AN old chap in Sheffield gave us a pound to take all of those away,” says Johnny Piercey, pointing out the concrete gardening blocks which hold up the heavy wooden counter at Boot and Rally, the latest addition to Meanwood’s thriving drinking scene.
In designing the bar, Johnny and partner Will Pearson adopted a “make do and mend” philosophy entirely in keeping with a bar dedicated to serving the best of Yorkshire beers.
This is most evident in a low-ceilinged cellar scattered with Chesterfield sofas, a gaudy orange corner unit and G-plan style sideboards all rescued from Ebay. But for a lick of paint and some work to shore up the ceiling, much down here is original, and an air-raid shelter was hacked out to create the ladies’ toilets. “The inspiration is part Sela Bar and part New York loft,” says Johnny. “And we’ve wanted to use as much of what was here, as we could.” Even the name is recycled Iggy Pop.
Stepping in at ground level you don’t get any real sense of the space beneath. Here, a single square room of minimalist industrial chic is dominated by that heavy-duty bar, where four keg fonts are flanked by four real ale handpulls.
Perhaps perversely, the partners have decided not to serve any beers from Leeds itself, save for their stock lager Tax Evasion from Burley micro Legitimate Industries. Instead, the range will concentrate on those from slightly further afield, so I tried the cloudy amber, firmly bitter, Glory Alleluia from Emmanuales in Sheffield and the dry, fruity and slightly earthy Dreaming from Huddersfield’s Mallinsons.
Up here are bare floorboards, gnarled brick and walls slapped up from a simple palette of grey, white and black. There are no fripperies of decoration save for the opening hours and a blackboard chalked with the current selections. The chunky pine top of a single pine table has been lacquered in black. Low benches upholstered in battleship grey and shallow backrests fixed to the wall with leather straps between them create a minimalist banquette; bare bulbs hang from metal trunking overhead: “Things will evolve but we’re not going to fill the place with old typewriters or Singer sewing machines,” says Johnny.
He and Will enter a marketplace which has expanded by stealth over 15 years into the void left by the sprawling, miserable Beckett’s Arms. East of Arcadia, Alfred and Hungry Bear have each established themselves on the scene; Boot and Rally completes a genuine local circuit. Decking to the front doubles the street-level floorspace and gives the newcomer a significant selling point over its rivals, particularly in this unrelenting heatwave.
“We’ve been talking about doing a project together for years,” says Johnny, lately returned to England after several years in Australia. “We used to meet up whenever I was back in Leeds and talk about what we were going to do.” Plans for 54 new apartments on Stonegate Road provided fresh incentive to bring their plans to fruition: “We’d been keeping an eye on Meanwood for a while and it seemed to be the right time – and the area was needing something else. The premises really lend themselves to what we are trying to do.”
After months of hard graft, the pair are now relieved to have opened the doors: “There comes a point where you just have to get people coming in.”
Stonegate Road, Meanwood, LS6 4HZ
Type: On-trend suburban beer bar
Hosts: Johnny Piercey and Will Pearson
Opening hours: 2-11pm Tue-Fri, 1-11pm Sat, 1-10pm Sun
Beers: A changing selection of Yorkshire beers in cask and keg starting at £3.95-pint - with Saltaire Blonde and Tax Evasion lager the only regulars.
Wine: Small selection from £3.75-glass
Spirits: Good choice, including a range of six Yorkshire gins
Beer Garden: Large decking area to the front
Disabled: Single step access to the decking and to the main bar
Children: Not especially suitable
Parking: On-street areas nearby