Last week, I had booked a gig in Leeds for the first time in ages, and so I decided that I would take the opportunity to stop over in the city and have a wander around some of the city's pubs and bars before the gig. This is where I went....
This week I spent an enjoyable evening in Leeds, visiting an interesting mix of traditional pubs and modern bars before heading up to the Brudenell Social Club for my first gig in the city for a couple of years. Evenings like this have been very few and far between over this period, and I had been looking forward to it all week.
I was staying over, and as I had booked in to the Travelodge near to the Trinity Centre I was handily placed for the North Bar on Swinegate, my first stop of the evening. This is a modern bar in a new building, the space it is built on once home to the legendary Queens Hall, which following its closure as a bus depot played host to many gigs and the odd CAMRA Beer Festival amongst plenty of other events. The bar has a friendly, cool vibe to it, and focusses predominantly on its own beers. It is all keg, no cask is on offer, and like many other places these days, is a cashless bar. I ordered the always dependable 5% hazy pale Sputnik, which I enjoyed on one of the long tables, many others being occupied by students and a growing number of after work pint seekers.
|North Bar, Swinegate|
I wandered up Swinegate, passed the forlorn and boarded up Cockpit, once one of the city's legendary music venues. I spotted a blue plaque on the wall beside, thinking it would be about the Cockpit, but no, it was about the viaduct under which the venue was built, which stretches for an incredible 1500 yards and was one of the great feats of Victorian engineering. I walked on to my next choice, the Scarbrough Hotel, although everyone seems to call it the Scarbrough Taps. This is one of the city's great traditional pubs, not a tatty boozer, but a stunner with a spectacular tiled frontage, and much traditional wood, mirrors, and tiled floors within. It sits on a corner facing the steps leading to the station and the Dark Arches underpass, and is a former Tetley's house like so many in Leeds, now owned by the Nicholsons group, and attracts a wide range of customers, from commuters to office workers to football fans to groups of old boys and so on. The pub still sells Tetleys, unlike many former Tetleys pubs, but of course it is brewed miles from Leeds now in Wolverhampton. I ordered a pint for old times' sake, which was pretty bland and sweet (NBSS 3) but I suppose the fact that it is now branded as the rather anodyne 'Cask' rather than 'Bitter' should give a clue. Still, at least the Tetleys name does live on in cask, not like some former classic beers like Boddingtons Bitter. I have spent many an hour at the Scarbrough, which is named after its first owner, over the years, and whilst the beer range on this time was fairly unadventurous, featuring the likes of Black Sheep and St Austell Tribute, it is always worth popping in to this classic pub.
|The Scarbrough Hotel, classic interior|
I walked up Mill Hill and on to Boar Lane, and soon arrived at the very impressive Banker's Cat. I mentioned this pub the other week, it is relatively new Thornbridge pub stunningly converted from a former bank. As I did last time, I opted for the one hand-pulled beer that wasn't one of Thornbridge's own, and went for a Jarl from Fyne Ales, which was on characteristic good form (NBSS 4). I do like this place, it looks great and has a friendly atmosphere, and on both visits my choice of beer has been rewarded with some excellent quality.
|Stunning conversion: The Banker's Cat|
I was starting to feel a bit peckish, and decided to cross over to Tapped, which not only has some great beers - some brewed on the premises - but also offers a range of pretty awesome pizzas. I ordered a pint of North to the Future from Bristol Beer Factory from the cask range, and went and sat down to ponder my choice of pizza. I had a sip of my beer. Mmm, it was another good 'un, a 5% IPA featuring the US Denali hop - not one you see often - and Centennial, giving plenty of delicious pineapple, citrus, and floral notes (NBSS 4). I settled on my choice of pizza, which was basically a spicy one with chillies and nduja sausage. It arrived only a few minutes after I'd ordered it, and very good it was too, and once I had devoured it I was ready to move my final planned pre-venue destination, which was a new one to me.
The only current Good Beer Guide venue I had not visited in the centre of Leeds was Assembly Underground, Vocation Brewery's representative in the city, so I set off walking from Tapped. En route though I came across Salt, which I had never seen before so I decided to pop in and check out this Ossett-owned bar. It is a stylish modern bar with something for the beer, gin, and cocktail lover, and on a Wednesday evening it was pretty busy with both student and office types. In terms of beers, a range of both cask and keg was available, but as it was only a flying visit I went for a quick half of Jute from the keg range.
It was only a couple of minutes walk to Assembly Underground, situated on the corner of Calverley Street and Great George Street in a Grade ll listed building. As the name implies, it is a cellar bar, and I entered to a late 60's soundtrack featuring the likes of the Small Faces and Chris Farlowe which was being accompanied enthusiastically by one of the guys behind the bar, which immediately made you feel this was a proper people place. The extensive beer list was displayed on a screen above the bar, and was predominantly keg and mainly from Vocation, although I did spot guests from Cloudwater, Verdant, Newbarns, and Three Hills. Cask Bread and Butter and Heart and Soul were available from the core range. I opted for a pint of Perfect Storm, which kept me quiet for a while as I enjoyed the atmosphere. The bar is quite rambling, with several rooms and spaces, and has a number of street food outlets dotted around, like the more recently-opened Vocation outlet in Manchester. I did like Assembly, and look forward to visiting again soon.
I ordered a taxi, and a few minutes later I was walking into the Brudenell Social Club, situated in the Hyde Park area of the city. It had been a while, and it was great to be back at this iconic venue which has also been in the Good Beer Guide for the quality of its beers for the past few years. The club manages to be both a major venue for the independent music scene and a community local at the same time, and as I walked into the main bar as is usually the case there was a queue at the bar and most of the tables in this large room were occupied. I joined the queue for the bar and ordered a pint of Kirkstall Pale, a regular here which was pretty decent (NBSS 3.5), and managed to find a spot to sit down. I was here to see South London duo, John, who were playing in the Community Room, the smaller of the two rooms used for gigs. There is also another room where I have seen a couple of gigs in the past, but it has since been designated as a Games Room. The club attracts a wide range of visitors, from passing gig goers to students to the older local popping in for a pint and a chat, and is well worth seeking out. Food-wise, they specialise in hearty pie and mash, but in the past I have visited when street food vendors have been present in the car park.
|Brudenell Social Club|
I ordered a half of Kirkstall Virtuous on keg, and because I was going into the gig it was served in a plastic glass. I checked in to the gig, and with the room about two-thirds full, I managed to get a spot close to the front. The band appeared on stage, and launched into their first number. Comprising one John on guitar and another John on drums and vocals, they play loud, shouty indie rock and considering there is only the two of them they make a lot of noise. They engaged well with the audience, and when their set, comprising tracks from their last album, Out Here on The Fringes, and their new one, Nocturnal Manoeuvres, finished after about 50 minutes, they left to loud applause. No encores, but they quickly came out to man the merchandise stall and chat to anyone who wanted to speak to them, no airs and graces, just two decent, down to earth lads doing it all independently. Check them out, they are good.
I ordered a taxi which appeared pretty quickly, and soon I was being dropped off at my hotel. Great to be back for a few drinks and a wander around Leeds, followed by a top gig at one of my favourite venues, and I look forward to doing it all again soon....
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