The Streets of Leeds, Street Lane, Leeds

THIS column has not always been in favour of pub refurbishments. In fact there have been times when I have suggested that those who decided to refurbish a well-loved Yorkshire pub should have their heads examined, and the designers who came up with the garish new look should be horsewhipped to within an inch their lives.

There are exceptions, of course, and the Streets of Leeds is one pub which is crying out for a re-fit.

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When this Bass-owned purpose-built pub opened in the autumn of 1995, it was very much at the cutting edge of contemporary pub design. Its bare floorboards, yellow paintwork, scattered antiques and the slightly gloomy interior gave it an old city tavern feel, not dissimilar to the Irish theme pub which was so much in vogue at the time.

Five years on, and Scruffy Murphy is dead - but here the "back to basics" design still works, but it is desperately in need of an upgrade.

And when I wandered in one lunchtime this week I found the Streets of Leeds neglected and utterly uncared for.

The carpets are beginning to look worn, the tables scratched and pock-marked, and even simple daily chores like emptying the ashtrays and putting menus out on the tables had not been attended to. Outside, the beer garden is unkempt and overgrown, not the sort of place you might choose to linger for a cooling couple of pints on a long summer afternoon.

Assistant manager Simon Dobbs admitted that a refurbishment is long overdue: "They were supposed to do it in October, and then in February, but it keeps getting delayed," he said. The plans include a two-week closure to allow new carpets and curtains to be fitted, along with a new ventilation system to clear a long-standing problem with cigarette smoke.

So why the delay? "They're arguing over which contractor to use - who will do it cheaper," Simon admitted. My advice to Bass would be to decide who they are going to use - and get the job done quickly.

The pub already has Sky Digital sport, with two giant screens, and does a roaring trade whenever they show live sport. They are planning to hire a third giant screen for the duration of the tournament.

The choice of beer is good - just so long as you like Premium lager. They serve Grolsch, Carling Premier and Staropramen, in addition to the basic Carling. No doubt this goes down well with the footie-viewing crowd, but what about the bitter drinkers? There's Stones bitter (it's like real beer, only weaker) as well as Worthington's Creamflow - so not much to write home about there.

The menu is a garish yellow and blue affair and we didn't hold out high hopes. It offers basic pub meals such as steak pie (3.75), vegetarian lasagne (4.35) and lamb cutlets (4.50) in addition to a range of jacket potatoes (from 1.85), baguettes (from 1.90) and hot sandwiches (from 3.15).

Given that the decor has been allowed to decay so far I had expected that the food to be equally carelessly presented. But we were very pleasantly surprised. My bacon and cheese jacket potato (2.65) was a hefty spud, buried under a mound of tangy Cheddar and strips of grilled bacon, served with an impressively large salad.

My partner - used to paying over the odds for a lunchtime sandwich in the city - raved about her tuna mayonnaise baguette (1.90), while the 6oz cheeseburger and chips (3.25) certainly kept our daughter occupied for a while.

Despite this, Simon admitted that the more up-market Roundhay Fox - another Bass pub half a mile down the road - had taken away much of the Streets' food trade.

He was also clear about his own ambition to stop being an assistant manager and get a pub of his own. His Bass training is almost complete, and he is sitting exams with the company soon, before hopefully searching for his own place. And if it's around here, you can bet that he'll be cropping up in the Taverner column again!

<b>FACTFILE</b><br><b>Type:</b>Popular sports-oriented local<br>

<b>Beers:</b>Stones bitter 1.65, Worthington's Creamflow 1.90, Carling 1.95, Carling Premier 2.25, Grolsch 2.25, Staropramen 2.30, Guinness 2.30, Guinness Extra Cold 2.30.<br><b>Wine:</b>From 2.05 a glass<br><b>Opening:</b>11am-11pm Mon-Sat; 12noon-10.30pm Sun<br><b>Food:</b>Basic pub menu 12noon-3.30pm Mon-Fri; 12noon-7pm weekends<br><b>Disabled:</b> Easy access, disabled toilet facilities, all on one level inside.<br><b>Children:</b>Welcome until 7pm<br>

<b>Entertainment:</b>Fruit machine, Big screen Sky TV, DJ Thursdays, occasional quizzes<br><b>Beer Garden:</b>Yes<br><b>Parking:</b>Large area to rear<br><b>Telephone:</b>0113 2034111

06/05/00 Evening Post

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