Pint to pint: Hales’ Bar, Harrogate

Date:20-11-2013 08:58:43 read:3

Pint to pint: Hales’ Bar, Harrogate

Our guide to the best British pubs. This week: Hales’ Bar, Harrogate

The saloon bar at Hales' has changed little since the Victorian period Photo: PA

Harrogate’s image is as staid and steady as a silver pot on a marble tabletop in Bettys. But stroll down the street at the side of those fabled tea rooms, circumnavigate the vast bulk of the Crown Hotel, and you come across a venue altogether more quirky and unpredictable.

Hales’ Bar is named after William Hales, who became the landlord in 1882, and the saloon bar can have changed little since his day. Lighting is still provided by gas mantles. Smoke no longer swirls beneath them, but sharing the bar with six handpumps are two ornate brass cigar lighters that flare like Bunsen burners on impact with a naked flame.

Behind the bar, above huge barrels that might once have dispensed amontillados in Yates’s Wine Lodges, are cases full of stuffed birds. There may well be a great auk or bustard among them; it’s difficult to tell in this light. One case, mind you, is occupied by an exhibit rarely seen in municipal museums – a scale model of Tweety Pie.

Amanda Wilkinson, the William Hales de nos jours, has a mischievous sense of humour. She also loves a party, and so do her regulars. Last time I was here, after a day at the Scarborough Cricket Festival, I spotted a piano through the gaslit glow – a fortuitous find in the circumstances.

I’d been chatting to a visitor from Devon who turned out to be a cocktail-bar pianist. He promptly sat down at the keyboard and regaled us with everything from boogie-woogie to My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. The clientele responded by singing along and, in some cases, dancing the night away.

Having arrived too late to sample the evening menu (steaks and ribs served on cast-iron skillets a speciality), I returned on a much chillier day to try one of the homely lunchtime dishes. The meat in the steak pie was melt-in-the-mouth flavoursome and the piping jug of rich, glutinous gravy softened the pastry without turning the chips soggy.

A man warming his hands on a cigar lighter confided that the Bass was the best he’d had since he left Burton-on-Trent. But I can get Bass in my local. What I can’t get is an Old Leg Over.

It’s sited next to the Dizzy Blonde on this bar lined with brassy taps and priapic pumps. The Blonde is young and zesty, the Leg Over a slightly nutty 4.1% beer brewed by Daleside in Harrogate. Both are in tip-top condition, as is Daleside’s Hales’ Ale, a clean-tasting amber session bitter.

William Hales is catching up with the eponymous Betty. He now has a beer as well as a bar named after him.

Hales’ Bar, Crescent Road, Harrogate HG1 2RS (01423 725570). Food served every lunchtime from noon-2.30pm and evenings from 5pm-8pm except Sunday and Monday

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013