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The White Swan, Leeds

Pub added by aleand hearty
Swan Street
Phone: 01132420187

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Reviews (Current Rating Average: of 10) Add Review see review guidelines

Please Note: This review is over a year old.

Old Boots left this review about The White Swan

In spite of Leeds brewery having flogged off its pubs the Swan still has their core four beers on two of the three banks of four pulls, the others with Yorkshire beers (Brass Castle, Saltaire) plus one from present owners Camerons and a seasonal; again from Leeds (Pumpkin Ale so definitely avoided). Nowt else has changed, a few good European beers in the fridge and no hint of fishy smells even on a Friday. Beer cold but decent if not special.

On 10th November 2018 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 2299 recommendations about 2130 pubs]

Please Note: This review is over a year old.

Real Ale Ray left this review about The White Swan

I have experienced this on a few occasions now and it puts me off a place instantly. We walked in here mid Saturday afternoon and the pub was busy. Now for my gripe, the whole pub had a strong smell of cooked fish, which was tainting the air. They had a good choice of ales on the bar, unfortunately I didn't enjoy my Ossett Silver King, because of the strong fish aromas. I do eat fish, it's just when it smells a place out puts me off.

On 2nd December 2013 - rating: 5
[User has posted 2976 recommendations about 2976 pubs]

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Pub SignMan left this review about The White Swan

This Leeds Brewery house is apparently built on the site of a former pub of the same name and is incorporated into the famous City Varieties theatre. The pub has a large, split level interior, with the servery running along the rear wall decorated with pump clips and origami swans. Most of the room has bare floorboards and walls painted in pastel shades with lots of standard tables and chairs filling out the main space opposite the bar. To the right of the entrance is a carpeted lounge area of sorts with sofas and comfy chairs in front of a baby grand piano. At one point, a member of staff approached the piano and my hopes of a performance were briefly raised, only to discover that she was just lighting some candles to place on top of it. There are plenty of old City Varieties posters papering the walls and the end wall allows you to see directly into the theatre’s entrance. To the left of the front door there is a raised seating area which seemed to have attracted diners on my early evening visit. The menu certainly sounded tasty, with most main meals around a tenner. A few hardy souls were determined to sit outside, where a few tables with umbrellas have been arranged along the narrow street under the front windows.
Leeds Pale, Best, Midnight Bell, Yorkshire Gold and Hoptober were all available on handpull alongside guests Wharfebank VPA, Staffordshire Knot Crown Ale and West Berkshire Maggs Magnificent Mild. I’d had my fill of pale hoppy beers by this point, so I went for a pint of the Midnight Bell, which was probably quite nice, but unfortunately it was served far too cold to be able to properly appreciate it. An interesting keg range is provided with very few mainstream brands in evidence and I noticed a few tempting bottles in the fridges as well.
I thought the ‘theatre bar’ theme was a nice idea, although I’m not sure they’ve entirely pulled it off and I thought the place fell just the wrong side of the characterful/contrived divide. I wouldn’t mind returning to this place but there are some much better options not too far away.

On 25th October 2013 - rating: 6
[User has posted 2541 recommendations about 2541 pubs]

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Old Boots left this review about The White Swan

Located at the rear of the City Varieties theatre this Leeds Brewery pub plays on the theatrical link in its décor. The outer walls have pictures of film and theatre stars while the inside walls are liberally coated with theatrical posters, getting slightly more risque as you descent the stairs to the toilet area. Conventionally furnished with tables and chairs the only outstanding feature is a grand piano in one corner. A long counter runs across the back wall and is home to 12 handpumps, which may be 6 too many judging by the beer quality, although two different poor beers were exchanged without question.

On 7th October 2012 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 2299 recommendations about 2130 pubs]

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Quinno _ left this review about The White Swan

A Leeds brewery outlet situated down a narrow street and is part of the City Varieties theatre building. It hasn’t been open long and the fairly stark interior attested to that, wood block (or was it laminate?) flooring and a mix of pale teal and white painted walls. Some old theatre prints, polyester flowers on the tables and a couple of strings of half-hearted fairy lights hardly did enough to lift the atmosphere. Despite the promise of riches at the bar in the shape of 12 ales, it soon transpired that the quality and cellarmanship was poor; two of our party’s beers were so woeful they went back and a clipped pump of Belle was also revealed to be unavailable. Staff seemed generally uninterested but at least exchanged the duff beers without complaint (though I noticed failed to take them off). You really would expect better given who runs the pub. The only high point was the presence of grand piano in the pub; a shame I can’t play a note else I’d have bashed out a tune to liven the place up a bit. “Applause begets applause in the theatre, as laughter begets laughter and tears beget tears.” Not much applause from me for this one...

On 28th August 2012 - rating: 4
[User has posted 3997 recommendations about 3985 pubs]

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Will Larter left this review about The White Swan

According to the blue plaque on the wall outside, the theatre was built in 1865 on the site of the old coaching inn, the White Swan. A slightly different history is given on the Discovering Leeds website ( ):

"The White Swan had a singing room, where various types of acts, though not drama, were put on while people enjoyed their food and drink. In 1857 Charles Thornton became the licensee of the White Swan. He rebuilt the singing room, to a design by George Smith, and opened it in 1865 as 'Thornton's New Music Hall and Fashionable Lounge.'"

The modern pub has the feel of a theatre bar, a reversal of the truth! The description given below is very accurate, so I'll just add that on my visit all 12 hand pumps were available, just half of them with Leeds Brewery ales, the others included two from the local Cottingham Brewery. I tried one, which showed no sign of having been excessively cooled, so things seem to have improved on that score.

Toilets are downstairs (turn left past the piano) for general use, but there is a ground floor toilet which is designated for disabled persons.

On 31st July 2012 - rating: 6
[User has posted 2643 recommendations about 2492 pubs]

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aleand hearty left this review about The White Swan

The White Swan is the fifth outlet for the Leeds Brewery. Recently re-opened, after a two year hiatus, it coincides with the re-launch of the famous City Varieties theatre, the auditorium of which is directly above. Originally dating from the eighteenth century, the pub has had a colourful and chequered history down the years, owing to its links with the theatre, but also because of its association with ‘the oldest profession’ and local villains. (In 1980, the pub temporarily lost its licence, after being raided thirty times by police in the previous year!)

However, time moves on and in its current incarnation, the White Swan is a modern, split level, open plan bar. Roughly rectangular in shape, it has a raised area to the left, on entering, with a small recess beyond. To the right, glass doors open directly onto the foyer of the theatre. The colour scheme is predominantly pale green and cream, along with wooden block flooring and overall feels rather soothing. The large bar is on the back wall, lit by bare bulbs arranged in such a pattern as to evoke a dressing room mirror. Seating is largely based on traditional tables and chairs, although there is a sofa and low chairs in the recess. Several areas of wall space feature theatre posters from the saucy fifties, a less than salubrious period in the City Varieties’ history.

At the bar, there are three banks of four hand pumps and three T-fonts. During my visit, two of the pumps were off, but the rest were serving various permutations of Yorkshire Gold, Midnight Bell, Pale, Best, Samba, Quality Pays and a solitary guest in Whitby Abbey’s ‘Black Dog’. On the T-fonts were Sagres, Kozel, Sierra Nevada, Peroni, Fruli, Blue Moon and Symonds Founders Reserve cider. I opted for the Yorkshire Gold and Midnight Bell and whilst the quality of the latter was fine, the Gold was very tired indeed. As the bar has just re-opened that may be linked to initial turnover. However, what was really disappointing was the serving temperature of both beers, which was very cold indeed, nigh on lager temperature. Unfortunately, this is a problem shared by other Leeds Brewery venues, in my experience.

Service from the young barman was friendly and welcoming and trade was brisker than I was expecting, during my visit between five and six, on a Wednesday. Clientele appeared mixed, if perhaps dominated by post work professionals and the atmosphere was nicely chilled, helped by the modern lounge tracks playing discreetly in the background. Although a traditional pub hound by nature, I liked the place enough to call again, to give the beer a second chance if nothing else. I suspect Sam Moss and Michael Brothwell have another hit on their hands and I wish them well; I just hope one of them nips down to the cellar in the near future, to turn down that cooler.

On 27th September 2011 - rating: 6
[User has posted 368 recommendations about 352 pubs]