I aired a few views on Assets of Community Value in my last post. Twenty nine pubs closing every week, but what about all the new pubs that are opening? I’m sat typing this on the location of Broadchurch so expect some Dorset related posts over the next few weeks. However, my general area of interest is Leeds where we have seen several recent additions to the city centre scene, and across the suburbs, proving, to me at least, that poor operators are failing and those providing what people want are thriving.
The Lamb and Flag is the latest addition to the Leeds Brewery pub portfolio. It always worries me that Leeds Brewery aren’t mentioned more often in reviews of the Leeds ‘craft beer’ scene. There are some pretty cool guides knocking around on the internet, but they tend to overlook Leeds Brewery. Okay The Brewery Tap gets a mention as does their flagship Midnight Bell, but what about Crowd of Favours ? It’s one of my favourites and hardly gets talked about. Anyway the Lamb and Flag only opened in July and everyone wants to have a look at a new pub so I headed down with a few friends one Saturday afternoon to see what it was like.
The Lamb and Flag is no refurbishment, it’s totally new and there was previously no licensed premises on the site. Although on a supplementary visit I got chatting to an older (he had a bus pass) CAMRA type bloke. He said he’d done a bit of research and found out that in the nineteenth century there had been a pub called The Thirteen Bells on the site and the semi derelict building down the passageway between the Parish Church, sorry Leeds Minster, had been The Royal Oak ale house once upon a time. I’ve got a good knowledge of Leeds going back thirty years and it’s always been offices that I can remember, a solicitors, I think.
As with all the six Leeds Brewery pubs, there has been a quality fit out, both interior and exterior have had a lot of thought and money invested. Insider Media says the venture, funded by NatWest, cost a six figure sum and created fifteen jobs.
A lot of focus has gone into the outside features. I like the fading, faux Leeds Brewery advertisement painted on the wall, and the other period details on the cleaned and pointed brick building, many folk would no doubt think that it had been there for many years. There’s a pleasant paved courtyard to the rear, overlooked by a substantial hanging balcony. On a sunny day, on either level, it’s a proper sun trap, with really pretty vistas over the low wall to Leeds Minster, almost as if the pub has borrowed the kirk yard for it’s own. As I sat with my pint of Thornbridge Kipling I wondered about assets of community value and how many of the residents of the third largest city in the UK had actually been inside the fine building that is Leeds Minster?
Inside the pub is light and airy with plenty of seating and room to stand around talking. The well appointed toilets are upstairs along with the access to the exterior balcony. There’s also another bar upstairs which can be hired out for private functions. The food menu follows the general Leeds Brewery modern pub grub style.
In terms of beers there were the obvious Leeds Brewery standards on the bar and four guest cask ales. I’ve seen Thornbridge, several Great Heck, Sonnet 43, Navigation, Ridgeside and plenty other top brewers wares. There were some decent lagers on and a bottle range that would suit most, if not the out and out ‘craft’ drinker.
I’ve mentioned in a few recent reviews about the envelope of Leeds city centre being pushed out; Northern Quarter, Holbeck Urban Village and the like. Lamb and Flag, is another example, almost beyond the Calls … ? For me it’s a sure sign of where Leeds is going and providing they don’t go tits up having over extended by opening too many pubs far too quickly, I think savvy operators like Leeds Brewery are onto a winner here.
So what will the beery cognoscenti think of the Lamb and Flag? My money says it will never get the same clientele as Northbar or the like. What it seems to be looking towards is the more discerning drinker, young and old, who like a decent ale, or a ‘craft’ beer in a quality setting and doesn’t mind paying the premium which keeps the industrial lager drinkers at bay. I don’t think it will ever need to be classed an ACV and I don’t think the owners would thank you for it if you tried to do it. In any case, if it doesn’t succeed then it will close and in five years time no one will ever remember it had been there. A place as good as this is just not going to close though.