The Cross Keys, Holbeck, Leeds

Eating out
The Cross Keys, North Bar’s grown up sibling

It’s not often that I use twitter for something that’s actually useful, but I managed that small victory the other night when I booked a table at The Cross Keys in Leeds.

It was all done quickly and easily, and without any fuss at all – they sorted things out and tweeted me a confirmation. It’s only a small thing, but it really impressed me.

A good sign, I thought.

We went for a drink at another bar before arriving at The Cross Keys.  It was a brilliant bar, absolutely superb, but the barman gave me the wrong volume of the wrong beer, which, being a fool, I paid for and drank.  I got the distinct impression that he wasn’t really listening to me when I ordered, and the slight sneer I got at my temporary indecisiveness when confronted with a bar of a billion different beers didn’t really do much for my opinion of him in the first place, either.

The Cross Keys was completely different.

As soon as we entered through the small front door, a door that makes the place look like a cottage and makes you feel as if you’re barging into somebody’s front room, the barman, busy serving somebody else, said hello.  We waited for a bit, while he finished serving, but a second staff member got there first and took us to a table. He took a drinks order, and took his time explaining exactly what they had on the bar. “Taste something, if you’re not sure”, he said.

No chance of the wrong beer there.

The Cross Keys’ menu is very decent pub food.  You could call it ‘gastropub’ if you believed that awful word had any meaning at all…there are many pubs that serve terrible food, but why do the ones that do better have to have a separate category to themselves?  Why can’t they just be places that serve good food alongside good beer?

Anyway, that aside, The Cross Keys’ menu is great.  I had a starter of black pudding and a poached egg, with new potatoes, which was very good indeed, light and quite earthily brilliant, but not a patch on the huge venison pie I had next – great big chunks of Yorkshire venison, cooked to tenderness in a rich sauce and covered with puff pastry.  It lacked a pair of Desperate Dan-style horns poking out of the pastry, but was otherwise…awesome.

The menu guides the befuddled towards a beer to match each dish, which is a great touch because the bar is well stocked and has lots of variety, which isn’t surprising when you take account of the fact that The Cross Keys is part of the same group as the sublime North Bar at the other end of town.

No sneery barmen here, either.

The Cross Keys pub, bar, restaurant, Holbeck Urban Village Leeds

We sat under a big blackboard that showcased what I suspect is The Cross Keys’ trump card – Sunday lunch…big joints of beef, pork or lamb to serve eight to ten people for between £100 and £150.  Sounds like a lot, but not for that many people, and the thought of a massive whole roast rib of beef served pink does sound quite tempting, and I’d bet that The Cross Keys’ kitchen could do it justice.

This is a great pub, a place that looks and feels like its been there forever, that feels rooted.  It’s cosy and warm, welcoming and homely.  It’s a proper bar that does proper beer with proper food.

It’s simple, really, but so difficult to get right, so it’s only right to treasure places that do.

And this place does. or on twitter at @crosskeysleeds

The Cross Keys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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