In Leeds, the number of Samuel Smith pubs rivals that of JD Wetherspoon pubs in the area. However, whilst it feels like you are constantly stumbling across Wetherspoon pubs, the Samuel Smith ones aren’t so obvious. I’ve recently spent time visiting Samuel Smith pubs in and around Leeds City Centre and I wanted to share my thoughts on these unique places.
Four Pints of Taddy and a Packet of Crisps
Located down an alley just off the main shopping high street of Briggate in Leeds, is The Angel Inn. One of five pubs in alleys like this, the Angel and it’s neighbours act as a wonderful respite from the busy shopping environment just yards away.
As a younger drinker, the Angel Inn was the first ever Samuel Smith pub I visited. In fact, back in those days, I didn’t realise it was part of a wider chain of pubs belonging to a brewery.
Back then, the thing that got you hooked was price. A theme that many Samuel Smith pub regulars will know all too well. But, do you remember the first time you ever bought a Samuel Smith beer in one of their pubs?
“I’ll have four pints of Taddy Lager and a packet of crisps please.” Tentatively handing over the money and not really knowing what to expect back. The look on people’s faces (as no doubt so was mine back then) is one of astonishment, as change from a fiver is returned! Ok, I exaggerate a little, but the prices of beer in Samuel Smith’s pub is something that pleasantly surprises many first-timers.
Like other Samuel Smith pubs, The Angel Inn offers a travel back in time. Its back-alley location is almost romantic. Approaching from Briggate, it’s a tight alley that quickly dulls the noise of the shopping hustle and bustle behind you. Lit by Victorian lamps (granted with modern bulbs!), it’s not long before you’re greeted by a large bay window and a good view of what is going on inside the pub.
A swift 90 degree right and then left, you’re at the main entrance. So enclosed is the space, it makes the previous alley seem gargantuan. Skip the entrance and straight ahead of you is an outdoor seating area. Picnic tables on pavement, surrounded by towering red brick buildings. There’s no greenery here, but the amount of seating dwarfs almost all its neighbours in the other alleys.
Beer from Wooden Cask
Inside the pub, a tiled floor and lots of wooden beams and furniture. Characteristic of some other Samuel Smith’s pubs I’ve been in, but not all.
On the bar, as you would fully expect, is a wide range of Samuel Smith’s drinks. If you’re reading this and have never been to a Samuel Smith’s pub before, then don’t expect to see any products you’d see elsewhere in other bars. It’s another reason why these pubs can afford to be so cheap.
The Angel Inn also has something unique on the bar. Most Samuel Smith pubs in Leeds centre only offer their beers available on keg draught or bottle. Here, you will find their Old Brewery Bitter on cask hand pull. A very rare treat, which is enhanced by the fact that the cask the beer is stored in, is wooden. This is a beer for people to truly enjoy traditional drinking.
The bar area is small with limited seating, but across the entrance hallway is a much more comfortable lounge area. There’s also seating upstairs.
With cheap prices, naturally when it comes to Samuel Smith’s, questions may be asked about the clientele. It’s interesting that in my experience, I’ve always found everyone to be friendly – staff and customers. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed any trouble, and I never expect to see any either.
Marching On Together
Talking of clientele is a nice link to my next pub, The Duncan. I realise now, I have wasted too many a year avoiding the Duncan. Listening to rumours and word of mouth on reputation, it has, until recently, been a no-go pub for me.
However, last year, with a friend, I decided to go where I’d never been before. We didn’t quite feel like holding hands as we crossed the pub threshold, but I did feel like a prize idiot when I got in there.
The Duncan may not be shiny and new, may look a little tired around the edges, but it has a wealth of character and is a superb, cosy Samuel Smith pub.
You’ll find this one on Duncan Street, just a few minutes’ walk from the Angel Inn, in fact. It doesn’t have fancy signs, or A boards cluttering up the street with drinks offers. Just a home-produced version of the Samuel Smith logo in one of the windows and simple signage above the entrance way.
The one thing that will stand out immediately to any visitor, is the vast range of Leeds United pictures and memorabilia. From pictures of Leeds heroes like Billy Bremner and Tony Yeboah, to a nod to Kevin Speight and Christopher Loftus, fans who lost their lives whilst away supporting their team.
Yes, the Duncan is a Leeds United fans’ pub and the atmosphere can get a bit energetic on a match day. But, it doesn’t feel hostile or aggressive (having been in their more than once with a Liverpool and Manchester United fans, they clearly feel safe!).
The beers are, once again, full Samuel Smith fayre. All keg and bottles. If you find yourself in need of additional entertainment, The Duncan even has a pool table.
The Golden Eagle
Recently refurbished The Eagle Tavern offers the Samuel Smith experience in a modern, fresher environment, but without loss of character.
Coming through the main entrance, the first thing you’ll spot is an incredible gold coloured statue of an eagle. What a welcome! To the right is the bar area, with a lounge, pool and dining rooms nearby. That’s right, dining.
It’s not a common sight to see a Samuel Smith pub with a food menu, but the Eagle Tavern does. Part of the reason for this, is that the Eagle is one of a few Samuel Smith venues to also provide hotel accommodation. As you’d expect, rooms are priced at a competitive rate. I haven’t stayed, but photos of the rooms suggest overnight stays would be in a comfortable and clean room.
As the Eagle Tavern is located out of the city centre, it’s better placed to have regulars you can get to know. The warm greeting and friendly chat are something you’d expect having been a regular for years. However, on visit number one, I felt like I’d been drinking here since I was 18.
In comfortable, cosy surroundings, with great people and beer, without the hustle and bustle of City Centre life, the Eagle Tavern is a magnificent place to lose hours (possibly even days if their opening hours permitted!).
There are other Samuel Smith pubs in the Leeds area that I’m yet to try or haven’t had a full enough experience to write about them just yet. However, the three I’ve written about here are individual, characteristic, friendly, comfortable places. I would recommend anyone to give them a go.If you enjoy reading our content, please consider sharing with your friends using the sharing buttons at the bottom of each post. Also, you can subscribe to receive notifications about new blog posts via email. Simply enter your email address into the 'Subscribe to Mike's Tap Room' box at the top left of this page.