The last pub I visited on my walk down the Leeds Liverpool canal was the renowned Rodley Barge, completing the transition from cutting edge city centre bar to a very traditional pub. Don’t worry it’s not a boat, but close enough to the canal side to almost be one. Sat in the beer garden you might think that you were in a quaint little village rather than in the rambling semi urban sprawl of N.W Leeds. You look out over the widening Aire valley as boats glide by, stopping only to operate the swing bridge that blocks their progress.
Rodley Barge is a free house which has been in the same hands for the last twenty years. The building itself is quite a low one, obviously of some age, I’m guessing, mid Nineteenth century, constructed of the distinctive local stone. It looks like it’s been added to over the years and inside it has a reassuringly old fashioned, higgedly piggledy feel, although it is very well looked after, spotlessly clean and tidy and the Gents is decent. The whole look of the pub and it’s surroundings is totally different to the architecture of the city centre or even Kirkstall and it’s remarkable how much stark change there is in only a few miles.
It was mid afternoon when I dropped in and there were still a fair few folk finishing off their lunch, mainly couples of at least fifty plus. I had a quick skeg at the menu, traditional homely pub fare and very reasonably priced. Notices on the wall tell you that this is a real community pub with strong local ties. They have an amazing three different quiz nights every week and even a beer and music festival at August Bank Holiday. I was impressed when an old couple (eighties at least) waked in for a meal. The nice lady behind the bar called the chef as they had already finished lunchtime service. They looked at each other, then at the old couple, sat them down and rustled up a meal for them. Well done.
There’s five real cask ales on; Tetleys Bitter (no longer brewed in Leeds), Ossett Yorkshire Blonde, Leeds Pale ale (the new Tetley’s?), Robin Hood Springhead and Sonnet 43 #26 Lean a bit closer. A pint of Yorkshire blonde cost me £3.30. Looking around at the glory wall of pump clips it looked fairly obvious that the theme here was traditional British real ales, and they’d had all the top ones on at some time. Having said that, the limited edition Sonnet 43 is a bit different and very drinkable, but nevertheless this is a real CAMRA pub. I don’t mean this in any derogatory way neither, I just want to bring out the contrast between the three pubs I visited. Just as NMBCo refectory and Kirkstall Bridge Inn are at the very top of their game, so is the Rodley Barge. They just inhabit different beery niches. I like this, we need lots of different choices or everything would get boring. Okay, there might be some trendy, city loft dwellers who never venture out of the centre of Leeds. They should do though and appreciate different styles of pubs and ales for what they are.
Summing up, in my opinion Rodley Barge is a time honoured, classic British local, with the added bonus of beautiful canal side views and a good choice of well kept, proper real ales. If that’s what you are looking for then you will be really suited with the Rodley Barge, it’s spot on.