Having lived in Leeds on and off now for almost fourteen years, I recently decided it was high time I finally brave the many city centre pubs deemed “scary”. There are 10 pubs that others and I had, perhaps a little unfairly, previously believed to be establishments to be entered with caution. I've always been one to initially judge a book by its cover and then by the blurb but without trying, it's impossible to ever really know...
Last weekend for the Grand National, a group of us ended up near The Templar Hotel on Templar Street and as it advertised sport being shown, decided to go in. I've always liked its tiled exterior and inside it had a worn charm. As the cider selection was exceedingly limited, it is not a place I'm likely to return to but is exactly the kind of pub you could effortlessly make both friends and enemies in.
This weekend a group of us embarked on a “scary pub crawl” and took out the remaining nine pubs we'd all previously eye-balled suspiciously. Beginning at The Prince Of Wales on Mill Hill, we were amazed by the near empty fridges behind the bar and lack of clientele. Half a pint down and it started to fill up with regulars chatting to bar staff, revealing it is soon to shut down. Hearing this explained the lack of drink selection and means a repeat visit is unlikely.
Across the road Spencer's was a pleasant surprise. Mildly disturbed by the bouncers standing outside (at 2pm!) and police vans parked out front (pre-empting post-match trouble), we entered with trepidation and were met by the sweet promise of Farmhouse Pyder on tap, making a return visit highly likely.
Lacking obvious signage outside, The Duncan on Duncan Street can easily be missed. This is the pub I'm most fearful of. A friend due to meet us has seen its exterior and texted me to say she's decided to join us later. Once inside, we're instantly heartened to discover it's a Sam Smith pub with Cider Reserve on tap and bottles of their organic variety, folk are friendly and it's atmospheric (there's a rowdy group celebratorily singing).
Number four is The Regent on Kirkgate. I've been in this pub once many years ago when a friend craved a post-Mega Bus pint and remember someone trying to sell us make-up from a carrier bag. On this return visit, there are no hard sells and I end up chatting to an amicable regular who's a fan of karaoke. Although the crowd is friendly, as Strongbow is the only cider on offer, I'm unlikely to frequently drink in The Regent.
Across the road on Vicar Lane, The General Eliott turns out to be yet another ridiculously cheap Sam Smith pub, selling Cider Reserve on tap. It is cosy and once again welcoming, making return visits a possibility.
Hoagys on Eastgate is our next stop and where we're banking on food. Opting for a selection of ten snacks to share, we're disturbed by the apple crunch but happy with the price and rapidly chow it all down. For cider drinkers, the selection is disappointing but it's atmospheric and somewhere to go if you fancy a dance without paying for club entrance.
A little further up the road on The Headrow, The Three Legs is another pub I've been into before, merely to use their toilets when waiting for a bus. It is again, entirely unscary and not the best place for cider fans but anyone into karaoke will like it here.
The final stop for the night, is The Horse And Trumpet further along The Headrow. It turns out to also serve food at cheap prices but have little on offer in terms of cider. This is a pub I may well return to for quick pre-cinema/theatre food.
Crawl done and we haven't witnessed a single fight, antagonised anyone or been offended. No-one has stared at us or tried to sell us anything and we haven't been in a single place that has gone quiet on our entrance like the pub near my parents' house. The night is still young and we're already craving another Pyder so return to Spencer's, now armed with a plethora of previously uncharted pubs we'd happily frequent.