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Leader Leeds

Yorkshires unofficial capital city is the place for historic pubs, great nightlife and world class beer. Richard Jones went for a stroll

It may be home to hundreds of thousands of their ilk, but Leeds refuses to conform to clichés about Yorkshiremen.

Whereas 20 or 30 years ago you might have found its streets (cobbled, inevitably) filled with flat-cap-wearing, ‘chip on both shoulders’, pennypinching characters so memorably lampooned in the Monty Python Four Yorkshiremen sketch, today Leeds is a vibrant, prosperous city packed with trendy bars, designer boutiques and spanking new ‘urban living’ developments.

And it’s also a fantastic city to get together with a group of beer-loving friends and spend the day out enjoying the odd pint or three.

Originally known as Leodis, Leeds was a small, agricultural village for much of the Middle Ages. Its growth into a city was advanced by the textile trade; first as a cottage industry in the 18th century and then on an industrial scale in the 19th century.

The wealth that came to the area in the Victorian age can be seen today in the buildings that were constructed at the time: Leeds Town Hall, Civic Theatre and the stunning domed glass ceiling of the Corn Exchange.

The altogether more recent prosperity of the city owes its success to rather more ethereal industries; financial services, media, government administration and call centres, to name but a few.

The history of brewing in Leeds is, as you might expect, dominated by Tetleys. The company’s giant brewery (the largest cask ale facility in the world) is situated a short walk towards the south of the city but, since the closure of the Brewery Museum, tours are no longer possible.

The best locations to try a decent pint of Tetleys Bitter on its home turf are Scarborough Hotel and Palace , or Town Hall Tavern 17 Westgate, LS1 2RA) and Wrens 61 New Briggate, LS2 8JD). If you want to visit a brewery during your visit you’ll have to taxi it to the Leeds suburbs where you’ll find the excellent (and tiny) Boat Brewery Boat Inn, Boat Lane, Allerton Bywater, WF10 2BX; www.boatbrewery.co.uk; Tours by appointment, tel: +44 (0)1977 667 788).

EATING

Most of the traditional pubs above serve wholesome and, for want of a better word, traditional, food during the day. Normans serves more ambitious cuisine with an oriental theme. Other good value restaurants include the Mexican, Cactus Lounge (St Peter’s Square, LS9 8AH, Tel: +44 (0)113 243 6553, www.cactuslounge.com); Little Tokyo, authentic Japanese food which caters for meat lovers and vegetarians alike (24 Central Road, LS1 6DE, Tel: +44 (0)113 243 9090. www.littletokyo.co.uk); and, a short taxi ride away in Headingley, there is Bryan’s (9 Weekwood Lane, LS16 5LT, Tel: +44 (0)113 278 5679), a legendary chip shop / restaurant dishing out authentic (and truly glorious) Northern ‘lard’. At the upper echelons of the market, Leeds is also home to the increasingly heralded Anthony’s (19 Boar Lane, LS1 6EA, Tel: +44 (0)113 245 5922, www.anthonysrestaurant.co.uk) which specialises in contemporary, ‘scientific’ cuisine.

BARS

There are countless trendy bars and wine bars in the vicinity of the Leeds City Centre with more springing up all the time. While they may look good (décor and clientele), many are hardly dedicated to the pursuit of decent beer. Here are some that manage to combine the two:

North Bar
24 New Briggate,
LS1 6NU
www.northbar.com

Near to the Grand Theatre, the understated exterior makes this Leeds institution easy to miss but the inside quickly makes an indelible impression. Continental beers are the strength here with the likes of Erdinger Dunkel, Lindeboom, Liefmans Frambozen on draught and countless more available in bottle. Real ale is also served.

Normans
36 Call Lane,
LS1 6DT
Tel: +44 (0)113 234 3988

Another stylish bar that majors on continental lagers with a full range of high quality beers on draught. Real ale drinkers will be less happy, however. A word of warning – allow plenty of time to locate the toilets.

Mojo
18 Merrion Street,
LS1 6PQ
Tel: +44 (0)113 244 6387
www.mojobar.co.uk

After a day spent drinking beer, Mojo is the place to head if you want to take things up a notch or two without opting for a dedicated nightclub. Expertly-made cocktails are the drink to order here as you chill-out to their ‘music for the masses’.

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT

Unlikely though it may be, you might want a break from beer during your stay in Leeds. Aside from the shopping, which I’m sure you don’t need any advice on, here are some other places well worth a visit:

Leeds City Art Gallery
The Headrow,
LS1 3AA
Tel. +44 (0)113 247 8248
www.leeds.gov.uk/artgallery

Particularly strong on 20th Century British art including an important collection of Henry Moore sculptures.

Royal Armouries
Armouries Drive,
LS10 1LT
Tel: +44 (0)8700 344 344
www.royalarmouries.org

The National Museum of Arms and Armour is more exciting than it first sounds with events such as live jousting tournaments and recreations of famous historical battles.

West Yorkshire Playhouse
Playhouse Squre,
Quarry Hill,
LS2 7UP
Box Office
Tel: +44 (0)0113 213 7700
www.wyplayhouse.com

Recent productions include Of Mice and Men, Twelfth Night and Brontë.

TRADITIONAL PUBS

There are more than enough historic, real ale pubs in Leeds to keep any beer drinker happy. Here are a few of the best:

Baroque
159 The Headrow,
LS1 5RG
Tel: +44 (0)113 242 9674

Newly refitted by Okells Brewery from the Isle of Man, this swish bar is the antithesis of the smoky, ‘spit and sawdust’ type public houses that were the traditional bastion of decent beer. The style is there, but there’s plenty of substance with a range of real ales, quality lagers and bottled beers. Good food is also served.

Palace
Kirkgate,
LS2 7DJ
Tel: +44 (0)113 244 5882

It might be a five / 10 minute walk from the main shopping areas, but your leg work will be amply rewarded. With its origins in the 18th century and next to the parish church, this is a spacious, airy pub serving an excellent range of ales, lagers and ciders. It’s also one of the best places to enjoy Tetleys Bitter.

Scarborough Hotel
Bishopgate Street,
LS1 5DY
Tel: +44 (0)113 243 4590

Externally the impression might be ‘faded grandeur’ but this is an authentic drinkers’ den handily situated next to Leeds Station. The place to enjoy a pint of Tetleys or one of their regularly rotating guest beers while you wait for a train.

Whitelocks
Turks Head Yard,
LS1 6HB
Tel: +44 (0)113 245 3950

You’ll struggle to find it first time without GPS, but this haven for real ale drinkers is well worth a couple of U turns. Turks Head Yard is a pokey alleyway just off the busy Briggate shopping street and the pace of city life slows dramatically as soon as you turn inside (assuming you’ve found the right alleyway, that is). Whitelocks has been serving the thirsty and needy since 1715 with real ales such as Theakstons Old Peculiar, John Smith’s and a number of guest beers. The somewhat cramped, traditional interior is supplemented by outside (alleyway) seating so bring your coat in the winter.

GETTING THERE

The ring roads system in Leeds City Centre can make driving a bit of a nightmare. Like many major cities, parking charges in the centre also tend to be high. There are direct trains to the recently modernised Leeds City Station (www.networkrail.co.uk/ Stations/stations/Leeds/) from London Kings Cross, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham, amongst others. Leeds Bradford Airport (www.lbia.co.uk) is approximately 10 miles north of the city and with flights to UK cities and international destinations.

STAYING Leeds has a wealth of hotels from the budget through to luxury, swanky locations like Malmaison (www.malmaisonleeds.com). Contact Leeds Tourist Information for further details (City Station, LS1 1PL, Tel: +44 (0)113 242 5242)