Thursday 3 December 2015

BRAPA - Kirk Smeaton, a return to Pontefract, York's latest new pub.

It's been a long time since I sampled the delights of Leeds Bus Station, but it's a sad state of affairs that getting to Pontefract seems easier by bus than train, especially when you need a connecting bus.

Leeds Bus Station has none of the soothing piped music of it's Huddersfield counterpart, but at least the Gregg's "restaurant" offered a restorative sausage roll after a long day at work.

Despite the inevitable delay and meandering route through a series of strange towns I've vaguely heard of (Glasshoughton being the highlight), the 410 service morphed into the 409 to Kirk Smeaton.

Well, I say Kirk Smeaton but apparently, a "hole in the road" meant the bus had to be diverted via Little Smeaton and I was faced with a bracing 20 minute walk along a dark country lane.  No-one ever said BRAPA was going to be easy!

When I reached the pub, it felt like a near religious experience as it appeared in the gloom, all lit up and welcoming looking with a stoney, brick exterior - and a landmark pub number for me .....

Arriving at pub 750 in Kirk Smeaton
750.  Shoulder of Mutton, Kirk Smeaton

Of the two rooms, I chose the left side which seemed to have all the 'life' by which I mean locals, dogs, farmers and posh couples trying to treat it as a restaurant.  I didn't do myself an favours on arrival, as I spied only two ales on the bar, Black Sheep Bitter and Theakstons.  Thinking I was missing something, I mumbled to the barmaid something to the effect of "have you got any other ales on?"  A bad mistake.  "They are both ON!" she proudly exclaimed, having deliberately misheard me, and she spent the next five minutes eyeing me with the kind of contempt usually reserved for a bearded, tattooed, no socked hipster -  I may as well have asked her for a "Brewdog Marshmallow Bunny Rabbit Smoked Sculpin Saison Black IPA" if such a thing exists.  She was quite sour faced anyway,  To be fair, the Theakston was as good a pint of that ale as I've ever tried, perfectly kept,  There was a welcoming real log fire bubbling away, and the old beams and low ceiling certainly gave the impression of a centuries old pub, really nice atmosphere and locals were quite friendly.  A little dog was trying to jump onto it's owners lap, but couldn't get it's back legs off the ground, to much hilarity (you had to be there).  I couldn't fully relax though until my taxi arrived as the location was so remote so I drank up quite quickly and went to stand outside.

It was a mild night and no rain mercifully, so sitting on a bench at the front didn't seem quite so ridiculous.  I'd like to mention Data cars of Pontefract.  Taxi services can be a mixed bag but each time, I find them helpful, friendly, reliable and best of all, cheap as chips.  My young Asian driver told me about the poor phone signal in the area and when I told him I was with "Three", he nearly wet his pants laughing so much.  What had I said?  We were soon back in 'south' Ponte-Carlo.

751.  Carleton, Pontefract

I was surprised at the huge contrast between pubs.  This was a huge roadhouse style Greene King pub, all huge car-parks, live sport on TV, enough fairy lights to power the whole of Wales, all beckoning you to come in and "enjoy a meal" with them.  Putting my reservations aside, I was delighted to see a grand range of ales, not just from the GK stable, but plenty of local ales too.  Bar staff were very friendly and the young jolly barmaid served me an Ilkley Ruby Jane, and I've honestly never seen anyone get so excited about airlocks.  "Oooh it might have gone!" she screeched, before "no, it's working, "no, hang on, it's definitely gone", "no, no, it's back!" I know that pantomime season is upon us, but this was pure theatre.  Despite the size of the place, a combination of diners and football watchers meant seats were at a premium, and I just prayed that no-one had been stupid enough to order a pirated version of Man City v Hull City in the league cup quarter finals (they hadn't).  I sat at one table but an unattended bottle of champagne in an icy bucket scared me away so I found a quiet alcove.  This was more 'honest pub grub' territory than gastro, but it still dominated a bit much but overall, I went away with a good impression of this place as I walked back into the town centre for train back to York via Leeds.

Festive Greene King illuminated foody fun at the Carleton
So, that was that.  It was hard to decide which pub I'd preferred.  The beautiful homely cosy village basic pub with very limited beer and miserable barmaid, or the cheap and cheerful GK pub with great beers on offer but with an element of Happy Harvester about it.  Should be Kirk Smeaton easily, but I think 50/50 split on the night.  

As a bonus pre-emptive style pub tick, I visited York's latest Leeds brewery offering, the recently opened Eagle and Child.  The ridiculously high bar is not good for a short arse like me, the staff took an age to serve us as a tourist seemed to be having tasters of all the lagers(!) but the Brass Castle Ginger Marmalade was worth waiting for.  It was far too Gastro downstairs, but 3 distinct upstairs rooms had a charm and character that York's other Leeds pub, Duke of York, hasn't really shown me during my 3 or 4 visits there.  Certainly one to watch for the future!  

Talking of bonuses, I've got a half day at work tomorrow so a nice little afternoon sojourn planned in the Greater Manc area which I'll try to review on Sunday.  

See you soon, Si


  1. Lovely detail.

    Felt the same about the Carleton when I visited last month; Happy Harvester is good. The SoM use to lead with John Smiths, which I loved when it was brewed in Taddy. Always choose the pub over the beer.

    Enjoy the true North tomorrow !

  2. Thanks Martin, ooooh the 'dark side' of the pennines!! Yes you are definitely right - pub beats beer every time.

    John Smith's is one beer I've never enjoyed, but maybe it is too mass produced now? Lots of people on my Beer App (Untappd) actually did comment on how good Theakstons Best could actually be.

  3. A lot of bus services morph into each other, at one point they will have been one continuous service but and EU law prevents such things as mid distance bus services. You will sometimes find out where this happens by downloaded the timetable leaflet for the service from the operator's website. Sometimes it will even say on the front of the bus something along the lines of 'Castleford, connecting for Kirk Smeaton'. When the service is artificially split in this way, there will normally be a through fare available.
    Of course, in some cases it will happen once or twice a day for operational convenience, or sometimes a hybrid of the two reasons. If unsure, I would always say that I'm getting this bus to Cas, then changing for Kirk Smeaton, and ask the driver what the best ticket is.

    I'm a bit in two minds about these new build or renovated chain pubs with the special offer dinners. At least two complete dumps in Lincolnshire have had them built, and despite the locations of some of them they do serve a purpose and can actually improve the standards of a town.