The ORIGINAL Oak in Headingley should be in a category all its own. It’s a victim of its own success in some ways in that it probably wouldn’t be first choice for a quiet drink.
But this is down to geography, it being situated pretty much at the end of the first leg of the infamous Otley Run, the bar crawl which begins at Woodies in Far Headingley and struts its stuff (usually in ridiculous fancy dress) all the way into town, ending at The Dry Dock.
Given the Otley Run is pretty much a daily occurrence, it’s hard to look at the Original Oak as anything other than a pub which is almost always under the influence of this rite of passage. When we arrive there as part of a larger group, there are two burly doormen stood at the bottom of the short flight of stone steps which lead you up into the main beer garden. We know from past experience they do not, as a rule, admit large groups of men. (Yeah, that old chestnut, no, wait...) Therefore, our group of five splits off into a three and a two.
I have to say that, in spite of the Otley Run (which some like and others loathe), I like the Original Oak for many, many reasons, not least the expansive beer garden, which has to be one of the biggest in Headingley and in which you are pretty much always guaranteed to find a seat.
Secondly, the atmosphere is superb. When we arrive, there was a general hum of happiness as various groups of drinkers thronging hither and thither.
There are craft ales here, of course, with things like Sierra Nevada Everyday Pale Ale, which I’ve had before and always found difficult to start with but then all too easy to get used to and at 5.6 per cent, if you let it linger too long, it will make mischief. And then there are Brewdogs and Camden Hills lager to have a go at but many of these are like placid lakes in that while they look so tempting, once you dive in, there’s a hidden current which drags you under.
So, it being a scorching hot day, we decided to stick to lager. First up was Carling (£6.40 for two pints) and Peroni (£4.05), both of which hit the spot, as the sun was blazing and in such conditions lagers really do come into their own, especially when chilled and these were super chilled.
At one side of the beer garden, a man was stood tending a barbecue, so together with the beer and the sun and the thrum of conversation, it all made for a pleasant afternoon.
Inside, if you fancy some shelter from the sun, the Oak has a spacious area, with a decent bar and diligent staff, who I think have to keep busy just because of the sheer volume of people here. Other pubs would struggle to cope but the Oak has spread its roots wide and is clearly intending on being a feature of the drinking landscape in Headingley for some time to come. It’s well worth a visit.
ORIGINAL OAK, HEADINGLEY