ROB Heir can certainly talk a good game: “It’s not all about Lampard and Rooney and Gerrard this time, I think the pressure’s off and no-one has high expectations. You know, I think they could definitely reach the quarter finals.”
Rob’s optimism for England’s progress in the World Cup seems genuine but I dare say it’s also born of a hope that the football-friendly Regent will thrive on the back of the national team’s glorious run to the latter stages of the competition.
Screens throughout the pub’s two main rooms, and a further one in the beer garden to the side could make this just the place to follow the action. Flags-of-all-nations adorning the ceiling and bunting across the windows leave the casual visitor in no doubt of what to expect as they cross the threshold.
Sport has been a huge part of the mix at the Regent for many years, but Rob is a newcomer on the scene, having moved in about a year ago to run the pub for its owners Greene King. Unlike some pubs which have been taken over by the Suffolk giant, the Regent has retained its allegiance to Yorkshire breweries, and these continue to dominate the L-shaped bar, which serves customers in the taproom to the left and lounge to the right.
“I’ve known this place for many years,” says Rob, for whom this is the 24th pub in a career which started as a glass collector at the Guildford on the Headrow, and has taken in landmark alehouses like the Three Horseshoes in Headingley and Eldon in Woodhouse, as well as plenty more further afield.
“I used to come in here with my friends, so it’s quite personal to me. It’s amazing the number of people who come in and say that they met here, thirty or forty years ago.”
The pub has been here since Victorian times, originally created from three cottages which stood alongside a street which is visible on maps of Chapel Allerton from when it really was a village. “It’s an iconic Tetley’s pub, and Tetley Bitter is still our biggest seller,” says Rob.
As if to underline the point, two old wooden Tetley barrels are built into one wall. “They’d been painted white for some reason. I got some stripper and spent ages getting them back to the original wood.”
The choice of cask ales changes regularly, but you can certainly expect to find some great Yorkshire beers on, such as Three Swords from Kirkstall Brewery and Cascade from Saltaire. I went for the pale and straw-coloured session ale Moonshine from Abbeydale in Sheffield – and had a pleasant surprise to find it was just £2.30 a pint, a flat rate which applies to all the Regent’s cask ales, all Monday evening.
Stripping the wooden beer barrels was just part of a gentle attempt to breathe new life into the premises. “Everything was battleship grey, so we’ve repainted, but I was determined that we should keep its personality. It just needed a little TLC.”
Aside from that, Rob had a simple formula for ensuring the continuing good fortunes of this historic pub: “It’s all about getting the basics right – good service, quality food and drink, and making sure that it’s clean and well cared for.
“You really have to get those things right first. Sometimes managers make a mistake when they take over a pub by introducing all sorts of things straight away like live music or a karaoke night – but you need to sort out the basics or else you’re bringing people people in before the pub is ready for them.”
He’s clearly confident that everything is in place at the Regent – as he’s now actively looking for live acts to put on in the bar.
The pub comes into its own during the Chapel Allerton Festival at the beginning of September when the whole of Regent Street is taken over by stalls, bars and a live music stage, and Rob is looking forward to being part of the event: “We want to be part of the community.”
And he’s clearly enjoying life down Regent Street: “My friends and family are all close, we get in a good crowd and a mix of ages, and I’ve got a great team here who really look after the place.
“For me, it’s a bit like semi-retirement.”
Factfile - The Regent, Chapel Allerton
Regent Street, Chapel Allerton, LS7 4PE
Type: Lively community alehouse
Host: Rob Heir
Opening hours: Noon-11pm daily
Beers: Changing choice of six cask ales including Tetley’s (£2.70) plus Carlsberg (£3), Carling (£3.10), Stella Artois (£3.60) and Peroni (£4.60)
Wine: Decent selection from £2.99-glass and £9.99-bottle
Food: New wide-ranging menu served noon-9pm daily
Entertainment: Large screen TVs for sports coverage, plus quiz night Mon and games machines. Live music coming soon
Beer Garden: Patio area to the side
Disabled: Slightly tricky access
Parking: On-street parking only
Telephone: 0113 293 9395