What I Did On My Holidays 1 : museums and craft beer (and more) in Leeds

Fancying a mini city-break not too far from home earlier this summer, we opted for Leeds. Partly for nostalgic reasons, as this was where my wife and I met in 1979 whilst studying there, and partly we fancied going to the Royal Armouries, as we do quite like a museum!

To maximise our time there, we headed out on a Sunday evening and got about 100 miles of driving under our belt, stopping the night at a Premier Inn just south of Peterborough services. I wouldn’t normally mention this, except for the fact that the bar actually had Brewdog bottles, and I didn’t have to make do with the usual uninspiring draught or bottle offering (‘make do’ in this instance generally means not have anything alcoholic to drink!)

The Royal Armouries was an amazing museum. An extremely striking building, with some stunning exhibits across several floors. Here are some pix (scroll down for beer-related words and pix) :

wp_20160711_14_59_06_proWith a couple of tips from mates from SXBottleShare we left the museum and headed around the city centre, admiring the architecture, the size of the shopping environment and the fact that it was busy, even for a Monday afternoon. Good to see Whitlocks still there in it’s alleyway, shiny copper bar top and all, right next to the first ever Marks and Spencers. The arcades were resplendent and we poked our head into the Tall Boys Beer Market, a bijou little bottle shop with an upstairs we planned to explore later on in our trip (but didn’t find the time).

wp_20160711_15_16_08_proSimilarly, we found the Little Leeds Beerhouse in the stunning Corn Exchange. And I do mean stunning. Again, we poked our heads in, but decided not to laden ourselves with a bag or even a box of beer. You wouldn’t want to lug a clanking half dozen bottles around town, or do something really, really stupid, like leaving behind a box of beer under a restaurant table. I mean, what kind of dufus would do that??

So, a light lunch was in order, and the word on the street (or the streets of Essex at least) was that Bundobost was the place to go. And I could have stayed there for the rest of the visit! The decor was spot on, the atmosphere (or the ‘ambience’ as I believe it’s now called) was great, food was excellent, and perfect sizes to accompany beer. I didn’t know at that point that deep-fried Okra was a ‘thing’, but one portion of those and I was in the know. And as you might see from the picture (I didn’t take notes as this was a holiday rather than a fact-finding mission), there were a good range of cask and keg beers. Star of the show was a collaboration brew Bundobust did with the nearby Northern Monk – ‘Bombay Dazzler’, a witbier with amazing Indian spices.

wp_20160711_17_56_09_proA bit of leg-stretching after that saw us up in the University, and we found ourselves (not by accident) back in the Refectory, a place that has a lot of fond memories for me. The first time there was in the autumn of 1979, in the first weeks of my first term at the Polytechnic, and I vividly recall (down to the clothes I was wearing) being right at the front of the crowd when Siouxsie and the Banshees came on stage. When the pogoing commenced, the band had changed from being one I listened to on the John Peel radio show watched on ToTP and Revolver and the like, and listened to in my bedroom in Hartlepool. They were suddenly real, and in spitting distance (not that I was a gobbing punk, you understand) and I certainly wasn’t in Hartlepool any more Toto. I saw many other bands at The Refectory over the next three years. Joy Division. The Buzzcocks. The Ramones. The Specials. The Rezillos. The Pretenders. The Jam. UB40. (I do have a list up in the loft). And of course, The Clash. And I have to admit I was pleased to see that the Refectory had some big posters up commemorating some of the bands that they had hosted, including The Clash, who I saw as part of their London Calling tour in early 1980.

Later, off to dinner at Toto’s Italian restaurant on Headgate – a regular haunt of hours back in our student days. And they still did the Calzone, folded-over pizza, although now served with a generous service of meaty bolognese sauce, in case an enormous pizza wasn’t going to do it for you.

After eating, we popped into The White Swan, adjacent to the City Varieties (not a great choice of beer that night and not a great atmos – the kind of pub you do really need a crowd in). We then headed off to the nearby North Bar. It was a quiet night (it being a Monday) so we settled into some comfy chairs in the very comfy bar, picked up a newspaper or two, and chilled as we sampled the beers on offer. The plan had been to head off elsewhere, but we decided that with 110 years between us, we’d give our weary feet a rest and stay put. Beers of note were a Kirkstall Brewery Dry and Mild.

Descending from the sixth floor of the Premier Inn in Leeds City Centre the following morning, the plan had been to head over to nearby Temple Newsam ad re-admire the Tudor Jacobean property, it having been one of our very first days out. We’ve had lots of days out since, and for several years have had a focus on Essex Days Out. However, the weather was fine, getting the car out of the multi-storey seemed less preferable that doing something on foot, so we decided to walk along the canal path to nearby Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley (I did tell you earlier that we do like a museum…)

It was a nice walk along the canal, just about far enough for it not to be too far of a schlepp. The museum had a lot to look at, especially if you’re fond of recent industrial history, although some sobering information about working conditions, and sacrifices made. (Some guy got a telegram during WWI to tell him that his wife had died in a munitions explosion, and he walked from Bradford to Leeds to identify the body!!)

The walk back to the city left us in a bit of a conundrum. We could walk out of the city centre for another 10 to 15 minutes to the Northern Monk Refectory, or cross a road or two and head to Cameron’s ‘Head of Steam’ for a drink, and then some more Bundobust grub. We took the latter option…

wp_20160712_13_11_38_proA Northern Porter from Tyne Bank Brewery at the Camerons pub slipped down nicely. Camerons have moved on apace since a management takeover (and a lot since my dad worked in the account section in the 1960s!), and their testicles are slowly heading south. Tentacles.

More deep fried okra and bel puri and a drink at Bundobust left us re-charged for a hike back up to the University and a visit to the Marks and Spencer Archive (which had been closed when we had been at the uni the day before). Lots of stuff to look at, and a little man creche with a comfy chair and a looping video showing vintage S&M videos. Whoops, M&S videos. Including models in their frillies. Which was nice.

Heading back into the city, we took a look at my old flat on Kelso Road (a dump back then, and even worse now…)

Feet up in the Premier Inn, then into the city for food and drink. Drink was at the renowned American-style Brew Pub Tapped, which serves over two dozen draft beers, lots of bottled beers, and pizza. Being early evening, it was busy with office workers taking a libation before heading home for the evening. I had a serious case of brewkit envy, with large brewing vessels stretching the length of the pub. A neat touch was a big flat screen tellybox that had TV (meh) but also a scrolling twitter stream for mentions of the pub, which of course I had to make use of and see @EssexRealAle up on a 50″ TV. Of note, drink wise was a Red Willow Brewery Oyster and Samphire Stout.

A quick trip around the corner to the nearby Bill’s restaurant, for a minute steak (cracking) and a bottle of their ‘Bill’s IPA’ (brewed by Adnams), before heading back to Tapped for more drinks, to bring to a close our short trip.

We still have Temple Newsman to revisit, and there are a couple of notable other craft beer establishments to visit, so we’ll be likely to head back there sooner rather than later.