Whitelock’s is renowned for its Sunday lunches, but are they really that good?
Established in 1715, the former Turk’s Head was once a popular watering hole for merchants and market traders. It wasn’t until the mid-1890s that it became known as Whitelock’s First City Luncheon Bar. Since then, the pub has entertained hordes of locals, all eager to enjoy its real ale, traditional atmosphere and delicious meals. So I was fairly excited about this particular assignment.
I arrived with my partner on a cold Sunday morning, just before lunchtime. We found a cosy table in a corner far from the draughty door near a roaring fire. If you’ve never been to the pub, you’ll find it’s like stepping back in time – stained glass windows, gleaming brass fixtures and mirrors on every wall. By the time noon rolled around, the place was buzzing with people.
Like any laid-back pub, you can order straight from the bar. The menu was simple, filled with a selection of British pub classics. We were hungry so decided to go for the £18.95 three-course option. It would be the goat’s cheese tart tatin, roast loin of pork and Yorkshire curd tart for me and the soup of the day, roast fore rib of beef and apple crumble for my other half.
As we waited for our food, we enjoyed a couple of drinks while enjoying an eclectic mix of tunes that included the likes of The Doors, Fiona Apple and Cat Power. Our table was quickly set for us with cutlery and we could smell wonderful things coming from the kitchen. So far, this was the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely Sunday meal.
Our starters arrived. The soup of the day was a creamy parsnip and chilli, a comforting dish on a cold February afternoon. It was a winner for my husband, who found that the sweetness of the parsnip was balanced with a slight hint of spice from the chilli. Its nicely thick texture also meant that it was a good consistency to dip the crusty bread into.
The goats cheese tart was also a hit for me – a wedge of flaky puff pastry filled with shallots, topped with goats cheese, served with a leafy salad and vinaigrette dressing. The sweet shallots were nicely balanced with the slightly salty, creamy goats cheese. It was no time before we polished these off. And although the pub was filling fast, the service was still spot on.
Now it was time for the main event as two huge plates were placed before us. To my husband’s delight the roast beef was not overdone or dry, but cooked perfectly, a medium with a reddish pink centre. Generously sliced, this was a good sized slab of meaty goodness, well seasoned with no need for the salt and pepper we requested beforehand. This was certainly ticking all the right boxes.
I have to admit, I was wary of ordering the pork, wondering if the chicken would have been a better choice. When it comes to pork, I find there’s a very fine line between perfect and tough. Thankfully, the loin was tender, bordered with a ring of crackling. I would have preferred the crackling to be crunchier, but it ranged in texture from stickily chewy to a moderate crunch.
Both dishes were served with a generous amount of gravy that wasn’t rich enough to be overpowering. The red and green cabbage were cooked well, with a satisfying crunch and the parsnips were soft. I particularly enjoyed the buttery and sweet carrot puree, with a hint of pepper. The Yorkshire puddings were also done well, perfect vessels for more gravy (almost too much considering the amount on the plate).
And so to the potatoes. Fried, mashed, baked – I love them in just about every form, so was looking forward to the roasties. Unfortunately, they really seemed to let the veg portion of the Sunday lunch down. Roast potatoes are a staple for this traditional Sunday meal and these were anything but. While they were golden, there was no crisp crunchy outside and fluffy inside to break into. To be honest, they seemed like they were braised rather than truly roasted.
After our huge roasts, it was a wonder we had any room left, but couldn’t turn down pudding – in hindsight, we should perhaps have finished with our tasty roast dinner. The apple crumble turned out to be a disappointment. The apple was nicely poached, but my husband would have liked more of a proper crumble topping instead of a sprinkling. My Yorkshire curd tart, was better – shortcrust pastry filled with a creamy, cheese-like filling with currants and two dollops of brandy cream.
In total, our meals at Whitelock’s came out to £47.10 for two three-course roast dinners and two drinks. Considering the quality and quantity of the food and service it’s a great value – I’ll certainly be going back to the Leeds pub to try the roast chicken.
Whitelock’s Ale House, Turks Head Yard, Leeds, LS1 6HB.