Pub review: The Cardigan Arms, Leeds

PROMISING FUTURE: The ornate bar in The Cardigan Arms.
PROMISING FUTURE: The ornate bar in The Cardigan Arms.
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Is there a truer indication for Leeds folk of a pub’s potential than a blue plaque outside, advertising it as a Joshua Tetley Heritage Inn?

Such places are hardly gold dust in these parts, but still it gives you a certain warmth to see it upon approach, especially as it appears on The Cardigan Arms, complementing the grand, 1890s building’s Yorkshire stone.

But until recently the Grade II-listed Kirkstall Road pub (named after the infamous James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan) was facing uncertain times. A community group was working up a bid to buy the property from former owners Greene King, until the celebrated Kirkstall Brewery got the keys in May last year. Leeds beer lovers could hardly have balked at that, and the new gaffers have been wise not to mess too much with the pub’s historical fabric – just a scrape and polish.

While quirky quiz nights, Kebab Tuesdays and a younger, hipper clientele may be incoming, it retains the proud, bygone look of a boozer lined with beer branded mirrors, candle-lit tables, an expansive round bar and cosy snugs to divulge the latest news in.

And quiz night it is, when a group of friends and I settle down for a few casual ones on a Tuesday.

A pint of the brewery’s Dissolution (£3.40) is sharp and clean, and a number are thrown back without cause for switching to another tipple.

North’s Transmission (£5) also goes down well, and half a Guavalanche (£4) is a sour novelty, and worth a punt.

Two of us bypassed Kebab Tuesday (it used to be Taco Tuesday), for a veggie and chicken burger (£7.50 and £8.50), which were not bad, but nothing compared to the squidgy, hand-cut chips.

It’s not always been like this since the changeover, though. I’ve been previously, and been served food missing main ingredients and believe I was accidently short-changed as well.

Staff have always been cheerful, welcoming and prompt as possible, though, and this visit brings no such issues. One major sore point is that we came third in the quiz (although rightly winning a point for best name - ‘Shawarma Police’). But more importantly, there was a chatty, communal atmosphere.

From my own experience this is not something that could be said for the pub’s old days, when friends and I ferried ourselves upstairs asap for a dingy DIY punk gig.

Not so long ago, this pub could have gone the same way as the George IV and Rising Sun, two other Kirkstall/Burley boozers now boarded up (an application has been submitted to turn the latter into a cafe, however). Thankfully, an owner with reputation and a new, welcome approach seems to have averted such a loss.