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Yorkshire has never been short of a decent pint with Timothy Taylor, Black Sheep and Samuel Smith’s all brewing in the county. Leeds’ very own Tetley’s was the biggest cask brewery in Britain, filling the air with a sweet, hoppy smell, until they were shunted to Wolverhampton in 2011. Thankfully, the gap has been happily filled by half-a-dozen burgeoning microbreweries. With 200,000 students, Leeds has no shortage of drinkers, although the proliferation of chain watering holes is balanced by traditional boozers, emergent new-wave pubs and buzzing cocktail bars.
A gloriously rambling hostelry built in 1901, standing in the shadow of Tetley’s Brewery. Having survived the brewing giant’s relocation, it is on CAMRA’s list of historic pub interiors, and no wonder: a fine mix of etched glass, terrazzo flooring and decorative tiling with good ale, too.
This inside-outside Champagne bar in the Electric Press building once housed a collection of Victorian workshops. Now handsomely restored, Epernay has an appealing interior and courtyard tables set against rustic brick beneath a glass atrium.
This Grade II-listed pub in untrendy Hunslet is pure Victoriana: glazed tiles, etched glass, fancy plasterwork and mahogany bar fittings. It’s a treasure that has been regularly threatened with closure down the years, but now looks secure under the admirable Leeds Brewery, which knows how to run a pub with the simple virtues of good ale and good food.
Famed for its thoughtfully presented, keenly priced wine list, the Lazy Lounge is a light, bright bolt-hole equally popular with oenophiles and those after some groovy sharing plates – mini burgers, fishcakes, veggie fritters and suchlike keep the evening crowds satisfied. Draught real ales, too.
Claudio Antonino’s slick new cocktail lounge is hidden up an anonymous staircase behind an unmarked door on Call Lane. Nino offers a changing list of cocktails made from a copious bank of bottles - including 47 brands of gin. Select from the purity of an elder lady (gin, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice served in vintage teacups) to punch bowls of mother’s ruin. Pricey, but as cool as it gets.
The original and flagship of Leeds Brewery’s stable of five new-wave pubs. Situated in regenerated and trendy Holbeck Urban Village, it has its own ales on tap and a changing roster of guest beers and ciders – plus a decent wine list to match the gastropub food.
A big-capacity venue for the young party set, Nation of Shopkeepers has a self-consciously thrown-together look with big armchairs, fairy lights, bunting and a large courtyard with umbrellas and outdoor heaters. Live bands, pub quizzes, comic fairs, food and local ales on tap.
It calls itself ‘an informal pub’ and this former shop – with large windows overlooking North Street – is just that. There are foreign and local beers on draught, a decent wine list, gutsy food and easy chairs to sink into with the papers.
Once a rough old boozer opposite Leeds Law Courts where lawyers, journo hacks and the soon-to-be committed mingled across a greasy floor, this is now a spruced-up Timothy Taylor pub with Mild, Golden Best and prime Landlord on tap.
Whitelock's Ale House – formerly Whitelock's First City Luncheon Bar – down Turks Head Yard off Briggate, has been here since 1715 with a delightfully intact interior of tiles, mirrors, cast-iron tables and copper-topped bar. Some miss the motherly ladies in white aprons serving giant Yorkshire puddings with onion gravy, but the place is still essential.