IT’S SOMETHING like 25 years since I first started writing the Taverner column.
Many of the pubs I wrote about in those early days have since changed beyond all recognition; others are no longer there – the latest to go being the wonderful old New Roscoe at Sheepscar, where I’ve enjoyed many nights of real ale and live music over the years.
But if I had to choose the one which has changed the least in that time it could be easily the Myrtle, a pub I’ve known since long before I started this job, where I enjoyed some of first under-age pints, and which has been a little part of my life ever since.
From outside, the Myrtle certainly looks every inch the traditional country pub. Its dark stone frontage is at right angles to the main road, alongside a cricket ground whose boundary is so short that vehicles in the car park must be vulnerable to a powerful batsman. A high mesh fence protects the small row of stone cottages opposite.
And to walk into the Myrtle now, through the imposing entrance, beneath the solid oak beams, and step down through its remarkable stone archway to the bar, it’s almost like stepping back in time. A picture rail decorated with traditional patterned plates, and some monochrome images of bucolic scenes hark back to a time when the Myrtle stood well beyond the spread of the city.
I’m sure those who know the pub more intimately than me will be able to point out some significant changes – its focus on live sport is certainly a relatively recent development – but to me it is just the same.
It’s a Tuesday afteroon when I call in; the TVs are tuned to rolling sports news, while some light pop music burbles along unobtrusively in the background. The John Smith’s handpull has been a fixture for as long as I can remember, though the addition of some welcome Yorkshire alternatives provides a point of distinction. I’m drawn to the windswept, flat-capped, flame-haired temptress whose picture adorns the pumpclip for the refreshing, moderately bitter and full-bodied Yorkshire Blonde, which seems to pack a good deal more punch than its declared ABV of 3.9%.
Its Ossett Brewery stablemate Silver King and Saltaire brewery’s Raspberry Blonde offer further opportunities to try some of the great beers offered by the county’s real ale scene.
The lively chatter around the bar and the number of cars in the car park – even at this time of day – are clear signs that the Myrtle has really turned its act around, some years after it was almost ground into the dirt by a troublesome clientele and rank bad management which between them tragically allowed drug deals and crime to creep into this lovely suburban haven. There was a time when it looked certain to close.
The last time I was here, I wrote how it was only through the determined efforts of landlord Scott Westlake and his staff that the pub was able to re-establish its reputation as a safe and welcoming haven for all. He’s still here, his name in huge block capitals above the door, no doubt to the relief of those who mourned this genteel place being brought to its knees.
He has done plenty to turn the Myrtle right around and back to the place that it once occupied, right at the heart of Meanwood life. There’s live music, quizzes, summer events in the giant beer garden between the pub and Meanwood woods – and my son Ben and his mates are regulars here for the live football.
Work is also being planned to bring the kitchens back into daily use. For now the offer is limited to curries on Tuesday evenings and Sunday lunches. That final touch would mark the last step on the Myrtle’s remarkable journey back from the brink.
The Myrtle Tavern
Address: Parkside Road, Meanwood
Type: Popular community alehouse
Host: Scott Westlake
Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Sun-Thurs, noon-11.30pm Fri-Sat
Beers: Changing choice of real ales plus Carling, Fosters, Coors Light and Guinness
Wines: Decent selection
Food: Curry night on Tuesdays, Sunday lunches served noon-3pm,
Entertainment: Sports TV, quizzes Sun and Mon, rock and roll bingo on Thurs, games machines, summer barbecues, occasional live music and special events
Disabled: Slightly difficult access and split level areas inside. No special facilities
Children: Welcomed. Occasional bouncy castles and special events in summer
Beer garden: Large woodside area to rear
Parking: Large area to front
Telephone: 0113 275 2101