Monday afternoon, and the city’s most elegant public house is sloughing off the tired skin of the weekend and easing itself back into life, seemingly with some reluctance.
Perhaps keen to avoid a rush, its online booking system suggests that no tables are free for dinner, but we turn up anyway, to find each of its warren of intimate little drinking spaces occupied, though none of them fully. And service is slow, particularly at the bar, almost as though the Adelphi is labouring with a collective hangover which only another night’s sleep might relieve. It’s perhaps a good job that the place isn’t heaving.
After waiting for our drinks we are shown to a table beside the roaring fire in the front room, where the long red leather banquettes provide traditional seating, while walls of deep petrol blue lend modern styling to a pub which remains comfortable in its Victorian red brick skin. Comfortable, but just a little weary.
The Adelphi is a true survivor. Founded towards the end of the 19th century, its beautiful curved frontage wraps around the corner from Dock Street to Hunslet Road, its high arched windows and columned entrance a tribute to the decorative qualities once placed upon pub architecture. Much around it has changed in the century and a quarter since, yet it remains every bit the key focus of Leeds life as when the Aire was the lifeblood of city trade, the smoky wharves and grimy warehouses all around teeming with commerce.
Back then, the porters and stevedores, the traders and bargees would have all drunk Tetley’s. The Adelphi was the closest pub to the brewery gates and the perfect place for its employees to check on the quality of their handiwork. That the pub should live on to survive the brewery’s sad passing is in part credit to Claire Image, who was manager here during a period when the Adelphi re-invented itself as a quality destination for food and drink. She’s long moved on, but it’s perhaps appropriate that her name remains in gilt letters on an arc of glass above the front door.
Wolverhampton-brewed Tetley’s doesn’t seem to be served here; instead the Adelphi’s handpumps gush with all manner of ales. Those seeking the fiercely traditional will no doubt head for the Theakston’s Best, but there is plenty more besides, Bath’s excellent Electric Bear being among those breweries present on this occasion. During the Six Nations championship, each of the home nations is represented here by a quality craft brewery – Thornbridge for England, Brewdog for Scotland, Porterhouse for Ireland and Tiny Rebel for Wales. Over the coming weeks, each will have a changing choice of brews on the bar. I’m not sure why France has been left out; if you’re feeling especially Italian you can at least drink Peroni.
Being of a generally patriotic leaning I opt for Hacksaw, the vegan-friendly brew which Thornbridge pack with Citra, Galaxy, Mosaic and Amarillo to produce a stunning east coast IPA, cloudy gold and bursting with tropical fruit flavours. I guess it ought to be pretty decent at £4.55 as pint, but it proves a useful foil to the hearty dining which follows. But still things remain slow. By the time someone comes to take our order, I’ve already given up and placed it with someone at the bar.
In due course the dumb waiter opens its jaws for my partner to be presented with a chunky bacon and cheeseburger with chips (£11.50). In front of me, crispy strips of onion crown a towering construction whose elaborate presentation belies the fact that this is simply sausage and mash surrounded by a red wine jus, or gravy as we used to call it (£9.50).
Perhaps Monday is not the best day to judge the Adelphi, but I think someone needs to inject just a little more enthusiasm if its story of survival is to stretch quite so far ahead.
Address: 1-3 Hunslet Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1JQ
Type: Quality alehouse and restaurant
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Sun-Thur, noon-12.30am Fri-Sat
Beers: Changing choice of hand-pulled ales, plus craft keg beers, Leodis, Peroni and Pravha lagers, Aspall’s cider,
Wine: Decent choice
Food: Good choice of up-market pub meals served lunchtimes and evenings daily. Cut-price deals available on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings
Children: Welcomed, high chairs and kids, meals available
Disabled: Straightforward access and disabled toilet facilities
Entertainment: TV, with rugby coverage during Six Nations, Tuesday evening quiz
Functions: Areas available for private hire including large function room upstairs
Beer Garden: Attractive grassed area to the side
Parking: Pay and display car parks nearby
Telephone: 0113 245 6377