Midnight Bell, Leeds
In London there’s one on every other corner but in Leeds there are surprisingly few pubs that have exploited the gastropub revolution. With so many pubs closing down you’d think it would be a no-brainer.
The Reliance on North Street is probably the longest running in the genre until the Holbeck renaissance threw up first the Cross Keys and then the Midnight Bell.
They’d probably hate being called identical twins but they’re both on Water Lane, just a couple of doors apart; both boast modish courtyards out the back and elegant upstairs dining rooms; both have bags of sandblasted brick and oak; both have friendly staff serving admirable microbrew beers; both can struggle to keep pace with service on a busy, sunny lunchtime; both have a sideshow of streetwalkers still plying their trade on Water Lane. Not quite the Welcome To Yorkshire envisaged by the tourist board quango whose HQ is among all the handsomely refurbished mills and foundries.
For distinguishing marks, the Cross Keys has the more elaborate decor and the more ambitious menu but there’s plenty of agreeable options at the Bell. Typically, you could have a seared pigeon breast and puy lentil starter for £4.25; organic bread cider-poached ham hock sarnie and chips for £5.95, or a satisfying mains bowl of bacon, black pudding and poached duck egg salad. And, of course, posh fish and chips, for which it is no longer sufficient merely to batter with beer; you must source the beer. Being the flagship pub of the indie Leeds Brewery naturally uses its own Best bitter; the Cross Keys use Roosters of Knaresborough. And since you’re probably wondering the Reliance’s beer batter is Erdinger.
Frivolity aside, we still like gastropubs. We like this one and we’re pretty sure Leeds could and should support plenty more.