Enjoying the summer weather last week I stepped out along the Leeds Liverpool canal. Journeying from Leeds city centre through urban sprawl, past breweries old and new and a spectacular ruined monastery, then out into the leafy suburbs along the canal tow path. In beer terms I travelled from the cutting edge of craft beer in a modern setting, wandered through a classy compromise before ending up in the best that a traditional Yorkshire boozer can offer.
It’s not far from Granary wharf and the start of the 127 mile canal connecting the two great cities of Liverpool and Leeds to the Northern Monk Brew Co and refectory where we broke our fast. It’s one of my current favourites, for many reasons. NMBCo refectory sits in The Old Flax Store on top of the NMBCo Marshall street, Leeds 11 brewery. As you go in there’s a viewing window where you can have a gander at what’s going on in the beer making area. Upstairs the refectory is quite open and airy, the walls have been taken back to the bare brickwork, there’s a flagged floor and the whole thing is held up by original cast iron pillars. There’s plenty of seating at the refectory style tables and lots of standing room as well. There always seems to be something new around the walls. At the minute it’s a superb exhibition of foundation degree photography from Leeds College students. It’s worth having a look, there’s some really good photography on show.
Most of the beers are on taps in the wall behind the bar but there are four hand pumps up front that usually have guests on. Great Heck was on last time I took any notice. There’s around twenty draft beers on altogether and a decent range of bottles to drink in or take out. My favourite is the draught New World IPA (6.2%). The range of beers continually varies which is good because it sort of forces you to try new ones.There’s little beer menus on deceptively heavy clip boards (seriously go down there and try picking one up) to help you choose. We didn’t have any beer on this occasion and I’d already had my daily caffeine dose, but without asking the barman served up glasses of iced water, which was a nice touch.
When we called for breakfast at ten o’clock it was fairly empty. The bar man said they’d been busy earlier with people calling in on their way to work and it wouldn’t get busy again until lunch time. If you go during the evening or at weekends though, it’s not the case and it’s usually got a decent buzz.
The breakfasts, from the in house purveyors of food The grub and Grog shop, aren’t your traditional builder’s fry ups and you’ll not find the car park rammed with Transit vans in a morning. They are however, definitely a cut above your normal breakfast. I had Ham hock and black pudding hash with seasonal greens, homemade brown sauce and a poached bantam egg on top. This was bordering on fine dining, absolutely delightful flavour combinations, quality ingredients and decent value at £5.00. The grub and Grog shop open at eight in the morning and do breakfasts from ten. Separate lunch and evening menus are available as well as takeaways and deliveries on their eco bike. I reckon the ‘Game’ Sunday lunch is worth a go. It was venison last time we called in a few weeks back.
NMBCo refectory is currently in my top ten boozers. I think it’s going to stay in there as well. I like the refectory style which reminds me of some other old favourites. There’s no doubt in my mind, whether you’re looking for really good beer or really good food in a brilliant setting then this is the place to go. I know it’s never been fashionable to venture South of the river but don’t let the walk out of town into Holbeck put you off. This part of Leeds is rapidly becoming a destination in it’s own right. There’s plenty of other decent boozers to keep you occupied, including the Midnight Bell (Leeds brewery) and Cross keys (North bar), plus The Hop and Candlebar (both Ossett brewery) at Granary Wharf.