CAN you just wait a minute?” asks the barman, in between serving one chap and then turning to me.
Of course I can wait. Perhaps a barrel needs changing, or a pint he pulled a few moments ago now needs topping up. Maybe there’s food to take out to customers.
Instead, I watch as he clears up the wreckage of a small accident behind the bar, which presumably happened just before I came in. He scoops broken glass into a dustpan, then gets down on his haunches to wipe up the spilled drink, finally covering the area in dirty tea-towels.
All done, he turns back to me. “Now, what can I get you?”, which receives my obvious reply: “Well, perhaps you could start by washing your hands.”
This is a really bad start to my evening out, revealing a lack of attention to hygiene that one hopes is not systemic. Because whatever efforts the pubs’ owners Greene King have put into making this a welcoming community pub, with its sports TV, its quiz nights and its admirable selection of real ale, that hard work can be ruined by an employee who either hasn’t been trained well or doesn’t have the wit to realise that in between doing a filthy job and a clean one, it’s a good idea to scrub up, just a bit.
And when I get to my table and discover that someone has abandoned dishcloths and two squirty-bottles of disinfectant on the marble mantelpiece I do begin to wonder if the Lord Darcy needs to re-examine its whole approach to cleanliness.
The Lord Darcy is in the fortunate position of having two lucrative sources of trade: it’s not simply a community pub for one of the wealthiest suburbs of the city, but it’s also an attractive stopping point for drivers passing by on the busy A61.
There has been a pub here for as long as I remember – once it was the slightly down-at-heel Jester, with subsequent incarnations including a spell as the comfortable, slightly exclusive Alwoodley and a shift towards the child-friendly end of the market as a Charlie Chalk Fun Factory. It became the Darcy sometime around the millennium, adapting the building to create a spacious open plan drinking and dining area upstairs, above a more intimate room for parties on the ground floor.
Despite the dishcloth incident, our evening is eventually pulled up from the gutter by some attentive service, some great beer and some hearty wholesome pub food.
For, once the barman has sufficiently cleansed himself to catering standards, he presents me with a pint of the citric, zesty Three Swords IPA from Kirkstall Brewery, one of a splendid choice which lends a free house feel to a pub which is nonetheless a part of the giant GK empire. There are beers from Black Sheep and Hambleton – and I should also give a nod to Suffolk with some positive feedback on the sessionable Greene King IPA.
Good food follows. They’ve changed the offering since the “Flame Grill” menu I encountered when I was last up this way. The new menu touches all of the pub food bases – grills, stews, curries, steaks, pies, pasta and salad – and with “pie and a pint” and “two for £10.49” deals promises decent value for money. Let’s be clear, none of this stuff would win any prizes on Masterchef – but a sturdy steak and ale pie, huge burger and chips, and a chunky 8oz rump steak delivers the kind of hearty, straightforward British pub dining that we’ve been looking for.
Harrogate Road, Moortown
Type: Lively dining pub
Opening Hours: 11am-11pm Sun-Thur, 11am-11.30pm Fri-Sat
Beers: Changing selection of hand-pulled real ales plus good choice of lagers
Wine: Decent selection by the glass or bottle
Food: Great choice from wide-ranging menu, served until 10pm daily
Children: Welcomed. Kids’ meals available
Disabled: Easy access from the side entrance
Functions: Downstairs room available for private hire
Entertainment: Sky and BT Sports TV, games machines, plus quizzes on Tuesday and Sunday evenings
Beer Garden: Outdoor tables to the front and side
Telephone: 0113 237 0100