July 24th, 2012Pubs & bars
It’s dark inside but an ellipsis of light pores over our vantage point in the roof. Under an arch of reclaimed brick brimming pints of Silver King glow in the mild afternoon sun of the wettest June on record.
The Hop sits snugly under platforms 16 and 17 of Leeds Station, in the arches that veer towards Holbeck West Junction and the promise of Manchester and London. The bar peers towards the boats and jetties sitting in the Leeds-Liverpool canal. And it’s quite literally home when our train eventually pulls in on a cloudy Saturday morning to a quiet platform above the pub.
By day time the bar is dark, the only light filters in through the room sized panes of glass facing south. The northern windows back into what are known locally as the ‘Dark Arches’, a subterranean belly that exposes the innards of the Queen’s Hotel and the station concourse above. Trailing below the musty damp atmosphere of the arches runs the heady confluence of the River Aire and Leeds-Liverpool canal. For years the water has hungrily tore at the gargantuan stone foundations which nonchantly keep half of Leeds above water.
If the setting is archetypal city centre, tinged with the wonder of Victoria construction and the romanticism of the industrial revolution, the decor is ostentatiously apocryphal. Giant urns, album cover posters, mock graffiti (mockrafiti?) are bundled incongruously throughout the space, like a collection of artefacts procured from a grand tour of the nineteen seventies.
The room is deceptively huge. Perhaps because The Hop is often packed, often dark and plastered with paraphernalia, the ceiling seems to lean in over the bar which is equally heavy with beer machines and thirsty customers. There’s no doubt this is a place for drinking and jumping to live music.
Both the Ossett pale ales are in demand; smooth and soft beers differentiated with a dash of spice or citrus hop, wholly suppable. The beers are perfectly in line with the concept – functional, flavoursome topped with a ‘we don’t take ourselves too seriously’ flair.
As a crepuscular calm sweeps across the Leeds sky and light fades outside, the music jumps into action behind us. On a platform above the main bar a band strum their guitars into tune at a deafening level. The decibels will only get louder and though the philosophy of The Hop is about to see fruition, it’s just a little too loud for us to take
We retire to the platforms above for a train home, and stand above the canal, the river, the bridge, the pub, the arches and all the fun and history below. We’re rewarded with a twilight portrait of the city and the comfort of knowing we’re home.Tags: leeds, Pubs & bars, train stations, wakefield
0July 16th, 2012Pubs & bars
On days when work is a bit too intense, or the week gradually catches me up and prepares to spit me out somewhere uncomfortable, there is a pub within walking distance of my office where I can take a book, sip on a half pint of cask conditioned British beer, and nestle against the wood panelling, enjoying the quiet and the peace. Admiring the old pictures, watching the flicker of flames in the fireplace, I can tune out the world, retreat into my shell and take time to reflect.
It’s my hideaway.
It’s not a secret or hidden place, just somewhere I don’t tell people I go to.
It’s not even a place where my phone is turned off or my troubles are left behind, in fact it’s somewhere to embrace these things in my own company, on my own terms. I guess it’s less of a hideaway than a retreat.
It’s for those times when I just need to get away for a short while. Somewhere that isn’t work, that isn’t home and isn’t shared with anyone else. I can tweet, I can check emails, I can take a step backwards, formulate a holistic approach to my troubles and then, glass drained, hop up from the pew and walk back to work with a little more verve in my step.
My hideaway is a great British pub, and there’s not a binge drinker in sight.
Tags: drinking, Pubs & bars
Written some time ago, but inspired to publish by Tandleman’s treatise on drinking alone
November 13th, 2011Pubs & bars
Once in a while you stumble across a real hidden gem, and the Bridge Bier Huis is a polished diamond in the former mining and cotton mill town of Burnley, Lancashire.
The pub is off the beaten track on the fringe of a shopping centre crowded with a retinue of high street shops, Wetherspoons and many cask-unfriendly establishments. Even when you find it the unassuming sandstone exterior gives little away apart from some original etched windows heralding its heritage as the Bridge Inn.
But step over the mosaic threshold and you enter a congenial, contemporary bar blessed with an array of hand-pumps and draught dispensers. A fountain of foreign glassware framing the bar hints at what you can expect to find on closer inspection.
Hydes’ Original Bitter can always be procured on good form and is flanked by up to four other regularly rotating guest beers from all over the country. An ever-present cask cider has been added to this impressive tally in recent times too. A host of European-style lager taps adorn both ends of the long bar-front serving up a cacophony of Belgian beers, German or Czech pilsners, golden ales, dunkels, and the occasional American craft brew.
As if this selection wasn’t enticing enough already, it’s supplemented by an even wider array of bottled beers from all over the globe! A gander at a large blackboard in the far corner reveals just how extensive the collection is with over 40 different tipples available at any time.
Many Belgian classics such as Chimay, Orval, Kwak, Leffe and Duvel can be sampled, but there are plenty of other exceptional offerings. Just a few of the less common breeds lurking in the fridges have included Dragon Stout (Jamaica), Rauchbier (German smoked black lager), Goose Island 312 Wheat (USA) and Bush Trolls. There’s something to tickle any beer-lover’s taste buds.
And if you fancy a nibble with your beer of choice, bar snacks and main meals are served from lunch through to early evening. The ample menu offers a handsome collection of quality homemade fare at very reasonable prices. The only downside to this happy ensemble is that the pub is usually closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Although the Bridge is not the largest pub in the world, it’s open-plan layout and lofty ceilings grant an air of roominess. There’s an elevated section opposite the bar – used as a stage for the many excellent bands that regularly help pack in the crowds – and a quieter side-room for those who prefer a chinwag. Everywhere is very modern and tastefully decorated with open-brickwork and a low-key smattering Burnley F.C. memorabilia in evidence.
I was fortunate enough to bump into Pete “Man Walks Into A Pub” Brown at the Bier Huis during the summer (okay, I knew he was going to be there so I gatecrashed like a sycophantic groupie waiting for an autograph). We had chat and he seemed a very jovial fellow – no doubt assisted by the tiresome beer sampling he’d been forced to endure throughout the day. Catch his report of the visit at the British Beer Video Blog.
So if you find yourself at a loose end in Burnley head straight for the Bridge. It’s worth a trip in itself!Tags: Belgian Beer, Burnley, lancashire, Pubs & bars
It seems like a wild goose chase, this drive through tiny lanes, sloshy piles of orange and yellow leaves, under a canopy of browning greenery. Both wing mirrors brush through the amber walls of the wild hedges are pinning us to the road like tramlines of a vanishing point.
The last weekend of October is an immeasurably beautiful one in the Lake District, and after two full days of trundling around Coniston, Ullswater, Bowness and Kirkstone Pass enveloped in thick, damp fog we are heading home, via a good pub lunch recommended by the Good Pub Guide.
And hence the wing mirrors scrape the thinning branches and we hit puddles that might be meres and meres that might be lakes. We see pheasants – strangely unflinching like the clueless ignorant animals of North America before the prehistoric human diaspora from Asia – ambling along the lane ready to be picked off by us newcomers to the area, coconuts in an alley.
Can we be that far from civilisation a mile or two from the A5074?!
Up fell and down dale we eventually arrive back on the main road having made an arcing detour and almost immediately find the well placed sign pointing along another narrow stretch of undulating tarmac. Sophisticated serif type announces: “Hare & Hounds. 1 mile”.
And a mile later we turn into the car park and cross the threshold into not only civilisation but rustic glamour – large windows framed in floral curtain; floors sometimes stone, sometimes wood, broken up by intricately stitched rugs; a variety of bright open rooms top and tailed with exposed stonework, large hearths and dining snugs to the rear. Relics of the countryside, of brewing and of nature hang from the rendered walls. It’s heaven unless you have muddy boots.
The welcome from our buxom host is smiley and honest, the barmen (or are they waiters?) genuine and doting. We grab the only available table (all the others are reserved for Sunday’s finest beef, matured in a field around the back of the pub) and we perch near the wood burning stove, under traditional pictures of huntsmen and clasping our chic menus. A half of Hare of the Dog, brewed exclusively for the pub, and a diet Coke please.
From our chairs – all of which are different, deliberately but charmingly so – the view across valley is obscured, but high on the hills opposite sits another inn, probably another 17th century coaching inn. The richness of this area for good pubs is astonishing. The richness of this area for mesmerising beauty is equally marvellous.
An empty pub fills quickly. I’ve ordered soup of the day paired with the homemade chicken liver pâté served with homemade date and orange chutney (the smoothest pâté I’ve ever tasted), my new fiancée opts for a sandwich, but she gets something eminently more exciting than the word sandwich implies – stripped loin of beef with pan fried buttered red onion in the crustiest softest fluffiest bread known to man. The food is sublime, and we’re just in time too.
The Sunday crowd are gregarious, they all know the staff (and the staff all know them) and they all opt for the dark beer (Devil’s Bridge I think, “Not as thick as a stout like Guinness” advises a member of staff), or the Shiraz. One’s had a punch up (the other chap got nicked), there’s chatter about local ne’er-do-wells and farmers and the Westmorland Gazette and the football and family events and the last time they came and the pub up the road and hushed tips about the beef from the field around the back.
Sunday comes to life and the pub fulfils its purpose. The food is amazing and it’s at the heart of the Hare & Hounds. And when the setting is this cosy, the welcome this warm, and the 17th century coaching inn this well used, this is a fine place to whittle away an early afternoon lunch before the rest of your life starts.Tags: hare & hounds, Pubs & bars
Just like Mike Parker, the author of Map Addict, for years I’ve been mesmerised by the enigmatic Spurn Point, that strangely shaped strip of almost-land that stretches from the tip of the East Riding of Yorkshire and awkwardly attempts to reach back downstream towards the sands of the Humber estuary.
Spurn Point (or Spurn Head for many) is a sand bar that has been precariously edging it’s way westwards over the last millennium of geological time as the sea plays out its role of destroyer and replenisher in equal measure (Spurn currently aims its point towards the revellers of Cleethorpes and the fishing boats of Grimsby, but has had 5 different versions of itself in the last 1000 years as the tides have breached it and rebuilt it time after time).
Brooding skies and dull tinted flora reflect the eeriness of this surreal spur set perpetually to a state of precarious balance, a place demanding reflection, that screams silently, in the same way as Munch’s famous frozen moment of fear, of solitude. It’s not a place you’d expect to find myriad good pubs, but then this windy forgotten corner of Yorkshire is exactly the type of place where a haven from the North Sea weather is required. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: Pubs & bars, Spurn Point, yorkshire
So the hotel didn’t have a drying room, and in a half hearted tantrum of half hearted petulance we walked up the stairs and threw the muddy boots and soggy packs vaguely towards the radiator under a completely inadequate layer of quality drying paper. Or the hotel welcome brochure as it may or may not have been.
It was one of those provincial hotels, smart and classy from the outside, but inside brimming with big-fish-in-a-small-pond syndrome. Antiquated decor, about as aesthetically pleasing as a pair of shabby walkers stepping in from the rain, couldn’t paper over the hollow product offering and hi-falutin’ charm, nor stop the building creaking under its own despairing inability to embrace the modern world.
Well at least we could look forward to a beer and the Champions League final, eh?
If they had have had a drying room I’d have swapped it for a reasonably sized telly in an instant. I’d have probably traded in the rain cover plus my new and flashy laminated OS map if they could guarantee Sky coverage…
Low and behold, no footy, not even ITV, plus an uninspiring beer selection. Great. We headed out to find food.
The chippy seems crawling with snarling boys and girls in woolly training pants and hip-hop zip-ups, the males greasy and the fairer sex not much different (or fairer), oozing slightly more perfume and modelling marginally longer hair.
The local bar/bistro was empty; the local pub described to us as a veritable den of iniquity. We saw the snarling youths head off in that direction jettisoning chips and curry sauce in their wake and ruled the pub out.
Unprepared to give up on football, but increasingly concerned that the night would be spent sitting in our shabby hotel room, we slip into an unassuming cafe advertising evening meals, hoping to fill our bellies and devise a plan for beating the odds of missing the biggest match of the season.
A beaming smile greets us; our host, the owner, proudly shows off her continental beer selection. There’s a feisty glint in her eye and a warming grin when we order lagers and ask for menus
Cold beers arrive slopping on the table; specials on the board are recited with a smile. “My husband might be bringing the telly down for the match in a bit” she announces.
We ask for a tab.
Two hours later, robust, fatty meals devoured, port and cheese and bread and butter pudding accepted eagerly, and the cafe is bursting at the seams; in one corner a romantic meal for two couples (the women had arrived early and ensured the blokes would have their backs to the screen, every other customer in on the joke and waiting for the look on their faces when they arrived); at the bar two friends who’d tried half of every beer at a local beer festival (which just so happened to be located at the village we planned to stay at the next evening, what luck!); an assortment of friends and couples vying for the ‘fancy Japanese lager’ and the attentions of various members of the opposite sex; and even at various points dog walkers rounded up with shouts out the door and convinced to nip in for a coffee, a hot chocolate or a perfectly chilled pint.
And us, perched at the back thoroughly engrossed in the magnetic whirlwind of Lionel Messi. Joined by the owner’s father, a Nottingham-lad born and bred, we spend the evening coining increasingly dramatic cooings at each graceful twist and pivot of Barcelona’s talismanic midfielder, and ‘Ooo’ at every completed pass from his comrades in attack.
The cafe is alive, welcoming and entertaining. We’re part of the fabric of the evening; we’re embraced, entertained, well fed and gratefully watered, and presented with a remarkably inexpensive bill as we rise early to sleep off the evenings excesses.
Behind us a homely din emanates from the cafe, a hub of life and love and laughter. It’s exactly what the local pub should be, and for one evening we glimpse the real soul of someone’s community.
Strange how the best pub evening on The Way was found in a cafe in Teesdale.Tags: cafe, pennine way, Pubs & bars
From the gastro pubs of Ilkley to the cove-view nooks of Robin Hood’s Bay; from the alleyway drinking dens of Leeds, to the walkers respites littering Garsdale, Wensleydale, Dentdale, Ribblesdale, Malhamdale, Nidderdale…
Yorkshire is blessed with pubs, nearly 10% of all the public houses in Britain. Some good, some bad, each and everyone someone’s favourite. All 5,115 of them.
What better way to spend the Bank Holiday than oiling your discourse down the local, or heeding Milton Crawford and taking a moment to reflect on life. And when your done, you can vote for your favourite Yorkshire pub at Yorkshire.com/pub
Tags: british pubs, Pubs & bars, ribblesdale, West Yorkshire, yorkshire
There are 54,000 pubs in Britain and 5,115 pubs in Yorkshire. Ish. Thanks to the border hungry constituency of Brigg & Goole which straddles both the East Riding of Yorkshire and the northern climes of Lincolnshire we’ve had to apply some educated guesswork to the final tally. Thanks to the CAMRA press team and the British Beer & Pub Association for help locating the raw data. And thanks to Dan Cohen, John FotoHouse and Rick Harrison for the pics!
April 21st, 2011Pubs & bars
I had the pleasure of being invited to the re-opening of a pub this week. Someone has paid a visit to what used to be the Three Horseshoes in Otley and replaced its worn out steel trotters to get the place back on its feet.
The newly named Horse and Farrier on Bridge Street in Otley is the fifteenth addition to Market Town Taverns’ portfolio, which stretches across North and West Yorkshire including Arcadia in Leeds, Brigantes in York and Bar t’at in Ilkley).
Now, I’ll lay my cards on the table, I’ve long been a fan of Market Town Taverns, I like the cut of their jib and I like that there’s always a selection of 8 real ales available, as well as a handy selection of bottled beers. The Old Bell Tavern, another Market Town Taverns pub, is my local in Harrogate it’s very traditionally styled, has real character and I even had my wedding reception in the restaurant there.Tags: british pubs, Horse & Farrier, Market Town Taverns, Otley, Pubs & bars, Three Horseshoes, West Yorkshire
A man walks into a bar. Asks for a beer. Nothing fancy. The bar person serves him. In a very nice branded glass. But it’s the wrong branded glass.
Now if that man happened to be me, my heart would sink. In my humble opinion, there’s something fundamentally wrong with serving a beer (or any drink for that matter) in the wrong branded glass.
I’ve been called a ‘saddo’, fair enough, I’ve no reasonable argument to oppose that.
I’ve been called a pedant, perhaps I am.
I’ve even been called a branded glass fundamentalist, but it has nothing to do with my foibles. It actually boils down to poor service, poor presentation and a general disrespect for both the product and the customer.
The last time that I was particularly unimpressed Read the rest of this entry »Tags: glassware, marketing, Pubs & bars, service
January 23rd, 2011Pubs & bars
Built in 1741 as a house for the timber merchant Edmund Maude, The Palace was first recorded as an inn in 1841 and is believed to have been named after one of the breweries whose ale it sold. In 1830 the Beerhouse Act was passed which allowed any householder who paid rates to apply for a two guinea excise licence to sell beer and brew it on their premises. This led to 46,000 new pubs being created within eight years.
In the ten years following the Beerhouse Act the number of pubs in Leeds rose from 270 to 545 and it is thought that The Palace may be one of those along with the Eagle Tavern on North Street. The licensing laws were changed in 1869 and this had the effect of tightening the rules to apply for a licence. Originally outwith the Leeds boundary, being located just outside the East Bar, (the marking stone for which can be found just slightly higher up Kirkgate towards the city centre set into the boundary wall of Leeds Parish Church) as Leeds expanded it became a city centre pub.Tags: british pubs, leeds, palace, Pubs & bars, yorkshire