It’s a dangerous thing walking into The Midnight Bell on Water Lane around lunchtime, especially if it’s even the least bit sunny out.
The problem is, of course, once you’re in, you’ll want to linger far longer than you probably can; the odds are that you will either be on your lunch hour or going there to meet someone or there will be some other curfew on your time, as it was with me on this particular visit. For me the sun was shining, I was on my lunch hour (which in reality means just half an hour in the pub - yes, people still actually do do that).
So there I was, spending some time in Leeds Brewery’s flagship boozer which has done really well for itself and seems to have been around long enough to have earned a sense of history. Indeed, the carpentered wooden reliefs on the barfront, which take their shape from the company’s distinctive barpull labels, are in need of a lick of paint but given this place has something of a lived in feel to it anyway - old stone flagged floors, log burner in the fireplace, logs chucked loosely in the corner, the odd olde worlde chest of drawers here and there - it does not detract. In fact, it rather adds to the vibe.
It couldn’t be more laid back. That’s not to say the staff aren’t attentive, knowledgeable and quick to boot. They somehow manage to be all of those things, while at the same time appearing disarmingly chilled out.
So, in the measly amount of time I have, I order half a Cameron’s Motorhead Road Crew (£1.90). It’s a sessionable ale at 4.5 per cent but has a slightly bitter finish with tones of liquorice and blackcurrant and a slight citrus twang on the back end. It’s nice and I dare say after a few, all that acidic bite would feel more like honey dripping down your throat. There was no time for food this time, although they do offer a small menu of bar snacks, sandwiches, then even run to Sunday lunch.
Still, I wasn’t complaining. With a beer in hand, the sun reaching through the old wooden sash windows with a warming caress and a view as tranquil as you can get in the middle of Leeds city centre, there’s not much to complain about.
The Midnight Bell offers its patrons a good array of beers, not least all the usual offerings from Leeds Brewery, which is doing marvellous things for the city. During my visit there was also a Modello bottled beer (£4.80) and a bottle of Jaipur (£4.55), from Thornbridge brewery, a stunning American-style IPA at 5.9 per cent. You can actually buy this stuff in Tesco but that doesn’t stop it being a decent brew and to say it’s made with six different hops, it’s not as citrussy as you might expect, although it still comes with a fair whack of flavour and, for want of a better word, ‘grassiness’.
The Midnight Bell is holding its own. It’s a pleasant pub offering some really trusted ales, it knows its market and is clearly standing the test of time.
The Midnight Bell, Water Lane, Leeds