I quite like the Cuthbert B, although I went off it after a succession of poor pints a while back. Not so now, because current manager Mark Rinder is making a real effort to make sure their cask ales are of the highest quality.
Staff training and appreciation of the product has been the focus for this. Something I witnessed first hand when I called in the other day; there was no way I was getting my pint until the server made sure it had settled, been topped up and started to clear. Top marks, more characteristic of what you see in places like Market Town Taverns and their ilk than Spoons. Mark’s strategy is definitely working. My Roosters Yankee was an easy NBSS 3.5 and a mates YPA (Yorkshire Pale Ale) was of a similar quality.
I never realised the staff were called associates until Mark and one of his bar managers started talking. Turns out there are a good few of them who are passionate about their beers and prize quality above quantity, carefully selecting which ales they are going to order and listening to suggestions from customers. Inclusivity of everyone involved is clearly a mainstay of the operation.
I was impressed they only had three ‘non Doom Bar, Abbot, Ruddles County’ beers on and were not using some of the handpulls. Mark said they would only the put extra lines on when they had events like the Wethertspoon’s beer festival and he’d rather quickly turn over a smaller range of quality beers than have too many on. In terms of choice when I popped in it was the two Roosters beers, plus Sonnet 43 Athenaeum, all at £2.49.
Originally Coccon Bar, the Cuthbert Brodrick is unusual for a Wetherspoons in so far as it’s a modern purpose built bar cum nightclub they’ve taken over. This gives it a bit of a, comparably, upmarket feel and like me you may wrongly have believed it to be one of their slightly swankier Lloyds #1 branches.
Cuthbert Brodrick won a competition to design Leeds Town hall back in 1852 which sort of sealed his prominence in Leeds history for eternity; that and other grand designs, which manifested themselves in the Mechanics Institute (now Leeds City Museum) and the stunning Corn Exchange.
The outside drinking terrace has a fine view over Millennium Square which is flanked by Leeds Civic hall and it’s golden owls, City Museum, the sleek moderne styled Brotherton wing of the LGI, the Carriage Works theatre and a weird purple tower.
The commanding clock tower of Brodrick’s town hall commands the skyline, although this was a later addition to his original design. Anyone wanting a terrace seat on a sunny day would be well advised to get there early and certainly before the end of office hours.
Inside, the narrow wooden floored drinking area runs along the lengthy bar which is fronted by posing tables. Staircases at either end of the long room rise to the arc of a wider mezzanine floor overhanging the bar. The upstairs is given over to more traditional tables and chairs, the well presented toilets are in the basement.
As Wetherspoons go it’s nice and airy with it’s floor to ceiling glass panelled frontage. Everywhere’s pleasantly decorated, to the point you need to keep looking at the assembled menus and propaganda sheets on your table to remind you where you are. The carpet is a brand new one as well, which raises the question how often do they get changed and who decides?
Make sure you check your CAMRA discount vouchers before you set off though because the ones in my pocket had run out the week before! That sort of made me think a bit about the clientele in the Cuthbert B? Look as hard as you like, there’s no Red Tops, no shabby shopping bags and none of the professional drinkers you might see in a lot of Spoons.
Verdict; High spec Spoons in prime Civic Quarter location that is really trying (and succeeding) with it’s cask ales.