Leeds, Yorkshire

Date visited: March 2018

LEEDS LEEDS LEEDS!

I've visited Leeds a fair few times in the past but never with beer-tinted spectacles on and so making the trip up to the 'Capital of the North' with a new perspective meant I got to see the city in a new light. That light emanating from the various drinking establishments we frequented. 

Leeds is one of my favourite cities in the UK. There's a oft-repeated comment that people from the north of England are super friendly and very hospitable and Leeds is a wonderful example of this. Especially to a gaggle of Southern lads drinking, eating and exploring t'city. 

We voyaged up Friday afternoon and left Sunday morning and managed to pack in a surprising amount. We even slotted in an excursion to Huddersfield on Saturday afternoon to visit Magic Rock but that's a blog post for another day. 

Looking back at the list of places I'd earmarked to check out just shows there's an abundance of amazing pubs and bars in Leeds and so we didn't manage to make it to all of them. I'm pretty happy that it's given us a reason to go back another time. 

Of the venues we did make it to, here are our highlights from an exceptional weekend in Yorkshire. 

Northern Monk Refectory

Northern Monk have been one of my favourite UK breweries for quite some time now, consistently churning out delicious beers in a range of styles so it was inevitable that their brewery and tap room was top of my list. 

And what a place it is. It's a stunning location and the outside space looked perfect for daytime drinking in the summer. As we were there on a wet, grey day in March, we made do with the inside. Located in a Grade II listed mill, the brewery is found on the ground floor with the taproom (Refectory) situated on the top floor. 

I could probably write an entire post about just this place. The Refectory is pretty small and when we arrived all of the tables were full and the place definitely gave off a relaxed vibe with the clientele ranging from families with babies, chaps with dogs (no whippets or flatcaps sadly) and small groups just out for a beer like us. There are several long benches and tables in the centre as well as smaller tables and seating at the sides. 

Offering up 16 beers on keg and many others in bottles and cans, we setup here for a few hours and worked our way through the latest offerings. My picks from the many we sampled are:

  • Northern Rising - a triple dry hopped version of Northern Monk's core beer, Faith. This was brewed to promote their crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising money to expand the brewery (they smashed their goal by 300% which is incredible). The beer is full on juice. Lovely and refreshing with the bitter backbone to remind you it's a beer. It was my first beer here and a fantastic liquid welcome. 
  • Very Stable Genius - an adjunct lager brewed with King's County Brewing Collecting from New York. This was one of the best lagers I've ever had. The abundance of hops made for a slightly tropical taste which masked the clean drinking you'd expect from a lager. 

Alas, we couldn't stay here all weekend - we were on a Beer Voyage. (I'm very sorry.) 

Cross Keys

Just around the corner from Northern Monk is the Cross Keys. As it was on the way back into the city centre, it seemed sensible to have a couple in here. The Cross Keys is a great pub offering both keg and cask on an ever rotating board as is part of the North Bar group - somehow we didn't make it to any others but we were glad we came here. It was a bit of a change of scenery from the modern Refectory as we were greeted by a fire in the corner and lots of little alcoves hosting various different drinkers. The pub was built in 1802 and still retains some of its olde style. 

There were several beers here from breweries I hadn't heard of which is always a good thing. We sampled both cask and keg here and it's always a bonus when you visit a pub that know how to keep cask beer properly so kudos to the staff for that.  

My favourite beer here was Kurious Oranj from North Brewing Co. Not only did it look just like fresh orange juice, it tasted like it as well. Excuse the terrible photo but LOOK:

Friends of Ham

I'd heard good things about this place and so we came here for a swift one before grabbing some food. Friends of Ham is a bar and a charcuterie, offering up a wide range of meats and cheeses to go with their ever rotating tap list. It's a very modern looking bar with 

It took us a few minutes to get our heads around the menu but I thought it was pretty clever: each tap is listed along with what's on but it also lists what beer will be replacing it when the keg has ran out so you can see what beers are coming next. The menus are stamped when a beer has ran out so you can see which beer is on at a glance. Once we'd worked this out by using our eyes to read, we settled on some beers and grabbed a table. 

Here I had the absolutely delightful Milkshake IPA by up and coming Garden Brewery from Croatia. I've had several 'milkshake' beers and this one is one of the best - it had a definite milkiness to it (due to the massive amounts of lactose added) and lots of passionfruit, mango and vanilla on the backend. I was pleasantly surprised by this beer as I quite often find these beers a bit of style over substance. 

Bundobust

Long time readers (all two of you), will probably recall the last time I went to Bundobust, in Manchester, I only have a vague recollection of visiting due to a ridiculous day of drinking beforehand. Learning my lesson, and not wanting to pay for another pair of glasses, I was much more sensible this time as we headed to Bundobust for much needed food. This is the original Bundobust and is the same vibe as the one in Manchester except it's a little bit smaller. 

Firstly, I plumped for the Juicy Bhangra by Denmark's Dry & Bitter Brewing Company. It's brewed for Bundobust exclusively and is the perfect accompaniment to spicy Indian food. 

We settled on the sharing combo between four of us to save time ordering. It turns out this is what we had in Manchester and is the reason I don't remember what we ate because I didn't actually look at a menu to make a mental note of what I was eating. The sharing combo for four delivers a generous amount of each dish between four:

  • KACHUMBER SAMBHARO - Bitter leaves, cucumber, red cabbage, zingy
  • POPCORN & POPS - Popcorn & mini popadoms drizzled with green chilli & garlic oil.
  • OKRA FRIES - Fried lady’s fingers coated in chickpea batter. Seasoned with black salt & mango powder.
  • ONION, BROCCOLI & KALE BHAJIS - The ultimate bhaji! Spiced with fennel & chilli. Served with a tamarind & red pepper chutney.
  • BUNDO CHAAT - A layered taste sensation of samosa pastry, chickpeas, potato, tamarind chutney, yoghurt, onion, turmeric noodles & chilli sauce.
  • RAGHDA PETHIS - India meets the North of England. Spicy mushy peas & potato cake. Topped with turmeric noodles, tomato, onion & tamarind chutney.
  • PANEER TIKKA - Barbecued paneer & peppers marinated in yoghurt curd & our tikka massala. Served with red pepper ketchup & spinach chutney.
  • MASSALA DOSA - Mini rice pancakes filled with a cauliflower & potato dry fry. Served with a lentil, aubergine & bottle gourd soup.
  • EGG BHURJI - Indian scrambled egg cooked with peppers, chilli, cumin & coriander. Served with a soft Indian flatbread
  • CHOLE SAAG - Chickpea & spinach massala. Served with puri.

My favourite dishes here were the Bundo Chaat, Paneer Tikka, Chole Saag and Massala Dosa. To be fair, all if it was delicious and packed with flavour and spice. I normally hate okra but the Okra Fries were also excellent. The portion sizes were also pretty much spot on - I was just the right level of full following this and definitely had room for a few more beers. 

Brewdog Leeds

Photo courtesy of Jason Hemmings

The original Brewdog bar in Leeds, found in White Cloth Hall. When we first entered, I thought it was very small. That was until I saw the stairs - this Brewdog is the first one I can think of that I've been to with multiple floors (Camden doesn't count if I've never been downstairs). Even with a second floor, it's quite small and filled quickly so we had to hover around until a booth became available. 

The tap selection was quite limited in terms of guests with only two taps on offer and as I'm always a sucker for a guest I was a bit disappointed. The guest beers were from Michigan so I went for one (Uncle Buck's Premium Pale Juice Ale by Dark Horse Brewing Co.) and was a bit non-plussed. It was really bitter - where's the juice? I'd had a beer from this brewery in London the week before and didn't enjoy that either. I don't know if it's old stock or just not a very good brewery. 

Beer disappointment aside, the booth we managed to snag had a Nintendo 64 so we ended up playing WWF War Zone. Correction - we tried to play WWF War Zone. None of us knew the controls so a cage match became a game of climbing to the top of the cage and nonchalantly stepping off. I think I won in the end just through mashing the controller and it submitting to my will. Also, one of us may have fallen asleep. 

Brewdog North Street

Formerly known as Shuffledog, because it has shuffleboard tables in the basement, is Brewdog North Street. I much preferred the layout of this Brewdog, it's just a shame it's a bit out of the way of all the other craft beer places and seemed quite quiet when we were in there late on Saturday night. 

I finally had Brewdog's Indie Pale Ale and after all the negative press it had gotten for being bland, I was expecting to hate it. It was... fine. Just a really inoffensive and bland beer. I can understand their angle but it's definitely not for me. 

The big draw here though was... Shuffleboard! 

"Awful"

Shuffleboard is basically curling but instead of ice and massive weights, you play on a smaller, polished wooden table with smaller weights. We sort of made up our own rules because we didn't see the rules on the wall behind us. It was fun but we didn't get to play for long as they closed the downstairs. 

I finished the night with a Framboise by Kirkstall Brewery. It was a pleasant end to proceedings, light and packed full of raspberries. 


We did venture to some other bars (The Adelphi and Head of Steam) but I don't have much to say on them other than they were fine. We also had a meat feast at Red's True Barbecue which was the total contrast to Bundobust in terms of menu offerings. I'd wanted to go to Red's for quite a while after seeing they had also opened a place in London so it was great to finally get to go. It's your typical barbecue joint offering a whole plethora of meat and carby side dishes. I was a big fan but I think we all ate too much and then got a bit lethargic and sleepy. Probably a lesson to be learned there. 

Leeds - you're brilliant. Hopefully a return trip to hit some of the places we missed is on the cards soon.