If pubs are the heart and soul of a city, then Leeds is in fine fettle. Tick off all these taprooms at your leisure…
A city without decent pubs isn’t a city at all. And a city with great pubs is a great city indeed. Happily, Leeds is the latter, with a stellar range of taverns and taprooms that are more than just a place to get a pint. The very best pubs in Leeds have a certain something that draws you in and tells you all is right with the world – pubs with character, pubs with history and pubs that charm your socks off. Head to the bar, it’s your round.
Whitelock’s has been packing them in since 1715 and, magically, it has lost none of its charm. While other pubs may make similar claims in terms of age, none of them have the wonderful courtyard, atmospheric exterior, gorgeous interior, handsome windows and pressed-tin bar top that combine to make Whitelock’s such a one-off. Grab a table inside or out and you’ll be basking in a lively atmosphere while drinking from an ever-mutating range of cask ales and beers. The grub here isn’t to be sniffed at either – think superior fish finger sandwiches and top notch roast dinners.
Whitelock’s Ale House, Turk’s Head Yard, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6HB.
Leeds is famed for its pubs squeezed into hidden, narrow yards, and The Angel Inn is one of the very finest. As a bonus it’s a Samuel Smith house, and thus one of the cheapest in the city, serving up their own drinks at a keen price. That doesn’t mean it lacks character or vibe – both are in abundance over two floors and four rooms of a pub that has been here in one form or another since the 1700s. Order up a pint of Taddy Lager, Old Brewery Bitter or their premium Organic Lager and enjoy in one of the quirkiest pubs in Leeds city centre.
The Angel Inn, Angel Inn Yard, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6LN.
Kirkstall Bridge Inn
Is there a better place to sup a pint than beside the River Aire? The Kirkstall Bridge Inn is part of the reliably excellent Kirkstall Brewery family, and makes the most of its waterside location, especially during the summer. If the weather is less clement, worry not, because inside you’ve got a cracking old-school pub offering up Kirkstall classics, such as the perennially popular Virtuous, Dissolution IPA and Three Swords. It’s the perfect neighbourhood pub, and especially vibrant on Sundays when the kitchen serves up a mean roast.
Kirkstall Bridge Inn, 12 Bridge Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3BW.
The Original Oak
Whether you’re in Headingley for the rugby, cricket, The Otley Run or, you know, just because you want a few pints, The Original Oak is a must. It’s a huge watering hole, with plenty of little side rooms, nooks and snugs to settle down in with mates, while the beer garden is one of the biggest you’ll ever see when the sun shines. Even if it’s quiet, it won’t be for long. You’ll be sat in perfect solitude before one of Leeds’ very best pubs fills with the hubbub of a fresh crowd – chances are something sporty nearby has come to an end, and the Oak takes on a lively persona.
The Original Oak, 2 Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 2DG.
Looking for the perfect pub? You might just have found it. Ace beer, two pub gardens, quizzes, tasty food and even occasional street food trucks – there’s not a box the Myrtle Tavern doesn’t tick. Did we say pub gardens? Yes, there are two, one covered and the other an absolute giant overlooking a cricket pitch. Sup on beers from Kirkstall and Ossett breweries, wander through the premium gin menu and then find out what the kitchen is capable of. Lush sharing plates include treats such as pig cheeks with truffle cream sauce and sesame tuna carpaccio.
Myrtle Tavern, Parkside Road, Meanwood, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 4NE.
The Old Cock
6 foot or taller? This is your final warning. Otley’s wonderful Old Cock has the kind of low stone ceiling you might negotiate safely before you’ve started a session, but that you’ll soon forget about after a few pints. Duck inside for a warm welcome and an ever-changing range of guest ales – this is a pub that CAMRA has blessed with awards after all. It also has a mean whisky range, while the beef sandwiches with dripping are the perfect fuel for a liquid lunch. It’s hard to believe it only opened in 2010, this is a pub that feels like it has been here forever – that’s never a bad thing.
The Old Cock, 11-13 Crossgate, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 1AA.
The Beck & Call
A case study in how to breathe new life into a tired neighbourhood pub, The Beck & Call has quickly become a Meanwood favourite since its transformation from the True Briton. It’s a big old place, given a redesign and a lick of paint by the fine people behind Headrow House and Belgrave. Expect quality beers, top notch pub food – the katsu chicken burger is spot on, Sunday roasts are both deliciously generous – and a family-friendly feel. There’s even a playground for the little ones and loads of outdoor space for those al fresco sessions.
The Beck & Call, Stainbeck Road, Meanwood, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 2NP.
The Duck and Drake
There’s been a pub on this site for hundreds of years, and The Duck and Drake still boasts its original Victorian facade. Inside you’ll find a no-frills, friendly pub in two halves – there’s a snug tucked away at the back. The main room has long been home to a vibrant, local music scene – pop in every Wednesday for a jam night or at the weekend for bands. There’s a monthly stand-up night too, best enjoyed with a pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and one of the best pub snacks in Leeds – a pork pie with mushy peas and mint sauce.
The Duck and Drake, 43 Kirkgate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7DR.
The Queen o’ t’ Owd Thatch
If you could distill the essence of Yorkshire into a pub, The Queen o’ t’ Owd Thatch would be the result. From the name to the welcome, it’s shot through with the spirit of God’s Own County. While you’re perfectly welcome to drop in for a quick pint – there are ales like Landlord on draught and a positively gargantuan cocktail list – it’s very much a dining pub. Locally sourced ingredients underpin gems like fillet of plaice with brown shrimps and roast pigeon with mushroom ketchup and blackberries. On Sundays, their roast dinner is the best way to spend it.
The Queen o’ t’ Owd Thatch, 101 High Street, South Milford, West Yorkshire, LS25 5AQ.
If you ever decide to do a pub crawl of the best Victorian-era pubs in Leeds – and why wouldn’t you? – The Adelphi is a must on the itinerary. The gorgeous dark wood interior has lost none of its lustre since the pub was first built in 1897, despite several changes of hands and sympathetic makeovers. Grab a cosy armchair and take your pick of a rotating selection of craft beers on tap – maybe Fierce’s Peach Fuzz or Tiny Rebel’s doughnut-inspired Pump Up The Jam. The food is a winner too – their great steak and ale pie is pub grub heaven.
The Adelphi, 3-5 Hunslet Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS10 1JQ.
The Meanwood Tavern
You can find the genius of Whitelock’s in the Leeds suburbs with sister venue The Meanwood Tavern. Based on the site of the Becketts Arms pub that was open until the late 1990s, it takes its cues from the neighbourhood where you’ll find it and the pubs of yesteryear. Expect mahogany furnishings, warm colours and a curved bar, that are brought up to date with modern fixtures and fittings. It fits up to 160 punters, who can take their pick of an unrivalled ale and craft beer selection, with food from Detroit-style pizza slingers Well Oiled. Throw in live sport and quiz nights and it’s got everything you need in a pub.
The Meanwood Tavern, 607 Meanwood Road, Meanwood, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 4HQ.
The Midnight Bell
Owned by Leeds Brewery, who have a range of fine pubs in the city, The Midnight Bell makes it onto the list courtesy of its sun-trap beer garden and charming country pub vibe. Grab a bench and all is well with the world. You can drink your way through their range – Leeds Pale is a lovely session ale, the self-titled Midnight Bell a darker brew. From the keg, there’s the tropical-tinged Monsoon and Leodis lager. A broad pub menu has burgers, vegan options and the likes of belly pork with pineapple and a Yorkshire Ploughman’s that is a loaded plate of local loveliness.
The Midnight Bell, 101 Water Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5QN.
The Cross Keys
Sat mere seconds away from The Midnight Bell is another cracker of a pub that makes this bit of Holbeck a great place for a mini-crawl. It’s a free house, so take your pick of local brews, guest craft ales, a deep range of bottled beers and a great choice of wines and fizz by the glass. Come on a Sunday and the place is buzzing with people here for the roasts, while the food across the week is really good – you can feast on pork chop with hispi cabbage, pan-roasted sea trout and harissa aubergine steak. Sit inside, upstairs or outside – this is a pub that has it all.
The Cross Keys, 107 Water Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS11 5WD.
High up on a hill above Otley, The Roebuck rewards a hefty hike with a wonderful welcome. This stone-built wonder beckons you in with a crackling open fire, exposed brickwork and a sense of well-being. There are gorgeous views all around, if you can manage to pull your eyes away from the mouthwatering menu. Beers are likely to be from Black Sheep, Saltaire and Ilkley breweries, but one of their star attractions is the food. The handcrafted pies are the stuff of local legend, the local bangers and mash a treat.
The Roebuck, 1 Roebuck Lane, Newall With Clifton, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 2EY.
The Boundary House
Another entry in the pantheon of peerless Leeds pub gardens, The Boundary House boasts long benches ideal for big groups of mates, or you can lounge in rattan chairs on the patio. Pick your spot with a local beer or draught mainstays such as Aspall Cyder or Birra Moretti. Dig into some pub grub – think prawn cocktail and fish pie – or push the boat out with a Barnsley chop from the grill. It’s kid friendly from the mini play area down to their own dedicated menu, while Sunday roasts come with a side of seriously tasty pigs in blankets that demands you order it.
The Boundary House, 24 Church Side, Methley, West Yorkshire, LS26 9EE.
The Mustard Pot
Come rain or shine, there’s a place outside of The Mustard Pot for you. Bask in the sunshine during summer, or take shelter under the parasols if the weather turns less kind – either way you’re in a proper old school pub garden, one of the best in Leeds. The building itself is a pretty thing, more like a country home than an urban boozer, with Shipyard IPA, Bitburger and Kozel on draught, plus copious gin copas. Hungry drinkers can get into a bowl of cider-steamed mussels or the vegan delights of the ‘Shepherdess’ lentil pie with Henderson’s relish.
The Mustard Pot, 20 Stainbeck Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3QY.
The Roundhay Fox
What better way to round off a walk around the splendour of Roundhay Park than by grabbing a table in this pub right on its western edge? The warm glow of the fire will draw you in, but sinking into an old armchair is what will keep you there. Doom Bar is always on the handpulls, along with a rotating line-up of regional ales, with all the bottled craft beers and artisan gins you’d expect. There’s a solid wine list and a highly tempting food menu that makes you choose between classics like slow-cooked pork belly and beef and porcini bourguignon.
The Roundhay Fox, Princes Avenue, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 2EP.
The Bingley Arms
Sip a pint in The Bingley Arms and you’re taking a trip back in time. This is the oldest pub not just in Leeds but in England, with over 1,000 years of history and many a story to tell. Order a pint of Ossett’s Yorkshire Blonde and look out for the chimney’s priest holes, the ancient yew tree in the beer garden and the original wooden beams. Set near a gentle stream and far from the madding crowd, it’s a brilliant place to end a walk with a pint of something good and a generous plate of gammon and eggs. What more could you want from a pub?
The Bingley Arms, Church Lane, Bardsey, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS17 9DR.
The Deer Park
The Deer Park is one of the best Leeds pubs for a Sunday lunch – who doesn’t want to order up a ‘trio of roasts’ that combines beef, pork and chicken? Catch some rays outside on a sunny day, or head inside for a pint, wine or cocktail from a massive drinks list. It’s pooch friendly – albeit not in the restaurant – and the menu contains such ambitious dishes as rack of lamb with chorizo and rotisserie pork belly paired with scallops. Finish up with show-stopping desserts – the Black Forest Melting Bomb and the adults-only Passion Fruit Martini Eton Mess are big fun.
The Deer Park, 68 Street Lane, Roundhay, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS8 2DQ.
The Cardigan Arms
Rich in atmosphere, the old Cardigan Arms has enjoyed a new lease of life since Kirkstall Brewery took it over in 2017. It retains all its old Victorian charm, with a plethora of dark wood, etched-glass windows and lots of rooms to get lost in. You’re onto a winner with the beer range, with the reliable Kirkstall selection bolstered by a cavalcade of guest beers from sours to stouts. Come on a Sunday for one of the best pub roasts in Leeds, come every other day for a buzzing atmosphere and brilliant beer. Check the calendar for the legendary pub quiz and kebab night.
Cardigan Arms, 364 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2HQ.
It’s not just a staple of The Otley Run’s latter stages, The Fenton is a great Leeds pub in its own right. With its dark wood, warren of rooms and innate charm, it’s the kind of place that lures in fresh students who become regulars, adding them to the locals who already make a frequent pilgrimage here. You can sup on well-kept craft beers, play pool, feast on superior pub food and even spill out to the yard at the back. Here a sound system rocks on until late, the stars twinkling over another perfect night.
The Fenton, 161-165 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 3ED.Cover image credit: Ben Bentley