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Bar Review Leeds city centre pub The Wrens

We visit the city centre pub that has a new look and a new menu

Bar Review: Leeds city centre pub The Wrens

The Wrens is almost unrecognisable from its former self. Walking through the doors of the Wrens Hotel on New Briggate, the only thing to detract from the stylish and elegant new décor is the row of real ale pumps lined up at the bar, served by a disarmingly friendly barman.

This place has undergone quite a transformation from the days when it was known as little more than a good, slightly grungy-but-comfortable boozer for locals and those going to and coming from the nearby Grand Theatre. Gone is the dusty old furniture and stuffy floral wallpaper, and in its place is gleaming white woodwork and grey-painted walls, stainless steel and copper surfaces, seductive lighting and a mouthwateringly good menu of seasonal British pub food. Unobtrusive light jazz plays in the background on our visit, and the overall effect is that you’ve been transported to a different era.

The Wrens’ refurbishment and makeover appears to have been a great success since it reopened its doors at the end of October. It’s always a tricky balancing act but, far from scaring away the regulars who often get brushed out with the cobwebs during a large-scale overhaul such as this, the bar seems to have retained its loyal customers while attracting fresh life: even midweek, every table in the separate "theatre lounge" is taken and those working behind the bar are in no way twiddling their thumbs.

The warm and intimate atmosphere at this traditional pub and hotel is largely down to the fact that this place offers a reassuring contrast to some of the fashionable, student-orientated late-night bars in the city centre. Their selection of real ales on tap, including Leeds Pale, Timothy Taylor and Black Sheep, as well as hand-pulled cider, bottled beers, a good cocktail menu and selection of wines and whiskeys, makes it the perfect place for a more discerning crowd – and a real rival to some of the more ambitious quality bars in the area.

We’ve also heard that The Wrens’ Sunday lunch is a quality serving at a very reasonable price. If they get their majestic open fire roaring in the coming colder months, it would certainly be a very snug and comfortable way to spend a Sunday afternoon with the papers and a pint.

What really makes it seem The Wrens will go from strength to strength is that the staff are professional, knowledgeable and friendly. When I asked one of the bar staff about an unusual-looking bottle behind the bar, which turned out to be an American corn whiskey bottled in a mason jar, intriguingly called Shine on Georgia Moon (which I’ve not noticed in a Leeds bar before), he knew what he was talking about and offered me a taste. This stuff is famous for being aged for less than 30 days and turns out to be less alcohol and more window-cleaner. As I’m taking a sip, the barman admits it’s popular with "rednecks and hobos" in the States, and it is indeed quite lethal. So perhaps he wasn’t being all that friendly after all!

61a New Briggate, LS2 8JD, 0113 245 8888, opening hours Sunday to Thursday, 11:30-23:30; Friday to Saturday, 11:30-01:00; food served daily, 12:00-19:00

Posted on Wednesday 16th November 2011

The Wrens

61a New Briggate, Leeds, LS2 8JD

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Comments on Bar Review: Leeds city centre pub The Wrens

Comment by Mike Garside

Posted on Thu 16th Feb 12 11:17 pm

Cool ambience, sound selection of beers, very good food and wine sensibly priced and a super waitress…... what more can you expect for your money? We’ll definitely return for a second round .... must try the pheasant again and leave some space for the sticky toffee this time!

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