If you’re going to call yourself a gin house, you need to know your gin, says Simon Richardson
Picture the scene. It’s a bank holiday Saturday and you’ve just made the ridiculous decision of passing up the chance to enjoy Live at Leeds to instead force yourself round a 19km circular up Whernside in the unseasonable 25-degree heat. Then, after the small matter of a two-hour drive home, you feel this weird pang of need, right in the pit of your liver...
Gin. I must have gin.
Come to think of it, picture any scene of any sunny day ever in this country, and the internal rumblings of most semi-functioning booze hounds might drive them to the same conclusion.
The newcomer to the Leeds gin scene is located opposite the Brownlee Arms in Horsforth. Granville’s Beer & Gin House, like the shop where its comedic namesake worked in Open All Hours, is a small, picturesque, glass-fronted affair, but instead of cheap groceries and washing-up liquid inside, you’re confronted with a beautifully laid-out wooden interior.
The doors on the walls will inevitably remind you of Bundobust, while the sign near the door – “I’m Gin-vincible” – will certainly at least present you with a challenge. And it’s a challenging place to review when all is said and done, because there’s so much to like, yet still something clearly lacking.
Let’s start with the reason we’re here though – gin. There’s no denying that there’s a good selection; 60 to 70 gins, divided into price brackets. A double and tonic will set you back between £8 and £15, depending on your preference. There’s also an impressive list of beer on tap and keg, as well as plenty of craft options in the fridge, a few wine options and your typical smattering of spirits. You can also buy – and this could easily get messy – steins of a couple of different beers, though judging by the two middle-aged men who were daring each other to perform headstands on their seats before staggering outside and pouring themselves into a getaway car, pints ought to do just fine.
When I returned it, I’m afraid to say they had no idea what I was talking about
The atmosphere encourages this kind of harmless, rowdy behaviour though. The building is devoid of soft furnishings, meaning that when it’s more than half full and the music is cranked up, it’s impressively loud. Escape to the small outdoor area to the side if you need to ice your eardrums, but don’t forget to take a pie with you; the bar serves hot Pie Minister pies to go with your gin.
Here’s the problem though. If you’re going to call yourself a gin house, you need to be able to serve gin knowledgeably, and with some variation. This is where Granville’s currently falls short. The suggested botanical and tonic pairings are written on labels on the bottles, but the staff won’t be able to tell you what’s on them, or get you what you want, without reading four or five first. This slows down the service dramatically, but also doesn’t exactly instil confidence when you’ve enthusiastically asked for a recommendation (there being no other choice as there aren’t bar menus available as yet).
What’s far more likely to make your trust completely abandon ship though, is if the staff don’t even know what gin is. One of the recommendations I was served was actually genever (or jenever), a Dutch drink that should be drunk neat - certainly not with tonic, which makes it taste pretty awful. When I returned it, I’m afraid to say they had no idea what I was talking about, although they did swap it for me at no cost. The rest of the gin and tonics were hit and miss, with little variation in the botanicals and no gin-based cocktails to try as yet.
Now, I should point out that Granville’s is very new, and so is the gin. And it is a very nice-looking bar, with plenty of atmosphere. Perhaps they should be allowed a bedding-in period. But as I bedded myself in for the night after a short taxi ride home, I couldn’t help but think that it is, at least so far, a bit of a wasted opportunity.
Granville's Beer & Gin House, 20 Long Row, Horsforth, Leeds LS18 5AA.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: drink a bevvy in the shed instead, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: God's own bar.
Drinks and snacks
Malfy Blood Orange gin 4, Blackwood’s gin 5, Nikka Coffey Grain gin 6.5, Few American Gin 7.5, House Malbec 8.5
A bit laddish and not very knowledgeable
Loud, but in a good, lively, Saturday night kind of way