IT’S early on Tuesday afternoon in the Thomas Osborne, where a faint antiseptic sourness hangs on the air, as though this cavern of a pub has been deep-cleaned to erase the memories of a frantic Bank Holiday weekend.
When this first opened, it was the Streets of Leeds, and initially quite an exclusive venue, squarely aimed at a more refined Roundhay clientele than the down-at-heel Deer Park nearby. Those roles have rather switched round in the years since. By the time the YEP football team made this a regular watering hole after matches on Soldiers’ Field, some time in the nineties, its reputation had already begun to slide.
In next to no time, this once fine pub descended alarmingly from being a well-run food and drink venue to a dangerous, notorious dive, before enduring a period of closure and a couple of changes of ownership – including a tentative attempt by York Brewery to bring it back to life.
Over the past five or six years it has worked to erase the past and re-establish itself on the north Leeds landscape. It’s currently under the stewardship of the Craft Union pub company, who I’d tell you more about, were it not for the fact that their very stylish website is long on their company philosophy: “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our publicans, supporting them as they practice their craft”, but curiously short on any information about the Thomas Osborne or any of the other actual pubs in their portfolio.
The layout is essentially open plan, though pillars and a giant chimney breast effectively divide the space. Wherever you sit, you have a decent view of one of the many TV screens. On this Tuesday lunchtime, they have been tuned to three different channels – horse racing here, retro football there, news down there – each ignored in roughly equal measure by the groups of drinkers scattered around the place.
It was a slightly different atmosphere on Sunday evening when local rockers Kamuls took to the stage and entertained a raucous crowd with standards such as Summertime Blues, Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Whole Lotta Rosie. At a time when it’s increasingly difficult for amateur bands to find somewhere to play, the pub deserves credit for giving them a stage.
The beers are pretty good too. I guess the choice changes from time to time, but there does seem to be a focus on supporting Yorkshire breweries. On this visit the four handpulls include Farmers Blonde from Bradfield Brewery near Sheffield, Abbeydale Moonshine, also from Sheffield and the ever-popular Leeds Pale.
Instead I opt for the familiar refreshing, soothing characteristics of Boltmaker, the big-selling and easy-going Yorkshire bitter from Timothy Taylor brewery in Keighley. To taste this beautifully-balanced ale, with its malty toffee nature and significant bitter aftertaste is to be reminded why such a workaday session beer was deemed worthy of being named Champion Beer of Britain a few years ago.
The pub is named after a 17th century High Sheriff of Yorkshire and Duke of Leeds. Despite rising to high ranks, Thomas Osborne was famously disliked, with the Earl of Shaftesbury dubbing him “proud, ambitious, revengeful, false, prodigal and covetous.” So he seems an odd sort of person to honour in the name of a pub; maybe they should have gone the whole hog and called it the Boris Johnson.
Street Lane, Roundhay, LS8 1AP
Type: Community pub reborn
Opening Hours: Noon-midnight Mon-Thur, noon-1.30am Fri-Sat, noon-11pm Sun
Beers: Changing selection of four real ales from around £2.60-pint, plus Carlsberg, Carling, Stella Artois, Coors and Moretti plus Guinness and John Smith Smooth
Wines: Decent selection, including Prosecco from £9.99-bottle
Disabled: Straightforward access from side, disabled toilets
Children: Welcomed if well behaved
Entertainment: Occasional live music, multi-channel Sky Sports TVs, pool table, games machines.
Beer garden: Outdoor seating to side and front - including covered area with TV screens
Parking: Large area to side