I had intended doing a review on this place almost a year ago. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let us in, something which is still a talking point with our little group of drinkers, average age, 47 years, you can read about it here if you want. Thankfully this policy is not the norm and I am able to call in for a pint quite often in the civilised surroundings of Arcadia, Headingley. It’s not quite a pub, in so far as it is, from memory, a bank, converted in the mid noughties. It’s more than a bar though and it has grown from one of the first wave of real ale bars that sprung up into almost a pub which unfortunately being constructed from said converted shops in the Headingley Arndale centre it can, in my eyes, never become, and anyway it never allowed smoking from the off.
It’s pretty decent though and in ethos follows that of it’s fellow establishments in the Market Town Taverns stable. What it does do, and always has done is break the mould of the other Otley run establishments which is something that Headingey did and still does need. Although there are plenty of students who do go in, it’s so civilised that everyone queues up in a line at the bar, a phenomenon which also occurs at other MTT premises. I don’t like queuing and I’m not particularly happy about crushing free for alls neither, so I’m not sure where I stand on this one?
I’ve never fathomed out why everyone goes upstairs? I prefer the more pubby aspect around the bar counter to that of the, could be sort of anywhere, mezzanine level. I discovered why this happens the other night because it was absolutely freezing and we were sat near the front door which is a bit slow to close, letting in icy breaths of cold air in every time it operates and as the 8.00pm deadline for the Monday evening quiz night got closer it opened more and more frequently until we had to move.
In terms of decor, it is a bit like a converted retail unit with bare board floor, just with a few pictures, a bit of breweriana and a mezzanine floor thrown in. Pleasant, but a touch bland. I’m guessing, but I reckon Arcadia bet BrewDog in the recycled gymnasium floor stakes, which faces one of the downstairs walls, by a good few years? I’ve never seen a lighting feature fashioned from old crates before neither, wacky, but it works.
Toilets? Pretty decent, you’d happily go for a number two, but needs a stronger hand dryer in the gents. You know, one of the hoover man’s blade runner extreme G-force skin wobbling ones. Well, everywhere else decent have them now, don’t they?
So, why do you keep going to this recycled retail unit in a dated Seventies shopping centre Rich, I hear you all ask? Well for one the regulars are all pretty cool and there’s a nice atmosphere. Secondly, you are guaranteed a decent glass of beer and I’ve never had a bad one. You can add this as a refrain to all the MTT places I frequent, although I have not by any means been in all of them. Skipton, Northallerton? We don’t go that far on holiday!
Joking apart, eight cask ale lines, eight keg lines, including decent lagers, fruit beers and stronger craft style beers – there was a tempting, but too strong for the occasion, Ossett Brass Castle collaboration Rampart (7%) £2.75 per half, at the last visit. The cask ale lines always include O’Kells Bitter, an excellent MTT standard, owing to the fact they’re both owned by parent company Heron and Brearley . In addition there always seems to be a Timmy Taylors and or Black Sheep, plus an ever changing selection of guest ales. The fact they had Dark Star Partridge Best Bitter (4%) on gives you an idea of the quality of what they throw at you. Prices vary, but on my last visit Mary Jane (3.5%) was the cheapest at £3.00 a pint, closely followed by O’Kells at £3.15. Despite the blackboard displaying First COP, First Chop Red was the dearest at £3.60 and after a few trials, I ended up having a few pints of this very tasty rye ale. If you want to sample a bit of everything they do thirds and obligingly offer tasters. Taking all things into account, I think they’re comparatively reasonable price wise and there is a choice to suit all pockets.
Overall, best boozer by far in Headingley, even though it isn’t really a pub. In fact, if you like a good selection of real and more modern styles of ale, at a reasonable price in pleasant surroundings and your not bothered that it isn’t a pub, then it’s the best bar between the city centre and the next MTT or North bar offering (there are others), which would be Meanwood then. On the basis of that comment, it is pretty evident that the phenomena which is The British Beer Revolution does not only exist in the centre of the Leeds metropolis and is well and truly established in the suburbs.