the new old peacock at elland roadBack
Perhaps its being from Yorkshire – and it was Yorkshire Day, after all – but I won’t be helped.
“Do you need a tray?” No, it’s four drinks, I’ll be okay. “Should I carry them to your table?” No, that’s fine, it isn’t far. “Are you sure? I can bring them for you?” No, honestly, I’ll manage.
It’s strange, this resistance to being helped. But bloody hell, it was nice to be asked. Especially in The Peacock.
Or The Old Peacock Real Ale House and Kitchen, as it is now, after a £400,000 makeover from Ossett Brewery. The Peacock has been an Elland Road institution in various forms since the 1840s, inspiring the nickname and crest of the famous football club over the road, and its latest plumage – with the red tastefully removed from Ossett Brewery’s colours – is worthy of its status.
Aside from the physical alterations, the cheerful helpfulness of the staff might be the most welcome change from recent times. Perhaps part of it was opening night enthusiasm – and I wouldn’t expect them to be circling with trays of complimentary fish goujons half an hour before kick off tomorrow – but not only were they helpful, there were loads of them. Match days, when The Peacock is always stretched, will be a test, but by stocking the bar not only with nine real ale pumps but with enough staff to use them all, the signs are service will be swift even when the pub is packed.
There’s more space too. The old members-only back room has been opened up, the partition walls replaced by a brick archway leading to an extended bar and dining area. New wallpaper, designed especially for The Old Peacock using old Leeds United memorabilia, and blue and yellow tiles on the floor – including a peacock mosaic – give the rooms a lighter feel while nodding suitably at the football club over the road. If you’re still yearning for space, the beer garden has been tidied up and is enormous.
The whole front of the pub has been extended by adding an open conservatory, and we took a table here to drink in the late evening sunshine, pints of Excelsior and San Miguel, and the changes. It’s still recognisably The Peacock; it’s in the same place, for a start, with its unavoidable views of the unlovely back of the South Stand, and Ray Fell from Leeds United Supporters Club has his seat at the bar – he’s been local since the forties, and I hope he’s pleased with the new look. With LUFC memories on the walls and the tingling atmosphere of pre-match – especially with 33,000 expected at Elland Road on Saturday – as a football pub, The Peacock is set to serve with more purpose than it has in years.
But The Old Peacock is ready now to be more than a football pub. It was always somewhere you went because you could hear the teams coming out of the tunnel from the bar and be in the ground by kick off. But the most surprising thought of the evening was that I would happily drink here whether Leeds were playing or not. The Kitchen is intended to pull people in during the week for food, but even without that, The Old Peacock is now a place where I would choose to go for a drink; if it was at the end of my street I’d struggle to stay home.
Elland Road’s a more optimistic place at the moment, although whether that will last once the football season actually starts is another question. Ossett Brewery have timed it just right, as Leeds fans and Leeds people hope Leeds United is once again going to be a club that befits them, by turning The Old Peacock into a pub the fans and the community deserve. It deserves to be a success.
More from The City Talking: