If you had to judge a pub by the number of hanging baskets it has outside, then Town Hall Tavern on Westgate would definitely be on your shortlist.
It’s one of those pubs which instantly draws the eye and it adds a splash of colour to a stretch of Leeds which is otherwise quite functional.
Their attention to detail and pride in their appearance continues inside, where you are greeted by a large, single room with a number of different spaces, from well-lit alcove window seats to more intimate back-of-the-room tables.
The atmosphere is intimate and welcoming without ever appearing too cramped and this is despite the place being pretty much full when we pay them a visit on a Friday lunchtime.
A ledger above the bar points out that this is ‘a village pub right in the heart of the city centre’ and it certainly does feel like that.
Part of that comes from the quality service-with-a-smile landlords Jon and Sam Rhodes have clearly fostered on their staff, who appear efficient, knowledgeable and confident.
Seriously, if you were to pick this place up and plonk it down in the middle of, say, Scholes or any other town which has yet to the succumb to the suburban monoculture, people wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
It’s a Timothy Taylor’s pub and it’s a credit to them in just about every way. Not only do they stock the full range of Tim Taylor’s tipples (Landlord, Ram Tam, Golden Best, Dark Mild, Boltmaker and Knowle Spring Blonde), there’s also decent lager with San Miguel, Peroni and Staropramen and cider too, in the form of Thatchers, Aspall and Rekorderlig.
I ordered a pint of Dark Mild (£3.50) and settled down to peruse the lunch menu, which offers a decent range of light bites (linguini pasta, aromatic duck in a tortilla wrap and free range omelette), plus a good selection of sandwiches.
In the end I went for a ham and cheese omelette with salad (£8.50), which comes within just a few minutes of ordering and makes for the perfect lunch - no scrimping on the ham and cheese and a decent, tasty portion of salad.
Town Hall Tavern has a long and distinguished history, having opened in 1926, at which time it was frequented by many a solicitor and policeman and legend has it the law enforcers would sit on one side of the pub making notes and building their legal cases, while the hoi polloi sat on the other. It sounds like an odd juxtaposition but I dare say even they found time for a chuckle at the situation.
These days, the place has a friendly, relaxed, cosmopolitan feel. There are business-types in suits, others in more casual wear, old and young, all sat cheek by jowl. It’s light and airy and there’s a gentle hum of conversation.
So, the village pub right in the heart of Leeds turns out to be something of a revelation, a pub for any occasion, whether you want to nip in for a quick pint and a spot of lunch or incorporate it into a larger night out (rumour has it they also do some mean cocktails).
As I said at the start, if you had a checklist and this pub was in some far flung village, your page would be full of ticks. It’s got that comfy country feel, bolstered by a sense of reassuring straightforwardness, with the added advantage of being bang slap in the middle of Leeds.
Address: Westgate, city centre, LS1 2RA
Hosts: Jon and Sam Rhodes
Type: ‘Village inn’... but in the city centre
Opening hours: Mon 11.45am–10pm, Tues-Thurs 11.45am–11pm, Fri 11.45am–11.30pm, Sat noon-11pm, Sun noon-8pm
Beers: Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, Ram Tam, Golden Best, Dark Mild, Boltmaker and Knowle Spring Blonde), San Miguel, Peroni, Staropramen; ciders: Thatchers, Aspall and Rekorderlig.
Other: Good selection of wines, spirits and cocktails
Food: Restaurant standard bar snacks and larger meals
Telephone: 0113 244 0765