Bar review: Shenanigans, Leeds city centre

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IT’S A big week to be Irish.

As I call in at Shenanigans this week, I find the the big screen televisions and rather intrusive sound system are all tuned to the Cheltenham Festival, an event which has a huge Irish following. Plenty of these afternoon drinkers clearly have some money riding on it. Those that aren’t interested can scarcely escape the wall-to-wall coverage.

The flags of the Six Nations flutter idly across the windows, and doubtless the pub will be packed for the decider from Twickenham on Saturday, which just happens to be St Patrick’s Day. Ireland may have already won the tournament, but how they would love to complete the Grand Slam, and how much England would like to stop them, returning the favour from last year. It could get a bit tasty, both on the field and in Shenanigans, where there is sure to be a partisan crowd.

This landmark pub on the corner of Millennium Square has had several different guises over the years, its last two – first as O’Neills and now this – have been very much Irish-themed. In its latest guise, Failte (“welcome”) in Gaelic script over the door, shamrocks in the windows, painted slogans and mottos naming some of Ireland’s most famous beers leave drinkers in little doubt of its leanings.

No doubt in readiness for Saturday, a giant Guinness rugby ball hangs in the centre of the space, but there are plenty of Welsh, Scottish, Italian, French flags here to show a certain even-handedness. Even some English crosses of St George would you believe?

Even so, the theme is predominantly Emerald Green. The names of some of Ireland’s cities and counties are painted high up around the walls. The inclusion of Derry, Armagh and Antrim show that this is about representing the whole island, just like the rugby team.

High up in the stonework outside are some symbols which reveal the building’s origins. The Star of David, the mallet, and the ruler are each potent emblems of freemasonry and date back to 1865 when these imposing premises first opened as the city’s Masonic Hall. This imposing building later became the city’s juvenile court. Picture windows look out onto the spectacular Victorian stone of the Town Hall, where the adult criminals once learned of their fate.

To the left of the main door, at one end of the pub, is a more intimate, dimly-lit snug. This was once a microbrewery, in a time when the famous Firkin chain spawned a chain of brewpubs, just a few years before they became all the rage. This, naturally, was the Felon and Firkin.

When you arrive at the bar you are greeted by three real-ale handpulls, and a host of shiny fonts offering an unfeasibly large selection of lagers. There’s Guinness and Murphy’s as well, of course, but I opt for the distinctly more homespun pleasure of Timothy Taylor Landlord from Keighley, always one of my go-to choices on any bar.

There’s a wide-ranging menu from sharing tapas to a full-on mixed grill by way of steaks and burgers, chicken, chilli and tikka masala.

Upstairs on the first floor, a lovely broad balcony offers drinkers the opportunities to escape the lively atmosphere below. One definition of “shenanigans” is “high-spirited behaviour”; if things go well for the Irish on Saturday, this place will be absolutely living up to its name.

FACTFILE

Great George Street, Leeds

Type: Large Irish-themed bar

Opening times: 11am-11pm Sun, Mon, Wed, Thur; noon-midnight Tues, Fri, Sat

Beers: Three real ales, currently including Sharp’s Doom Bar and Timothy Taylor Landlord, plus John Smith Smooth, Carling, Heineken, Stella Artois, Coors Light, Magners Cider, Guinness, Murphy’s

Wine: Decent selection

Food: Wide-ranging menu

Entertainment: Live music, large screen TVs, games machines, pool table, Free WiFi, occasional themed events.

Functions: Balcony available for special events

Children: Welcomed, kids menu, but no special facilities

Beer Garden: None

Parking: On-street and city-centre parking nearby

Telephone: 0113 244 0810

Website: leeds.shenanigansbars.com

Kane Pigford.

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