Ten o’clock Thursday 9th September saw the long awaited opening of Leeds based Stew & Oyster’s latest venture in Boston Spa. Unfortunately they weren’t quite ready when a friend wandered down to see what was occurring and he had to wait until twenty to eleven before he was served as the very first customer. Tim (Downes) declared all three beers he tried to be of excellent quality and condition, so if it’s good enough for him it will do for me.
I’ve mentioned before about Leeds city centre moving outwards. Stew & Oyster already have a bar in Oakwood and many of the suburbs now have a thriving beer scene. It’s good they’ve decided to branch out into the rural fringes of the Leeds Metropolitan area, because I can walk to it. The village centre (think small town) is enjoying a bit of a renaissance and there are now three bars all selling real ales with food, as well as three restaurants and a café. If I run out of ideas, I’ll do a feature on Boston Spa one day. Over the years we have seen two big pubs close down in Boston Spa. One’s now a supermarket/residential and no one can seem to make their mind up what to do with the other. I don’t mourn their passing though, they were crap and not what people wanted. If you want a proper pub, there’s two decent Sam Smiths pubs in the village and six (maybe seven?) others within two miles radius.
So, what’s Stew & Oyster like?
Well, they’ve got stew and they’ve got oysters, as well as a very good range of beers. The stew looked good, big lumps of meat, plenty of it, nice chunky bread and all for £6.50. I’ve sampled some before and it is good. I’m not sure about the oysters? Okay, they look and sound good but at about fifty bob a pop? Maybe Sir Geoffrey will walk up for a dozen when he is in residence, at least he’ll be able to afford them (but he won’t like paying).
I was impressed with the beers. Stew & Oyster now have Hebden Bridge brewery Vocation brewing their house ale, Nowt baht Hops and there was a Vocation Chop and change on hand pump as well. This version of the constantly changing brew was Motueka hopped. I think you can work it out from the name, but they change every month or so. They do produce a very good beer though. With Hull’s Atom Brewery Pale Ale, Thornbridge Sequoia, Roosters Yankee and Theakstons OP also on hand pull, I think you’ll agree there was a bit of real ale quality and something for everyone; unless you wanted a boring brown beer (go straight to the local Sam Smiths house). There seems to be a nice theme of Yorkshire/Northern brewers which I like. An interesting range of keg beers and a bottled beer menu (see photo), included; Beavertown Neck Oil, Stew & Oyster Calls Landing Weiss beer, Brooklyn Lager, Camden pale ale, Theakstons Barista stout, an Erdinger, Two from Vedett IPA & Lager, Duvel, and a Liefmans fruit beer. There’s stuff like Heineken and Sagres as well on draught. Price wise it’s Leeds City Centre money, £3.70 for the standard real ales and I paid £2.40 for the Missus’s halves of Camden Pale Ale. Some of my mates were complaining about the £3.90 for a pint of Heineken. I told them to shut up and to stop drinking shite when there was so many decent brews on the bar.
I asked Tom, one of the managers, about the first day. He said, ‘It’s all been good.’ I told him my mate who lives opposite said he’d seen the crew working till well after midnight getting things ready. Tom just smiled. He said they’d been really busy with coffee and cake customers in the morning and then after lunch it had been drinkers and people eating. When we dropped by around five’ish, the place was more than half full. It would be, everyone turns up for the opening day in a place like Boston Spa. I’ve seen pictures on FB of the evening session and it was heaving. The question is will people keep coming to this well appointed quality bar in this well heeled commuter village. We’ll have to wait and see. What is clear is it’s definitely a bar and not a pub. So, on that basis will I be drinking there? Yes, just for the beer. In fact I can see us walking down a couple of times a week and sometimes having food there. What it won’t be doing is taking over from our local where a motley crew of people of all ages, from all walks of life, assemble every tea time for a few pints and insensible discourse. Firstly because our Sam’s pub is knocking pints of bitter out for £1.80 (Taddy Lager £2.08/pint) and secondly because Stew & Oyster is just not a pub.
Verdict; a new asset to the community that will succeed.