Pub review: The True Briton, Meanwood, Leeds

THERE are just four public houses which have ever employed my services.

Remarkably, though it’s more than thirty years since I pulled a pint in any of them, each is still trading, in its own way.

The Queen’s in Harrogate Road does brisk trade as a Toby Carvery; the Regent, in nearby Regent Street, seems to be thriving under its new management – and even the dear old Original Swan in south Oxford, where I worked during my polytechnic days, remains a landmark pub, standing like a bulwark between the student terraces of the Cowley Road and the assembly lines and social housing of Blackbird Leys.

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But before all of these was the True Briton. My dad used to come here, and just as soon as I was 18 he had persuaded the outwardly genial – but privately rather menacing – landlord Joe Wain to take me on during the summer holidays.

It was a steep learning curve. Joe was highly respected, and ran an absolute jewel of a pub, catering for the whole cross section of Meanwood and Chapel Allerton society. The taproom and lounge were divided in almost “never the twain” fashion; the seating was more comfortable in the lounge, the beer a few pence dearer.

And the drinkers were a demanding bunch. True, we sold Skol and Guinness, but the overwhelming majority of our customers ordered Tetley’s, and they soon let you know if your hand-pulled dispense of their Bitter, Mild or mixed was not up to scratch.

And so I have a great well of affection for the True Briton; the lessons I learned here stayed with me to the bar jobs which followed. It’s the pub where I had my first legal pint – and of course it’s the pub which my dad drank in, so it has that strong emotional pull, some 20-something years after he died.

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So imagine the feeling of despair which overtakes me as I step inside now, to find Joe’s welcoming, well-kept, lively home-from-home reduced to a soulless, desperate barn, where everything that there was to love has been stripped away in refit after refit, to leave this charmless shell of bare magnolia walls, illuminated beer fonts and the twinkling lights of the games machines.

First impressions say a great deal, It’s not so much the flags of all nations above the bar – I’m as much a football fan as the next nutcase – it’s not the ugly line of ill-matched beer fonts, or even the fact they can’t spell “Caesar” correctly on the menu or “whisky” on their selection of Scotch. What irritates me most is the blokes beside the bar effing and blinding at each other while the barmen look on oblivious. It’s intimidating, it’s unpleasant – and in Joe’s day they’d have been out on their ears.

Let me briefly accentuate the positives. First there’s the beer – I enjoyed a crisp and cooling pint of Saltaire Blonde which absolutely hit the spot on a sweltering afternoon and cost me a mere £2.30. Then there’s the food – the menu covers all the major pub dining bases, with £5 World Cup specials like Mexican burritos and German bratwurst augmenting the everyday list of pies, steaks, chicken and burgers. And then there’s the beer garden – a vast suntrap terrace to the front.

But someone needs to come in and make more of this vast imposing building, to put it back where it belongs among the best great suburban pubs of the city.

Do it for Joe. And do it for my dad.


Stainbeck Road, Meanwood

Type: Cavernous suburban drinking house

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Opening hours: 11am-11pm Mon-Fri, 10am-midnight Sat, 10am-10.30pm Sun

Beers: Two real ales – currently Saltaire Blonde and Tetley (£2.30-pint) plus Carling, Stella Artois, Coors lagers, Guinness and more

Food: Good selection of pub meals available

Beer Garden: Large seating area on terrace to the front and a further beer garden area to the rear

Disabled: The venue is fully accessible.

Children: Welcomed. Kids’ meals available

Entertainment: TVs including Sky Sport, pool table and games machines

Parking: Large area to front

Phone: 0113 2661192