Life took another small step towards normality on Friday 16th April with the launch of a new weekly event known as Friday Social at The Tetley. I managed to book a table and so went along to see what it was like.

I have felt somewhat left out of things insofar as the offerings in Leeds are concerned as I live in Harrogate and so was not able to use public transport for other than essential reasons during lockdown. I suppose that I could have picked through the small print and, if challenged, said that it was for work, but unfortunately the virus isn’t open to such niceties of syntax so, discretion being the better part of valour, I stayed at home.

The event was held on the terrace outside the main building. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening of this facility on 29th August, 2019. How blissful it looks on the photographs I took at the time. My only concern was that it opened at the tail end of summer when the weather is less than predictable and I expressed hope that the elements would be kind and it would be in use for some weeks. Who could have imagined that it wouldn’t be the weather which would interfere with the new enterprise, but a pandemic. Anyway, it is the here and now which is important, not the there and then and, far from being a feature which could have been to be perceived as a chancy structure, it has turned out to be the saviour of the place under the current COVID Rules of Engagement.

The Friday Social is a ticket only affair where you can meet for a beer, or several, within your two-hour time slot. There is musical entertainment from DJs and constantly changing street food vendors so regulars will have a variety of nosh to look forward to over the coming weeks and months. I don’t think that the first one could have been any better as far as I was concerned. It was not only a reawakening after the winter hibernation that was lockdown, but more of a rebirth of my Friday nights of yore.

From 1989 to 2012 I lived in Sowerby Bridge and my Friday evenings after work were spent in the local pub where I would down a few pints of Tetley’s before making my way to the local chippy for tupper. Tupper is like brunch only later in the day and so is a cross between tea and supper. Just a note of explanation here; in Yorkshire we have dinner at midday i.e. dinnertime, and tea in the evening. I imagine that if someone from the South were to invent the meal it would be dupper.

Any road up, I was so pleased to see that the hand pump was in operation and to add to my delight the beer on offer was Tetley Original Bitter. There are many reasons that I have missed calling at a pub over the past six months, the three main ones being; to be able to talk utter bollocks to someone at the bar who is reciprocating, being able to flirt outrageously with the barmaid who normally wouldn’t reciprocate, and to have a pint of hand-pulled ale. Craft beers etc are all well and good but you can buy them in bottles and cans at the supermarket, the one thing you can’t do is have a pint of the original stuff drawn by a hand engine from the cellar, giving it a tight, creamy head. Not only that, the street food vendor of the week was the quaintly named Bastards Bistro who were purveying their Chippy Tea.

My pint, even though in a squidgy plastic ‘glass’ was wonderful and perfectly pulled, I was half way to heaven. The food menu contained several dishes, three constructed with the main ingredient being fish. There was Scampi Fries Arrancino, Chippy Tea Scotch Egg, made with Coley and The Special. The other choices were Beer Battered Curry Wurst, Deep Fried Mars Bar, and Chips. I simply had to go for The Special at £9 comprising Tetley Beer Battered Smoked Haddock, Potato Fondant, Mushy Pea Foam and Curry Scraps. It was divine. The fish was perfectly cooked and covered in the crispest batter I have had in years, the fondant wonderful, firm but well cooked, and the peas a little more substantial than the word ‘foam’ would suggest. There was a wedge of lemon and a couple of cornichons added for good measure. The portion is much bigger than my photo makes it appear.

It would be ludicrous to say that it made lockdown worthwhile, as well as being disrespectful to those who have lost family and friends to the virus, but it certainly made the transition to the new lifestyle we will be leading for the near future, much better than it could have been.

Due attention was paid to the social distancing rules currently in place and I felt well looked after throughout the experience. Almost as if to add even more magic to the evening I experienced something akin to what a Druid would make a trip to Stonehenge to witness on Midsummer’s Eve. The sun was well on its way to setting during the time I was there and was in such a position as to throw the shadow of the main gate across the entrance to the gallery, which once was the Head Office of the brewery. I don’t know if it had been constructed to facilitate this effect, but it was certainly a fitting way to herald this new event.

The Terrace at Tetley is open at other times throughout weekends so please go to

https://www.thetetley.org/

As you scroll down to the section for Tetley Bar and Kitchen, I would recommend that you tarry at the link to the 3D tour of the new exhibition by Mel Brimfield – From This World, To That Which Is To Come. It is most impressive.

All photos by Stan Graham

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