IT’S rarely dull in a Wetherspoons.
Whether you’ve arrived early for breakfast to see guys washing down their full English with pints of lager, you’ve come in at lunchtime or mid-afternoon to join a noisy crowd following the sport, or you’ve popped in late to find inebriated folk coppering-up for a swift one, there’s usually something going on.
It’s mostly harmless. Not always, but mostly.
Mind you, on this occasion, we were already standing at the bar before we realised that this was a ’spoons. This long-established Yeadon pub has gone through several different guises over the years and has always kept the name, so there’s no JDW sign over the door. It’s something of a landmark, a double-fronted stone building at the top of the steeply-sloping High Street, its distinctive name a reminder that this was once a busy hub of the textiles trade.
We are actually here to see some pirates, as it happens. It’s perhaps not the usual place you’d expect to find them, what with Yeadon being at least 50 miles from any significant coastline, but a friend is appearing in the local Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s rather splendid production of the Pirates of Penzance at Yeadon Town Hall. It’s a good hour and half before curtain up, and several of the cast are already in costume and make-up and grabbing a pre-production livener while catching up with rugby. It’s perhaps a mark of the “anything goes” culture engendered by these places that barely anyone bats an eyelid.
But it’s the bar prices which offer the most certain sign that we are in a ’spoons. The business has been built on doing the simple things for a very reasonable price. So at a time where you’ll struggle to find many cask ales for less than £3 – and often they are much more – here they start with Ruddles Best at an eye-catching £1.99 and there is a host of other choices such as big brands like Doom Bar and Abbot Ale and a host of other guest beers.
This being Six Nations time, with both England and the TMO turning in a solid performance on the big screen, I decide to go all patriotic and opt for the solid, refreshing Bulldog from Settle Brewery, a traditional copper-coloured Yorkshire bitter, which laces the glass beautifully as it falls. Wetherspoon’s may have a “pile ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap” mentality with their beers, but in my experience they are generally well kept.
Table 13 is the only one free, and it proves an unlucky choice, not least because the foursome behind us are engaged in a loud and foul-mouthed argument. Suffice to say I now know more about their private lives than I should really share in a family newspaper. In better news, before we can find another table, the row concludes with two of them storming out and the other pair slinking off behind them, still effing and blinding. The staff are keeping their cool, but there must be times when it is a living hell to work here.
Service is brisk. A computer screen above the serving hatch lets waiting staff know which of the dishes on the hotplate should be delivered to which table. Thankfully ours is despatched straight away – a slab of rump steak with some (but not all) the usual trimmings for my partner, and for me a sturdy steak and kidney pudding, oozing rich gravy.
The food is, at best, ordinary, but – and here’s why Wetherspoons will continue to do great business – our bill for two main courses, a pint for me and a large glass of house red for my partner, comes in at under £20.
And that’s rather less than we paid to see the Pirates.
Type: Cheap and cheerful
Opening times: 8am-midnight Sun-Thur, 8am-1am Fri-Sat
Beers: Large and changing choice of cask and keg ales and lagers, starting with Ruddles Best (£1.99)
Wine: Good selection from £1.99-glass and £9.49-bottle
Food: Wide-ranging menu, with breakfasts until noon and main meals all day
Entertainment: Games machines and large screen TV. Wifi available
Children: Welcomed, kids’ meals available
Disabled: Ramp access
Beer Garden: Yes
Parking: On-street areas nearby
Telephone: 0113 238 6970