After we'd settled into our new home I decided to take my first look at the stadium where my beloved Leeds play their home games. Having walked down the steps of Beggers Hill, I was welcomed by the statue of Billy Bremner. It felt like all of my Christmases had come at once. I hadn't booked a tour so we just wandered around the outside of the ground getting misty-eyed. We then stumbled across The Old Peacock* on the other side of Elland Road. It felt rude not to pop in for a pint.
What we found was a local's pub, a bit worse for wear and festooned with Leeds United memorabilia. Every available surface, apart from those dedicated to drinking, had signed shirts, old programs and faded newspaper cuttings on them. The beer was what we had grown used to at university; a choice of two lagers or smooth flow bitter. It was not a pub to write home about, but it was my new local and it did have two pool tables.
Much water has flowed under many bridges since then. The pub's decline seemed inexorably linked to that of Leeds United. As my team fell from grace, as did The Old Peacock. I'm sure the global financial meltdown and the ban on smoking in pubs played their part, but as the gate reciepts dwindled at Elland Road, so did the foot-fall into the pub.
Out with the smooth flow bitter and in with nine real ale pumps. The new beer offer is mostly from The Ossett Brewery, along with a couple of guest ales and standard lagers. The beer to look out for is 1919. Named after the year that Leeds United were formed, it has been brewed specifically for The Old Peacock and will not be sold anywhere else. 1919 sold out by ten o'clock on the opening night and to me that is recommendation enough. Sadly we didn't get to sample the food. We did get a couple of canapés but they weren't really representative of the food that will be on offer.
It's not just the food and drink that has changed. The place has a new feel too, as you would expect after a £400,000 facelift. The wall to wall memorabilia has been replaced with a "one-off design" wallpaper featuring images of Leeds United's past. The swirly carpets and matching upholstered stools and benches have been torn out and replaced with stylish wooden furniture and solid wood and tiled floors. The pool tables have also gone creating space for a restaurant area that seats 40 people.
We had a good time on the opening night and a free drink is always welcome. I've now seen the menu and I'm looking forward to my next visit even more, perhaps for Sunday lunch with the family. I especially want to try the Thick Cut Pickled Brisket.
I've been longing for a decent pub, selling real ale and good fresh food, to open somewhere in Beeston for ages and it looks like my dreams have come true with the re-launch of The Old Peacock. I only hope that Leeds United's fortunes are still linked to the pub as that would mean that good times are around.
*The Old Peacock is actually The New Peacock, or The New Old Peacock. The original Old Peacock stood on the opposite side of Elland Road opposite the present McDonald's drive through. It's thought that Leeds United got their nickname "The Peacocks" from the pub.