About eighteen months ago a few friends encouraged me to arrange a day out. This sort of developed into regular outings every couple of months, the theme being good beer, good food, good company and public transport. I began to take a few notes as we went along which I’m going to write up into a series, in no particular order and starting from the present going backwards. All the opinions are strictly my own and I have no involvement in any way with any of the businesses concerned.
The infamous ‘Otley run’ is something every student who ever came to Leeds must have done at some time. The number of pubs is debatable, Wikipedia says there are eighteen on the full route. It’s clear that’s far too many, for any sensible drinker. So, which pubs do we try? After a little research, I based our selection on an excellent article by Warren Yabsley in Leeds CAMRA’ New full measure #128. I always pick up a free copy every time it comes out, it really is a good read for anyone into the local real ale scene, with some really good ideas for beery days out. Thank you Mr Yabsley for your excellent suggestions that led us to compile our own list. Would we do eight? Debatable, especially after my mid point choice for a leisurely, late, luncheon in Headingley.
One essential factor for our day trips is a WY Metro day ticket. Five pounds fifty gets you anywhere in West Yorkshire, on a bus displaying the Metro logo, for the entire day. These public houses, although spread out along the A660, are served by regular buses, principally the number 1, 6 & 97. We never had to wait longer than five minutes as we bus hopped between pubs.
Okay, where do you start? Ten to eleven saw us stood outside Woodies ale house. Luckily there’s a bus shelter outside which saved us getting soaked. At bang on eleven the doors were opened and the pub was already prepared for the rush. We weren’t the only ones ready for a pint and by half past there were plenty of customers in.
Woodies was unanimously voted the best of all the pubs we went to. It’s smart and modern, while retaining a traditional feel. There was an excellent range; twelve hand pulls, five keg craft beers, plus the usual suspects. My wife deemed the Latte to be of barista standard and our feminine side were impressed with the lavatories. I fancied an Ilkley Lotus IPA but at 5.6%, it’s a bit strong for a sesh so I opted for Mary Jane. First pint through the lines often disappoints. Not here, it was spot on and they had obviously drawn some off before opening.
I’m not going to make comment on the next pub the Three Horseshoes, sorry the Industrialist, as it had only just reopened after a refurb. There were obviously a few teething problems and it was all fresh paint and newness. Anyone familiar with the old Three Horseshoes wouldn’t recognise it anymore. All said and done, it has been transformed very nicely. Probably a bit modern for the traditionalist, but I think it will be popular and have more of a food base. It was clear the helpful staff and management were trying hard and I’m going to try it in a few weeks and then give my verdict. Old Shipyard American pale ale was my choice here, a keg beer I quite enjoy.
I’m a big Market Town Taverns supporter, good pubs, good products and well run. The Muse in Wetherby is a favourite and frequent haunt. I knew that they did not allow ‘Otley runners’ at Arcadia, they never have done and I support their stance. I don’t want my pint spoiled by groups of Smurfs or Superheros knocking pints back in one while chanting rugger songs. Unfortunately they refused to serve a well dressed, sensible group of eleven, mainly professional people, average age forty seven, including two OAP’s (they’ll kill me for putting that).
Although we arrived early, Charlie Brett’s was ready for us. I’d passed the little cottage, tucked back off North Lane, in Headingley centre many times, heard it was a favourite of many cricketing greats over the years and you couldn’t get a table for love nor money when there was a big match on at Headingley. I set off with really high expectations and they were exceeded. The young lady and gent in front of house were lovely, friendly, engaging and generally couldn’t do enough for you. Although the restaurant is quite small it’s well decorated, clean, bright and airy and there is a wonderful Headingley related, mural on one wall in muted blue and amber. The a la carte and the specials on the chalk wall behind us were fish biased – you’d expect that in a fish restaurant. I never looked at the menu, I knew what I was having before I even booked the table – Fish and chips with mushy peas. I don’t eat them often, too many carbs, but I love fish and chips. I don’t feel able to say that anyone’s fish and chips are the best ever. You’d have to do a blind tasting test to make that acclamation. What I will say, without reserve, these are as good as I have had anywhere and are in my all time top ten of fish and chips. Proper chips, crispy batter, succulent Haddock done in the way that can only be done in a proper fish fryer. What lets most places down is the mushy peas. Brett’s were of the highest order, as good as home made and plenty of them. Everyone was really pleased with their meal and for a main course with drinks and a 10% tip it came to £15 per head – top value. It would have been cheaper but some of our party insisted on a decent bottle of wine with their meal a opposed to one of the decent bottled real ales on offer. Leeds brewery Hellfire is definitely a top accompaniment to traditional fish and chips. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s 5% plus but it was only a 330ml bottle and it really cuts through the grease, in the way a pot of strong tea does.
To be brutally honest, we didn’t do the Original Oak justice, and I sat in a food coma with a half of Leeds Pale trying my hardest not to fall asleep. If in Headingley, you’ve got to do the Oak. It’s a very traditional, very impressive, very large boozer and on this occasion not too busy. We did time this trip to coincide with the University’s Easter break and finals (sorry students). I liked the pub, but the limited choice of two real ales was disappointing.
The next call was the Hyde Park. This iconic Leeds landmark is a cavernous place inside. There were six real ales on, and if I’m honest, none of them really tickled my fancy so I opted for a half of Hyde park blonde, brewed by Naylors, pleasant with a slightly sweet back taste. Nothing wrong with the pub at all, but what summed it up for me was the six flavour vodka shot dispenser. Okay, at two quid a go, we had to try the crispy bacon flavour one, passing it round like wine tasters. The taste and aroma notes varied from smoky bacon crisps, at best, to dog sh#t (how did he know that?).
Another short bus ride gets you to the Pack Horse. A spartan place, sort of a traditional pub with original fittings, but stripped back to very, very bare rooms. By this time the fish and chips had subsided and I had the best pint of the day in the Pack Horse, Ridgeside Rushmore. I also had a sip of Laguna sec, one of their own brews, it’s part of the Burley street brewhouse pub company, and that was really good too. Worth a visit for the quality of decent beer on offer.
Almost next door is the Eldon. Voted number two best pub today by us. Felt like a proper local’s pub, with local people watching the Rhinos beat Catalans (Leeds … Leeds …Leeds …). Decent range of ales, Brewdog Punk IPA on draft, tempting but it’s too strong for an all dayer, so I went for an Ossett brewery Big Red. We also had the game of pub golf explained to us by a group of lads who had travelled from Hartlepool for the weekend – scary. Folks, please drink responsibly.
Last one was the Fenton. Instantly voted best cider pub by our own expert as they had four different real ciders on hand pull. Surprisingly we could all still annunciate our way around ‘a pint of Pheasant plucker please,’ a Broadoak cider, which is what she had and was very pleased with. My choice here was only shaded into second best pint of the day because it’s more a speciality/novelty beer; Saltaire Raspberry blond. Top form, well pulled, tasty and fruity. The pub itself is very traditional. Okay, a bit worn in places, but the architectural features redeem it. The pedestal clock on top of the island bar is awesome, like the one your Grandma had on the mantelpiece, just twenty times bigger. It was fairly obvious there was a heavy metal, Goth inspired customer base, the young people we chatted with were super, especially the young lady with the handsome Bassett hound pup which upstaged everything with our lady drinkers.
Overall, a really good day out. More of a steady saunter/bus ride than a run for us, and that’s the way it should be. The standout highlight has to be Charlie Brett’s restaurant and I am definitely going back there. Interesting for the diversity of pubs, there really is something for everyone. Best all round pub was Woodies. Shame about Arcadia.
Date of visit Saturday 28th March 2015.