Friday, January 18, 2013

UK: Leedsify: Garden Gate Pub – Hunslet’s Hidden Gem

Garden Gate 
Pubs are of two kinds –the historic ones, which have survived over the last few years / centuries or the modern pubs – typically a part of a large chain of Pubs like “Shakespeare”, “The Red Lion” etc. Leeds is home to a blend of both historic and modern pubs.

Thanks to our friend, expert & local guide - Guy, he had taken it upon himself to do the Good Samaritan’s job of hand holding us to experience some of the best historic Pubs in Leeds.  In the past 14 months, we have spent many an evenings visiting various pubs in and around Leeds city centre, experiencing the ambience and the choice of local ales and beers. Maybe our unplanned effort to thumbs down the growing prowess of the supermarkets who sell cheap and standard international beers thereby indirectly closing 15-20 pubs a month in the UK.

During these interesting times, one of the last pubs we visited was “Garden Gate” in Hunslet. One cannot easily walk to this pub from the city centre as it`s a tad far. However, it deserves a visit for anyone who likes heritage, ambience and of course a good local Leeds brewery beer.  In addition to this, if you plan to have some vegetarian food on a lazy morning – it`s a must recommend to visit this pub! I and my wife enjoyed the two varieties of Lasagne dished up by the team at Garden Gate for us.
A tiled door mat - just outside the entrance

A choice of local beers
Our local NHS clinic (Doctors clinic) is right behind the Garden Gate and over the numerous visits to the doctor; we had never discovered this hidden gem.  However, the Garden Gate has been standing in the same place for over a 110+ years (became a Pub in 1903, but was earlier a inn since 1833) – unfazed and observing Leeds transform from a city of mills and hub of England's industrial revolution to a modern city with designer shopping malls and modern world industries. Over the last century, it has changed many a owners and latest owner is the Leeds Brewery – which helps provide a rich choice of ales and beers like Leeds Pale Ale, Leeds Best, and Midnight Bell in addition to other international beers.
As you walk into this pub to grab your pale ale and meal, it is not unusual to notice the finesse of architectural marvel on the outside. Even for a novice in English history like me, this pub’s appearance will compare to that of the Victorian era. Many of such establishments – a marvel of their times are today being demolished or converted to modern architecture with glazed glasses. Thankfully, the efforts of a few good spirited souls in the past few years have now given this pub a Grade II English heritage building listing, in recognition of its architectural value and rarity. The upgrade is recent and only a handful of pubs in the whole of UK hold this status.

If you had a chance to get your eyes off the exteriors of this pub, the interiors will definitely capture your imagination and over awe you with their brilliance. The cosy glass panelled rooms, glazed tiling, mosaic floors, ornate mahogany fitments, long corridors leading to various rooms and the curved ceramic bar counter (where they keep the beer tap and drinks) will leave you spell bound.  

Ceramic tiles on walls

Long corridors leading to rooms

Classic Stained glass painting
Classic flooring and walls
Guy had especially nudged us to have a closer look at the curved ceramic bar counter. Upon retrospective research now, I discovered that the English Heritage specifically mention ‘the curved ceramic bar counter, which is one of only 14 ceramic bar counters surviving nationally’ and remark of the overall building that ‘the level of intactness throughout is unusually high, and nationally very rare’.

The curved ceramic bar counter
There are multiple rooms in the pubs and I positively dread how it would have been to be inside one of the rooms of the pub on a cold winter evening in the early 1940’s, discussing about the Second World War and local affairs over a pint of locally brewed beer or ale, by the fireplace. I am sure the community would have been more close knit than any modern day facebook / twitter communities that we all have succumbed into?

 Under the able leadership and supply of some truly good local ales and beers, I hope Leeds Brewery could continue the legacy of Hunslet’s Hidden Gem – “Garden Gate” for another 100 years (in addition to the 110 years it has already survived - since 1903).

All it needs is a few heritage pub aficionados like Guy, me and you to keep the flag flying high for the likes of “Garden Gate”! Trust me, a pint of beer in the company of friends or family in a pub tastes better than off the freezer and in front of your Television!

Enjoy your beer in a pub than at home!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy Fourth Birthday Swift!

Wishing a very Happy 4th Birthday to my dear Swift!

Enjoying the sun in a parking lot in Thane!
Enjoyed the smooth, joyous rides – you have helped us all enjoy for the past 4 years in and around Mumbai! Look forward for more kms on the SWIFT for years to come! 

With this, commemorating 4 years in TCS as well! Am sure the next year will be exciting and memorable!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Happy Birthday to Sanju Kutty!

“Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday “Dear Ubbukli”
Happy Birthday to you!”

Have a great day and year ahead sweety pie – from all of us!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A 5 year celebration!

So today we, celebrate the occasion of completing 5 years since we first met! Exactly 5 years back on a unusually cool January afternoon, two people met each other for the first time at Bombay Blues in Bandra (a suburb of Bombay). The pretext was to get to know each other and gauge if they can spend their life together. In a span of less than 4 hours the decision to spend their life together was taken!

In these times when arranged marriages are increasingly becoming scarce practices, god bless us and we look forward to many such milestones together!
For my better half, specially "hand-clicked" by me!

Don’t be disappointed of yourself

Don’t be conscious or disappointed of who you are or what your surroundings are.  Let not what you are stunt what you want to be. You have the innate potential to improve yourself – oblivious of your surroundings/ comments from people to do better in life for yourself and for your near and dear ones.

About this pic:
1. This pic was taken on Westminster Bridge, London on 30th Dec 2012. I & my wife had been to London for the New Years and on a crisp, breezy winter evening while walking on the bridge, we saw this gentleman dressed in traditional Scottish wear, oblivious of the surroundings and generating sweet music from the instrument.
2. Lot of tourists and visitors paused for a minute and gathered around him – listening to his music or posing for photographs with him. Jovial that he was, he obliged numerous visitors and continued playing his organ – making the evening magical for all of us around!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

UK: Leedsify: Leeds City Markets – Europe’s largest covered market

Leeds City Markets also known as Leeds Kirkgate Markets is located in the Leeds City Centre – right near to important landmarks like “Corn Exchange” and “Leeds Minster”.

The Markets existed as open markets way back in 1822 and over the past two centuries, they have been re-constructed and re-architected multiple times to become the markets that they are today. The external facades and entrance to the markets do give a preview to the rich legacy that these markets carry on today. Undoubtedly, they are one of Europe’s largest covered market.

From an accessibility perspective, the Leeds Train Station is about 5 minute walk away and the Leeds Coach Station and local Leeds bus stations are just nearby. There is also a huge Multi storey National Car Park right besides it, in case you want to drive down for shopping. There are multiple entrances into the Leeds City Markets.

The Leeds City Markets – are more than a century old and are part of the Leeds City Council. They are managed pretty well as the markets were very clean and even the Toilets were spic and span. One can find everything there in the markets – everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, meat & fish, handicrafts, hookah’s, clothing, flowers or other unusual crafts, handicrafts and gifts.

Was surprised to find Lord Krishna and Radha's potrait outside one of the shops, with other religious artefacts of Islam and Christianity. Leeds in its own unique ways showcases its role of a cultural melting pot in Yorkshire.

Hinduism, Christinianity and Islam co-exist peacefully

It is highly unlikely if one doesn’t find what one is looking for in this market, if you walk across all the 800 stalls and rub shoulders with one of those 100,000 visitors who visit the Leeds City Market every week! You can even have food in the various local restaurants, which tempt you with their decor and choice of menus!

A variety of options for clothes shopping is very tempting.

And while you are doing that, don't forget to look towards the ornate decorations at the roof, which in some way stand testimony to the cumulative history of 2 centuries of the Leeds Markets!

Another interesting piece of information is that the renowned retail outlet from UK and now the world over - Marks & Spencer, was actually founded in Leeds City Market here.In 1884 when Michael Marks, a Polish refugee opened a market stall in the open market here , with the slogan ‘don’t ask the price, it’s a penny’.The Marks & Spencer's heritage is marked by the Market Clock in the 1904 hall which bears the shops name. This clock was unveiled in 1984 to celebrate the centenary of Marks & Spencer.

In the times of major supermarkets like TESCO, ASDA, Co-operative etc the Leeds City Markets give an easy alternative to one to “buy local produce” and hence support local farmers and markets. 

The open market just behind the covered side of the Leeds City Markets are famous for good vegetables (cheaper than your supermarkets),  clothing, accessories, DVD’s and VCD’s, tobacco and hookah and other unusual crafts and handicrafts. 

I would recommend you to spend at least 2-3 hours in these markets and be a part of the history these markets are creating for the past two centuries and enjoy the local shopping experience and observing local people from all walks of life making their buying choices, especially on a Saturday morning! 

I am sure it will make you take a walk down memory lane and remember similar markets back home in India or your home countries!