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Stomping Ground: Stew & Oyster, Oakwood

IMG_0422I grew up not far from Oakwood. My school bordered Roundhay Park, and the area still holds a huge emotional connection for me. I don’t have any family in that part of Leeds anymore – we’re now scattered across the opposite side of Leeds – but my wife and I still spend a lot of time in the area, mostly walking Wilson in the park itself, happy to make the 20 minute car journey across Leeds to a place we both love. To use a hoary cliche, it’s very much a case of going home.

The Oakwood Clock stands proud still, very much a survivor but under constant threat. Originally intended to be the centerpiece of Kirkgate Market, it is slowly being restored by the businesses in the area and hosts the Oakwood Farmer’s Market, too. It’s simply the place to meet in Oakwood, and deserves saving. One such business helping out is Stew & Oyster, holding a day each month where they sell a beer  – normally a Yorkshire one – and every penny of the proceeds goes to towards the Clock restoration fund. This, as well as it’s location, is one of the reasons Ilkley Brewery and I made sure the final cask of The Good Stuff ended up on the bar there a few weeks ago.

Synchronicity is a funny thing. On a Tuesday night, Louise, Wilson and I were sitting in Stew & Oyster, hosted by Tyler Kiley (ex Friends of Ham and Mr Foley’s), chatting to Rob (Hand Drawn Monkey) and Steve Holt (Kirkstall Brewery), discussing (among many other things) Great Yorkshire Beer. When I was young, this place was a bank. Now, it’s a bustling bar, selling beer that I’ve written about and is being managed by another friend from the latter part of my life.

IMG_0423What would the younger Leigh have made of it? He’d have liked it, I think, but probably would have been angry (I was the archetypal angry young man as a teen – I must have been a nightmare) at the groups of ladies drinking wine or the two brickies nailing pints of Sagres after a day on their feet. What Stew & Oyster does really well is being complete; a full circle of a bar that truly caters to the community – it was nicely busy for a dreary (gotta love this summer) Tuesday night. Four handpumps toted a typically regional selection of well-kept beers (The Good Stuff, Hawkshhead’s Windermere Pale, Hand Drawn Monkey’s excellent IPA, and Magic Rock’s Curious, if you’re interested) alongside some kegged treats but – importantly – bolstered by the likes of Vedett, Sagres, Ciders, Spirits and Wines.

Looking around, every table was drinking something different and that’s the kicker. Stew & Oyster Oakwood is a lovely little suburban bar; the food looked good, there’s plenty of seating, and it’s dog friendly. Whereas Call Landing can sometimes feel a little cramped inside (yet boasts probably the best beer garden in inner-city Leeds), Oakwood basks in legroom. It doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard, and that’s clearly appreciated by the community.

So, if we do get a little sun this Summer and you find yourself enjoying the splendour of Roundhay, take the short walk down to Stew & Oyster. It’s my old stomping ground, and I’ll be certainly retracing those 80’s/90’s steps from now on.

‘Oakwood Parade’, as we used to call it, is certainly a hotspot at the minute; North are opening a bar there shortly, as well as Otley, which opened this week. If you want a more traditional pub in that part of Leeds, then The Roundhay Fox and The White House are both nearby. 

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