ON MAY 19, 1869, there would have been few better places in Leeds to have enjoyed a pint than the George pub on the aptly named Great George Street in the city centre.
From the tavern windows you could have gazed out at the new Leeds Infirmary which had just been built. The original Infirmary in – you guessed it – Infirmary Street down near City Square had been replaced by a building which still looks impressive today. A little careworn perhaps, compared to how it must have looked on the spring day when the Prince of Wales – later King Edward VII – arrived to declare the new hospital open for business.
It cost £100,000 to build and was declared one of the finest infirmaries in the whole of Europe. It was designed by George Corson who scholars will know designed many of the best buildings in Leeds and features on many of the blue plaques across the city centre.
The George pub was – and still is – one of the best old inns in the city. Times and fashions have changed but the George remains as it was: a vibrant spot for a pint.
Nearly 150 years later, the George still sells Tetley’s. In fact, I guess a time traveller from 1869 would find much in this establishment still familiar which is a blessing given how many of its neighbours have been gentrified.
The George is a popular pub. It seems to have a different function depending on the day of the week. At weekends, it’s busy with a younger crowd and is open until 2am; Monday is students’ night; Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are quiz nights; and the rest of the time it’s a good old-fashioned local. Food seems popular here and there is a small but quaint outdoor area at the back of the pub. It was a Saturday afternoon when we popped in on the way back from the hustle of the nearby German market and we were thankful it was reasonably quiet but friendly.
We had a pint of Leodis lager – I must confess I didn’t realise Leeds had its own lager – and a glass of pinot grigio costing £3.70 and £4.70 respectively.
The lager was good. Very good. I’m told by experts it’s a pale golden lager with an aroma of sweet corn, grain and grass, a light bitterness, and not bad as pale lagers go. All I know after a lifetime of supping lager is that I would welcome another.
The pinot was good, too. It was a Mira Pinot Grigio which, we’re told, is from the Napa Valley. The George offers a great ambience. The decoration – the cornices, the old photographs of Leeds, the stained-glass doors and windows – is fabulous but it’s the welcome which is the highlight of the pub.
The barmaid offered me a taste of the Leodis to make sure it was what I wanted and told me it was exceptionally popular here. I could have had a wealth of other beers, too – from traditional Tetley’s to Silver King from Ossett Brewery.
The George, 67-69 Great George Street, Leeds