GCTaverns was set up in 2004 by a local Leeds family who had in mind the idea
of providing quality real-ale houses but with a slightly upper market feel to the menus.
This small pub group now comprises four such premises in and around the Leeds area.
The Stansfield Arms at Apperley Bridge dates back to 1534 and has long held a deservedly good reputation for food and drink which extends far beyond the local dining scene.
Sister premises the Chevin Inn at Menston and the Askwith Arms at Askwith, provide two other links in the group. Chefs at these inns were given their head to provide individual menus to suit the properties as long as there was a commitment to locally sourced food, predominantly Yorkshire of course. The menus at all these places are thus different to each other which prevents a chain mentality and standardisation creeping in.
Popular watering hole the Grey Horse at Horsforth was targeted next and after extensive refurbishment and extension, this was re-opened in October 2013 under a new name.
But what to call it?
The Summer Olympics of 2012 in London came to the rescue as local brothers Alastair and Jonny Brownlee won gold and bronze respectively in the Tri-Athlon.
The new dining spot was re-named the Brownlee Arms (shouldn’t it have been the Brownlee Legs?). We headed here for a gold medal winning meal.
This stone built, attractive property sits on the generally quiet main street through Horsforth. There is a large, half paved, half grassed beer garden to the rear, which on my visit had tea-light candle lanterns on each table. Lovely!
There are benches to the imposing front of the building.
In a hint to it’s past life, vertical drinkers are given their own open-plan room to the left of the entrance, with wooden tables from which to admire the five real ales on display. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord is the staple and resident ale, with four regularly rotated pumps offering different taste experiences, one specially brewed and named after the Brownlees. All are from local breweries with a great range of tastes.
Lager-philes are catered for too, with a good range of choices.
The rest of the large ground floor is given over to dining areas, decorated in the modern style with muted stone, mushroom and sage colours. The tables and chairs are new, in the mis-matched style that is so prevalent nowadays.
Impressive too was the fact that tables are not crammed together, giving a spacious and relaxed feel. The place looks good.
I intended to go for the triathlon of a three course meal.
Under starters orders, I went for half a dozen shelled, pan-fried King Prawns (what else would you fry them in?) saturated in a tomato sauce with toasted crusty bread and a wedge of fresh lemon to add zing. These prawns were beautifully meaty and tasty with a superb, light, mouth-watering sauce. One of the best starters I have had in a long time. As refreshing as a dip in the Serpentine.
Others in my party had a Skagen of prawns and crayfish on a square of toast – a very popular choice looking around other tables, piles of the seafood providing a very generous and tasty portion. One friend opted for pate, which came in a shot-glass and looked very appetising.
On the road to a main course, the waitress peddled the lamb (see what I did there?), which persuaded a couple of friends to go for it. These came as the biggest (and tenderest), choice slabs of lamb I have ever seen. They looked like prime cuts of steak. These were both eye-catching and delicious.
Now, I am rarely a fan of burgers and I am constantly amazed at the number of gourmet burger restaurants which seem to open (especially in Leeds) on a monthly basis. The menu description of the wild boar burger tempted me from my usual path however.
A thick round of char-grilled and smokily magnificent medium-rare wild boar meat was topped with the sweetness of sticky pulled pork. Slices of ripe fresh tomato completed the tower.
The taste experience was excellent. If I had to make a minor criticism, I would have used a better quality bread-bun, but that is nit-picking. A dish of tangy tomato sauce was accompanied by salad, coleslaw and a portion of chips. All served on a large plank, no boring plates for me. I was glad that I had strayed from the straight and narrow.
Around the table, my lamb-less friends sampled the grilled salmon, great hunks of good quality fish with the usual sides. All were declared superb.
The Yorkshire portions provided in the starters and mains meant that not a single one of us could go on to try the desserts. Defeated on the last lap.
There is a choice of five or six desserts, the usual suspects of chocolate fudge cake cheesecakes, etc, but as I didn’t see one or sample one, that will have to wait for a future visit, which will certainly happen.
Starters and desserts are around the £6 mark, whilst mains range from £10 to £20.
Brilliant value for food of this quality. Everyone was very impressed.
Good coffee and chocolate mints rounded off an excellent evening.
The young waiting staff also deserve a mention and praise. They were friendly, smiley, knowledgeable, attentive and efficient all night.
There is an early bird menu of two courses for £12.95 available 4pm to 7pm, Monday to Thursday which is well worth investigating.
Like the Brownlee’s themselves, this place sure does have legs and will be around for a long time. Gold medal standard.
The premises rate 5 stars out of 5 for kitchen cleanliness on the UK rating scheme.
The parent website is at “www.gctaverns.co.uk”:http://www.gctaverns.co.uk but this appears to be in need of updating, especially with regard to the menus and the Brownlee Arms.
Tri-athletes and ordinary folk can find their place at the starting line for a great meal at LS18 5AA. Don’t miss the starter’s gun!