Alley Of The Kings: Whitelocks First City Luncheon Bar and Leeds Whitelocks Ale
After a very hectic January I was actually able to leave the office for lunch yesterday, only to have an annoying visit to the bank when I had to speak to four different members of staff before one of them was able to slightly amend my postal address on their system.
I got it in my head that what this situation required was a half of session ale and a sandwich in an old pub, and decided to pop in to Whitelocks, what with it being a “luncheon bar” and all. One of several pubs tucked down one of the alleys off Briggate, Whitelocks is one of Leeds’ most famous landmarks principally due to its beautiful if narrow interior: big shiny copper bar, stained glass and tiles. It was even gushed over at length by John Betjeman in 1968 (at 3 mins 25secs): “what a rest and what a welcome this place is on a windy day, when you come in from the streets …” (Ta to Leigh for the link, I encourage you to watch it).
It remains a beautiful pub with a long history – far more so than these scrappy iPhone photos suggest. A blue Leeds Civic Trust plaque notes that the first license was issued to the site in 1715, although the current building is Victorian. The food tends towards the simple and hearty. I went for a hot roast pork and apple sauce sandwich (served with a handful of crisps, salad and coleslaw) and a half of Whitelocks Ale by Leeds Brewery, which I hadn’t seen before.
Whitelocks Ale turned out to be a nice pale hoppy session ale. Slightly green-gold in colour (or maybe that was simply the unreal light of the pub refracting through it) it had the typical Leeds Brewery thick creamy texture. Lightly hoppy, it wasn’t a beer designed to blow your socks off, but rather, as is appropriate to Whitelocks, was a perfect companion to a weekday lunch.
Sitting on my own, conscious of attracting attention by taking photos with my phone and scribbling notes on a scrap of paper, I couldn’t help but overhear a contented group of friends sat next to me extolling the simple virtues of Whitelocks: great for a weekday lunch; can hear yourself talk. All this is true.
I’ve been put off by the service in Whitelocks in the past: mistaken orders brazened out rather than rectified; an attitude to the customer straight from the 1970s and defiantly English in a not entirely positive way. However, perhaps that was a blip, as the service was very friendly and speedy on this occasion.
The selection of beer was good too: Hobson’s Town Crier; Theakston’s Old Peculier; Ilkley Mary Jane; Shepherd Neame Master Brew; Wyre Piddle In the Hole. Good, solid, English ales and mostly beers capable of being enjoyed without standing in the way of an afternoon’s work.
When my parents come to Leeds I often bring them to Whitelocks. It’s a good place to have a pint and a sandwich with my Dad whilst my Mum goes to Marks, but it’s also a unique part of Leeds. Whitelocks is to Leeds as The Crown is to Belfast: shiny; grand; historic; needlessly intricate and elaborate; otherworldly; anachronistic.
Except it’s unlike The Crown a couple of ways: firstly, it’s a real, vibrant pub, not owned by the National Trust; and secondly, the beer is much better.