the friendly setting that the pub is renowned for (Photo: James Hardisty)Nick’s vision for Whitelock’s is a simple one; high-quality pub grub in the friendly setting that the pub is renowned for (Photo: James Hardisty)
Nick’s vision for Whitelock’s is a simple one; high-quality pub grub in the friendly setting that the pub is renowned for (Photo: James Hardisty)

“It’s somewhere you can go before the football for a burger and a pint, but also somewhere you can go with your mrs for a three-course meal.

“It’s better than you think it would be, that’s the main feedback we get from customers. They don’t expect it to be on the level it is.”

Earlier this year, Nick launched something new for Whitelock’s - monthly dinner clubs for his team to show off their talent.

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From Spanish-themed spreads to vegetarian nights, it allows Nick’s chefs to experiment beyond the pub menu format.

“The feedback has been really positive,” Nick said.

“It gives everyone the chance to express themselves in a way they don’t normally get.

“It’s not what Whitelock’s is known for, it’s out of our norm and it’s a chance to show off the talent in the kitchen, as it’s one of the most talented teams I’ve ever seen.

“Our commis chef with a year’s experience did a menu so good, I was slightly angry!”

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Nick has introduced more vegetarian options to the Whitelock’s menu; an avocado burger, spiced cauliflower steak and beetroot salad sit alongside the carnivorous mains.

Nick added: “The pie, the fish and chips and the burger are always going to sell.

“But it’s important to make sure everyone on the table is happy and has a great experience.

“At the end of the day, they’re the people who will go on to tell everyone how good it is. That feedback is vital.”

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Nick isn’t after fancy accolades, but hopes to cement Whitelock’s reputation as a stellar place to eat that doesn’t break the bank.

He added: “The main thing for me is teaching - improving the lads and giving them more skills, knowledge, opportunities and confidence. That is a chef’s legacy.

“The most important thing is to leave the industry as you find it, and the only way to do that is to weed out the screaming, shouting and belittling for no apparent reason.

“And teaching people the right way to do things.”