Pub review: Scarbrough Hotel, Bishopsgate Street, Leeds


Ask people where Bishopsgate Street is in Leeds and chances are you’ll get blank looks.

But ask for the Scarbrough Taps and there will almost certainly be a flicker of recognition: it’s a well known pub right outside the railway station and one of the most famous bars in the city.

Date: 19th February 2018.'Picture James Hardisty.'Barfly, Scarbrough Hotel, Bishopgate Street, Leeds.

The Scarbrough Taps – or Scarbrough Hotel – to give its proper name is named after Henry Scarbrough, one-time landlord of this hostelry, rather than Scarborough the resort.

Rumour has it this was the site of a moated manor house, Castyll Hall, which was built here shortly after the Norman Conquest, though the present-day pub is an extension of an 18th Century rebuilding.

It stands on the site of a medieval manor house which was lavishly rebuilt in 1765 as a most desirable residence.

Henry Scarbrough took over in 1826 when it became the King’s Arms. In the 1890s it became the Scarbrough Hotel, noted for talent nights with decent acts sent on to the City Varieties if they managed to impress the pub crowd.

More than a century on and the Scarbrough is as busy as it’s ever been.

This is either because it’s a good starting point or finishing point for a pub crawl or because it’s simply a fine traditional pub with a long bar, quick service and a fantastic choice of drinks.

Why is it called the Taps? No-one seems to know but fanciful theories include it once being owned by the waterworks, to tap dancers auditioning here for City Varieities shows.

Either or neither may be true. Anyway, alongside Whitelock’s this is a contender to be Leeds’s most famous pub.

It is a Saturday lunchtime when six of us meet here for the start of a mini pub crawl.

Our drinks are a pint of Thai PA cask ale (a joke on the IPA phrase) at £4.10, an Il Pallone pinot grigio (£6.10), a pint of Nicholson’s Pale Ale (£3.60) and a half-pint of Peroni (£2.30).

The Nicholson’s pint is brewed in St Austell, Cornwall with Cornish malt, a mix of galaxy and endeavour hops. It looks sturdy, like polished bronze and has a nice deep citrussy taste, with a trickle of toffee and is really quite refreshing.

The Thai PA - basically a spicy, malty beer - was, let’s just say ‘interesting’ but not to the taste of one of our gang , who quickly swapped it for the Nicholson’s. Horses/courses, etc.

William Nicholson opened his first pub in 1873 and distilled gin, which gives them 140 years of botanical heritage and indeed, they offer at least a dozen types of gin. If whiskey is your tipple, then there’s the usual Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie but they also have the rarer Talisker Skye at 45.8 per cent. They also have a decent menu. If you’ve never been, give it a go.

Scarbrough Hotel, Bishopsgate Street, Leeds

Score: 5/5

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