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A Leeds Classic Revisited....

An early evening wander through the streets of Leeds featuring a classic traditional pub along with a number of more recent upstarts....


The Adelphi is a venerable old Leeds boozer with a striking frontage which, although currently at the back of some extensive and noisy roadworks, still stands out as a thing of beauty. Built in 1901 by the former Melbourne Brewery, it was designed, like the Cardigan Arms and its neighbour, the former Rising Sun, on Kirkstall Road, by local architect Thomas Winn in the style of a Victorian drinking palace. To visit the Adelphi today is to be taken back in a world that has largely been lost to the passage of time and redevelopment. Many of the old buildings that stood close by have long been demolished, with those spared from the wrecking ball emerging as apartments or trendy cafe bars or creative spaces, whilst a backdrop of new glass and concrete edifices continues to rise up above the urban landscape. The Adelphi is a true survivor in a changing city.

Entering via the impressive granite doorway, you find yourself in a wide drinking foyer complete with servery, whilst a large room with the main bar are off to the left. There is also a room to the the right, plus a further two rooms leading off from the foyer, whilst a sweeping staircase takes you upstairs to a large function room. There are extensive mahogany fittings, etched glass screens, and beautiful tiling throughout the pub. They don't make them like this anymore! The Adelphi remained a Melbourne pub until 1960, when the Regent Street-based brewery from across the city was taken over by Joshua Tetley & Sons, whose brewery was just around the corner, and so given its location it more or less became the Tetley's tap.

Stunning interior at The Adelphi, Leeds

I called in the Adelphi early one evening the other week, the first time I had visited for several years. It is no longer a Tetley house, of course, and from a range of four cask ales, I ordered a pint of Oakham Citra, which although a bit pricey, was in pretty decent condition and most enjoyable (NBSS 3.5). I sat at one of the tables in Smoke Room No 2, which was etched in the window of the door. Many of the tables were occupied by groups enjoying an after-work pint, the subdued lighting providing a sympathetic backdrop in which to reflect on the rigours of the day or discuss the evening ahead. Menus were laid out on each table and it seems that food is now a big part of the offer, no doubt to tempt the inhabitants of the former warehouses that overlook the River Aire and those who work nearby. I remembered we had a family do for my daughter in the function room upstairs, which she reminded me was for her 18th birthday, and which to avoid any family arguments I won't divulge the number of years since it took place! If you want to see a living, and largely unblemished, example of our pub heritage you could do far worse than visiting the Adelphi.


I crossed over Leeds Bridge, the reflections of the waterside buildings dancing playfully on the dark river beneath. Heading up on to Lower Briggate, I then turned right into one of the alleys that leads off this city centre street. This area has been transformed over the past 25 or so years, when the Calls in those days had a dodgy reputation and pretty seedy atmosphere. Now new bars and eating places and creative start ups populate the area, and as I walked through to Call Lane I was struck by how the city has so many attractive nooks and crannies so close to the main thoroughfares.


I was heading for Northern Guitars, a newish bar which as the name implies has a guitar theme. That was immediately apparent as I used the guitar shaped door handle to access this friendly bar on Call Lane. There was a stage to the right, with much guitar-related memorabilia on the walls, whilst an excellent blues-rock soundtrack was emanating from an impressive sound system. The bar is located at the back of the room, and featured around 5 handpumps and a similar number of keg lines. From a generally local range, I went for a pint of Anthology New England Pale on cask, another pretty impressive NBSS 3.5. I enjoyed this 4.2% session pale as I sat at one of the tables close to the stage, a couple at a table on the other side of the room my only companions. As you would expect, live music is a regular feature of the mix, although there was nothing on this time. It was my first visit to Northern Guitars, but based on this one  I will certainly call in again.


I finished my pint and moved on, planning to get another pint probably at the Banker's Cat before going for some food. As I walked on Boar Lane I came across Beer Hawk, which I hadn't visited previously. You may know these guys as being an online supplier of beers, but they now have a physical presence, with their first bar being in London and this second one located here in their home city. I decided to call in, but as I looked at the beers listed on the back wall, my heart sank. For a company that do supply some decent beers from the likes of Verdant and Deya I was dumbfounded at a list that featured the likes of Budweiser and Guinness as well as pseudo-credible, ubiquitous beers from Camden and Meantime. Magic Rock Saucery and Northern Monk Eternal - of which I had a half - were unimaginative local options and how this rather shabby and soulless keg-only bar with anodyne and bored staff managed to be reasonably busy when there are plenty of far superior options within yards was a complete mystery to me! In fact, they seemed to be making more of the fact they sold burgers! I may have called in on a bad day, but on this showing I won't be calling again.

I needed a pint and quick, so I called in the nearby Banker's Cat once again, where I enjoyed an impressive guest ale on cask from Bristol Beer Factory. This was a special called Moutere, a 4.2% session Pacific pale featuring Moutere, a new one on me, Rakau and Enigma hops, and with Maris Otter and lager malts made for a most refreshing and enjoyable 3.5 on the NBSS scale. I lingered for a while over my pint, but food was needed. I'd noticed the other week that my favourite pizza restaurant, Rudy's, had opened a place in Leeds on Station Street, and so I went along to give it a try, having loved it every time I had visited their restaurant in Ancoats, Manchester. This is a much bigger space than there and it was busy with an early evening crowd. Service was friendly, quick, and efficient, and I have to say my calzone was absolutely fantastic, and if you like pizzas in particular I recommend you give it a try.

Opposite Rudy's is Friends of Ham, which like the Bankers Cat has been included in the 2022 CAMRA Good Beer Guide. It was pretty busy as I walked in but after purchasing a quick half of Steady Rolling Man, I managed to find a spot to sit by the window. There is a good range of both cask and keg here, as well as charcuterie, cheeses, and the like which were being eagerly consumed at several tables both in the rooms at street level and the one downstairs. There was a nice buzz about the place, and with its proximity to the station it is an ideal meeting place or that first/last pint. And after not visiting for a while, it was good to go back there.


So a varied early evening wander with one iconic traditional pub, a traditional-looking but relatively new pub, a new-to-me music-themed bar, a re-visit to a classy cafe bar, and one unlikely to be repeated - unless things change significantly - visit to a disappointing craft beer/burger bar.

And that's all before I went to see a band!

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