When it opened in September, I was a little worried that Ossett Brewery’s latest venture was a step too far, almost taking over the whole of Granary Wharfe when they occupied arches V & W, the previous home of Wasabi Teppan-Yaki who seem to have retreated from Leeds entirely? Maybe it’s a Guy Fawkes style ploy from jealous neighbours to take over all the arches under Leeds station? On the other hand it could just be a very clever, far sighted, piece of excellent business planning?
I’ve mentioned the opening of the southern entrance to Leeds station (LSSE) before, if you wander down Dark Neville Street and have a look, you will see that it’s well on track (no pun intended) for the January 2016 public opening. This will instantly channel an estimated 20% of the passengers travelling through the second busiest station outside London through the Granary Wharfe area. On that basis, if you were a brewery with three outlets in this absolutely charming, historic, canal side location, I think people might say that you were a pretty shrewd operator?
Three, I hear you saying, all Ossett brewery, almost side by side, in the same place? Yeah, three, I reviewed Candlebar previously; food and craft beer, slightly upmarket – definitely not a pub. You must have been in one of The Hop pubs, there’s five of them now (Leeds, Saltaire, Sheffield, Wakefield, York ); real ale, music, one of the best pie and a pint deals ever – definitely a pub. So what’s different about Archie’s then?
If you’ve read some of my thoughts on pubs and bars, you’ve probably picked up on my views that a good modern drinking establishment is one that gives people what they want. Archie’s definitely does this, it’s almost all things to all people, at different times. If you want breakfast, at eight in the morning then you’ve got it, from healthy, almost grab and go, to the full English. If you want something decent to eat, real proper food, throughout the day, you’ve got it. If you want real ale, craft style keg or bottled beer, or mass produced branded standards, then you’ve got it. If you hang around till after nine on Friday and Saturday then you’ve got a DJ and music, complete with disco lighting and glitter ball. They even do a proper Sunday lunch, on a Sunday of course.
I think the clichéd business term for it is ‘sweating the asset’. There’s no point taking a twenty year lease on two railway arches in the centre of the UK’s premier city and not opening up till mid-day, then shutting at eleven, knowing you’ll have a few quiet periods in between as well. No, you want people in all through the day and to do that you have to be a bit of a chameleon. I don’t know if I’ve just coined a new phrase there, a ‘Chameleon bar’, because that’s what Archie’s is, the licensed premises version of the ever changing man, giving a bit of everything to lots of people, at different times, just when they want it. Now Ossett brewery have it billed as ‘Archie’s bar and kitchen’ and outside it says ‘Eat’, ‘Drink’ and ‘Disco’. I’m going to tell you it transcends all of these and they really pull it off as a concept, mark my words.
The focal point of Archie’s is Archie, the Orange and white VW camper van that stands looking out of the front window. The side of Archie is a juice bar, conveniently located by the entrance, whereas his rear end is part of the bar and houses the hand pulled real ales. When we visited these were Ossett Yorkshire Blond (3.2%) & Silver King (4.3%), Rat Brewery White Rat (4.05) Fernandes Golden Arrow (4.2%). Okay, they are all from the Ossett stable but priced between £2.90 and £3.05, I thought they represented real value for a city centre boozer. I fancied a pint of White Rat. On the first pull it went woosh and the conversation went something like this, ‘It’s gone off Sir, but there’s another barrel racked and ready to go. If you don’t mind waiting a couple of minutes I’ll bring it over to you.’ Within five minutes I had a foaming pint of quality ale, spot on and top service. It’s a decent drink is White Rat and so was the Yorkshire Blond Mrs C drank. You can see why this Ossett brew is their best seller. Both were on top form.
The food looked quite good and worth trying, you can see the chefs preparing everything in their state of the art kitchen, the full menu is on the web site. Inside Archie’s there is a place for everyone; sat in the bar area, in the lighter second arch, on the mezzanine floor or on the dance floor, whatever your mood. I don’t recommend sitting in the dance floor area if you want to read one of the complimentary daily papers as the glitter ball casts an ever-changing psychedelic shadow on your newspaper – I told you it was a chameleon bar!
The decor is a real mix that shouldn’t work, but does; brick arches, floor to ceiling windows at the front, comfortable gloom to the rear; beach surf shack meets deep sea diver somewhere on the banks of the Leeds and Liverpool canal. There’s even a bit of a Yellow Submarine thing going on, the chunky funky, red, green and yellow pipes running between the kitchen/cellar area are the insulation for the beer lines. The toilets scored a solid ten out of ten, as good as anywhere and better than most, I include hotels here. This is a theme of Ossett brewery premises and they should be commended. The mirror in the gents is brilliant. I’m not going to tell you, just go and have a look. Even the rumble of the trains on platforms 15 & 16 above adds a little something to the atmosphere.
Who does is suit? Everyone really from leather Chesterfields, through bench style seating and tall stools to deckchairs. It probably suits different people breakfasting in the morning to those who drop in for a lunch or just a pint. I’ve had some good summer evenings stood outside The Hop and this place will just be the same. I don’t want to be there when they take the tables out and the DJ starts, but others will want to and I bet they will be as suited as I was on a Saturday lunch time. Overall a good atmosphere and a proper Chameleon bar.
It’s a few weeks since I popped in and had a chat with one of the assistant managers, really nice guy. I called in again on the Saturday before Christmas with a few friends. They’ve featured in previous posts, a mixed bunch of all ages and callings. Like me they were also suitably impressed, especially with the Halifax concert band who played carols while the staff plied us with complimentary mulled wine and mince pies – Bloody marvellous!