The thing about West Riding is you can probably walk past its frontage in about two or three seconds. Most people do, as they scurry along Wellington Street, eyes resolutely forward, London-like.
But for those who care to stop and peer into this landmark pub, pleasant surprises await.
The bar has just re-opened following a five-week long refit and first impressions are good. There’s a couple of Chesterfields sharing a low table in the window and inside, hard wood floors lead your eyes back and back and back again, because if there’s one thing this place has it’s space.
Strangely, it also seems wider inside than it looks from without. Unless, of course, there’s something else going on here and time somehow slows down once you step beyond the threshold (I’m discounting nothing). I recall attending a fair few leaving dos here in years gone by and they were always convivial, aided by the relaxed, low-lit atmosphere.
If I’m honest (and I am) though, it has been years since I’ve set foot in the place before this week and having spent even only a little time here, I can see that’s a shame.
The West Riding ambience pivots on its manifest sense of history. It feels like it’s been here since the dawn of the city, a timeless watcher of constant change. If a horse and cart pulled up outside and some bloke in tights jumped down, no-one would bat an eyelid.
But this is no spit and sawdust bar. Step inside and it’s slick and modern enough to satisfy even the primmest of city-types. The modernism is understated, though, so there are no garish flat screens plonked on walls with unsightly wires hanging out, there’s nothing garish, everything is subdued, carefully thought about, carefully woven into the fabric of the place.
There’s a mixture of seating, to suit your need, including some intimate booths with small TV screens sunk into the wall, while further back you will find wall seating playing host to assorted nests of tables and chairs. Just up the stairs you will find the well stocked main bar and beyond that, yet another seating area for those who really do want to disappear (I get the sense that time flows the slowest the further back you go in this place, so that it might be possible to spend an hour right at the back of the bar, then re-emerge onto the street to find that only ten minutes has passed in the real world - it’s a nice thought, at least).
They do food here (pie and chips and burgers and pizzas, etc, so see their website for that). I enjoyed a half of Pravha (£1.80) and a tot of 12-year-old Dalmore (£3.15), just before lunchtime, as it turned out, which felt strange but also very nice, the sensation amplified by the sense of history and the fact I sat in one of the Chesterfields.
WELLINGTON STREET, LEEDS