Leeds train station is large. Very large. Indeed, it’s the largest (English), station outside of London. Not surprising then that it boasts a Wetherspoons. Not surprising also that this was already busy at 11am. A typical soulless railway pub, although the Saltaire Pale Ale was decent enough. Passing through the concourse W.H.Smith, I could tell I wasn’t in Lancashire anymore-they sell How Do magazine instead of Hello.
It’s several years since I last toured Leeds, so it was natural to start at an old favourite. Sadly, the Scarbrough Hotel was disappointing. Two bouncers outside and a depleted beer range didn’t help. The place has obviously taken a turn for the worse over the years and its dark, now cramped, interior hinted at near terminal decay.
Heading towards my next stop, I just missed catching the free city centre bus. This became something of a trend-I never did catch it. Luckily, Leeds is easily manageable by foot. I couldn’t resist calling in at the Town Hall Tavern as I passed-well it is in the GBG. A smart Timothy Taylors pub, it delivered an excellent pint of the rare Best Bitter. Coming out, the free bus sailed past, complete with some very rough looking passengers waving at me. Time for some more shoe leather.
The Fox & Newt is a brewpub on Burley Street. Tandleman and entourage were already here. Sadly, only one of their own beers was on, Mild, but it wasn’t bad. Next up for me was the Victoria and Family Commercial, which is part of the chain that owns the Bank in Manchester. Hence, some impressive interior details and a good range of beers. Saltaire Trio Pale Ale combined Cascade with Amarillo and Centennial to give a piny, lychee flavour. The “large” fish & chips aren’t worth nearly £10, though.
Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House (great name), had a selection from York and Elland on. York Guzzler was ok, if not quite in best condition. North Bar was a new one to me and surprised me. My expectations had been quite low but this really punches above its weight. It came across as a much better version of the much hyped Bar Fringe in Manchester. The Outlaw Wild Mule (served in barrel glasses) was in top form, with plenty of hops. The bottled beer menu was also very impressive. Sadly no one had the balls (or the wallet), to try the 13% Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.
A bit of a yomp took us down to the Palace on Kirkgate. This was how I remembered it-a long wraparound bar with a good selection of cask (or is that real?) ales to choose from. Time was pushing on, well for those on restrictive train tickets, anyway, so with Archimedes and Pythagoras in tow, I headed for the Midnight Bell.
This is one of the new breed of pubs that have sprung up around the regeneration area. Catering for what used to be called yuppies, it’s smart and contemporary. It’s a Leeds Brewery place and, like all their outlets, serves their own beers and guests. As I drained my freshly poured Leeds Pale, thoughts naturally turned to the next stop. It seemed rude not to call at the Cross Keys-it’s practically next door. This is a sister pub of the North Bar and had a similar vibe to the Midnight Bell. As I sipped my Roosters, I must admit to pangs of envy at two such fine establishments so close to each other and to the railway station. Archimedes meanwhile was distracted by the offer of a Roast Leg of Lamb for £85. When it says it feeds six, it’s obviously not referring to him and Pineapple Pete.
We were just about to head for the station and the Brewery Tap, when we received a summons from Tandleman. He was holding court round the corner at the Grove, a cracking traditional boozer that makes it three excellent pubs in a (short) row. That’s a round that definitely scores Leeds 1 Manchester 0.
The TransPenine train waits for no man, however, and so Tandleman was soon skipping gaily back towards the station. I would have done the same, but Jack & Jill insisted I accompany them to the Brewery Tap for some more beer. This Leeds Brewery outlet is handily placed very close to the station and was naturally very busy on a Saturday night. However, we managed to squeeze in and I tried some Oakham JHB and the excellent Oakham Inferno.
Back at the station I saw Jack & Jill safely off and then returned for a nightcap. But what’s this? There’s another Leeds Brewery outlet-PIN. It took some finding and annoyingly proved to be not far from the Midnight Bell etc. However, it was worth the stagger as it was yet another good find, being ultra-contemporary but with a good drinks selection.
Somehow I managed to get the last train back to Rochdale and with the witching hour calling, there was only one choice. Yes, whisky at the Regal Moon. Well, man does not live by beer alone...